College student considers pros, cons of school bag options

Illustration of people wearing different bags of holding: a tote bag, backpack, and messenger bag.
Corryn Pettingill / The Mossy Log

Backpacks, satchels, tote bags, have different functions, advantages to consider in rainy Portland climate

Seeing students meander to their classes, shuffling through the Dovecote line to get coffee, or basking in the late summer sun on the grass, their bag of choice might not be the first thing that catches a person’s attention. But, it is a source of some debate among students.

Tote bags, messenger bags and backpacks are all commonplace at Lewis & Clark, but which is the ideal bag for college? Accessibility, mobility, affordability, style and comfort are the main factors I am considering. Each bag has its own pros and cons.

Tote bags have increased in popularity within the last few years and are a stylish alternative to a backpack, even though they have the functionality of a large purse. A tote bag holds possibility for personality: You can buy ones with cool designs, paint on them to your heart’s content, dye them different colors and more. Their design is simple and to the point; they are a large bag with two handles meant to be carried on the shoulder or in hand, used for purposes such as grocery shopping or travel of any kind. The canvas cloth allows for sturdiness despite the tote bag’s affordable price, and due to its small size, it forces the user to condense to their essentials. Most are under $10, or can be found for a lot less at thrift stores, and some are even free. 

Tote bags are good for a school day that contains one class. Unless you want to kill your shoulder with the weight of all your things, or have your belongings get lost in the depth of its bottom. The tote bag allows enough space for one computer, one textbook, one notebook, and maybe some keys. If you exceed this limit, you will have to struggle with fishing blindly in the middle of class or your shoulder burning with pain as you lug it across campus. While the tote bag prides itself on its ease of use and simplistic form, its practicality for school is debatable. However, as I stroll campus with my high-heeled platform shoes, I admit that style can sometimes outweigh practicality.

Backpacks are still common with students today and their popularity relies mainly on their practicality. They can be easily found at stores with a wide variety of styles, and around LC they remain the favored utility bag. Backpacks do not have to be used solely for school though and can be brought on airplanes, used as a travel bag and function for hiking. They have two padded straps for comfort, and the even distribution of weight helps with shoulder and back pain, making backpacks easier to carry. However, the biggest appeal of a backpack is the organization. There can be a pocket for a computer, your drink, your notebooks, books and small items such as keys or chapsticks. This allows for easy access to a variety of specific items you might be looking for, and it can carry everything you need for a full day of studying while still maintaining its accessibility. 

The downside of a backpack’s almost endless space is that it might hold too much stuff; random things can get lost on the bottom and unknowingly add to the weight, or things might be brought that you will not end up needing. Despite their popularity, if you want a backpack that lasts, a cheaper option is not the safest bet. A high quality backpack can be between $50 and $100. While it can last many years of hard use it can be pretty expensive for broke college students. Even the Fjällräven Kånken backpacks, which are both fashionable and utilitarian, are around $80. 

Messenger bags are slowly making a comeback from the ’90s, and we can definitely see why: They are the perfect mixture between a tote bag and a backpack. Its long strap can be slung over the shoulder or across the chest, and it is more casual than a backpack while still maintaining its functionality. The zippers and flaps are more useful than a tote for anti-theft purposes, and it also maintains a sense of fashion that a backpack might lack. It allows a comfortable and secure place for your computer and school supplies, as well as an agreeable storage space to hold all of your stuff. While the average messenger bag is not as affordable as a tote bag, the price is a considerable drop from a backpack, ranging between $30 and $50. 

However, messenger bags might throw you off balance when carrying heavier loads, and can put uneven stress on your shoulders. This might limit the amount of books you can bring to school, and they aren’t as versatile as tote bags and backpacks might be. 

A fellow LC student, Emma Ambroziak ‘25, weighed in on the debate. 

“Messenger bags are classic,” Ambroziak said. “They aren’t too big, you can have them on either side and you have to consolidate your stuff. Tote bags, on the other hand, make you lopsided and hurt your shoulder if you hold it for too long.”

On the other hand, Jarry Barry, a Junior at LC, prefers tote bags. 

“I like to use tote bags for school,” Barry said. “However, if I am being honest, it’s probably not the most efficient. I’m always digging in the bottom trying to find what I need. I think I like them because they are more stylish and feel less serious than a full-on backpack.”

Historically, I have always preferred a backpack for school over any other kind of bag due to the amount of space it can provide. But messenger bags might be a hidden gem for students who have not yet fully realized their advantages. They combine the utilitarian function of a backpack with the style and affordability of a tote bag, while still maintaining their novelty, allowing them to make great statement accessories on top of their practicality.

Subscribe to the Mossy Log Newsletter

Stay up to date with the goings-on at Lewis & Clark! Get the top stories or your favorite section delivered to your inbox whenever we release a new issue. 

1 Comment

  1. sure this is about what Carryall is used for teenagers can bring to school like
    Miraculous Ladybug and Cat Noir’s Chloe’s Carryall but like familiar such includes
    Marc Jacob’s The Tote Bag is used for teen girls for high school and college(for young women) because I’m a woman in my 20s(age), In the future I will have my college tour plans in the near future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

AlphaOmega Captcha Classica  –  Enter Security Code