Bag!... Lady? : ISO Bombproof-But-Pretty Messenger Bag
November 14, 2014 6:32 AM   Subscribe

I need a messenger bag that's, 1. Capable of withstanding a nuclear blast, aaaaand, 2. Somewhat feminine (in a "spunky pigtailed tomboy" way, not an "appletinis and selfies with the besties" way). Despite being REALLY GOOD at Googling, I can't find one. Rugged Cordura snowflakes within!

I've owned a slew of messenger bags. Lately, my current bag (a Defy First Class) has been giving me a sad. It's gloriously rugged, but it's SO butch. I'd love a bag that's similarly tough but ALSO semi-feminine.

My requirements:

-Able to be worn left-swing (on the right shoulder).
- At least one externally-accessible, securely-fastening pocket.
- Can hold 1" binder, gym clothes (incl. sneakers) and daily crap (makeup, lunch bag, etc).... but NOT be the size of a goddamned yurt.
- Attractive, in an offbeat way.

Bags I have evaluated and rejected for some reason: Timbuk2, Crumpler, Manhattan Portage, RELoad, Rickshaw, Seagull, PAC, Killspencer, Moose and Pine, Osprey, Mountainsmith, Bedouin Foundry, Patagonia, Chrome, Waterfield, Tumi, Tom Binh , Baileyworks, Haiku, Holly Aiken, Queen Bee.
posted by julthumbscrew to Shopping (22 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
How about a Freitag?
posted by deanc at 6:36 AM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was going to get a Moop bag before I made a spur of the moment Fossil buy (which I love, but which isn't a messenger bag.) iirc, I was going to go with the number 4 messenger, and I had similar requirements to yours. They also have a handy size chart that lays out all their bags.
posted by punchtothehead at 6:41 AM on November 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

Zatchels? They are tough, but come in some pretty colors.

Not sure what your space requirements are - you could smush some gym clothes in there, but not shoes, unless maybe you got the 17.5 inch version which is the largest. Also, the small pocket on the outside can be easily accessible if you get the magnetic straps (not the buckles), but then you may not feel it's secure enough.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 6:43 AM on November 14, 2014 [6 favorites]

(Sorry, I meant "I'm not completely certain that a Zatchel would meet your space requirements - depends upon how *much* makeup you're looking to carry, how big/bulky your daily lunch bag is, etc.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 6:44 AM on November 14, 2014

Via this amazing thread, I found this Etsy seller. I've bought a messenger bag that should be here any day now, so I can't unreservedly make a recommendation, but it hits my personal standards for offbeat attractiveness and all of your other requirements.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:57 AM on November 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

What's your budget? I picked up bag very similar to this one this bag on Spring St. in Manhattan 4 years ago and it is BULLETPROOF. It looks as good as new, and was about $275 then, (unsure if street prices are still cheaper, or if etsy reflects accurate pricing- it's the same seller either way).

It's full leather, vaugely preppy, but in a "this bag has been in my family for 5 generations" and slightly steampunkish in the closures. it's waterproof. It's a giant messanger bag/satchel. and it looks good with both suits AND a hoodie and jeans.

I've conditioned it once with a generic leather conditioner, and it still looks amazing regardless- it just wears so well, and is so sturdy and waterproof. (once had a container of lunch soup in there and didn't notice it leaked until lunchtime- needless to say the rest of the bag contents in the subdivision were a little drenched, but the wallet/cellphone in another pocket were FINE, and no evidence of leakage on the oustide of the bag)
posted by larthegreat at 7:01 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I don't have any particular budget - I only buy a new bag every three or four years, so I can splurge a little (I mean, I cannot splurge to a Birkin degree, but I think it's pretty obvious I am not the Birkin type!).
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:07 AM on November 14, 2014

You should check out Cocotte bags, made in Montreal. The are indestructible and stylish.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:07 AM on November 14, 2014

I just got a Mission Workshop Rummy and it's pretty great. It checks most of your boxes, except no external pocket (which is a little bit of a hassle for me too). Maybe you would like the smaller size, the Monty. Colors are not exactly girly.
posted by Mid at 7:11 AM on November 14, 2014

I am on my phone so can't link, but what about a Kate Spade small weekender? I've been lusting after one myself.

Pro tip: packing cubes are great for making your gym kit small, and a camping towel makes it yet smaller. but there is a shoe compartment at the bottom.
posted by tel3path at 7:33 AM on November 14, 2014

If I understand you correctly, the problem with your current bag is not utility but style, so perhaps you could DIY the style - embroider, apply, glue, stitch or sew new design and decorative motifs to your existing bag. Probably lots of inspiration on Pinterest or similar sites.
posted by conrad53 at 9:37 AM on November 14, 2014

You don't specify what disqualified Timbuk2 bags (seems like it would meet all of your requirements, although I've never tried to fit sneakers in mine), but if it's style, I recently bought the Classic Messenger Bag in granite which is a light gray herringbone with pink trim. I find it feminine but not flashy; it goes with whatever I'm wearing, from jeans and a hoodie to super-feminine sundresses.
posted by serelliya at 10:06 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

My studio neighbor does bags. This one made me sobby I love it so much:yesssss.
posted by at 10:22 AM on November 14, 2014

nthing Freitag. Worth every penny.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:59 AM on November 14, 2014

What about changing out the strap of your current bag to something more feminine?
posted by metasarah at 12:06 PM on November 14, 2014

I didn't see anyone mention Sherpani so I will. eBags has a comprehensive selection and you may even find a different form factor that would work (vertical cross-body?). Their logo has a daisy in it, but their style range goes from quite-girly to not-that-girly. I am not sure they would meet your bombproof requirement, but I do know half a dozen women at work who've all used the laptop backpack for the last few years, and not one has complained about it falling apart.
posted by cabingirl at 12:30 PM on November 14, 2014

I'm a big fan of Courierware, which is US-made and has life-time guarantees. Simple models, but they do have options for the material on the flap. My gym bag I bought about 20 years ago, and the one time I had a problem they repaired it & shipped it back without a question.

I can't say enough about the quality: these are great bags, very sturdy and durable, but still light enough to get a lot of use.
posted by suelac at 3:02 PM on November 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: LeaflingBags definitely fit the "attractive, in an offbeat way" requirement!
posted by Pwoink at 4:47 PM on November 14, 2014

I have a bag from Trash Messenger Bags, which was about $275. The guy who does them offers a ton of custom features including art, and the bags are meant to stand up to a lot of abuse. Here's a link to the gallery.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:11 PM on November 14, 2014

Is a Roots leather bag too classic and insufficiently offbeat? They've got you covered on the attractiveness front, though. I've been admiring their bags for years, especially the tribe leather ones. One day I'll splurge, but that day has not yet come.

On a completely different design tack, how about something from SealLine?
posted by gox3r at 9:31 PM on November 14, 2014

I've looked through my various bookmarks from when I was searching myself, but the combination of requirements you have is making it hard. You could check the list of bagmakers over at The Bag Collector and see if you spot anything you like. Many of them are smaller shops who can do customization for you (like reversing the shoulder strap, or add external pockets).

Just to throw in a suggestion: The Cote & Ciel's Spree Messenger. I'm not sure it's quite large enough, you can see someone handling it and packing some stuff into it in this video. I don't have any first-hand experience, but know someone who is happy with it.
posted by bjrn at 4:25 AM on November 15, 2014

Seventy-Eight Percent's Gustav is offbeat attractive and not yurt-sized, but perhaps appletini butch. It's smaller than I need, so I cannot attest to its blastproofness.
posted by wonton endangerment at 6:28 PM on August 5, 2015

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