Laptop messenger bags are large, flat bags with a single strap, to be worn either on one shoulder or across the body. They typically include a special compartment for your computer and a large flap that covers the bag's opening. There are a huge number of laptop messenger bags on the market, but two captivated critics in our reviews: Rickshaw's Zero Messenger Bag (*Est. $60 and up) and Timbuk2's Custom Messenger Bag (*Est. $160 and up). Both bags are most commonly available on their manufacturer's website, where they can be customized to your liking. Here's how they add up:
Rickshaw's Zero Messenger Bag is incredibly sturdy, with high-strength stitching, construction and details. Some reviews say that after years of use, the fabric of the bags looks exactly the same, especially the Performance Tweed, a surprisingly supple fabric woven entirely from post-consumer plastic. The Timbuk2 Custom Messenger bag wins praise for its sturdy fabric options, waterproof lining and metal buckles and fittings. Both Rickshaw Bagworks and Timbuk2 have extremely high reputations with critics for durability, and these two bags are no exception. Both earn perfect scores for durability.
Messenger bags can be heavy because of the large amount of material involved in making them. That said, reviews describe the Rickshaw Zero Messenger bag as surprisingly light, with a soft feel to its fabric and a soft, adjustable strap. What really makes reviewers rave, however, is the way the strap is attached to the bag: triangular gussets mean the bag lies flat instead of curling around the body. The Timbuk2 Custom Messenger gets high points from reviewers on the bag's comfortable fit, but they split on the strap, which is supposed to adjust quickly for quick removal and replacement. While some love that feature, others say it makes the bag impossible to adjust while wearing, and the strap loops unattractively. Because of the unanimous praise for the Rickshaw, the Zero Messenger takes the comfort category with a perfect score.
Even though it doesn't have the word "custom" in the name, the Rickshaw Zero Messenger, like the Timbuk2 Custom Messenger, offers buyers a huge number of optional fabric and feature variations when ordering. Both users and critics like the bottom of the bag, which has angled origami-like corners, and the high amount of selection for exterior and interior fabric (including a highly reflective fabric for night use, custom prints and that 100 percent post-consumer plastic tweed). The Timbuk2 Custom Messenger gets high marks for the huge number of fabric and feature choices, but some users and reviewers note that not all choices are equally attractive. With a perfect score, the Rickshaw Zero Messenger bag takes the appearance category.
Custom bags are tricky. Timbuk2 has a great reputation among users and reviewers for customer service in general, standing behind its bags if customers are unhappy with them. But the company will not accept returns of custom bags under its limited lifetime warranty unless they are defective, leaving users who end up with a size or material combination that wasn't what they expected out of luck. Rickshaw Bagworks' guarantee is "no reasonable request refused," and user reports indicate they stand behind their warranty even on custom bags. In addition, users rave about their experience with Rickshaw's customer service. The Rickshaw bag takes the warranty category.
Both the Rickshaw Zero Messenger (*Est. $60 and up) and the Timbuk2 Custom Messenger bag (*Est. $160 and up) are made in the U.S., which increases the price compared to bags manufactured in bulk overseas. In fact, reviewers note that if you don't feel the need to customize, the basic version of the Timbuk2 Messenger bag is similar and considerably cheaper -- in part because it's made overseas.
The Rickshaw Zero Messenger bag looks like a relative bargain, except that -- according to reviews -- there are a half-dozen accessories you are really going to want, ranging from the $10 strap pad to a $20 sleeve for your laptop that fits neatly inside. The Timbuk2 Custom Messenger is in the same boat; accessories only add to the price. Despite raves about the bags' features, construction and appearance, critics take away points based on the prices for both bags.
Critics are delighted with the Rickshaw Zero Messenger bag's appearance, customization, extremely durable build quality, features and U.S. point of origin. While the Timbuk2 Custom Messenger also receives extremely high scores -- and would make a very respectable choice, critics and users agree -- the Rickshaw is overwhelmingly the best-reviewed in this category (and among laptop bags overall).