Top 5 | Best Active Messenger
On the go throughout the day but still want convenient access to your gear? An active messenger can be your best friend, keeping items tidy and accessible when you need them but secure and out of the way when it’s time to get going. Our Best Active Messenger finalists all offer effective comfort, access, and organization, with distinct features that make them well suited to a range of active needs, whether you’re zipping down the streets on your daily commute or trekking around the city with your camera in tow. But which one goes that extra mile and truly deserves to be category champ? Cast your vote below…
Who It Suits: Urban commuters at risk for inclement weather will love everything Apidura’s City Messenger offers. You need fully waterproof construction and smart organization to get your gear where it’s going. You also appreciate a modern look, and don’t want to adhere to the typical bike messenger stereotypes.
The City Messenger is built on years of experience in the bikepacking industry by the veterans at Apidura. This bag is fully waterproof, which means you’ll be able to carry your tech and valuables through the worst of it, without a worry in the world. The heart of the City line of bags is rooted in Apidura’s bikepacking work, with a fresh silhouette and set of features designed for urban commuters.
The slim yet comfortable neoprene shoulder strap is typical of messengers, being attached directly to the corner of the bag so that it carries high and tight on your back. The strap is a nice departure from more classic messenger straps that, while comfortable, are big and bulky. The City Messenger delivers on that same promise with a more manageable profile. Apidura’s branding here is also subtle and classy.
The main closure isn’t going to open by accident. It’s secured with both hook-and-loop as well as a metal G-hook. The hook-and-loop is great for making sure the bag is secure even if you’re in and out of it often. Once you’re ready to hit the road, the G-hook adds extra security, keeping the flap down through thick and thin.
We often don’t love hook-and-loop closures, but Apidura has chosen a variant that is oddly pleasant to use. The hook side is a more rigid plastic than you may be used to, giving it a much nicer “feel” when opening and closing.
Under the flap is a nice, bright, waterproof zipper. This is a slimmer pocket, so we kept things like documents or our wallet here. The main compartment also houses a laptop or tablet sleeve. Which one fits depends on whether you choose the 11” or 13” City Messenger, and you can’t go wrong with either. The front of the laptop sleeve has a few slip pockets, leaving the rest of the bag open for your lunch and a jacket.
The Apidura City Messenger, and the entire City collection, is one of our favorite options for the tech-focused road warrior. The look, the feel, and the protection granted by the seam-welded CT420 Marle tie the whole package together, and the well-designed strap system makes sure you get there in comfort.
Fully waterproof to protect your gear in any weather
Clean silhouette for work or play
Shoulder strap system offers comfy carry without the bulk of traditional messenger straps
Useful organization for tech and smaller essentials
Who It Suits: the ride or die commuter who lives on their bike, from the market to work with a quick stop at the cafe on the way and a gym session afterwards. You can keep your entire life in this bag, or at least everything you’d need for hours and hours away from home.
The Chrome Industries Buran III is what most people think of when you say “bike messenger”. While the Buran has enough volume to carry a small horse, Chrome has opted for commuter-centric organization with lots of pockets and tech sleeves, rather than an empty hole that we often see on dedicated bike messenger bags.
To give you an idea of just how much the very conservatively 24L Buran can hold; I was able to fit every single bag in this list inside of it, comfortably. Not each bag individually either. Every single bag at once. There was still room for more. Thankfully the Buran has a massive and well-padded shoulder strap that easily supports the potential weight of the bag, and the optional stabilizer strap helps to keep it all in place. This iteration of the Buran uses a black, lightweight variant of the iconic Chrome seat belt buckle, which is a good bit lighter than the standard variant.
Similar to the Apidura, the Buran III utilizes a mix of soft and hard closure methods; hook-and-loop and side release buckles. The former helps keep the flap secure if you’re in and out of the bag often, so you don’t have to worry about snapping each buckle every time.
The Buran is a tech-forward messenger bag, and while it has a ton of bulk space, there are still pockets for everything. Right under the flap is a myriad of sleeves for pens, tools, chargers, sunglasses, or even slim water bottles. Every time I opened the flap I found a small compartment I hadn’t noticed before with a new idea of how to carry my daily gear.
If you’re one of those people who needs 17” of screen real estate wherever you go, then the Buran III has your name on it. The laptop sleeve is one of the few on the market that will swallow a 17” laptop – even the heavier workstation or gaming style machines. The compartment is well padded with a nice false bottom, and the zipper is protected by a generous rain flap. Considering the size, we never once found it too big for smaller laptops, or even tablets.
This is the bag we recommend for those who, let’s be honest, spend more time on the bike than the rest of us. It can carry a change of clothes, your lunch, your entire office loadout, and even more. It still carries well for its size, even loaded up. We appreciate the thought that went into making this bag the go-to modern bike messenger.
Wide range of pockets to organize your gear
Large carry capacity holds everything you’ll need for the day
Comfortable, well-padded shoulder strap
Flexible closure methods
Who It Suits: the urban explorer, armed with everything they need to make their way around the city. This isn’t necessarily an office bag and that’s very much on purpose. Your day starts when you toss in your camera and a can of your favorite cold brew alongside your rain shell, and hit the transit.
The Greenroom136 METRORUNNER01, maybe the most bespoke bag in this list, is designed and built in Malaysia in small batches. It crosses the boundary between sling and messenger with its unique shape. This special variant of the original Metrorunner has a bundle of improvements over the standard model, including Fidlock magnetic buckles, various X-Pac offerings, and a single large AustriAlpin Cobra buckle on its well-padded shoulder strap.
This variant, the “Tactical”, comes with two rows of PALS webbing on the front, flanked with a massive loop field for slapping on whichever patches your heart desires. The PALS makes room for any number of pouches, including GR136’s own. The standard variant forgoes both patch field and PALS, so the choice is yours.
The shoulder strap is similar to what you’ll see on classic messenger bags, and it’s the same one you’ll also see on other GR136 offerings like the Metromonger. It’s well padded, wide, and comfortable. The Cobra buckle acts as an effective quick-cinch and quick-release for slinging the bag around front while on body, or just adjusting on the go. For some extra balance, the stabilizer strap is there when you need it. The whole strap system is also ambidextrous, for those that prefer an alternative shoulder.
Since the Metrorunner is a deceivingly deep bag, the compression straps are hyper-functional. You can stuff a ton into this bag, so being able to run it slim and tight is nice when you’re just starting your day. The Fidlock buckles are a nice, overbuilt touch, and quickly being able to flick them open helps access the interior when it’s otherwise cinched down.
The Metrorunner has two zipper access compartments; one on the front and one towards the rear. The front is slim with a few pockets, but spacious enough for your pocket dump. Phone, wallet, some small EDC items, and the D-ring is perfect for keeping your keys handy.
The rear is deceivingly large and can hold quite a bit. Lined with the same beautiful golden nylon, the main compartment has a few slip pockets on the front wall and a few larger ones on the rear. While it’s not padded, I often kept a small tablet or e-reader here for perusing during cafe stops.
One last trick up its sleeve; the Metrorunner has a hidden pocket on the bottom of the bag. It’s secured with a small section of hook-and-loop, and is designed to hold your metro pass without having to remove it from your bag. Just bump the sensor and you’re on your way. If you’re not commuting, this also serves as a great stash pocket for any number of smaller, slim items like a small flashlight or pocket knife.
The Metrorunner is a standout on this list, due to its unique shape, size, and look. It holds an impressive amount for its size, and it does so comfortably. Even when you’re traveling light, the Metrorunner slims down and takes up almost no space at all. This is one of our favorite bags for urban exploring, adventure, and just good old-fashioned schlepping.
Versatile and durable hauler for a range of urban adventures
Comfortable, ambidextrous strap system
Compression straps cater to larger and smaller carry loads
Practical organization to keep gear tidy and secure
Who It Suits: Everyone from the techwear junkie to the urban-centric fashionista. It’s sleek and edgy, and so are you. You need to carry some gear, but not a ton, because you aspire to be a minimalist. You’ll stand out with the Kestrel, but just enough for people to glance over and wonder what you’re rocking.
The ORBITGear R200 Kestrel was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia. ORBITGear is one of the leaders in functional techwear, and the R200 builds on years of experience in the game. It’s clean, stylish, and made from some of the best components around.
ORBITGear has two primary lines; CORE and ADV. This is one of the former, being made from an exceptional-looking 500D nylon. While the ADV line is usually the one slapped with Fidlock buckles, ORBITGear has added them here, and they make opening the main flap as easy as two flips of the wrist. Like many of the other messengers in this list, the Kestrel has two strips of hook-and-loop to keep the flap secure when you’re in and out of the bag.
While ORBITGear bags have a certain look to them, they’re almost always identifiable by their unique strap system. It’s “strappy”, but it’s modular as all get out, and you can flip it any which way, adjusted for your own personal fit and preferences. The magnetic stabilizer strap is there if you’re weaving in and out of traffic.
Under the flap is a simple, zippered slip pocket. It’s slim but deep enough to dump your pocket into. Below that, the three rows of PALS work nicely with the wide array of pouches that ORBITGear offers, expanding what you can carry. The front flap is more than adjustable enough to accommodate almost any of them.
The main compartment has a nice gusseted bottom, keeping the overall bag slim but letting you stuff the bottom with your daily gear. The laptop/tablet sleeve fits a 13” as long as it’s slim, and it floats! Since it’s not attached to the rear wall, you can store items in front of and behind it, and it’s generally subject to less knocking around since it’s not actually touching either side of the bag.
The ORBITGear R200 Kestrel is a mouthful of a name, but it really shows how far ORBITGear has come to perfecting their game. It may not be as loaded with features as some of their other messenger bags but it drips refinement. If you’re looking to dip your toes into techwear, this is one of the best ways to do it.
Sleek techwear vibes
Adjustable strap tailors to your carry preferences
Tough construction handles daily use with ease
Simple, flexible organization with PALS webbing for customized setups
Who It Suits: you’re a road warrior who also spends time in the boardroom. You need to keep your gear, and yourself, safe and secure on your daily commute, and you want to look good doing it whether you’re walking city blocks, hopping on a bike share, or cruising the local transit.
Ally Capellino may be a newcomer to coverage here on Carryology, but they’ve been rocking for over 40 years now; designing sleek, sustainable, fashion-forward-yet-functional bags and accessories. The Kenny embodies much of this, being built for the road with sleek office vibes. Made from water-resistant materials, the Kenny is capable, comfortable, and stylish. The leather accents add a touch of luxury to your commute.
The front of the Kenny has a quick-access pocket on the outside of the flap, which I love. Many other messengers only offer pocketing once the flap is undone, which makes quick access more difficult. They do this to keep things protected from the elements, but sometimes I just want to be able to get at my stuff quickly without fussing around. The waterproof zip still helps keep your gear safe, and the strip of reflective material above that helps keep you safe.
The shoulder strap is more typical of a satchel than any other messenger on this list. However, it’s still wide and long enough to use it in the same fashion as you would a fixed-position messenger strap. The width, length, and adjustability help you move from on-bike to off with ease. Rock it as a shoulder bag or a messenger.
The flap is secured with a classy, metal G-hook and strip of black leather which also doubles as a place to clip your rear light for those darker rides home. The two leather touchpoints on the Kenny, the anchor and the rear grab handle, elevate it above many other offerings and differentiate it from the more technical-focused bags. It’s the little things.
The inside is simple, but not unlike many of the other messenger finalists. The rear compartment is mesh and can accommodate laptops up to 13”, preferably in a sleeve. The two flanking pockets are designed for your water bottles or mugs – we love internal options for that. Towards the front is a simple slip pocket and zip pocket for smaller items, like a mouse if you’re carrying one. All of these pockets are up and out of the way of the main volume, leaving it open for your bulkier gear.
If we were to rate these directly, the Ally Capellino Kenny would be the classiest bag on this list, and it blurs the lines between office shoulder bag and bike messenger. This was my first time checking out one of their products (I’ve since gotten hands on a few more), and I was pleasantly surprised every time I took it out. If you’re looking for a dual-duty single-strap bag, with a touch of modern luxury, go check it out.
Understated elegance both on and off the bike
Functional pocketing for daily essentials
Switch between messenger and shoulder bag mode as desired
VOTING CLOSES 5 MARCH