Finding the best messenger bags for photographers isn't always an easy task – but it's worth doing. Not only do you get a stylish bag that looks great for all situations, but you also get a sophisticated system for carrying your camera(s).
There's a reason why messenger bags are some of the most popular camera bags (opens in new tab) ever made. They often come with customizable interior dividers that can be shaped around the needs of your gear, and many have extra features like rain covers, tripod holders, and even laptop pouches.
Slinging across one shoulder, messenger bags are as useful for a daily commute as they are for photo gear, which makes them a great choice if you plan to use the bag for multiple purposes. Generally speaking, their slim profile makes them great for city breaks and day trips, but that's not to say they aren't roomy.
If you're looking for a bag for a long photo hike or outdoor trip, it might be worth taking a look at our roundup of the best camera backpacks (opens in new tab) instead. And if you're packing a lot of professional camera gear, check out the best roller bags (opens in new tab).
We've chosen the best messenger bags based on a number of factors: capacity, waterproofing, comfort, design, and price. No matter what your camera setup or your budget is, there should be something on this list to suit you.
What to look for in the best messenger bags for photographers
1. Will you need space for your laptop's charger and maybe an external drive?
2. Is the interior adaptable? It can be useful to make space for everyday items.
3. Velcro fastenings are secure, but can also be noisy when you open the bag.
4. A slimline bag will be easier to handle on buses, trains, and airplanes.
5. Don't get a bigger bag than you need. Overstuffed bags can be tiring.
The best messenger bags for photographers
This is pretty much everything you want from a photography messenger bag. The Lowepro ProTactic MG 160 AW II Messenger Bag is one of the more recent releases and features all the latest bells and whistles. Its interior divides for maximum versatility, with a bespoke 'Quick Shelf' system that allows you to safely house a 13-inch laptop as well as your camera kit. An all-weather (AW) cover is included to protect from the elements, and thanks to the customizable strap, it can be worn in three different ways: slung low in traditional messenger style, high on the shoulder, or across the body. There's a tripod attachment on the bottom of the bag and an easily accessible front pocket for sundry items like a smartphone that you want to access quickly. While it looks a little less chic than some of the other bags on this list, it's one of the most practical, and available at a great price.
The Hadley One's standout feature is a 13in laptop slot behind the main compartment. It’s a practically sized bag without being unwieldy, although you only get a half-width padded insert included. This will swallow a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, plus an ungripped full-frame body with a 50mm lens attached. The remaining space in the main compartment is great for personal effects, or you can add an optional second camera insert. Two large front pockets, meanwhile, are perfect for keeping lenses reachable during a shoot. But the real reasons you buy a Hadley One are its supreme quality, and a timeless style that’ll suit any occasion. The smell of the leather straps and reinforcing trim is worth the money alone, while the rugged canvas outer material and slightly domed flap shrug off abuse and a heavy rain shower.
Read more: Billingham Hadley One review (opens in new tab)
The Veo Range 36M/38M bags are light, practical and affordable shoulder bags with some neat touches. They can take a laptop and a good quantity of kit without feeling overstuffed and it’s great to be able to put a tripod in the base and not have to strap it to the outside – though it’s going to have to be pretty small tripod when folded in order to fit. The Veo Range 36M would be ideal for a mirrorless camera system (though it will take a DSLR too), while the 38M would be better for a DSLR system and a slightly longer travel tripod (up to 41cm folded length).
Read more: Vanguard Veo Range 36M review (opens in new tab)
The Peak Design Everyday Messenger is a bit of an icon in the world of camera messenger bag design. It looks as smart as a briefcase, but it packs in as much camera gear as any regular shoulder bag. There are so many clever design touches it's hard to take them all in straight away. So is it the best bag ever? Nearly, but not quite. It has a couple of features and quirks that might not suit everyone. The main compartment is covered only by the lid – there's no zipper – and the internal FlexFold dividers seem designed for larger cameras and lenses, so smaller items may rattle around.
The Signature 13 has a boxy 37 x 27 x 16cm exterior that retains its shape well and offers a high level of gear protection, with extra security from an internal zippered secondary cover. Although the bag is compact, arrange the quality dividers to split the main compartment into three sections and you’ve got an optimal layout for a DSLR with a 24-70mm lens attached, and two reasonably sized optics on either side. A 13in laptop will slot in behind, while a large expanding front pocket is ideal for a flashgun and filters. The manufacturing quality is top-notch; the wool-like fabric feels soft yet hard-wearing, and there’s a leather base and accents that’ll worry Billingham. A long, leather-backed neoprene shoulder pad is also especially comfortable.
The Noreg Messenger-30 (opens in new tab) is not just designed to be a camera bag – it can be turned into your work bag or overnight bag too. It's a regular shoulder bag with a removable padded insert that has its own shoulder strap, giving you a smaller photography bag for quick photo expeditions. And there's a removable padded 15-inch laptop sleeve on the back that you can unzip and take into meetings, or just leave at home if you don't need it. If you just need an overnight bag that fits airline carry-on regulations you can take off the laptop sleeve, remove the camera insert, and stuff in all the clothes, wash bag, and other bits you need for your overnight stay. There are straps for carrying a tripod too, as well as a pull-out rain cover.
Tenba's slick, upgraded Skyline 13 is a terrific messenger bag for zipping around a city with your camera gear in tow. It's capable of holding a mirrorless or DSLR camera with around 3-5 lenses, and can also hold a 13-inch laptop in its dedicated pocket. All this gear will also remain protected from the weather thanks to the tough, water-repellent fabric (which Tenba is confident enough in to forgo a dedicated rain cover), and there are tons of useful extra features like a carry-handle and extra zipped compartments for odds and ends. The interior dividers are customizable but only up to a point thanks to the limited surface for the velcro to cling onto, which is a bit of a shame, but this is still a great, stylish bag for its price and well worth picking up.
The Gitzo Century Traveler Messenger features locking side-pocket zippers, and a class-leading Fidlock fastener that latches and releases the main flap effortlessly and silently. The flap has an easy access slot on top, under which is a compact but fairly practical main compartment that’ll just about stash a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV (opens in new tab) or a Nikon D850 (opens in new tab) with a small attached lens, plus a couple more optics alongside. Behind this is a sexy suede-lined 13-in laptop pouch, although the two end pockets won’t fit much other than the included rain cover. As you’d expect from Gitzo, the build and material quality are very good, with leather trim and premium hardware. The carbon-effect accents won’t be to everyone’s taste, but you won’t feel short-changed.
The Manfrotto Manhattan Speedy-30 (opens in new tab) Messenger is attractive and streamlined, perfectly sized for use as carry-on luggage or as an everyday commuter bag. Inside it has a removable padded section for housing a DSLR or mirrorless camera along with four or even five lenses – including a 70-200mm f2.8. There’s a padded laptop section that can accommodate a 15-inch laptop, and just in front of it, there’s a padded pocket for a tablet. There’s another long zip-closing pocket on the inside of the bag lid, which is divided in two to help keep small items like pens, memory cards, or business cards organized.(opens in new tab)
This Nikon-branded bag, with a stylish looking gray finish, has enough internal space for a DSLR or mirrorless camera with a second lens. There is a small rear pocket which you could fit a tablet in, or paperwork. And to the front there are two accessory pockets at the front - but these don't offer lots of room. However, this would be a great first bag for someone who has just got a a camera – or wants something modestly-sized for travel.
The Billingham Eventer MKII (opens in new tab) has a hand-crafted, heritage look that’s just beautiful to look at and beautifully put together too. It’s tall, briefcase style dimensions make it easy to carry and pack away, but while it does allow for longer lenses it means you’ll probably have to double-stack a lot of your kit. Despite its many clever design touches, the Eventer MKII lacks smaller compartments and pockets for cables, cards and batteries, and it’s a little narrow for a pro DSLR or a camera with a grip fitted. And then, of course, there’s the price.
Thanks to a detachable carrying strap and two alternative sets of fastening loops, the Morally Toxic Wraith works equally well as a messenger or sling bag, giving it a bit of a split personality. A far cry from uniform black, it has a distinctive look in onyx, emerald and sapphire color scheme options, along with innovative design flourishes and impeccable build quality. All in all, it has the edge over many competitors. For carrying your camera kit and daily essentials in style, and with ample protection, the Wraith is as good as it looks.