Messenger Bags Guide
If you need a reliable messenger bag that that you can count on to earn a living or just to protect your valuables, then you may need a professional messenger bag.
Many bag makers will brag about the quality and originality of their bags. They may claim they are tough, durable and “bomb proof.” Many will claim that their bags are actually used by messengers but in reality most are not because they will quickly fall apart under professional conditions.
If you want a bag that will last and you want a bag that you can trust. Then buy a bag from a reputable manufacturer. Buy a bag that is respected by professionals for its quality.
In almost all cases the best messenger bags are made by small manufacturers who design, produce and market the bags themselves. They are generally made by current or former bike messengers and will often custom make a bag just for you.
Ignore bag reviews by non-pro’s that whine about the cost or size of professional bags. When it comes to messenger bags you generally get you pay for.
Below is an evolving list of the best quality bag makers (in no specific order)
Check out a brief history of the messenger bag at the International Federation of Bike Messengers Association (IFBMA)
De Martini is the original messenger bag. It was started as Globe Canvas by sailmaker Frank DeMartini in the 1950’s. For many years DeMartini was the only messenger bag maker in the world and he supplied most messenger companies in New York. He passed away in 2000 but the bags live on.
Article: One Man’s Art: Bags for Messengers – New York Times, August 4, 1985
One of the oldest bag makers, Manhattan Portage started in 1980 in New York. Their slogan is “Why is everyone copying us? Is it something we’ve done?” Their bags are based on DeMartini’s Globe Canvas original bags.
Zo Bags started in 1984 and are probably the first international bags. After the first Cycle Messenger World Championships in 1993 Zo Bags were used by messengers all over the world. The orginal Zo Bags retain value as a collectible. According to the IFBMA Zo Bags can, “securely claim the introduction of one-piece construction (of the outer covering; previously, makers like DeMartini and Manhattan Portage constructed the flap as a separate piece, which necessitated a seam across the top of the bag), as well as the 3-panel bag design and the waist strap.”
Article: It’s in the bag – San Francisco Chronicle, January 27, 2002
Courierware started in 1986 and originated in Boston and later relocated to Vermont. At one time they were very popular in Boston.
Article: He Figured That Business Is So Good, Who Needs a Store? – New York Times, November 16, 2005
PAC started in 1989 in Toronto (relocated to British Columbia and then back to Ontario). PAC is very well-respected by couriers worldwide. They were probably the first to build fully customized bags with many options and add-ons, such as pockets dividers, radio holders, hip pouches and u-lock holsters.
“Pac Designs original innovations such as the “D” ring adjusting, “anti-sway” straps, padded backs, and Ballistic bottoms are now seen on other messenger bags. Other innovations such as the “X” strap (A removable 2nd shoulder strap), 3 layers Construction, and Deluxe suspension strapping remain exclusively on Pac bags.
Started in 1995 in Toronto at the former downtown courier bike shop – The Bike Ranch. This is the same place that PAC bags were made prior to PAC’s move to British Columbia. Together with PAC, Push is one of the two top quality messenger bag manufacturers in Ontario.
Article: Messenger bags that deliver – Toronto Star, May 29, 2003
Started in 1993 in Montreal, hand made and they are well respected by Montreal messengers.
Started in 1995. “Most of what we build and sell are bicycle messenger bags in two styles and we sell them mostly to non-messengers.”
Article: Ten years on, company’s bags dangle from broader market of shoulders – Portsmouth Herald, July 19, 2005
Started in 1998 in Philadelphia and expanded to Seattle in 2003. They are very popular and respected by Philadelphia and Seattle messengers.
Started in 1994, Chrome Bags are very popular with commuters and non-messengers. Their bags are famous for the quick release seat-belt buckle.
40 Rondel Place, San Francisco, Ca 94103
New but not newcomers. The guys behind Mission Workshop were the once the guys behind Chrome so they have a lot experience and definitely know what they are doing. They’ re known for the Vandal, a waterproof two-strap messenger bag among others.
80 Parsons Ave
Columbus, OH 43215
Started in 2003 in Columbus, Ohio, Seagull Bags have done some nice custom work for various messenger championships.