Urban Velo

Shag Bags Messenger Backpack

In the messenger industry there are two camps on the issue of backpacks. Some love the larger capacity and better weight distribution backpacks offer, while most opt for the ease of access and the sheer convenience of a traditional sling bag. In my time as a messenger I’ve always sided with the latter. Being able to quickly access the envelopes and small packages that make up the bulk of most messenger’s work is key to keeping the flow of deliveries going. I had tried a backpack before, but couldn’t stand having to take my bag off every time I needed to get to manifests or packages.

Then I was turned onto the Shag Bags messenger backpack. Designed and built by Shaggy, a working messenger in Milwaukee, it has all the desirable attributes of any well-made messenger backpack, but with a few ingenious features that sets it heads above the rest. The most obvious of these is what Shaggy calls the “swing pocket.” The swing pocket is a waterproof pocket, roughly 12″x14″, mounted sideways on the outside of the bag that allows you to slip one shoulder out of a strap and swing the bag around to quickly access whatever you have in there. In the month I’ve had this bag, 90% of my work has gone in this pocket, and the motion to swing the bag around is just as intuitive as a single strap bag. I can even access my manifest box from the internal divider while on the bike without even taking a shoulder out. I really don’t know why no one has thought of this before. It is secured by Velcro and has kept everything bone dry in even the worst downpours. The new bags have two buckles to keep things extra secure from what Shaggy tells me.

The other features that really stand out are the expandable roll holder on the side of the bag and extendable Velcro on the main flap. A well thought out sling of Cordura with multiple sets of Velcro allows you to secure the bottom of the roll big or small, with the compression straps keeping it stable. The extendable Velcro simply helps keep the flap closed when the bag is overstuffed without having to use the buckles.

As far as general design and construction goes, it’s everything you could want in a heavy-duty messenger backpack. Thick Cordura and truck tarp, double stitched seams and a HUGE inner capacity. This thing swallows copy boxes with room to spare. The straps are super-thick and comfortable no matter how heavy the load, with webbing on both for radios, etc. The main straps lack a sternum strap, but Shaggy assured me that was an easy fix if desired. Aside from the “swing pocket” the bag has a medium sized outer pocket with pen slots (the new ones have a flap instead of just Velcro), as well as a zippered large inner pocket with a small divider and more pen slots. Stash pockets are also an available option for those so inclined. Well thought out, extremely effective compression straps on the sides keep things tied down and you can also have a u-lock holster added to the side as pictured. Each bag is hand made by Shaggy and therefore fully customizable.

Overall the Shag Backpack has been the most comfortable and easy to use messenger bag or pack I’ve had the pleasure to use. Having the two straps for heavy loads while still being able to quickly access cargo has made me dread going back to using my single strap. Standard bags start at $250 and go up from there, and I will be ordering one as soon as I have to give this one back! No website yet, you can email Shaggy with any questions.

Submitted by Josh Hunt, “Texas Josh” to everyone we know who knows him, working messenger and fellow bike nerd.


  1. j.dotNovember 26, 2008 at 12:05 am

    i enjoy the backpack but the bag in the pic is ridiculously HUGE! especially come summer time…if you love a sweaty, sweaty back then yes…it’s definitely for you. or, if you like hiking in the himalayas it’s perfect…ha!

  2. Sopo FacemanNovember 26, 2008 at 11:09 am

    It’s pretty interesting because that has been my complaint of backpacks versus sling bags. I still can’t picture how it swings for access, more pictures would really help, Flickr or website. The bag rocks!

  3. Backcountry.com: The Goat » Blog Archive » Shag Bags Messenger BackpacksNovember 29, 2008 at 11:33 am

    [...] a new messenger backpack company that brings something to the design besides new branding. The Shag Bags are conventional backpacks with a side pocket you can swing in front of your body for easy access. [...]

  4. thegoat » Blog Archive » Shag Bags Messenger BackpacksDecember 1, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    [...] a new messenger backpack company that brings something to the design besides new branding. The Shag Bags are conventional backpacks with a side pocket you can swing in front of your body for easy access. [...]

  5. eric... chicagoJuly 11, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    this bag is very practical if you ride all year,
    dont have a car,
    and move weight or bulk stuff
    like mail, groceries,laundry

    this bag is the best ive worn in volume capacity and comfort.
    it made me want to carry more and more stuff to see how much it would hold.

    its worth every cent.
    i wish i had two, so when one ripp through this one,
    i would know i had another one, no problem.

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