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How to wear a messenger bag

how to wear a messenger bag

Why Messenger Bags? How to wear a messenger bag?

Many of our fans ask us why would you want to wear a messenger bag, when you can wear a backpack?  Many are concerned that these bags are bad for your back.  After all, isn’t it uncomfortable to have all the weight on one shoulder?

The primary purpose of messenger bags is to have quick and easy access to your gear.  While a backpack can be more comfortable, particularly for heavier loads and when walking or biking longer distances, the ability to take things out quickly is limited.  Hence this is where the messenger bag excels, and what it is primarily designed for.

The bags are designed to be worn a certain way to maximize comfort and be easy on your back and shoulder. They should always be worn this way to get the maximum comfort benefits that the bags are designed for.  The best bags are very well padded to minimize, and in many cases eliminate pinching and strain.

Bags are designed to go over either your right shoulder or your left shoulder.  To see which shoulder your bag is designed for,  simply inspect the strap and identify where the padding is: this should be going over your shoulder.

The chest strap is designed to sit in the middle of your chest
The chest strap is designed to sit in the middle of your chest. Image from Chrome.

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To put the bag on, sling the handle over either your left or right shoulder.  Singe the bag so the chest strap goes right across your chest, wherever it feels like you have the most padding and support – this will vary by person, depending on the length of your torso.  Most bags have a stabilizing under the shoulder strap on one side that keeps your bag from sliding around.   In the photo above, the Chrome bag you can see the strap that goes under the same shoulder.  This connects to the bottom of the messenger bag on the other side.

Messenger are more convenient, and this is the main purpose of the bag. Messenger bags also curve to your back – something that a lot of backpacks can’t do, due to their design. of course if you pick up a cheaper backpack and cram it full, it will be hard on your back as well.

The messenger bag can conform to your back comfortably
The messenger bag can conform to your back comfortably. Image from Carryology

The main advantage with backpacks is that with a backpack, the load is more evenly spread than in a messenger bag.  Too much weight on one shoulder means your back twists more to one side resulting in an uneven strain and tension.   The main issue is carrying weight on your shoulder, which creates strain.  So should you opt for a backpack instead?

Ideally, we should not be be carrying weight on our shoulders, weight should be carried on the hips.  Do most backpacks do this?  Well, many don’t, particularly the lower quality ones, and you still have the same problem of shoulder strain. Notice that backpacking backpacks have very thick padding on the hip strap: this is because they are designed to sustain the majority of weight on your hips.  So if you are choosing between a backpack and messenger bag for comfort, unless you have  a proper hip strap that can actually be adjusted properly and comfortably to hold heavy pack weight should you need it, it probably won’t make a difference which you chose.  Keep  in mind that messenger bags are very well padded to distribute the weight comfortably across your back.

Yes,  with a messenger bag you are distributing all your weight of your books, laptop, and whatever other gear to one side of your body.  But with a backpacks strain both shoulders, and neither are good for your back if you are carrying heavy things over a long period of time. Try a few backpacks and messenger bags, and choose whats more comfortable. A lot of messenger bags come with a soft padded strap that can be quite comfortable.

How messenger bag sits on your back
How the bag sits on your back. On the other side, the rider has a strap that connects the shoulder strap to the other side of the bag, keeping it securely in place and distributing weight evenly. Image from Mission Workshop

In terms of packable volume, messenger bags and backpacks are very similar to how much they can each pack. The main difference is with the messenger bag you will have access to your gear faster. The main draw of messenger bags is this convenience factor.

You can also make your decision depending on the load. Light stuff? Choose a messenger bag – for heavy stuff, consider using a backpack instead.  Many companies that sell messenger bags also sell backpacks.  Backpacks are just generally better if you are carrying heavy stuff and for long periods of time.   What are your needs?

Bottom Line

Messenger bags:


  • Convenience
  • Practical, comfortable design
  • Stylish


  • All weight is on one shoulder
  • Not great for carrying heavy things over a long period of time



  • Better for riding longer distances, heavier loads


  • Not as stylish!
  • Takes longer to access your gear

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