Backpacks have been around for a while, but they can weigh down a person’s back, be bulky even when not filled and be considered inappropriate for more formal settings. So, enter in the messenger bag as the other option.

Vintage Classic Army Messenger Weight ShoulderWhen first invented, messenger bags were just used by bicycle messengers (hence their name) as they allowed easy access to the contents of the bag without the messenger having to take the bag off or constantly readjust it as they got on and off their bicycle.

There are still plenty of bike messenger bags seen today, especially in cities, although in modern times they pop up in just about every school or business setting. These relatively simple bags with a shoulder strap have come a long way since the days of early bicycle messengers.

So why are they so popular now? For one thing, messenger bags are extremely versatile. They can be used for many different purposes, and with their adjustable straps and optional carrying handles; these bags can be carried or worn in several different ways. For example, most messenger bags include a long shoulder strap that can be clipped onto either side of the bag (in most cases it is removable or can be tucked in). This strap can be worn over one shoulder or over the head and across the body in a diagonal.

Olive Original Heavyweight Classic Messenger

Large messenger bags also include an additional strap (also removable) that goes around the chest or waist to keep the bag firmly in place. This is especially handy when engaging in more strenuous activities like, jogging, biking or hiking. Messenger bags may be rectangular or more oval or crescent-shaped. Some argue that a bag that is rounded or curved will conform better to a person’s body and be more comfortable, although many people still buy ones that are strictly rectangular in shape.

The sleek rectangular shape of messenger bags is ideal for carrying books, magazines and important documents. Nowadays, people use them commonly for carrying laptop computers, and many newer bags come with pockets specifically designed for laptops. Other laptop messenger bags are thinner than regular messenger bags and padded for protection, as they are meant solely for carrying laptops.

Kenneth Cole Reaction Business Messenger Bag

In all messenger bags though, personal items can be easily organized through internal dividers and spots for pens, money, wallets, business cards, phone and other small electronics. Messenger bags generally are equipped with easy access front flaps that fold over the body of the bag and are secured by Velcro, clasps, buckles and of course, the standard zipper. If additional security is desired, some messenger bags also have an extra strap that goes around the bag. If you travel a lot with your laptop, however, you’ll want a bag that is TSA compliant, meaning it allows for easy scanning your bag and access to your laptop within (with most TSA compliant bags, you don’t actually have to remove your laptop).

High Sierra Tank Messenger Bag

Canvas messenger bags are very popular right now and have been for some time. They are very durable and come in a wide variety of colors and prints, as well as different sizes so there is a wide selection to choose from. Canvas also tends to be cheaper than other materials, like leather, and it can be waxed to make it better withstand the elements. For example, Crumpler messenger bags are made with waxed canvas and are sewn in a variety of styles and sizes (the Crumpler brand actually offers nine different messenger bags on its website). Aside from canvas, another great, reliable material is leather. Leather messenger bags for men are much more appropriate and official looking for a business setting than canvas bags, and there are now many leather versions for women as well. These aren’t really bags for children.

Vintage Classic Army Messenger Weight ShoulderAny bags that are made specifically for children are obviously a bit smaller than those for adults, and they are usually more colorful. Like backpacks that are sold at the start of every new school year, messenger bags for kids often come with prints of their favorite cartoons or TV or comic book characters. When shopping for messenger bags for children, however, be aware that because they are for a younger crowd a lot of manufacturers tend to use cheaper materials, causing them to rip easily from school books and the general rough behavior many children participate in every day (which is why many parents find themselves having to buy their children new bags every year). Spend the extra money and get a canvas bag for your kid, because in the long run it will save you more money by lasting longer.

So how much does a good messenger bag cost? Bags that will last a long time and are from reliable, recognized brands will run you anywhere from $80 to around $150, although good leather messenger bags can cost a lot more. The exact price depends on the size, features and the materials used to make the bag. Timbuk2 messenger bags, for example, can cost up to $149 if the largest size of a certain model is selected. It price is really an issue for you, look to department stores or “everything” stores for sales. Target messenger bags, for example, are often very good brands just at a reduced price during certain times of the year. Although it may not be the most convenient if you are in school or if you are buying the bag for a student, the best time to shop for a messenger bag is in spring and early summer. Stores are often trying to get rid of old merchandise to make way for new items in the coming months, so you’ll find some cheaper messenger bags.

No matter what kind of messenger bag you get, make sure it fits you well. It shouldn’t be too hard to slip it up and over your head, and the strap should never feel like it is cutting you. Adjust the straps or get a bigger version if this happens.