Messenger Bag Vs Backpack: Which is Better for You?

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Backpacks were typically used by school-going kids, trekkers, and hikers a few years ago. Not to mention, briefcases were commonplace within the workplace and other professional settings. However, more and more people emphasize both form and function these days. And manufacturers are heeding their cry for laptop bags and messenger bags they can use for work, school, and travel while also considering back health as an important factor.

However, people usually go back and forth on whether a backpack or a messenger bag is better when talking about both form and functionality. Each comes under a different category of luggage if used for traveling. With that being said, let us look at a few differences between a messenger bag vs backpack down below:



Messenger Bag Vs Backpack: What’s the Difference?

The design and style of each bag and the reason you plan to use it will eventually determine which type of bag is most suitable for you.

Messenger bags have a professional appearance. They have a smart-casual style that goes well with both a suit and tie and a pair of denim jeans. It’s great for students, office workers, or others who need easy access to their main compartment and messenger bags usually have enough space for laptops or multiple books or files.

On the other hand, backpacks have also changed significantly over the years. So, while they may appear slightly more casual in design, they are far more versatile and functional for various use cases, making them particularly handy for commuting and lengthy excursions. Furthermore, a backpack comes in a plethora of styles, materials, and sizes to meet your needs, whereas messenger bags are typically a one-size-fits-all solution.


Important Features of a Backpack

A backpack can be any size from as small as a purse to a large hiking and camping pack. However, a travel backpack shouldn’t be too small that it won’t be able to at least house your everyday travel essentials. That said, it’s better to go with something you can easily carry during your travels. After all, the bigger the backpack, the heavier it will be.

As far as features go, a travel backpack is a special type of rucksack that is popular among travelers. The most common form of access into the compartments is via zippered u-shaped openings on the top. The packing spaces are vertical, so they’re not good for storing small items that will fall to the bottom, in which case having a few internal pockets is a necessity. In addition, most travel backpacks have additional loops and straps for attaching sleeping bags, jackets, and other items.

Many backpacks have the added advantage of being able to have shoulder harnesses, hip belts, and padded shoulders straps for ergonomic carry. The straps of a backpack rarely dig into your shoulders So you don’t have to be too concerned about your shoulders and back suffering for short to moderate periods of carrying. In addition, many internal frame hiking backpacks also include hidden parallel stays that give further support to your back. They’re a suitable fit for most body types because the frames, webbing, and straps are usually adjustable.

A Backpack is More Casual
A backpack is ideal for storing your belongings while on the move. You’ll be able to go on plane trips, daily commutes, walks, and hikes without worrying about your bag weighing you down. Instead, you’ll be able to carry more items, ensuring that you have all you require when you need it.


  • Padding is included in the shoulder straps, adding an extra layer of comfort.

  • A backpack allows you to carry more items than a messenger bag.

  • If you throw your backpack into an overhead bin, it normally has features such as padding and compartments that protect your belongings.

  • Backpacks usually have several storage pockets.

  • Thanks to the straps, the weight is appropriately distributed over your shoulders and body while using a backpack.


  • A backpack isn’t the most stylish or professional-looking option unless it’s something like a leather backpack purse.

  • Every backpack doesn’t always come with waist straps, which might make it difficult to carry for lengthy periods of time.

  • Backpacks can be rather large and bulky.

  • You can’t access your belongings while you’re carrying the backpack.

  • It’s not the most secure option in places where there are pickpockets because you can’t see what’s happening behind you. That’s why anti-theft backpacks are quite popular when traveling to foreign locales.



Important Features of a Messenger Bag

Messenger bags, also called courier bags, are satchel-like bags. They have typically been used by messengers for decades. Pony Express riders, mail messengers, and bike couriers donned messenger bags to get the job done. Utility linemen’s messenger bags from the 1950s have also influenced today’s messenger bags. Messenger bags were ideal for them as they required easy-to-access tool bags that they were able to wear when climbing a utility pole.

A Messenger Bag is More Professional
While satchels and related bags come in various forms, authentic messenger bags have three fundamental features. Because messenger bags are often affiliated with briefcases, they are thought to be a little more formal than backpacks. Of course, a messenger bag can be worn informally, but if you want to use it in a more professional context, such as a business meeting right after you get off a plane, it will get the job done as a personal item bag for business travel. A weather-resistant exterior, such as waxed canvas, is a common feature of a messenger bag.

A good messenger bag will have a solid mechanism for safeguarding its contents. After all, messenger bags originated with messenger and couriers carrying important documents. As a result, zippers, clasps, and buckles are prevalent and add both functionality and style to a messenger bag. A true messenger bag will also have a top flap that goes over the main compartment and secures to the front of the bag. This feature hides the opening of the compartment and keeps your belongings more secure.

Messenger bags have a long cross-body strap that allows them to be worn against the lower back and then pulled over to the front or side to access its contents without removing the bag. This feature makes messenger bags great for riding your bike to work, traveling in a crowded train or bus, or walking through busy streets. 

When you purchase a good messenger bag, your life will become a whole lot easier. You’ll be able to bring all your important devices and everyday items with you wherever you go. You won’t have to be concerned about misplacing your phone or keys in a bottomless pit. However, keep in mind that a messenger bag has only one large main compartment and one or two small pockets, so everything is shoved together. On that note, a few pros and cons of a messenger bag are mentioned below:


  • Messenger bags are less bulky and less likely to bump into someone when carried on public transit, especially when standing in a crowded train.

  • A messenger doesn’t come in your way when getting on and off your bike.

  • Unlike a backpack, a messenger bag is slimmer and lightweight, which forces you to limit the amount you pack into it, therefore making it easier to carry.

  • Messenger bags are more fashionable and professional in appearance.

  • Because you can move a messenger bag from the back to the side, to the front, you will experience less back sweat and be able to keep an eagle eye on your belongings when necessary.


  • A messenger backpack lacks an outside pocket for a water bottle. But, it may have a hook or two, allowing you to simply attach a stainless steel water bottle with the help of a carabiner.

  • There aren’t as many inside pockets in certain messenger bags. However, you can purchase some internal bag organizers for your belongings.

  • A messenger bag has a huge downside: it can be quite uncomfortable, especially if you cannot find something that fits you well. If you generally only carry a backpack, it will take some time for your body to adapt to the weight of the messenger bag, which is not uniformly distributed across both shoulders.



Are Messenger Bags Bad for Your Back?

If you’re having back pain, this could be because you’ve been carrying your luggage incorrectly for a few weeks or days. If you’re wondering whether your messenger bag is causing back pain or you are wearing it incorrectly, then you’re in luck! Keep reading to find the answers to these questions.

A messenger bag that is the improper size might cause neck and back pain, so always choose the smaller option. You will save your back and neck by not having to carry unnecessary stuff. Furthermore, select your belongings carefully. In the end, only carry items you actually require to give your back some much-needed respite.

The most common cause of back pain is carrying extra weight on one side of your body for an extended period of time. It will lead to spinal curvature, resulting in back pain. Even a backpack can cause discomfort if there’s a large and heavy water bottle in a pocket on one side of the body. So, when choosing a messenger bag, always remember that a bag with an adjustable strap that can hug the bag closer to you instead of letting it slouch away is a better ergonomic option. You should also wear it most of the time against your back rather than to one side like a normal crossbody bag.

Furthermore, your messenger bag’s shoulder strap may be causing you back or neck pain, typically due to a long, thin shoulder strap. The width of the shoulder strap should be proportionate to the weight of the bag. So if you have back or neck problems and need to carry a lot of items, a wide and well-padded shoulder strap is the way to go.

It’s crucial to know how to wear a messenger bag correctly. A messenger backpack can be worn on either your left or right shoulder, but always wear the bag across your body instead of just hanging it from a single shoulder. Moreover, the movable padding must be adjusted correctly. Slide the padding over the strap to wear it properly on your shoulder.


Backpack Vs Messenger Bag for Travel

When it comes to travel specifically, it’s likely that you will be walking and even climbing more stairs than you would be going to work or college. Messenger bags are better for city sightseeing rather than for actually transporting your belongings between destinations. 

Since a messenger bag shouldn’t be too heavy, you’re limited to carrying in a tablet along with a phone, wallet, keys, snacks, and a few daily cosmetics. This is just the right amount for a day out seeing the sights. If you’re in a crowded city, it’s easy to swing a messenger bag to your front for a while so that no one with sticky fingers can snatch your wallet that’s inside.

If you’re using a messenger bag as a personal bag on a plane you can go a little bit bigger and get one with a dedicated laptop or tablet pocket if needed. 

A backpack is great for packing for a 2-3 day trip, as it can hold quite a bit. It’s also a great option if you’re looking to do one bag travel with just a carry on bag. You can also use a smaller one as a day pack for short hikes, or a large hiking backpack for long multi-day hikes.


Messenger Bag Vs Backpack for Work or School

If you have to carry lots of books and files to work or school, then you have to watch out for your back and shoulders or you’ll end up being in pain at the end of the day and possibly do long-term damage. This is where a backpack is definitely better for you, as the weight is evenly distributed across both shoulders and you can pick a pack with a waist strap to help stabilize the load bring some of the weight to your hips.

If your laptop is the primary thing you have to carry and everything else is small and light, you can consider a messenger bag instead. If you like to bike to work or school, this will feel more comfortable than a backpack. A messenger bag is also a better option if you commute by crowded buses or trains because there’s less chance of butting the bag into someone when you turn.



Are backpacks better than messenger bags?

If you want to carry multiple items such as snacks, clothing, and laptops, a backpack will be your best bet. The equal distribution of weight across both shoulders makes it more comfortable to carry. However, buy a messenger bag if you want to carry just day essentials and a tablet on short journeys. That way, you can keep an eye on it when necessary by swinging the bag to your side or front.

Are messenger bags comfortable?

A messenger bag will be comfortable to wear as long as you wear it correctly and don’t overload it with items. It must be worn across the body and against the back instead of just slung over a shoulder.

Are messenger bags practical?

A messenger bag is practical if you want to store everyday items for short journeys or want to keep your bag within eyesight in a crowded place. However, practicality will go out of the window if you overstuff it. It would be better to go with a backpack for bulkier or heavier items instead.

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