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Old 11-28-07, 05:48 PM   #1
BarracksSi
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Messenger bag, or backpack?

Well, my LBS just got a new batch of Chrome messenger bags, all the way up to the big Kremlin size (although none of their backpacks). So they've got me thinking...

I have a couple normal-sized bags, one military issue and one Swiss Army bag. Both of them carry what I usually take to work, although they kinda suck on the bike. They don't really stay in one place, so I'm always pushing them back to where they're supposed to be.

I have a backpack that's designed more for carrying a laptop and some other stuff. It's good for what it is, but it's getting old enough that I'm worried about the straps staying attached, and computer-specific features like the laptop sleeve take up extra space that could be used for, say, an extra pair of shoes or other clothing. I've also got an issued ALICE pack (think 1970's-era military bag ), which really isn't bad, but I'm trying to keep a relatively low profile, especially with an upcoming trip to Europe.

I commute on my CAAD8 just as often as on my city bike, and the commute itself is under ten minutes. I don't really see a need for a rack & panniers at this point.

So, I'm trying to decide whether to get an honest-to-god messenger bag or a good-sized, cargo-friendly backpack. I'll be riding with it to work and sometimes using it as carry-on luggage.

I mentioned the Chrome bags to my sister. She said that her husband uses a messenger-style bag all the time, but it's uncomfortable for him since it mostly hangs off of one shoulder. I'm a reasonably sturdy guy, and I often switch my bag from one shoulder to the other as needed, but I'm now just hesitant enough to not buy a new bag right away.

Which do you guys prefer, considering utility, comfort, etc? Why get one instead of the other -- what does a messenger bag do that a backpack can't, and vice versa?
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Old 11-28-07, 06:09 PM   #2
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i like the messenger bag because my backpack leaves like blisters around my upper chest and outer pecs..besides chrome bags are sex. I have a timbuk2 it does it's job pretty well.
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Old 11-28-07, 06:25 PM   #3
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I use a Timbuk2 bag as well, but there was one semester where I had to carry about 40lbs of textbooks in my bag every day and my shoulder was hurting pretty bad after a while. I ended up getting a padded shoulder strap to go with the bag and that helped a lot! I'd recommend a messenger bag if you're not going to be carrying heavy loads often.
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Old 11-28-07, 06:45 PM   #4
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Man I cant wait until all the non-cyclist quit wearing messenger bags so I can try one!
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Old 11-28-07, 06:51 PM   #5
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Man I cant wait until all the non-cyclist quit wearing messenger bags so I can try one!
Lol, when I got my bag, I ordered it online and thought it was pretty cool. Then I started wearing it and noticed that tons of people wear Timbuk2's as well I thought I was getting a bag that you wouldn't see often! At least I got a custom color scheme.
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Old 11-28-07, 06:57 PM   #6
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I have both.

If I will be needing to dig things out of the bag all day, I like the messenger bag because I can leave it supported by my shoulder as I rummage through it. My backpack must be removed and balanced on my knee or the set on the ground or other surface.

My backpack is more comfortable and stays put on my back without shifting around. No need for readjusting continuously as it slides around, although some folks may have more skill at wearing a messenger bag than I. So if I am just carrying lunch and a change of clothes to work, I will almost always wear a backpack.
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Old 11-28-07, 07:07 PM   #7
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backpack everytime

I like havng both shoulders feeling the same and with a tadgear pack I can get more into it than even a pacdesigns ultimate o/s (edit: or so I think)
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Old 11-28-07, 07:10 PM   #8
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http://www.tadgear.com/x-treme%20gea..._pack_p_s_.htm

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Old 11-28-07, 08:16 PM   #9
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I have both.
/end thread

damn you... there hasn't been enough discussion (or, in BF style, arguing).. lol

That might be what I end up doing after all. I like wearing a bag over one shoulder and being able to move it around (great for riding the subway), but don't like how the ones I have can't stay put when I need them to. And, yeah, as long as a backpack fits, I can pretty much wear it all day, although it's much clumsier when it's not on my back.
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Old 11-28-07, 08:22 PM   #10
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I don't use a messenger bag so I am not qualified to comment, but two observations:

1. The Chrome is designed to be worn on one particular shoulder only. They make right and left shoulder models, but once you get one you are committed to that shoulder, as I understand it.

2. A messenger bag is one big compartment covered with a flap. One day I was at an airport (or was this on TV news, I forget) and saw some baggage handlers heaving bags around. I would worry that things could spill out of a messenger bag on an airplane trip. Of course, if it was carry-on, that changes things.
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Old 11-28-07, 08:38 PM   #11
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Yeah, the one-shoulder thing was on my mind, too. The good thing is that it really stays in place well, but the bad thing is that it's just not the same on the other side of my body. I stood around the shop for half an hour with a loaded Metropolis version (and with a Kremlin, too) just to see what it would be like, and while I could switch it to the other shoulder like any other bag, I could tell that it was only a temporary, non-rideable position.

I'm really trying to stay with carry-on luggage for this year's trip because British Airways lost my stuff last time. They didn't even really try to get it to me, either -- I was in Germany for three weeks, and my one bag (that was too big to carry on... grr) went from Heathrow to Frankfurt and back to DC a full week before I was due to return. AND, it was missing one of its skate wheels.
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Old 11-29-07, 09:39 AM   #12
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I find messenger bags a lot more comfortable in warm/hot weather.

On the other hand, I've pretty much switched to a backpack as of this past summer, because my shoulder was getting messed up. Part of that probably came from my carrying lots of stuff walking around as well as on the bike -- in riding position, most of the weight in a messenger bag is supported by your lower back, but it's all on the shoulder strap when you're standing up -- but it definitely happened.
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Old 11-29-07, 10:54 AM   #13
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I like backpacks because they stay put better then any messenger bag I have tried. There are several backpacks with frames that make a space between you and the pack for airflow. Try hiking and camping stores for those.
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Old 11-29-07, 10:59 AM   #14
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my chrome citizen is the best bag i own for biking.

it doesnt move around at all.
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Old 11-29-07, 12:19 PM   #15
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I don't see the point of a messenger bag for commuting. The load is distributed over a smaller area (one shoulder versus 2 for a backpack). That being said, I've never tried one. Panniers are the best .
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Old 11-29-07, 12:27 PM   #16
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backpack everytime

I like havng both shoulders feeling the same
+1 Same here. I have occasional back problems. I don't want to take a chance on increasing my back problems by uneven weight distribution.

At work my main computer is a laptop. We are issued a backpack or briefcase for carrying it if we take it home or whatever. It's a Targus backpack (pretty standard). I rarely take my computer home, but I use that as my main backpack.
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Old 11-29-07, 12:40 PM   #17
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I have used both.

I prefer my messenger bag over my backpack. However, my messenger bag is a very nicely made baileyworks pro bag while my backpack is a POS cheap bag made in god knows where.
In other words, the comparison is unfair.

Try both. Then decide.
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Old 11-29-07, 01:38 PM   #18
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I have a Chrome Metropolis and love it. While it's not perfect, I can carry a lot of stuff in it and don't have to worry about it getting wet. Also, when it's empty it feels a lot better than a regular backpack. I wouldn't worry about shoulder problems unless you are carrying really heavy stuff for a long distance everyday. I'll get a little soreness if I've been out riding all day and hadn't really taken it off for a break, but that's pretty rare. I like it's versatility too, I can strap things to the outside pretty easily and I can leave the flap open if I'm carrying a huge box or something that is way to big.

EDIT: If it is closed properly, it shouldn't be an issue with things coming out of it at an airport or anywhere else. Mine has strong velcro on the flap as well as two straps that can be tightened down really well.

Last edited by straightedge; 11-29-07 at 01:44 PM. Reason: Forgot to mention something
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Old 11-29-07, 02:59 PM   #19
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I have 3 bags. A Timbuk2 Messenger bag, a Chrome Messenger Rolltop Backpack, and a Banjo Bros.
Messenger Backpack.

They all keep everything dry. I use the Timbuk2 for city riding/commutes so I look urban chic , but it shifts around a lot more than the backpacks. It is comfortable, just shifts around more.

The Chrome is very comfortable and huge, so I use it when I need to pack a lot. it works great.

The Banjo Bros. is probably the best all around solution for me. Not too big, comfortable, and I use it
probably 60-70% of the time.

I do prefer the backpacks over the messenger bag, mainly because I have a fairly long commute, and they are more stable for me without shifting around. I rarely have to get something out of the bags after
I start rolling, so that isn't too much of an issue for me, but the Messenger bag does work easier for that.
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Old 11-29-07, 03:29 PM   #20
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I done loves my chrome bag. Stays in place well, has straps for lights, as well as a strap to secure under your arm. If your a winter commuter, it rocks because of the waterproof design. 1 piece of advice though, if you ARE a winter commuter, or any commuter for that matter, Keep in mind allowing space for extra clothes or shoes that you might take; Look at getting something slightly larger then you envision using everyday... I wish i had...
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Old 11-29-07, 10:28 PM   #21
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If you need to wear off one shoulder then skip the Chrome. It is only designed to be work across your chest/back bandolier style. They are great on the bike though. I wear mine without the stabilizer strap and it still stays in place even at high rpms.

Try a Baileyworks 253 Courier. I use a medium one for my carry-on bag to carry a laptop, accessories, and some clothes. It carries a surprising amount of stuff. You can wear it any which way even though you can order a left-swing or right-swing model. The strap is attached symmetrically (unlike most pro bags) so you can wear off either shoulder , you just can't access the adjusting buckle if you put it on the 'wrong' shoulder.

I was using my giant Reload Deluxe for my carry-on for a while but it is just too much bag for an everyday quick getaway type of bag. I like that I can wear the bag off one shoulder but you can't switch shoulders as the strap is attached at an angle specific for your carry.

I also use my Deuter backpacks sometimes when I don't carry very much but having the large cargo hold of a messenger bag spoils you. Especially when you need to carry awkward or oversized items or go grocery shopping. Have tried backpacks from Osprey, Mountainsmith, Gregory, Deuter, Camelbak and I prefer the Deuter ones the best for ventilation and features.

One last thing, I would resist the urge to get a too-big bag. I kept getting bigger bags until I found myself with a Chrome Kremlin and realized that I was never going to (nor would I want to) carry as much stuff as that bag is capable of (I once fit a wheel in it with room to spare). As it is my Reload Deluxe is a little too big and I only use it on the bike and only when I have to.
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Old 11-30-07, 12:35 AM   #22
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I use an Eastpak with a laptop compartment and an music-player slot. It also has enough room for me to swap out of bikewear and into work clothes or school clothes. the straps clip together in the front to keep it from getting squirrelly in heavy activity. Had it for six years, no complaints. Even keeps stuff dry.
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Old 11-30-07, 01:13 PM   #23
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One thing you might want to consider is what your body position is when you ride. If you tend to be hunched over a lot - in the drops our out on bullhorns, then a mess bag might work best for you because it will stay in place and distribute the weight across your back evenly. If you tend to ride more upright, then you might want to go with a backpack. A mess bag will put all the weight on one shoulder in an upright position and won't be as comfortable.
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Old 11-30-07, 01:32 PM   #24
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I used a backpack for a little while, but it would always ride up my back and somehow get tangled with my helmet so when I moved my head, it would be snug. I hated it. I now use a Timbuck2 and I love it. If you get the right length for the shoulder strap and tighten the chest strap well enough, it shouldn't move. The flap has clips on it so I tighten them down tight too, and nothing will get out. There is an internal organizer pocket as well, so valuables can go in there. I can't imagine using anything else.
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Old 11-30-07, 01:58 PM   #25
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i'm loving my chrome mini.metro after a few weeks use. until i'd gotten used to it, the sensation of wearing it felt like someone hugging me. if that's not an argument for "stays in place" i don't know what is. the heavily padded shoulder strap is very comfy. i'm an organization nut and i was worried about the large interior pouch but there are enough outer pockets on the bag to meet my needs. if you go with one, get one with a lighter colored liner as it'll help make items more visible inside the bag. i'm actually preferring it to my pannier although i may change my tune next summer.
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