Best Messenger Bags for Teens

Best Messenger Bags for Teens

Photo by kstepanoff

We all know that teens care deeply about what they wear and how they look. Being stylish is very important to them, but being an individual is also essential. Parents want them to be prepared, and able to keep track of their books, assignments, and personal belongings.  Messenger bags can be the perfect solution to both your needs!  

With so many options available, the problem of staying organized and still looking good can both be solved with one stylish bag. 

History of Messenger Bags

The classic bicycle-messenger style

Photo by simon.carr

A messenger bag is a type of sack that is worn over one shoulder with a long, wide strap that rests diagonally across the chest and back, with the bag resting on the lower back or hip on the opposite side. Messenger bags are widely used by bicycle messengers but have crossed over into an urban fashion accessory as well.

The design of this style of bag has been is use for centuries by ancient foot messengers, pony express riders, and military personnel as map cases and document pouches. The modern messenger bag in use today is said to be styled after the utility lineman bags from the 1950's that were used by workers to hold their tools as they climbed utility poles.

Things to consider when choosing a bag

What will you be using your bag for?

Photo by Beorn Ours

There are a few things that should be considered when shopping for your messenger bag.  

First, think about what you want to carry in your bag. Do you need space for books, sketch pads, or a laptop? Carefully reading the description of the bag, taking note of the interior dimensions, will help you determine if the bag is roomy enough to carry all your gear. Some bags are not intended for carrying electronics and will offer little protection for your tablet or laptop, so that's something to think about as well. However, you can always purchase a separate case or sleeve for keeping those types of devices safe while stowed in your messenger bag.

Another thing to consider is how the bag is constructed. Look for one that has a securely fastened shoulder strap, with a closure system that works for you. Some bags utilize hook & loop closures, which are the easiest and quickest way to open and close your bag, while others have buckles or other fasteners, which make access a little more involved, but can provide better security.

The materials used for messenger bags vary widely. Consider if you plan to be out in the elements with your bag for long periods, in which case you may want a bag that is made from a more water-repellant material or has an inner lining that provides protection from the rain. For most everyday uses though, just about any material will do, but do look for one that is made from a sturdy material, like canvas, leather, heavy-duty polyester and nylon.

Canvas Messenger Bags

Rugged and stylish

Photo by BarefootMusing

Canvas messenger bags have a rugged look, and can appear military inspired or slightly bohemian, making them a perfect style for both guys or girls. Most often found in solid colors, brown, olive green, and black are the most popular and widely available choices. Canvas bags are a great choice for teens that want a neutral accessory for lugging their gear in, but don't want to sacrifice style. They can dress up or down for work or school, although the traditional canvas bag style tends to have a more casual appearance overall.  However, you can find "dressier" looks in canvas too, as you can see in a couple of the recommended bags below.

Top Choices for Canvas Messenger Bags

These bags have all been rated highly by those who purchased them.  Detailed reviews are available on most of these styles and provide great information to aid in choosing the bag that's right for you.

Rothco Vintage Classic Messenger Bag (Brown)
Rothco $25.99

This roomy bag is a personal favorite in our house. It has a very unstructured look, but is so spacious inside, I can't believe all the stuff my daughter carries in there. Don't let the photo fool you, this bag is big.

Canvas Crossbody Messenger Bag Shoulder Bag Laptop Case Backpack Brown
NCITW $29.99

Military-inspired design that's both stylish and durable.  Protective compartment keeps laptop safe and secure.

Rothco Classic Heavyweight Messenger Bag - IN BLACK!
ROTHCO $23.99

Heavy-weight construction with an enormous main compartment as well as an inside zippered pouch and four outside pockets.  Room for everything!


Versatile and roomy, this bag also has a grab handle in addition to an adjustable shoulder strap.  Unique expandable main compartment too.

Customizable Rickshaw Messenger Bags

Create a style as unique as you are!

The possibilities with a Rickshaw Bag are absolutely endless because these bags are available with literally thousands of custom designs created by a community of artists and designers. Or you can upload your own design, photo, or artwork to make it a totally one-of-a-kind creation just for you. Each bag is custom made, by hand, in the USA using sustainable practices making it a combination of beautiful form, function, and a small ecological footprint.

And since each bag is custom-made the best thing of all is you won't see dozens of other people walking around with the same bag as you!

What Makes a Rickshaw Bag a Good Choice?

Besides the awesome ability to customize it:

  • It's water resistant, extra durable, and machine washable

  • Has a large main compartment and 2 roomy front pockets

  • Is handmade with a sustainability focus in San Francisco CA

  • Holds a 13" laptop and offers an optional protective sleeve

  • Is lightweight and forms to your body

Rickshaw Messenger Bags

The ultimate bag to express your individual style

There are thousands of designs available for you to choose from, the items below are just a tiny fraction of what is available by clicking here.

Or click on any of these samples to view more info and find more choices.

Timbuk2 Messenger Bags

Messenger Bags made by a Messenger for Messengers

Photo by Olgierd Pstrykotwórca

It all started in San Francisco back in 1989 when a bicycle messenger named Rob Honeycutt had a thought about how a messenger bag ought to be made, so he got himself a Singer sewing machine, some fabric, and got to work.  His creation was quickly embraced by urban couriers and has since grown into one of the premier manufacturers of 'tough as hell' bags, meant to last forever.

Why do people love their Timbuk2's?

What makes Timbuk2 bags great is that they are designed by someone who knows what you really need in a bag like this and has made it super functional. A waterproof liner, special True Fit cam buckle system, three zip front organizers and internal organizer as well, tether clips, color coded zippers to help you remember what goes where.  They truly have thought of everything.

Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag 2013 (Grey/Cold Blue/Tusk Grey, Medium)

The original, classic style of messenger bag, this one comes in multiple color combinations and patterns in sizes from XS to XL.  

Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag 2013,Black/Black/Black,S
Timbuk2 Bags

The original, classic  messenger bag, in solid black. Available in sizes from XS to XL.  

Back to School

Messenger Bag -vs- Backpack

Which one do you prefer?

Messenger bag roll call - Photo by saebaryo

How do you feel about Messenger Bags?

Let us know what you think about messenger bags!

Do you have a messenger bag? What has been your experience using a messenger bag for carrying your belongings? Share your thoughts with us, we'd love to hear from you!


102 leaves
2127 forum posts
bill on said:
Messenger bags came into style towards the end of college for me, so I never wore one. In my day (I sound old), it was backpacks and bookbags. With less text books and more ereaders today, messenger bags make more sense than any bookbag. Come to think of it, I haven't seen a kid carry a bookbag in years. Nice work!
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1103 forum posts
Bonita on said:
I'm forwarding this to my daughter who will be taking dual enrollment classes at community college in the fall. She's been scouting around for a bag.
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51 forum posts
Hi Bonita.... Hope your daughter finds the information helpful!
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Good Ideas and great lens. I think these are bags my daughters would enjoy.
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51 forum posts
Both of my teenage daughters use messenger bags for school - and they were the inspiration for this leaf. They actually own two of the canvas ones I've featured above (of course, they couldn't have the same one!). Both of them absolutely love their bag, they 'go' with everything, and they're strong enough to lug all their books and electronics in.
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katiem2 on said:
Thanks for the great information. My daughter has gone thru 3 Vera Bradley Large Totes, which keep falling apart at the handle or strap. The strap just doesn't hold up. It's back to school and I have talked her into trying something other than the VB tote bag. Now I have your review to share with her, sweet assortment. :)K
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51 forum posts
I'm so glad you found the info helpful. I have to agree with you, I don't think the VB people intended those bags for the kind of stress books will put on them. They are lovely, but just not heavy-duty. I own one of the Rickshaw messenger bags and I have to say that bag is incredibly well made and STRONG! And the best thing about those is that there are SO MANY designs to choose from.... Anyway, all my best to you and your daughter - and I hope she finds the perfect bag!

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