Back to School :: Backpacks and Totes

The dreaded emails have started!!!  Professors are adding new courses on Blackboard.  This can only mean one thing.  It’s time to start hunting for the best prices (and reasonable shipping times and costs) for textbooks.  All together, let’s take a minute to collectively groan….
Okay, feeling better?  Yea, me neither.
But there is an upside (maybe this is a stretch?) to costly and heavy textbooks… we need something to carry them in!  Shelling out $600 for textbooks that will sit on our shelves unopened break our backs to and from the library means we deserve to treat ourselves to a good bag!
I used to be all about the tote.  I got my first school tote freshman year of high school and thought I was oh-so-cute with my “signature print.”  The totes over the years changed, but one thing didn’t…. my back pain.  Carrying absurdly heavy books and binders on one shoulder took a toll on my back.  After someone spilled a coffee (and ruined) my tote sophomore year at Georgetown, I completely switched to backpacks.
Let me be the first to say: they don’t look as cute as a tote, but I can stand up straight at the end of the day.  I’ll take it!  Don’t fret, backpacks can be cute though!  (If you’re still adamant about carrying a tote… don’t worry… I have you covered too.) Here are my backpack picks:
I have the Monogram Chick backpack.  It’s FABU!  Check out the cute monogramming options!
I’ve had the “preppy” style before and loved it.  But I switched to the “circle with border” for my newest backpack!
And for those of you who have higher pain thresholds than myself… Here are my tote picks:
2) Hervé Champelier
Polling time:
Backpacks or Totes???

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I've used both and while backpacks are supposed to help your back, I almost never put them on both shoulders anyway! I split the difference with a messenger bag.


I've always been very loyal to my Vera Bradley backpacks/totes, but thisnyear my friend and I decidednto try preppy L.L.Bean bags! I haven't gotten it in the mail yet, but they're supposed to be really good!

Tallahassee Belle

I swear by my North Face backpack!! There is room for everything, it's very comfy, AND it comes in the cutest colors!!


Legally Brunette Kate

I've used a tote throughout undergrad, but now that I'm starting law school I'm thinking that isn't going to work. Thanks for the backpack suggestions!

Katherine Diane

I definitely recommend using a North Face backpack. Freshman year of college I used a tote because I thought it was cute, but I quickly realized that a North Face is more practical for trips to the library…it fits everything you need and more! And…it doesn't hurt your back like a heavy tote. 🙂 Best decision of my life!

Little Miss SEC

I brought one of each with me! I love carrying a tote for lighter days/classes, if I know that I won't need to lug around all my books. BUT I keep my backpack for days that I don't feel like killing my shoulder!


Nantucket Daffodil

Our family is a backpack family. My daughter is always an LL Bean backpack. She has declared to me that she wants the blue "that all the boys carry" this year. Go figure.


When I lived on campus and would be walking everywhere with books, computer, etc I was all about the backpack. Now that I live off campus, I like to take my books in a tote, that way if I don't go straight home after class, I can leave my books in my car and just carry my tote!
Unless of course it's finals week and I'm carrying my whole life to the library….then I probably need like four backpacks lol


I have a NorthFace "Jester" and an L.L. Bean Boat and Tote and depending on how much I have to lug around that day I alternate between them.


I have a Vera Bradley laptop backpack… it's pretty good, but I'm switching to a Longchamp soon.

Hannah Elizabeth

I have 2 Northface's that I use for my different "days". I assign one for my MWF classes and another for Tues/Thurs classes. Both of them have their own pencil cases, supplies, etc. The only thing I have to switch around is my computer. I know it's weird but it helps me to be more organized. On easy days I use my L.L. Bean Boat and Tote. I feel like I walk a little sideways if I have textbooks in it!


Backpacks, 100%!

I broke both of my collarbones during my junior year of high school (my left one broke RIGHT AFTER the right one healed…), so I usually have to buy a specific style of backpack that keeps the weight off of my collarbones.

I just like the more even distribution of weight that you get with a backpack!


I'm actually the freak who uses both, haha! I carry a tote for my notebook and personal things, and keep a backpack in my locker to take home with all of my heavy textbooks in–luckily the Longchamp folds up inside!


I was quite surprised you didn't include any offerings from LLBean in your lists. Both of my kids have monogrammed Bean backpacks for school, with matching lunch totes. I do like the totes from Lands' End a little more than Bean's if you are using it to tote books, though.


I love my Longchamp. It can kill my back sometimes when I've crammed a MacBook and multiple textbooks into it, but I would never part with it! I do have a backpack just in case – it's LeSportsac and I've had it since senior year of high school.


I'm a junior in high school, and our school doesn't allow backpacks or totes 🙁 oh how i miss my back to school backpack shopping. however, i did prefer backpacks to totes. now i just have my arm to carry all my books.

Katie T

I love the third tote! But I definitely have to use a backpack for class, or my shoulders would break. I always wanted to add a monogram, too.


I like to switch it up as well! So it depends largely on my schedule for the day, I try to keep my pencil pouch and planner together so it's simple to switch between bags!

Colorgirl Colored Contacts

The only advice I'd like to add to the mix is DON'T skimp on quality. Pay the extra and get a backpack with reinforced stitching, especially around zippers and pockets (and water bottle holders). I've wasted so much money before going with a cheap but cute pack only to have the zippers jam and seams fray come apart. Even if the pack comes from a brand you recognize, open it up and look at the construction. You may be paying a premium for poor quality.

Brittany Selene

I have always been a tote girl and I am currently looking into the Longchamp tote. But I wouldn't mind investing in a LL Bean backpack for days that I want to be hands-free.

Marissa C.

I love my trusty fire-engine red classic JanSport backpack for the everyday trekking around to class, the library, a coffee shop for studying/writing and traveling.

But for occasions I need to be a bit classier and stylish while still needing to be functional toting a laptop/important papers/notebooks/etc. that won’t break my back, I opt for my lovely Dooney & Burke Victoria tote in, you guessed it, red.
D&B’s Victoria tote is comparable to the Longchamp, with its nylon bag and leather details. But it’s even better because it’s lined, has sections and pockets, overall sturdier quality and goes for at least $10 less than the flimsy Longchamp Pilage tote that every girl and her mother has. And with a bit more leather detailing!


I recently discovered a line of bags by Mosey Life which I LOVE! They're environmentally friendly and so well thought out/designed. I find them to be pretty decently priced as well. Right now for college I'm using the Working Girl Tote, but I'd also like to get the Weekender Tote and maybe even the Mini Mo Bag as a regular everyday purse.