School bag showdown: How to find a bag that best suits your needs

By Riley Dauber
Elm Staff Writer

Every year before school starts, a student must make the difficult decision: Which bag will I be using for school this year? There are many pros and cons to the different types of school bags, which makes back-to-school shopping a daunting task. Here are a few different types of school bags and why they are good choices for students.


The backpack is the classic choice for carrying your school supplies. With plenty of pockets and sleeves, you are guaranteed to have an organized bag.

There is most likely a side pocket as well, in which you can store a water bottle. Backpacks also keep your hands free if you need to carry textbooks or keys.

The only downside of a backpack is that overstuffing it causes back pain and ruins your posture.

According to Tiffany Yeh from ABC News, “Carrying excessive weight in a backpack can cause wear-and-tear on the joints, ligaments, and muscles across the entire back and in the hips … they begin to degenerate, which can cause stiffness, a loss of range of motion and pain.”

To avoid back pain, try removing your textbooks or the heavier items in your backpacks and just carrying them. Despite these downsides, the backpack is the go to choice for college students.


A not-so-traditional choice for a school bag is the satchel. It is meant to be worn on one shoulder, and the bag lays on the side of your body.

It has one flap, and inside there are a bunch of pockets and sleeves. For organizational purposes, it is a good option for stationary, notebooks, and folders. There is also the potential for fitting a laptop in the bag.

 However, weight becomes another issue, since the satchel is worn like a purse. If you try to store textbooks in your satchel, it will be much heavier than it was originally intended to be. You will be holding all of your weight on one side, which is not good for your joints or posture.

Unlike the backpack, the satchel does not free up your hands, since you will be carrying the satchel on one side of your body. However, the appeal around satchels can be justified: they give whoever is using it an arguably more scholarly appearance.

“I used a regular backpack all throughout high school, and I wanted a change. I thought satchels looked a bit nicer than a backpack,” freshman Lucy Verlaque said.

Messenger Bags

Contrary to popular belief, messenger bags and satchels are not the same thing. While satchels are meant to be worn on one shoulder, messenger bags have an across-the-body strap.

The strap rests on one shoulder, while the bag is on the other side of your body. This ends up confining your body, but compared to the satchel, it frees your hands because the bag is secure on your body.

As for organization, messenger bags have more room for folders and a laptop, but it would be best to carry your textbooks.

“I picked the messenger bag because it’s the safest way to carry my laptop. There are some downsides; it’s a lopsided carry, it digs into my shoulder sometimes. Overall, I find it compact and easy to carry,” freshman Jacob Ten Eyck said.

Tote Bags

Tote bags are not as popular as the previously mentioned bags, but you are guaranteed to see at least one or two students carry them around on campus.

Recently, they received a surge in popularity, such as the totebag from Ikea that has been sold out for weeks.

They are also meant to be worn on one shoulder, making it a bit more difficult to carry textbooks in your hand.

However, since the straps on a tote bag are not as long as the satchels or messenger bags, you can get away with carrying your textbooks in your bag.

Tote bags are also an aesthetic choice, since you can decorate a plain white one or buy a designed one. However, there is no organization to speak of. You are stuck throwing everything inside your bottomless tote bag, making it very difficult for you to find your items later.

By the end of the day, all of your pencils and gum wrappers will be resting at the bottom of the bag. So, while they are a cute choice, they are not the most conventional or easy to use.

While you are making decisions about your school bag, it is important to take all these factors into consideration. Whether you decide on a traditional backpack or take a more non-traditional route, you are bound to find a bag that suits your needs.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

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