Guide to Choosing a Bag for College

Table of Contents

    Classic Messenger

    The traditional scholastic bag is the satchel. This type of leather bag, with a large flap to protect the opening and a shoulder strap, was originally used by Scottish monks to carry their precious hand-written bibles and protect them from the harsh Scottish weather. Shakespeare writes of ‘the whining school-boy, with his satchel’ (As You Like It) and the satchel subsequently became the standard school bag for British students. In America, students traditionally carried their books by means of a book strap, an indication of the rather better weather conditions. In 1967, lightweight backpacks came on the scene and became the ubiquitous student bag around the globe. Now that digital technology is of paramount importance to students we are seeing another shift in the type of bag that students are choosing for college.

    Considerations for Girls and Guys

    There’s no longer a sharp distinction between bags for females and bags for males but clearly girls and guys put their bags to different uses and will be drawn to styles which are in keeping with their self-image. Whatever style you choose you will need a bag that is functional and durable, because its going to be doing a lot of work.

    Buffalo Tote, Backpack, and Messenger

    Choosing the Right Bag for Your Individual Needs

    What are you going to want to carry? Laptop, tablet, phone, are likely to be high on the list but what about the things that you may need to keep separate? You don’t want to put cosmetics in with gym kit and snacks, you don’t want a water bottle next to your laptop. Books may be old technology but if you are an English major you are still likely to be hefting a few of them around. What are the demands of your particularly subject? What specialist equipment might you need to carry? Then there’s your style to consider: your bag is part of your image. A backpack is comfortable to carry but maybe you feel that a tote or a satchel is way cooler.


    Satchels are easy access and leave your hands free. They are traditionally made from leather, so although you’ll have to pay a little more, you’ve got a stylish, versatile and very durable bag. You can wear them cross body or over one shoulder and most styles come with handles so that you can carry them as well. Probably not a good choice though if you are going to be carrying really heavy loads.


    The simplest and oldest of all bag designs, we all use totes, all of the time. You might have one or two inner pockets, but essentially everything goes in together. Yes, you’ll get your laptop in there, but it won’t be as secure as in a satchel and it’s not a great bag for organising the contents. You can carry a lot in a large tote, but you’ll need it to have strong straps and you will find it a strain to carry for long periods. If the tote is your style, then there’s probably no talking you out of it.

    Classic Backpack


    In terms of sheer functionality, a backpack is hard to beat: it’s the most comfortable way to carry a heavy load. It also enables you to be completely hands free, so you can cycle, pay for things or use your phone without having to put your bag down. A backpack is spacious enough for books and a laptop and compartmentalised so that you can organise your belongings. It’s not as quick to access as a tote or a satchel but if you are moving from place to place and you have a lot to carry, it’s probably your best bet.


    There’s an increasing range of ingenious bag combinations now available. The suitcase/backpack hybrid gives you the carrying capacity of a small suitcase, which you can wheel along combined with the option of using its shoulder straps to carry it as a backpack if you need to be hands free. A briefcase/messenger bag hybrid is essentially a briefcase with a shoulder strap and is thus very similar to a satchel. As with all bags, the quality and functionality of a hybrid will depend on the particular brand, but you have to decide whether a dual function bag is of advantage to you. A hybrid suitcase/backpack does have the advantage of giving you the option to wheel the bag, but it is unlikely to be as comfortable to carry on your back as a sole purpose backpack.

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