Messenger Bag vs Briefcase – 5 GREAT Options! Where do you stand in the messenger bag vs briefcase debate? Both bags do your main job really well, which is to carry your stuff as you go about your daily job or school assignments. But there are crucial differences, too, which is why you may have to choose between messenger bag vs briefcase if you need one for your job. This post, its photos and table include links to products on other websites. If you purchase something through these links we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. CLICK To Our FULL Product Reviews Regardless of which camp you side on in the briefcase vs. messenger bag discussion, at least you can be sure you have excellent options to pick from. That’s especially true if you start your search for your work bag with the terrific selections on our list. Messenger Bag vs Briefcase: Key Differences Both the messenger bag and the briefcase options tend to measure the same. They’re meant to carry documents, along with laptops and other stuff we tend to carry around every day. Prices also vary, though some might say that average briefcases are generally more expensive. Still, the prices tend to be very similar. But there are key differences in the messenger bag vs. briefcase comparison: Vibe (Formal or Casual) It’s generally agreed that the briefcase is more formal than the messenger bag. You’d expect a lawyer or a bank executive to tote around a briefcase and not a messenger bag. The messenger bag is for lower-ranked office workers, or maybe creative types. Basically, if you have a messenger bag and a briefcase, and you have a school principal and a student, you’d know which bag belongs to whom. Material and Frame Shape In general, the briefcase has a rectangular block shape or something similar and it tends to maintain its shape, whether or not it’s filled or nearly empty. You generally have a metal frame for the bag, or at least stiff leather that keeps its shape. Some might object to real leather, but you can always opt for faux leather briefcases. With the messenger bag, you normally have some sort of canvas material instead. The higher quality canvas materials may still have a high denier count for durability and water-resistance. But they’re less able to retain their shape when they’re not filled out with items. Carrying Style This is another easy way to determine where a bag fits in the messenger bag vs. briefcase categorization. If it has a handle, it’s a briefcase. If it has a shoulder strap, it’s a messenger bag. Sure, these days you may encounter bags with both options. These bags may straddle the gray area between the messenger bag vs. briefcase categorization. Closing System This is another feature where the two bags differ. With the formal briefcase, you usually have some sort of lock such as a combination lock. These locks can secure the important papers inside the briefcase. Messenger bags tend to have less secure enclosures, like canvas strap enclosures or even just buttons. Even if the messenger bags also contain laptops (which cost a lot, too), these bags aren’t really used for important documents. Stuff to Carry Exactly what should you put in your bag? Your laptop is a prime example of an item you’d want to stash in the bag, whatever your preference may be in the messenger bag vs. briefcase discussion. That way, you protect it from bumps, scratches, and the occasional rain. But what about smartphones? Some say they should be in the bag as well, but others may want to just put it in their pockets instead for quicker accessibility. This is one reason why some people prefer messenger bags, as they may have exterior pockets for smartphones. For Your Briefcase Here are some other items you may want to consider putting in your briefcase, aside from important work or school documents: Notebook or journal. This is a quick way to make notes, even if you already have a smartphone. It’s a lot easier to draw diagrams in a notebook than with a smartphone.Pens. You have a notebook, and you need the pens to write with. You may want a fountain pen along with cheaper ballpoints.Portable chargers. In case you need to power up your smartphone.Earbuds. Keep these things safe in the bag, instead of in your pocket where they may be ruined.Umbrella. It’s better to have this and not need it, than to need it and not have it.Flash drives. It’s an easy way to transfer computer data.Eyeglass cases. Don’t just set your eyeglasses in your shirt pocket when you’re not wearing them. That can just lead to accidental damage.Mints. A nice fresh breath is always appreciated by the people you meet.Wipes. For stains, dirty faces, and dirty hands.EDC knife. In case you need to open a parcel. Messenger Bag vs Briefcase: Top 5 Reviews You’d be surprised to find just how many types of briefcases and messenger bags are out there. Exactly how do you pick, and how do you know which one is best for you? One shortcut is to just look over our recommended bags, as they all offer excellent features. Surely, one of these terrific picks will suit your needs, regardless of your preference in the messenger bag vs. briefcase discussion! 1. Kenneth Cole Reaction Flapover Laptop Messenger Bag “Stylish Option for Young Workers” Our Rating: 4.5 Buy From Amazon The Kenneth Cole brand started out in the early 1980s. Over the years it has become a powerhouse American fashion label that sells various fashion items. It’s easy enough to understand how it has amassed a horde of fans over the years. Especially when you consider the Kenneth Cole Reaction Flapover Laptop Messenger Bag. Overall Look While messenger bags on the whole have a more informal style, the overall vibe you get with this bag is simply not too casual at all. It features a pebbled leather finish on the outside, but it’s made of faux leather to conform to modern PETA sensibilities. Everything’s in black, including the discreet REACTION label on the bag with the Kenneth Cole name in a smaller font underneath. It’s very stylish and subtle, so it may not look too out of place in more conservative workplaces. Comfy Carry This is still a messenger bag, as it doesn’t have a handle. Instead, you have a permanent (non-detachable) shoulder strap, which you can extend up to 56 inches. You may opt to carry this as a regular shoulder bag, or you can strap it across your body diagonally. The whole thing also weighs just 1.6 pounds, while it measures 16.5 inches wide, 10 inches high, and 2.5 inches. Storage Space On the rear side of the exterior, you have a full-length open top pocket secured by a quick and easy magnetic snap enclosure. This top pocket gives you space for the stuff you might need to bring out more handily. On the inside, you have a fully lined interior that’s also tear-resistant. There’s a laptop pocket with enough space for your 15-inch laptop, as this pocket measures 15.5 inches wide, 9.75 inches high, and half an inch thick. You also get another compartment for other stuff like documents and books, plus pockets on the inside for notebooks and your smartphone. These are secured with a large front flap and 2 magnetic snap closures. What We LikeSemi-formal vibe with discreet design (and no garish logos)Pocket space for 15-inch laptopOutside pocket for other itemsCompartments and pockets for other itemsMade with faux leatherAdjustable strap up to 56 inchesNot So GoodIf half empty, it may fold unto itselfLooks terrible if you over-fill itThin strap may hurt your shoulder 2. OIWAS Messenger Bag for Women “Unisex Messenger Bag for Workplaces” Our Rating: 4.5 Buy From Amazon Oiwas may call this a “messenger bag for women”, but that marketing label is perhaps the only overtly feminine aspect of the bag. Actually, you can go with the “purple” option, and this color looks so similar to pink that it really does suit women better. But you have other color options too, like black, blue, darker gray, and lighter gray. We went with the lighter gray, which is great for both men and women. It’s also serious enough for the workplace, without being too conservative. Tough Canvas Material The polyester canvas used for the bag here is quite tough, with its 600D build. It won’t tear easily, and it’s even waterproof. That’s great if you have stuff inside your bag that the rain can ruin. Dimensions The bag itself weighs only 1.27 pounds, but it’s able to provide 23 liters of storage space so it’s quite roomy. The bag measures 18.5 inches wide, 13.78 inches high, and 5 inches thick. Storage Compartments You have a large compartment for your stuff, such as books and documents. But you also have a separate compartment for a 15.6-inch laptop, so the other items won’t scratch it up. The main compartment is quite roomy (the bag is 5 inches thick, remember), and it can accommodate several books inside, even including a coffee mug. You also have 2 front inner side pockets, with the bigger pocket for your tablet while the smaller one is for the smartphone. There’s even a water bottle pocket as well. The flap also has a pocket too, for smaller items and folder papers. Straps and Enclosures This comes with an adjustable strap and also a pad for the shoulder strap. It also features an SBS zipper for the flap pocket. The main flap is secured by 2 strap enclosures, which tends to take time to open. While it keeps strangers beside you from filching your stuff (without you knowing it), it’s a bit tedious to open. Overall Impression This also offers a nice compromise between a formal and a casual look. It’s like getting the best of both worlds in the messenger bag vs. briefcase faceoff. The bag gives off a decidedly laidback feel, but not irreverent enough that it’s out of place in an office. The messenger bag even looks nice when it’s stuffed with items, which is a pleasant surprise. What We LikeWorks for both casual and serious environmentsRetains its shapeTough and waterproof canvas materialPadded shoulder strapRoomy interior with laptop space and various pocketsAdjustable strapLooks great even when full of itemsSecure strap enclosureNot So GoodTakes time to open the strap enclosureMaterial is a bit thinNo padding protection for contents 3. Ravuo 14″ Laptop Messenger Bag “Terrific with Plenty of Pockets” Our Rating: 4.5 Buy From Amazon Okay, with the size right there in the name, you know this isn’t one of the larger messenger bags. But if those larger messenger bags are just too large for you, then this may be more your fit. You do have other selections to pick from, just in case you want something different but you’re decided on Ravuo. Carrying Style Our pick was black, and it didn’t come with the handle. Instead, you carry it either as a shoulder bag or as a crossbody bag. The shoulder strap is padded for greater comfort, and it’s adjustable too. You can set it from 32.28 inches up to 52.36 inches long. Bag Material and Size The bag is made from high-quality canvas, and it’s also water-resistant. The whole messenger bag measures 14.76 by 12.59 inches, with a thickness of 4.7 inches. It’s a great fit for smaller people, to be sure. You also have 2 tough buckles on the flap, and these quick-release buckles are easier to secure. Lots and Lots of Pockets You may be surprised to note that a bag this small has a lot of pockets to work with. To be exact, you get 14 pockets to keep your items separate and organized. On the outside, you have 1 zippered pocket on the flap, and another zippered pocket at the back of the bag. There are 2 front side pockets, and then pockets on both small sides of the bag as well. Inside Pockets On the inside, there’s a padded laptop sleeve for your 14-inch laptop. Then there’s the main compartment, with more pockets on the side. There are 8 card slots, 2 slots for pens, and even a slot for your keychain. What We LikeIdeal size for average-sized peopleLots of compartments for various itemsWater-resistant materialPadded laptop sleeveAdjustable padded strapNot So GoodNot big enough for 15-inch laptopsNo top handleDoesn’t retain its shape 4. Solo New York Grand Central Attaché Case Briefcase “Great for Young Professionals” Our Rating: 4.5 Buy From Amazon Okay, we’re done with the more casual messenger bags and we now start with the more formal bags. This is a classic attaché case that maintains its shape even when it’s empty, but a look inside its compartments will encourage you to fill it up nicely. The exterior features black leather, but this is a hardcase bag. Still, it can expand a bit (maybe an inch at the most), for some situations when you have too much stuff to carry. You don’t get a shoulder strap either (so you don’t rumple your suit). Instead you have a handle that’s ergonomically shaped so it doesn’t make your hand feel painful when you’re carrying the bag. Size The bag measures 17.5 inches wide and 12.5 inches high, and it’s 4 inches thick. You also have 4 metal feet underneath, protruding just enough to keep the rest of the bag from touching the grimy street. This has dual combination locks to secure the items inside the briefcase. Interior Compartments Open the case, and you have a spacious bottom compartment for books, folders, and other items you may need to bring with you. The top section has the organized compartments, starting with the large main compartment where you may want to put your laptop. You also have a pocket for your smartphone, a larger pocket for notepads, a calculator, or a tablet, and slots for pens, too. What We LikeLooks serious with the leather exteriorDual combination locksErgonomic handleSpacious large compartment on the bottom sideOrganized sections on the top side for various itemsCan stretch a bit when overstuffedVery affordableNot So GoodNo padding for electronic devicesThe latch tends to breakNot very durable 5. RoadProSPC-931R 17.5″ x 4″ x 13″ Silver Aluminum Briefcase “Tough Briefcase for Serious Work” Our Rating: 4.5 Buy From Amazon You can know this one’s a hardcase at a glance. That’s because it’s made of gleaming aluminum, with spots of black color for the handle and the corners. The measurements are right there in the name above, so you know it’s able to handle midsize laptops too. On the outside, you have 2 combination locks to secure the items inside. We immediately changed the number combination, and then proceeded to check the interior. Inside the Case Open the case, and both the lid and bottom compartments are about 2 inch deep. The interior is lined, while the top lid side has sleeves and pockets to organize your stuff. There’s a zippered pocket on the left side, with an open pocket on it too. Then you have 2 slots for pens, and finally a buttoned flap pocket for maybe your smartphone or the mouse for your laptop. Then you have two sleeves, with one for your laptop and another for other stuff like books and folders. Simple and Serious This is a no-nonsense briefcase, with its simple organization and tough aluminum exterior. It may be too big for some, but it’s great for those who work with a laptop and documents frequently. The handles were also a bit flimsy before, but the newer handles are now more secure and durable. If there’s a drawback here in its looks, it’s perhaps because it looks a bit too serious for some. It’s the type of case you may see carried by a presidential aide, who carries the “nuclear football” codes for a nuclear launch. What We LikeCombination locksSimple organizationAmple space insideWater-resistant caseNot So GoodMay look too serious or James Bond-ishEasy to damageA bit hard to open Messenger Bag vs Briefcase: Conclusion Bags are crucial in today’s world, just as they’ve always been in decades past. After all, these bags were originally meant to carry documents and work papers. But today they’re even more essential, as we all carry electronic devices and various accessories for those devices. Then you have other EDC (everyday carry) items that some people have to have with them wherever they may go. Why You Need Them With all the stuff we carry with us, our pockets are just not enough. Fill up your pockets will all your items, and you end up looking unprofessional (and unattractively lumpy besides). That’s why you have bags to help you. Just pick one between the messenger bag vs briefcase options, or even pick both, and then just get to work and get things done!