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11 Types of Book Bags You Should Know (Men and Women)

Man with bookbag

Not sure what type of book bag is right for you?

Whether you’re a student, a teacher, or an avid reader, you might be in search of the perfect book bag to carry your books. While most of us tend to go for larger bags, size isn’t always the answer when it comes to heavy book loads. If the material is not durable, the weight might pull at the shoulder straps, handle, or bottom, causing tears.

To help you out, I’ll take a deep dive into the different types of backpacks. Pick the one that best matches your needs.

Book Bag Options

To make your choice easier, let me list down the types of book bags that suit boys and girls. I’ll begin by talking about book bags that have a unisex design.

Related: Types of handbags | Types of purses | Types of backpacks


Basic Book Bag

Amazon Basics 15.6-Inch Laptop Computer and Tablet Shoulder Bag Carrying Case, Black

Designed primarily for kindergarten, preschool, primary, and secondary school children, this type of book bag is best to carry a limited number of books and a few school essentials. Given that the standard book size is around 9 inches, the size of this bag ranges between 10 and 14 inches. Since it’s a simple, book-only bag, it doesn’t offer a front pocket and may or may not include side mesh pockets.

Basic Backpack

Everest Luggage Basic Backpack, Royal Blue, Medium

The basic backpack is indisputably the most popular style for book bags around the globe. Over the years, it has undergone several transformations to adapt to users’ needs. To keep up with the latest fashion trends, the design of the basic backpack has greatly evolved over time. With the explosion of gadgets, its purpose has also been manipulated to accommodate a range of tech devices like laptops and tablets.

While you can carry a basic backpack anywhere with books and lots of other stuff with your hands-free, if you anticipate the need to dig through your bag for items from time to time, it might be a little inconvenient for you.

Utilitarian Backpack

Matein Travel Laptop Backpack, Business Anti Theft Slim Durable Laptops Backpack with USB Charging Port, Water Resistant College School Computer Bag Gifts for Men & Women Fits 15.6 Inch Notebook, Grey

The utilitarian backpack adds an incredible amount of functionality to the basic backpack, making it immensely popular on the school scene. With a decent overall size and a myriad of pockets, it proves highly spacious for your books and valuables. When you carry the backpack on your back, its twin strap allows for even distribution to facilitate lengthy use. Not only is it available in weatherproof material like canvas, but it also comes in a variety of colors.

Leather Backpack

Samsonite Classic Leather Slim Backpack, Cognac, One Size

As a younger, cooler sibling of the utilitarian backpack, the leather backpack is highly sturdy and comes with ample space for books and school items. However, it’s more about making a serious style statement than delivering functionality. The underlying difference is that the straps in the leather backpack are comparatively thinner than those in the utilitarian backpack, so carrying it may not be as comfortable.

Duffle Bag

NIKE Brasilia X-Small Duffel - 9.0, Flint Grey/Black/White

If you’re looking for a more sensible bag and style is not a top priority, a duffle bag is perhaps what you’re looking for. Made from waterproof nylon or canvas, these bags are considerably easy to care for. If you need or like to carry a lot of books, the duffle bag has you covered because it’s a large bag that comes in a barrel- or boxy shape. When it comes to straps and handles, duffles feature one long strap so you can wear it across your body and two short handles for you to grip.

Messenger Bag

Messenger Bag For Men,Water Resistant Unisex Canvas Shoulder Bag Fits 14 Inch Laptop School Satchel Book Bag for Work and College

The messenger bag is yet another book bag that works well with both genders. Also known as a courier bag, a messenger bag is a sizable satchel that’s hung over a single shoulder. If you’re one of the on-the-go folks such as motorcyclists and students who prefer to throw their bag over the shoulder and enjoy easy access to any items you need, the messenger bag is an ideal solution for you!

However, loading too many books or other items will cause uneven weight distribution causing discomfort. This is because messenger bags have a low- to medium-load capacity.

For Men

The following types of book bags should be suitable for boys:

Laptop Bag (Masculine Design)

Lenovo Laptop Shoulder Bag T210, 15.6-Inch Laptop or Tablet, Sleek, Durable and Water-Repellent Fabric, Lightweight Toploader, Business Casual or School, GX40Q17229, Black

Also referred to as the briefcase bag, the male’s laptop bag is similar to a traditional messenger bag, except for a few discrepancies. Just because it’s a laptop bag doesn’t mean you can’t use it for books. When rushing out of home, simply grab it and put on the crossbody strap or use the two short handles that come with it. Not only are laptop bags made from reliable fabrics such as leather, but they also feature an envelope flap. For extra sturdiness, they fasten using one or two buckles.

Crossbody Bag

Small Black Sling Crossbody Backpack Shoulder Bag for Men Women, Lightweight One Strap Backpack Sling Bag Backpack for Hiking Walking Biking Travel Cycling USB Charger Port-Nylon

As the name suggests, the crossbody bag is worn across the body. Thanks to its long strap that makes it easy and comfortable. But again, it’s typically small, so if you need to carry your school books, dedicate it to days when you’d have only one or two classes. Besides, it’s squarer in shape and fastened with a singular buckle or zip.

For Women

Here are some bookbag types that match female needs:

Tote Bag

Women Tote Bags Grocery Shoulder Bag Corduroy with Inner Pocket for Work Beach Lunch Travel Shopping Shopper Handbags (Green)

As a popular school purse choice, a tote bag is typically made of either expensive leather or no-frills canvas. They’re usually rectangular in shape and feature two mid-sized handles, so you can conveniently carry them on one shoulder. Not only are tote bags sufficiently roomy for all your books, but they’re also classic and stylish.

Satchel Bag

ECOSUSI Women Briefcase PU Leather Laptop Bag College Satchel fit 15.6" Laptop

While a satchel bag comes in a variety of different forms, it’s typically a lightweight, women’s version of a small messenger bag. The only major difference is that they can seem like half a circle or be half-moon-shaped, while messenger bags are normally rectangular. To facilitate a fairly even distribution of the weight of books and other items, they often come with a lengthy crossbody strap. Yet, its small size makes it suitable for limited stuff.

Trapeze Bag

Michael Michael Kors Women's Jet Set Item East/West Trapeze Tote-Luggage, One Size

If you’re looking for a sturdy, female bookbag solution while also staying current on the latest fashion trends, a trapeze bag is probably what you need. You also get plenty of room with bigger trapeze bags that will easily accommodate A4-sized books, along with some other gear. Made from synthetic leather or ordinary leather, they’re supposed to be worn on the arm or the shoulder. When choosing a trapeze bag for school purposes, prioritize the size.

Now that you’re familiar with the different types of book bags, let’s go through some insights into how the most commonly used bookbag varieties impact your shoulders and spine, based on expert advice:

Book Bag Health Considerations

Here is our take on how the most commonly used bookbag varieties affect your spin and shoulders:


Young people whose spines are still growing or developing are often susceptible to scoliosis when carrying heavy loads. This is a condition in which the spine curves to the side. To your relief, no such risk exists with backpacks, nor do they pose the problem of joint deformation.

If not overloaded with books and other items, a backpack is the best option in terms of health. Thanks to the double straps it comes with, the load on your shoulders is evenly distributed. Its design is more health-friendly than any other type of book bag out there.

Single-Strap Book Bags

These types of book bags are worn either diagonally across the body or straight down the body on one shoulder. When you wear a single-strap bag on one shoulder, your body will naturally lean the other way to take the pressure off the shoulder and balance itself. This isn’t a good spinal posture which, in the long run, may lead to scoliosis.

Therefore, physiotherapists recommend wearing single-strap book bags across the body so that the weight is more evenly distributed and you can walk with a straighter back.

Yet, because the load from books and other items in the bag ends up on one shoulder means that regular use can make the upper portion of your spine become vulnerable to health issues.

Tote Bags

Like single-strap book bags, tote bags put considerable stress on shoulders, which is why regular use of these types of book bags can lead to the uneven development of your shoulders. Carrying your tote bag on the same side every time can tense up that shoulder. As a result, the muscles on the same side of your body may become bigger than those on the other side.

On top of that, wearing a tote bag on one shoulder every time may also harm your spine and affect your soft tissues.

Rolling Backpack

You might be of the view that a rolling backpack that comes with wheels won’t do any harm to your body, so you may consider it the best option in terms of health. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Using a rolling backpack certainly helps you avoid putting the extra weight in your back and shoulders, but pulling a heavy bag from place to place still puts unnecessary strain on your spine and shoulders.

Repeatedly using the same arm to pull your rolling bag can also lead to scoliosis, so physiotherapists advise that you switch your pulling arm at regular intervals. This should reduce the vertebral rotation and asymmetry of muscle tension.

Based on the aforementioned insights, single-strap and tote bags are only suitable for short-term use, while in other cases, backpacks make a perfect choice. But to carry something extremely heavy, opt for a rolling backpack.

Now that you know how important it is to consider health implications when choosing a book bag, I’ll now attempt to answer some of the most common questions you may have in mind about book bags:


Below are frequently asked questions about book bags.

Is There a Standard Style of Bag That’s Primarily Designed for Heavy Books?

As long as its material is durable, any backpack can hold heavy books. Some of them are highly organized with pockets, pouches, and partitions, while others are bare and plain on the inside, featuring a single main compartment. With more sections, you’re better able to distribute and store your items in a way that they can be quickly accessed.

In fact, you may even develop your own standard style based on your packing requirements. Whatever you do, make sure that the build and design of your bag can easily accommodate heavy books and contain the right compartments to carry books of different sizes.

How Do I Arrange Books and Other Items in a Backpack?

Organize all your supplies based on their use. Place the smaller and lighter books in front pockets and big, heavier books close to the back center in the main compartment. Ideally, your bag should contain multiple compartments so that you can use the right section for different books and other items. If you have a simple bag with only one large compartment, I’d recommend stacking from the bottom up based on the frequency of item usage.

How Do I Minimize the Weight in a School Backpack?

If you’re a high school student, consider repacking your bag on a daily basis, pulling out textbooks, workbooks, and other items that won’t be needed for the next day. Trust me, developing this simple habit can greatly reduce the weight of your backpack. Besides, take into account your body build and choose a bag that best matches it when fully loaded and that contains padded backs and wide straps.

When packing your bookbag, place the heaviest items at the bottom and the lightest ones at the top. If you still feel uneasy or experience discomfort, reduce the number of books or other items you’re carrying.