Ortlieb Messenger Bag Review

Ortlieb messenger bag review

Ortlieb are known for their much loved panniers for cyclists. Today, I want to take a look at their messenger bag.

You could be forgiven for asking why anyone needs a bag so big, you may also wonder if I look a little like Quasimodo after a fortnight of carrying this on my back. The truth is this bag has surprised me in more ways than one.

Here’s why I love it and I think you will too.

The first big surprise: How much it carries

Today, I took the 08.20 from London to Manchester. I rode from my North London home to Euston. Pictured below is a list of things I took to Manchester:


  1. Baby blanket for my sister’s baby that was due yesterday.
  2. Waterproof trousers- unsurprisingly it’s chucking it down in Manchester.
  3. Laptop – always working.
  4. Clothes for tomorrow
  5. Shoes for tomorrow
  6. Toiletries
  7. 1 litre flask of tea (they can’t make a decent brew on the Virgin trains)
  8. D-Lock

Needless to say the capacity of this bag is excellent.

Big surprise number two: It doesn’t even hurt

You would expect the Ortlieb Messenger Bag to be crippling, considering the amount of things it can carry on your back whilst riding, but it’s not. I don’t know how the Germans do it (Ortlieb is a German brand in case you didn’t know), but they have pulled it out of the bag (metaphorically speaking) again.

Masters of great design, the bag somehow cradles your back to the point that you barely notice it is there. Strategically positioned pads rest against your back and miraculously distribute the weight. Many moons ago I used a ‘regular’ rucksack for commuting, come the end of the week it felt like my shoulders and back had done 10 rounds with Tyson – none of those qualms with this bag.

Extra features on the Ortlieb Messenger Bag

A handy roll top Velcro fastening removes the risk of burst zips (pet hate). It’s fully waterproof, it has adjustable and nicely padded shoulder strap. A clip fastened waist belt helps keep it secure and high visibility printed panels on the side come in handy. One final thing of note is that it has been crafted in the some super tough material which makes it difficult to rip and tear.

Overall Review

Plus points

  • You can carry loads of stuff
  • Everything is kept dry
  • It is easy on the back and shoulders
  • This one is bright orange and helps keep you visible on the road

Not so great points

  • 10 minutes digging around for your house keys in the rain
  • Strangers taking it upon themselves to say “oooh what a big bag, what are you carrying?” I am tempted to respond to these nosey inquires with “armed weapons”.

Should you buy?

This bag is a great option for those who don’t have a rack. It’s everything you would expect from a brand like Ortlieb – practical, understated and considered.

The RRP is £92.00, but it is currently available on Wiggle for £69.00. As it’s nearly impossible to break this bag, I think that’s pretty good value.

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20 Responses to Ortlieb Messenger Bag Review

  1. Kellyman17 12/02/2013 at 9:44 am #

    Nice review 🙂 I’m a big fan of my north face surge, had it for 2 years and treated it like crap but it still looks new. Can fit a 15 inch laptop and has 30+ litre capacity. Perfect for my commute which involves a train ride as well as a 30 minute cycle. I’ve used it in all weathers and it’s very comfortable.

  2. Zed 12/02/2013 at 1:17 pm #

    I use Ortileb roller panniers and they are excellent.

  3. Alex 12/02/2013 at 1:17 pm #

    Looked at a smaller Ortlieb recently, because I wanted a bag that could be easily wiped clean from the water/mud thrown by tires. But the problem I had was the material on the sides and base – while the smooth plastic on the front would be great and could be wiped clean, the black material seemed the kind that would get bits stuck inside the weave.

    It looks a good product, very tough, if only the material on the bottom was smooth for easy cleaning I’d have got one.

    • Georgie Wood 12/02/2013 at 3:37 pm #

      Hello Alex,

      I personally haven’t had any problems with staining on the ‘black’ part if that’s any help.

      Kind regards,


  4. Alan Moore 13/02/2013 at 9:28 am #

    What’s wrong with panniers?

    My Ortlieb pannier is starting to wear through though – albeit after about 3 years of daily (ab)use.

    • Peter 13/02/2013 at 6:53 pm #

      Buy some Aquasure (known as Aquaseal in the USA) from a dive shop and use that to coat the part that’s wearing out. It’ll massively extend the life of the bag. It also good to put it on high wear points as a preventative measure.

  5. Matt 13/02/2013 at 11:17 am #

    Would you say it was easy to attach forward and rear facing clip-on lights to this? I like to have a set on my bag to supplement the set on the bike. Thanks.

    • Julian 20/02/2013 at 9:58 pm #

      Yes, the shoulder straps have ‘loops’ to allow to attach things to. The lights I have come with a belt clip which attach perfectly to the front of the shoulder straps.
      I like having lights all over me when cycling in the dark, particularly at different heights, and these straps are perfect for accommodating this.

      One bad point though is you will struggle to attach any lights to the back of the bag (unless newer versions have), unless you go for the smaller Velocity version which does have facility to attach lights.

      I have just covered the back of mine with reflective stickers, apply easily and because of the bag material they will come off without any damage.

      Long response sorry, but in conclusion, for me nothing can replace this bag, apart from another ortlieb messenger bag.

      Hope that’s helpful.

      • julian 20/02/2013 at 10:03 pm #

        Apologies, replied with the wrong name, Response is for Matt.


  6. Peter 13/02/2013 at 6:56 pm #

    I have an American backpack bearing the name DAN that seems to be exactly like this Ortlieb bag, to the extent that it may be the same bag rebranded. To me the weakest point is the roll top secured by a velcro strap.

  7. Big Softy 13/02/2013 at 8:23 pm #

    I was initially put off by the fact that it’s marketed as a Messenger Bag, which traditionally have only a single strap that I find uncomfortable and awkward, but this is a rucksack in that plastic material.
    At 30 litres, it would definitely hold all the tools I normally need to hump, and it’s wide enough to hold a 17 inch laptop.
    I’m giving it consideration.

    • Julian 21/02/2013 at 9:35 pm #

      Yeah this isn’t a pansy one strap handbag, this is a real heavy duty, indestructible backpack!

      You will not regret it,

      (I am not plugging for ortlieb, promise. Just really like my bag)

  8. Vincent 15/02/2013 at 2:20 pm #

    Thanks for the review.

    As an alternative to two small bags hanging on either side of the rear-rack on my Birdy World folding bike (www.r-m.de/bike/world-birdy-comfort/), I was just thinking of getting a single bag that I could somehow fasten on the rack so it won’t move while riding.

    Advantage: No worry about hitting the bag with my heels, which is why I’m still undecided about ordering them.

    Does someone use one of those bags on a folder (Birdy, Brompton, Dahon, etc.)?

  9. luc 26/02/2013 at 7:35 pm #

    Maybe a bit off topic : if you’re looking for a small backpack I would recommend the PacSafe Venturesafe 15L GII Anti-Theft Daypack. Just to carry your laptop and some basics. I use it daily on a Brompton.

  10. hannah 04/03/2013 at 10:56 am #

    great review, been thinking about this bag for ages.

    when not at full capacity does it still look huge on you? being a quite small woman i’m worried im always destined to look like a teenage mutant ninja turtle when riding my bike!

  11. Jarno 19/03/2015 at 7:02 pm #

    I got the pro version of this bag with the longer strap for closing the roll top. When I pack the full I have an issue with my hair stucking to the velcro strap. Don’t really like that. 😉

    Do you have any hints on how that could be solved?


  12. ln 02/07/2015 at 12:32 pm #

    hi! i’m looking for a waterproof bag, which won’t hurt my back (equal repartition of weight) and ortlieb seems to be a good choice for me. But i have a doubt on the size; I’m quite small (1.58m / 62.2po) so my back is also small. Could you tell me the length of the shoulder straps? I have bad memories about a messenger bag for “men sizes” I bought and that didn’t fit me at all even at the tightest position for straps, it was not tight enough…

  13. Matt 27/10/2015 at 1:41 pm #

    Cool review,

    Helped me make a great decision to buy my own. I don’t regret it!

  14. Tom 15/11/2015 at 11:53 pm #

    Hi, I am 5’8, will this bag look ridiculously big/silly on me?

  15. Billy 17/03/2016 at 10:24 pm #

    They look stupid

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