Where can I buy a messenger bag in the DC area?
August 26, 2009 7:33 PM   Subscribe

In what store (not online) can I buy a messenger bag?

I've seen lots of places to order online, but this is something I'd like to see in person before buying. I've looked at some "luggage stores", which mostly don't seem to have this kind of thing. Is there a store that has a variety of bags that I could look at? I'm in the Washington DC area.

Here's something else I've been wondering: online, I see a lot of canvas "military surplus" bags for about $15-20. I assume these are not waterproof, but is there any other reason to think that $50 or $100 bags are better?
posted by k. to Shopping (19 answers total)
I see the Timbuk2 stuff at a lot of outdoor gear type stores and they have a few other models but not a ton. REI near you would be a place to try.
posted by jessamyn at 7:38 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I just saw a really nice leather messenger bag at Banana Republic yesterday, in a brick and mortar store. I also have seen a few cute messenger bags at Bankhart's, the luggage store, as well as seeing messenger bags on a pretty consistent basis at TJMaxx/Marshall's.

As for higher price = better quality -- often times, the difference in quality of construction can be found with higher priced bags, as well as a noticeable difference in materials used - obviously leather will be more expensive than canvas. I've noticed quite often that the more I pay for a handbag/messenger bag, the zippers/handles/top-stitching/seams will often hold up longer than lower quality/lower price bags. Example? I have a Kate Spade messenger bag that I accidently left on the top of my car for two days in the heat/sun/rain/thunderstorm as well as regularly carrying over 30+lbs of books and computer and it still looks almost brand-new, whereas a friend who purchased a Target brand canvas bag within the same period of time (we both got new laptops and bags to carry them in within 24 hours of each other) and the handle ripped within the first six months. I'm working on three years with my bag.
posted by banannafish at 7:42 PM on August 26, 2009

There's an REI in the near Maryland suburbs, and they have a good selection of the high tech/Timbuk2 kinds of bags.

Check a good hardware store: I bought a fantastic, made-in-the USA, mega-high quality leather pony express style bag at one. It's the best and I love it more than anything "designer" or modern.
posted by yesno at 7:54 PM on August 26, 2009

Seconding the TJMaxx suggestion by banannafish. They actually had a surprisingly large variety of bags at the local Marshalls. I bought the bag I currently use for school at Marshalls also.

Aside from that, random fashion stores usually have a few in stock (The Gap, American Eagle, etc). I'm not sure about the Washington DC area myself, but you'll probably be able to find one at the nearest shopping mall.
posted by Geppp at 7:56 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Bicycle shop.
posted by rhizome at 8:11 PM on August 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

Patagonia has a bunch of messenger bags on offer, both their own store-brand bags and various models made by Timbuck2.

Also, yeah, bike shops carry bike messenger bags, with urban shops catering to a hipster clientele tending to stock brands that aren't available elsewhere at retail.
posted by killdevil at 8:23 PM on August 26, 2009

yesno -- got a picture of that bag?
posted by fake at 8:32 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

To combine everyone's previous comments, I just managed to snag a Timbuk2 at a Marshall's. Didn't see any obvious manufacturing defects in it.
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 8:41 PM on August 26, 2009

Another vote for Timbuk2. I have a messenger bag that's still doing great a decade later. There's some damage to the nylon fabric from when it got run over and dragged for a block, but that's all.

Timbuk2 has a store locator that lists a half-dozen retailers in D.C.
posted by ryanrs at 9:07 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Are you perchance in Seattle? That would allow you to try my favorite, thoughtfully designed, nearly indestructible Tom Bihn bags.

I used military surplus bags for years, and still have a bunch. Pros: Interesting pockets, I like the way they look, all manner of shapes and sizes. Cons: Canvas can fade in funky ways, those pockets aren't always as great in practice as they are in theory, shapes often don't work as well in practice as they do in theory.
posted by desuetude at 9:47 PM on August 26, 2009

Urban Outfitters
posted by VC Drake at 12:35 AM on August 27, 2009

hot topic
army/navy would have the military surplus bag
posted by nadawi at 12:43 AM on August 27, 2009

The Dick's Sporting Goods by me has Timbuk2 messenger bags.
posted by knowles at 3:10 AM on August 27, 2009

Nthing TJ Maxx, although their stock can be unpredictable. My SO also got a great messenger bag at Target, if there's one in your area.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:59 AM on August 27, 2009

L.L.Bean has a brick and mortar store in Tysons.
posted by mathlete at 5:09 AM on August 27, 2009

REI's probably your best bet. Hudson Trail Outfitters (in Tenleytown & Pentagon City) have Timbuktu bags, too.
posted by jacob at 5:29 AM on August 27, 2009

An Apple store will have some selection but I assume you can find them cheaper elsewhere.
posted by mmascolino at 6:41 AM on August 27, 2009

I got a nice messenger bag, a Yak-Pak, at Staples of all places. I also have a really cheap canvas one from an army surplus store. While the Yak-Pak is nice in that it's got some kind of waterproof lining, and it does offer a few more useful storage places, I can't say it's definitely better, beyond feeling of quality and subjective things like style. I alternate the bags, though I do use the Yak-Pak when I know it will be raining, and both are holding up fine. The Yak-Pak has an integrated laptop sleeve, while I use another sleeve with the army surplus bag.

Most cities have army/navy surplus stores so it's probably worth heading to one, if convenient, just to see what they've got. And if you end up disliking the $15 surplus bag you can always upgrade without feeling too put out.

Oh, and consider what you'll be carrying. While my Yak Pak has a more comfortable, wider strap than the surplus, neither are near as good as a backpack when carrying more weight. I personally wouldn't want to routinely carry more than my laptop and maybe a small textbook in a messenger bag, nor if I was going to be doing a lot of walking around.
posted by 6550 at 9:14 AM on August 27, 2009

i've been to walmart and target the last few days and it looks like their "back to school" sections have messenger bags near the backpacks
posted by nadawi at 6:55 PM on August 29, 2009

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