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Back pack or messenger bag?

We will be in Israel end of march for 2 weeks in an archeological tour. So lots of field walking. Which would be better in your opinion and why?

Posted by
2746 posts

I prefer to use a messenger bag for two specific reasons. 1. It is easier to keep your hand on it and monitor for pickpockets. 2. I am an avid photographer and if my camera were on my back I'd be stopping every 2 seconds to get it out. Messenger bags have much easier access to the contents while walking.
Plus my luggage is often a backpack so I can wear that while carrying my messenger day bag on transit days.

But for real hiking a backpack is better in that it stays out of your way.

Posted by
2526 posts

Passionate proponents of each are eager to convert those not yet aligned. Many threads may be found by searching this site. I happily use a backpack and have done so for many years. Use what works for you.

Posted by
11613 posts

I prefer a light backpack for archeological sites with different types of terrain, the weight of the pack is more easily distributed. If it's mostly flat, I use a messenger bag.

Posted by
101 posts

If at all possible I prefer a messenger style bag for touring, (but I can't offer advice about archeological tours specifically). I love having all my things easy accessible and not having to swing the bag around or remove it to retrieve something.

After a certain weight, though, I switch to a backpack, to avoid having a sore shoulder. That weight will vary for each person. For me, any shoulder bag larger than about 10x8 inches is too heavy after a day of walking, and I'd wear a backpack.

I should add: depending on where you are going in Israel, you may have to check backpacks before entering museums. I ran into this a lot. One way I dealt with this was to keep a small bag inside the backpack with my most essential items, and pull that out when needed. On another trip I carried a foldable Tom Bihn Daylight Backpack and tucked it under my arm before the security guards noticed it, and just carried it that way. Since then I've switched to smaller shoulder bags, and haven't run into any issues with entry into museums.

Posted by
34 posts

I've got one of each in different sizes and use them for different situations.

My messenger bag is an Osprey Flap Jill Mini (9 litres) and it's great for days out when I don't need to carry much, just a few little things (snacks, water, guidebook, phone). It's easy to get into for my phone, water or snacks.

My backpack is Osprey Tempest 20 (20 litres) and I use that if there's more to carry (picnic, extra layers, food shopping) or if we're hiking.

Both are useful in different ways. If I had to narrow it down to one, it'd probably be the messenger bag since I don't need to carry that much with me during the day. My messenger bag is pretty small, though, so it won't get too heavy. If I had heavy things to carry, I'd go for the backpack.

Posted by
6802 posts

What do you think you'll actually be carrying around in it daily?

Posted by
1821 posts

I travel with a messenger bag but if I was doing some hiking as I assume you will....backpack. IMO messenger bags are better suited to public transportation.

Posted by
24 posts

Thanks everyone! I am still so undecided. I also searched this topic like one of you recommended. It is 50/50. Its not for reasons of security, which also makes it a harder decision, I feel the messenger bag is more secure. I will be carrying maps, (not books) water, and a light jacket. Im not really a backpack girl, I haven't carried one since college. I also don't want it to be cumbersome, heavy and in my way. I like the even distribution of a backpack but i have heard some say they like that feature in the messenger bag as well. I've looked up some of the bags recommended on this site. I guess its personal preference and I just need to decide.

Posted by
786 posts

Why not do a test run before you go? Go o. A day trip near home and bring the backpack.

Like others have mentioned, I use a small
Messenger bag (or a large crossbody bag depending on your perception) unless I'm hiking. I have a very lightweight but sturdy backpack that folds up into itself that I ordered from ebags and I love it. It is great for a day hike and takes up no room in my luggage. So you could take both and switch back and forth.

Posted by
34 posts

In my opinion, it would really depend on the size and weight of items to be carried. Heavier or bulkier items would probably be better in a backpack. Smaller, lighter weight items in the messenger bag. I have a small-ish messenger bag (Osprey Flap Jill Mini, 9 litres) and I love it. YMMV

A messenger bag might be easier to keep things like maps flat. I keep papers in the laptop sleeve of my messenger bag. I wouldn't have a way to do so in my backpack, but some packs might have a laptop sleeve.

Depending on how often I'm going in to my messenger bag, I adjust the strap to have it sit high on my back so it's out of my way, at my waist so I can get to it easily or anywhere in the middle. There isn't as much flexibility with backpacks.

I'm not sure what the weather will be like, but it's nice to not have something on your back when it's hot. Also, easier to get to water in a messenger bag if you're a big drinker.

I'm not trying to sway you toward club messenger bag, just throwing out some thoughts!

Posted by
2930 posts

If you are not a backpack girl, don't get a backpack. It doesn't sound as if you will be carrying terribly heavy items anyway. I hate backpacks, but was trying to convince myself that I needed one for my next trip for a few hikes. I smartened up and it is back in the closet. If you don't like backpacks at home, you are not going to like them any better in Europe, IMO. I did bring one to the Yorkshire Dales once, but found it annoying to get my camera in and out, that I ended up leaving it where I was staying.

Posted by
24 posts

Thank you all and Amy and Wray, what you both said made sense. I just took a little drive to REI to look at the timbuk2 small messenger bag. I'll think on that one for a while. Thank you!

Posted by
124 posts

I took an archaeological study tour in Israel in December, 1993. (So...not recently! :-) We covered 8-10 sites a day. I wore a good-sized fanny pack that held a small camera, small notebook and water bottle. I kept a backpack on the bus for jacket and larger items, nothing valuable. It was great to have my hands free for taking notes or photos. Sites were dusty and sometimes had rugged hikes. I still use notes from that trip for writing/teaching I do today. We were provided with maps before the tour, but didn't use them on site.

Posted by
1962 posts

I second Richard's remark above -- if you're getting in and out of vehicles a lot during the day, then messenger style bag is more convenient. If you're in the field scrambling from start to finish, then a back pack style is better.

I've come around to an appreciation of the RS civita shoulder bag, but the fabric is not built for going off trail -- I've had a couple moments on deer paths this season where I had to hold it at my chest and do the rope-a-dope to keep it from getting snagged.

Posted by
440 posts

Take both use the messenger back for your camera phone money etc, and use ur backpack or daysack for water and snacks

Posted by
184 posts

I was going to make a similar suggestion to Franks. I always have a hard time deciding between a messenger bag and a backpack. Last year I came across the company Rough & Tumble. They have great quality products and a couple of options for convertible bags. The one I got can be used as a shoulder bag, cross body, or as a backpack. I found it very convenient on my last trip. They are pricy but they do offer great sale prices.