Over the past few years brands have really stepped up in the active messenger space, pushing the boundaries on comfort, durability and easy access to gear on the go. Our top active messenger contenders are a varied bunch, both in style and intended carry functionality, but they’re all superior pieces in their own niches. Of course, ultimately there can only be one winner so let’s get into the details on the 5 best messenger bags of 2020.
It’s safe to say that at this point, most of us know Peak Design and without a doubt, they continue to make exceedingly clever bags in the daily carry, photography, and travel spaces. So it should come as no surprise that the Everyday Messenger V2 is just brimming with delightful features. As an update to their Everyday line, the V2 is still designed around the same basic premise of being a daily carry / photo-focused bag and in that, it excels. From the first time you open the bag with their very clever MagLatch closure you’re treated to a really enjoyable experience with its wide-open main compartment, FlexFold origami dividers, and just enough pocketing to keep your stuff organized without being too prescriptive in how you have to use them. In addition to the useful pocketing inside, there is also a quick-access pocket on either side of the exterior, one of which has a nice tether for your keys or any other small item. Overall the pocketing on this bag is really thoughtful and it’s something I enjoyed quite a bit.
Structurally speaking, the Everyday Messenger is built out of a recycled 400D nylon canvas shell which is DWR coated. The bag more or less holds its shape even when empty which makes it ideal for carrying and protecting your tech cargo, particularly cameras. The new shoulder strap design is very adjustable as well, allowing you to either carry it over one shoulder or cross-body. But what I love about it is just how easy it is to adjust when you’re wearing it, it truly is effortless and it stays put once it’s locked in. The new construction of the V2 is also 24% lighter than its predecessor and in combination with the improved strap design, it’s overall a much more comfortable bag to use daily.
Now I’ve mentioned camera-focused carry a couple of times already and that’s because it’s a big feature of this particular messenger bag. In Peak Design’s product photos you’ll see that they demonstrate it carrying a larger mirrorless camera with a lens attached in addition to a couple of extra lenses and daily essentials, but don’t let that make you think it can’t handle larger gear. I was able to comfortably fit my DSLR kit which consists of a Nikon D850 and a few prime lenses (28, 50 and 85mm) without having to cram everything in there; it was all easily accessible while out and about. As a pleasant surprise, I was separately able to carry my big beast of a film camera, the Pentax 67 with three lenses, and still have room to fit other small things; that is no small feat!
So who is this bag for? Capacity-wise it is a great daily carry size for your tech essentials or your camera kit and aesthetically speaking, the look of the bag is sleek and totally unisex which means everyone could feel comfortable wearing it. Amongst the contenders, the Everyday excels in innovation thanks to its easily adjustable strap design, exceptionally configurable interior organization, and clever access with the MagLatch. It’s no surprise that Peak Design makes thoughtful products and the Everyday Messenger V2 is one that I find delightful to use.
Wins in innovation
Super adaptable to loads
Remote Equipment has been steadily building a name for themselves in the carry world and if you’re not paying attention, it’s time to start. When you look at the Bravo 18, you might think it’s just a simple bucket bag, but simplicity is actually its greatest strength. At 18 liters you’re not going to overload it to the point that any one of the five styles of carry is going to be uncomfortable and the drop-in loading style makes it both quick to pack and uncomplicated to use. Having the exterior side zip allows you to easily get to items that may be at the bottom of the bag without having to pull everything out, making it very convenient to use. Weather-resistant materials and exceptional build quality mean it’s going to last and hold up well to daily use and abuse. Seriously, the X50 X-Pac fabric is just going to laugh off whatever you throw at it.
The Bravo 18 is a fantastic grab-and-go type bag, ideal for such use cases as quick shopping trips, a beach or camping day bag, a simple tech tote (though you need to protect your tech), or even as a secondary pack for travel. There are lots of ways to utilize the Bravo and it’s one of those bags you appreciate more every time you use it. I mentioned earlier that its simplicity was its greatest strength and what I meant by that was that the experience of using the Bravo is effortless. You don’t have to think about how you pack or carry it, the Bravo just adapts to your needs on the fly, and that’s what makes it so versatile to use every day.
It’s hard to directly compare the Bravo to other bags in the space given its relatively unique design but what you can take away is that it is definitely the most overbuilt bag from this group, the build quality is top-notch and so is the warranty to back it up. It’s incredibly simple to use, adaptable to your daily needs, and it’s the most versatile bag on this list.
Wins in build
Effortless to use
When you think of bags that are built to be weather resistant, Mission Workshop is typically one that comes to the forefront of your mind. Traditionally speaking, this focus on protection against the elements has come at the cost of convenient access, but when designing the Khyte, they set out to address this issue. So you might wonder, who would such a bag suit? I’d say anyone looking for a messenger bag who requires quick access to their laptop and loves the idea of a modular bag which can be configured to their needs. It also meets the needs of anyone living in wetter climates as the design of the bag prevents water ingress in most conditions and keeps your equipment safe and dry.
To put it plainly, the Khyte is an overall well-made product. Mission Workshop has been making their bags in small batches in California from the start and that continues today; each bag is crafted with care and it shows as you pour over the details. Stitching is very well done throughout the bag and the choice of using AquaGuard zippers is an added touch to emphasize their focus on weather resistance. Even though the main compartment of the Khyte does not feature a zipper closure, the folds of the material itself create a closed-off waterproof area to prevent anything outside from getting inside. Plus it’s all secured by two Fidlock buckles on the exterior (which if you’re a fan of magnets, they’re immensely satisfying to use).
Mission Workshop bags have never been budget-oriented, but what you do get for your money is a very well made product (and one that’s made in the United States if that’s something that matters to you). There’s no getting around the fact that the Khyte is indeed expensive, but it’s also the first proper “tech messenger” they’ve made and you’re getting a well-designed and expandable system. How is it expandable, you say? Well, one need only look at all the Arkiv accessories you can attach to the exterior rails to customize the Khyte to your specific needs.
Comparing the Khyte to our other contenders it’s easily able to carry the most thanks to its larger capacity and it’s by far the most weather resistant option amongst our finalists. There are lots of choices in the tech-focused messenger bag realm, but Mission Workshop’s entry takes the winning DNA of their cargo line and provides the user with a well thought out bag that is great to work out of and makes it a worthy contender to consider adding to your lineup.
Wins in weather resistance
Exceptional build quality
Best accessories range
Greenroom136 has been on the carry scene since 2011 making bags by hand in a micro-workshop out of Malaysia and that tradition continues today. What this means is, you’re getting a thoughtfully designed bag, made by hand, at a really affordable price. Their small messenger, the Metromonger, is an active daily carry bag that’s perfect for your essentials or even a moderately full tech loadout with its dedicated tablet compartment (though it happens to perfectly fit a 13″ laptop as well). In my use, where I found it to really shine was carrying a blend of essentials plus my smaller camera setup and that is largely thanks to the excellent shoulder strap and back padding.
The Metromonger is comprised of three separate compartments, each with their own dimension (which means their space doesn’t eat into the capacity of other compartments), and that allows you to organize your stuff without feeling like things get jammed in the pockets depending on how you pack it. I really loved the main cavity for how it just swallows up your gear and it’s really easy to drop in something like a small camera cube, or even just throw your stuff in if you’re not too fussy about nested organization. The rear tablet compartment is nicely padded and lined with a soft corduroy material to protect the device inside; it’s perfect for something like an iPad Pro but I was also surprised how easily a 13″ MacBook Air fitted inside as well. Lastly, taking a look at the front compartment you will find that it has just enough organization for the things that normally wind up in your pockets (namely: phone, keys, wallet) and will provide convenient access to them at a moment’s notice.
I’d like to also take a moment to draw your attention to the shoulder strap which is very well padded and super easy to adjust. I just loved how easy it was to switch shoulders if I felt like left or right side carry, but even under load, it was really quite comfortable. Greenroom136 calls this the Quick Release shoulder strap, and says it is well suited for folks of average height, up to about 5’8″, but I’m 6’2″ and I still have enough room to wear this comfortably, so your mileage may vary. There is another option called the Cam buckle shoulder strap which has a sliding shoulder pad and a whole heck of a lot of adjustability. It works equally as well as the Quick Release strap but even at my height I had a ton of excess strap to wrangle, so again, your mileage may vary in your preference.
If you’re looking for a daily carry sling or messenger, Greenroom136 has an incredible bag for the price point in the Metromonger. It is well built, from quality materials that are going to last and it’s thoughtfully designed to fit into your day-to-day routine. Compared to our other finalists, the Metromonger is unbeatable from a value-to-performance perspective.
Wins in value
Comfortable and easily-adjustable strap
ORBITGear is based in Indonesia and has been designing and producing their products in small batches out of their studio in Jakarta since 2017. Their aesthetic vibe plants them firmly in the ‘techwear’ space. And here we’re looking at the M100 messenger, now on its third iteration. ORBITGear considers it a platform with which the wearer can create many different variations of the bag by attaching MOD pouches to the exterior. The M100 itself is quite simple, with one main zippered compartment (which has an internal divider that is large enough to hold a 15″ MacBook Pro) and a flat zippered pocket on the rear of the bag which would rest against your body.
Despite the simplicity of the M100 as a base, it is incredibly modular with the numerous pouch options that can be attached to the exterior via four rows of PALS webbing which cover the entire front of the bag (this is dubbed the “atMOS Grid System”). This “system” approach is what makes the M100 so versatile for the user and also helps define the aesthetic that ORBITGear is trying to create. If you strip away all of those extra options, the base itself is still quite functional in that you have one large main compartment to drop your things into, and if you’re already one to utilize pouches for your gear you could quickly drop them in and be ready to go.
The construction of the M100 is really quite exceptional, that was the first thing I noticed upon taking it out of the shipping packaging; every stitch, every seam, every little detail is perfectly constructed. It’s the attention to these details that impressed me the most, from the tapered design of the bag, which keeps it snug to the wearer’s body, to the way the strap is designed to be so quickly adjustable. Even something as simple as the feel of the material in your hands just says “quality”.
So, do you have to be a Techwear Ninja to appreciate the ORBITGear M100? Personally, I don’t think that’s the case. Certainly, they cater to a specific aesthetic, but if you have an eye for details and appreciate small-batch, craftsman products, I think ORBITGear is a brand well worth paying attention to. The build quality is among some of the best I’ve experienced and the design of the bag is by far the most unique among our contenders. Though the Khyte is also able to be a modular bag, the M100 is a system built around modularity and it allows the user to turn the M100 into whatever type of bag they want it to be. If the aesthetic suits your tastes and you’re a fan of mixing and matching pouches to carry your gear, this is your bag.
Wins in modularity