Packing an EDC bag can be a big undertaking, and selecting the proper bag is a big part of the process. You’ll need to consider a large range of factors and features. Size is an obvious choice, but there are plenty of other features when selecting your EDC bag.
There are a few different styles of bags available for you to choose from when selecting your EDC bag. Briefcase style bags are one option but can be terribly inconvenient. You’ll have to dedicate one of your hands to hold the bag, the entire time you are carrying. Usually, the choice comes down to a backpack or messenger bag.
Between the EDC backpack vs. messenger bag, which is better? While a messenger bag is more covert and professional, the backpack is the better choice. A backpack allows for better distribution of weight and multiple points to secure the pack to your person. Let’s take a look at them head-to-head to head and see how I’ve come to this decision.
What Look Are You Going For?
Depending on your chosen profession, a more covert and professional bag may be high on your list. If this is the case, then you’ll want to opt for the messenger style bag. Usually, these bags come equipped with both a shoulder strap and carrying handles sewn on top of the case. A messenger style bag will allow your EDC pack to appear as a more briefcase style bag. This can be great for urban environments where you may frequently travel to client sites.
An EDC backpack will not be as professional in appearance. However, more and more, companies are adopting a casual work place environment. Millennials have brought the backpack to the corporate mainstream, choosing to convert their school backpacks over to professional briefcase. While I don’t recommend this look for CEO’s and other high ranking corporate officials, for middle management and lower level employees, a backpack is suitable for a professional bag.
If you aren’t part of the corporate world, and work construction or another manual labor job, then a backpack is hands down the better choice. Because you are constantly on the move, and likely need something that can handle all of the jostlings the messenger bag will not be ideal. Now let’s move on to the functionality comparison.
EDC Backpack vs. Messenger Bag: Function Over Form
When it comes to an EDC bag, you’ll want something that not only accommodates your entire kit with room to spare but also something comfortable. We won’t get into sizing and setup, but if you’re interested, check out my article on how to set up your EDC bag. Security is another big factor to consider when selecting your everyday carry bag. Finally, you’ll need to consider the accessibility your bag offers.
Messenger Bag And Comfort
When it comes to comfort, a backpack is a winner, almost without competition. Let’s evaluate how each bag is set up for the carrier. The Messenger style bag usually has one strap that can fit over the users head and rests on their shoulder. When regularly carrying the bag, the main storage compartment will rest either on the users hip or slightly behind the leg opposite the load bearing shoulder. Typically with a heavier load, the user will lean toward the opposite side of the load bearing shoulder to compensate for the added weight.
Having the load from your messenger bag rest only on one shoulder can place undue stress on the joint. Not ideal if you’ll be walking the city streets and increasing the pressure on the joint with each step. Furthermore, if you opt to alternate shoulders when one gets fatigued, you’ll have to completely lift the bag over your head to swap the weight.
Another added disadvantage of the messenger bag is that it cannot be secured to minimize movement. Your natural body movement will cause the bag to swing, and impair your gait. This is particularly true if you have a lot of weight. Of course, you could pare down your kit, and I offer some guidelines in my ideal weight article. However, even then the bag will want to sway unless you dedicate a hand to keep the bag in place.
The final option for carrying the messenger bag is to use the carrying handles on top of the bag. You’ll need to dedicate a hand to hold your bag, making you less efficient. Furthermore, it still places the weight on one side of your body.
On the other hand, the backpack has multiple straps for carrying on your shoulders. Having the load evenly distributed is better for your overall spinal health, not to mention your other joints. You can easily tighten or loosen the straps once the bag is on your back, to accommodate your preferred fit. These straps can also be tightened to prevent the bag from swaying with your movement.
Placing the pack doesn’t require you to lift the load over your head like the messenger bag. Should you prefer the sling style method of carrying, you can opt to place only one strap across your body and rest the load on a single shoulder. I do not advocate this method, but as I get older I pay closer attention to my spinal health. The point is, that you have options.
Backpacks come with a variety of options, both from the factory and aftermarket to increase comfort. Adding a belt to your backpack can provide lumbar support should you feel your pack is lacking. Messenger bags do not have nearly the same amount of options available. Backpacks are truly customize-able, so again you have options with this EDC bag.
Moving beyond comfort, let’s talk about security. The single strap on the messenger bag could easily be cut to liberate your belongings from you. A thief needs only grasp the carrying handles, slice the strap, and be off with your property. The natural movement of the bag as you walk can also be exploited. Because the bag naturally sways as you walk, a jostling from a thief who runs into you will likely go unnoticed.
A backpack doesn’t suffer from these same points of failure. Securing the backpack to you with both straps and potentially a lumbar support belt means a thief would need to remove multiple points of contact to make away with your entire EDC kit. Having your pack properly secured means you are more likely to notice a tug or disturbance from a passing thief.
However, the backpack is not impervious. The biggest issue with the backpack is that the pockets are out of sight when your kit is resting on your back. Smaller compartments can be exploited by a skilled pickpocket. The messenger bag does have the distinct advantage of being closer to your field of view when worn on the hip. However, placing it around the back makes the messenger bag equally susceptible to being exploited.
Regardless, if you choose to store your EDC pistol in your pack, I highly suggest you look for something with a hidden compartment. I’ve seen several versions of the backpack with this, but not as many options for messenger bags.
When it comes to accessibility, the messenger bag has a slight advantage. Because the bag is worn on the hip, and generally has a fold over flap to retain the contents, the user can easily access the contents without removing any part of the pack. This is, of course, a double-edged sword because the easier for the user to access, the easier it is for someone else to access as well.
An EDC backpack will likely have to have multiple straps removed to access the main storage compartment. Of course, for smaller pockets, you can drop a single strap and swing the bag around to your hip for similar operation as the messenger bag. Generally speaking though, to access larger cargo, your EDC pack will have to be removed.
Storage Compartments and Pack Retention
We’ve discussed the primary method that the messenger bag uses to retain its contents. Usually, there is a flap that folds over the main storage compartment and a snap button, or buckle, secures the flap in place. This leaves space on either side of the flap that can fit small hands, or allow items to fall out of the bag should the pack become inverted. Unless someone does this intentionally, which is possible, it’s more likely that the bag may fall on its side when set down.
A backpack will typically have multiple compartments within the main compartment. A series of straps, buckles, zippers, and/or drawstrings can be used to keep items in place. Similarly, zippers fully secure the openings on the pack, and the inner contents cannot be accessed without undoing these fasteners.
While both can come equipped with multiple pockets from storage, I’ve found that the storage space is not as compartmentalized on an EDC messenger bag as an EDC backpack. Check out my article for setting up your EDC pack for information on why this organizational system is important.
Furthermore, many of the messenger style bags come equipped for professional use, rather than for everyday carry preparation. Sure enough, you’ll find a spot for your laptop. Because of the top-load design of the messenger bag, it’s not conducive to carrying awkwardly shaped cargo. Finding a location for the EDC medical kit you constructed may be more difficult.
My EDC backpack has taken more than a few tumbles out of the passenger seat of my vehicle, off of benches, and more. Because everything is secured in multiple ways, my bag has not become disheveled nor have I lost any of the contents (knocks on wood).
After taking a small survey of my coworkers, the decision seems to be split on which type of bag is preferred for EDC needs. For perspective, I work in a corporate environment, so many of these folks routinely bring their laptop and peripheries to and from the office. However, the extent of their everyday carry arsenal is restricted to their needs for work.
Proponents of the messenger style bag indicated that when they travel or carry more items that they prefer the backpack. Speaking with the mothers in the office, they mentioned that the convenience of having both hands free is essential when catering to children. The ladies also had multiple bags, opting to carry their purse in addition to their laptop bag. While I’m not sure of the extent of their EDC kit, I imagine that many do not have self-defense, or medical supplies as part of their loadout.
Whatever bag you choose, you should consider comfort, security, accessibility, and storage as key components to evaluate. I’d never choose a messenger bag because I think it creates many more problems than it solves, and the lack of security is most concerning to me. Furthermore, I don’t think a messenger bag would allow me to store all of my EDC kit items, let alone organize them efficiently. Perhaps you have a different opinion. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. Who knows, maybe you’ll change my mind.