Among laptop messenger bags, the clear standout is the Rickshaw Bagworks Commuter 2.1 (Est. $180) . Its predecessor, the Commuter 2.0, was a top pick in a head-to-head matchup of laptop bags at OutdoorGearLab.com, winning praise for its good laptop protection, convenient organizational features and durable construction. The newer 2.1, which TheWirecutter.com editors say is identical except for its two side pockets, is highly commended in three different tech publications for its combination of style and utility. Reviewers are impressed with its tough yet lightweight construction, its well-padded interior and its assortment of useful pockets and clips for organizing all your belongings. One feature that reviewers consistently single out for praise is the magnetic closure strips, which offer a more discreet alternative to typical Velcro closures (though the bag has those, too, for added security).
The Commuter 2.1's styling is another feature most reviewers really like. It's a classic messenger-bag shape, available in Cordura nylon, sailcloth or tweed. (Cordura is a brand name.) If you don't like any of the basic color options, you can choose the custom version, which offers a huge variety of colors and fabrics for the exterior, trim and logo. TheWirecutter.com editors describe the design as "understated," saying it's suitable for both professionals and students, although it might be a bit informal for "more serious" corporate settings.
The only reviewers who don't like the Commuter's shape are the testers at OutdoorGearLab.com, who say the semi-rigid corners on the original Commuter 2.0 make it uncomfortable to wear while biking. A more comfortable option, they say, is the Timbuk2 Custom Classic Messenger Bag (Est. $70 and up) . Like the Rickshaw, this bag offers custom styling, with over 50 fabric choices that you can mix and match to your liking. On the more practical side, the Timbuk2 is waterproof and sturdy, with a useful selection of interior pockets. The editors at OutdoorGearLab.com find it a bit lacking in exterior pockets, however. If you buy a premade version of the Classic Messenger from a source like Amazon.com or REI, it can be a good budget alternative to the Commuter 2.1. However, upgrading to the custom bag in a larger size and a fancier fabric could put it at the same price as the Rickshaw or even higher.