Messenger bags

I’m curious…

What is the advantage of using a messenger style bag over a regular backpack? I’ve never tried a messenger bag because I always figured a small backpack would be more comfortable/practical for cycling and general commuting. Lately I’m seeing so many more messenger bags around - am I missing something?

use the search function

Brendan Bailey, smiter of threads!

Bow before his mighty keyboard.

I was going to be a smartarse and say ‘yes, a trend’ … But, then I did some thoughtful research on the topic and noticed it was actually a diminishing trend. Here is a handy graph:

Google Trends: crumpler, messenger bag

Unless you need to get into your bag every 20minutes, and leave it on your shoulder all day, a backpack makes more sense. In my humble opinion.

But, what brendan said.


while i still think this has been covered a billion times before, niceshoes sent me a nice message saying he had used the search function and hadn’t found the information he was after. so, because he did as suggested, i’ve reopened the thread. pls keep comments on the difference between backpacks and messenger bags.

Backpacks make you sweat more.

I find messenger bags nicer to ride with when riding a road/track bike due to your body being a little more leant over. Messenger bags hug your body more, where as i found back packs flop around. Also, my PAC is large and fits everything i ever need to carry (whether it be 8 books about logical positivism or just beers).
But as Nick says, I think for a lot of people, it’s about trend.

You see some serious quasimoto humps on the commute to work, where people have stuffed everything bar the kitchen sink into a medium sized backpack, and when I see the “fitness first” gym backpacks I want to cry.

I find the messenger curves around you better, and as previously mentioned doesn’t seem to wiggle as much on your back. Either one will sweat, but two straps under your arms are hotter than one strap. If you’ve got a serious load your chest will be pulled tighter, and you feel a little choked sometimes with a messenger, whereas backpacks don’t have that issue as much, especially if you use the waist belt.

I’ve been using messengers just shy of 17 years, and only just recently put some serious coin into a custom. I find for riding, the messenger just suits me more.

I’ve got a Freitag stachel and a backpack and I alternate between the two, depending on how much crap i have to carry. The Satchel is very small, onlly just fits a 15" mac which is a bit of a pain, so i’ve been looking into “messenger” bags too.
Backpacks are a righteous pain in the ass if you want to get something out/put something in and not want to take the whole thing off your back. And if you want to do a sprint finish for the commuter cup, they jump all over the place and are just generally shit.

For those guys that have ridden with messenger bags for a while, what are the things to look for in regards to keeping the bag in a good position on your back? Combination of strap shape, length, shape of bag I’m guessing but this is something I’ve been pondering…
Constantly adjusting bag position isn’t something i enjoy.

Interesting that you say that - I always assumed the exact opposite was true! I mean, a backpack with a waist band has six points of contact, against just 2 for a messenger bag…

I think he means that the actual bag wraps around your back much more comfortably than a backpack as it doesn’t just sit in the middle of your back on your spine…i find the standard crumpler heaps more comfortable than a backpack pretty much for that reason as well

I find that backpacks generally hold their shape. In fact, internal/external frame packs are designed to do exactly that. Thus, if you have a small load in your bag it will bounce around. Some backpack designs are worse for this than others.

Messenger bags can often be tightened so that they wrap around your back, and this ‘squishing/conforming’ reduces the effective internal dimensions available for things to move around in, so that your load is held in place better when riding. Again, some are better at this that others.

I try to carry as little as possible on the bike. I haven’t used a ‘proper’ messenger bag, but the satchels I have used only work when tightened so they can’t move around as much. My backpack is an old SHIFT (moto brand) one, and has hip and chest belts. This is heaps better than a satchel. For saturday morning rides though, I just cram the essentials into a pair of cargo shorts.

Yes i should stress that not all messenger bag are made equal. Mine (PAC) is the far and away the best bag i have ever owned. Very well thought out.

I use a Chrome messenger bag for pretty much everything (daily commuting, carrying beer, hiding small children or Handsome James) and it’s fine. My back gets sweaty, it swings / slides around if I don’t use the third strap and if I don’t pack it right, I’ll get something digging into my kidney or spine.

But it’s a sweet Chrome bag and I bought in NY.

I find a decent messenger bag to be much more comfortable than a backpack of comparable size, its sits snug and is able to be pulled in tight with ease even with a really heavy load.

Having said that though, there are plenty of ‘messenger’ style bags out there that don’t have a proper strap function, support etc which then make them worse than an average style backpack to ride with.

try a few different brands on… some bag types suit different people. it will also depend on the type of stuff you are carrying as the bag shape varies between brands (from more boxy to flatter). if you arent carrying file boxes around all day you can use a flatter style bag design (aka chrome).

if you do regularly carry a lot of crap/ride distance, eventually you will find yourself gravitating to a backpack… the number of long term messengers who have shoulder issues is a rarely-discussed topic. of course having a bag that you can switch the strap side on (eg PAC, bailey works and i believe BOGear) will help address this.

the better quality bags offer more than brand name, they give you quality of materials, features and smarter designs for on/off bike use (like ease of adjustment/access). i’ve done some hilarious stuff with my PAC bag while riding and my SGB backpack is a dream to adjust and get into while riding.

this man speaks the truth.

sounds like your sacrificing comfort for fashion…

Looks like you’re sacrificing punctuation for sledging.

Fuck yeh semantic beat down!