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Backpack vs. shoulder bag: Laptop commuters battle it out

por Travis Sheil (2020-01-23)

id="article-body" class="row" section="article-body"> Sarah Tew/CNET People have strong opinions about laptop bags. I'm used to battles with things like Mac versus Windows, iOS versus Android or PC gaming versus console. But backpacks versus shoulder or messenger bags? 

"The only acceptable way to wear a backpack is one-strapping it," said CNET Senior Managing Editor Dan Ackerman. "Even then, it's like wearing shorts in public in New York City -- very rarely acceptable." 

"Seriously, this is a no-brainer issue. Backpacks are better for your back health if you're a commuter," said Senior Editor Bridget Carey. "If you're going between the parking lot and your desk, a shoulder bag is fine. But for anyone commuting a distance, a backpack is better." 

Read: Best laptop deals 2019: Windows and Chromebooks for under $500  

Others were willing to split the difference and say shoulder bags are better for work and backpacks are for travel, more casual use or when laptop size demanded a larger bag. The only common ground was that there's a special place in hell for people who refuse to take off their backpacks on a crowded subway. 

The whole discussion in our office stemmed from Dan's hatred for backpacks and Timbuk2's revamped Especial Collection. The company got its start making messenger bags in 1989, but this collection has two backpacks and just a single messenger bag. It shows the shift the company is seeing from its customers. Backpacks are now a little over 50% of its sales, said Brandon McCarthy, Timbuk2's global merchandising manager. 

Sarah Tew/CNET Comfort vs. stigma
There are a lot of advantages to backpacks for a daily commute, not the least of which is comfort. The double straps spread the load more evenly on your shoulders and if you're biking (or scooting or skating), a backpack has greater stability, McCarthy said. You'll also typically find more organization and just a greater variety of styles and sizes in general, including models like the Tortuga Setout that can work as a day bag and carry-on luggage. 

There is a stigma with backpacks that they're for students and travelers, McCarthy said. Having seen and tested backpacks made for professionals from Waterfield Designs, Vessel and Anson Calder, it doesn't matter how nice-looking a backpack is, Produsen Tas Untuk Seminar Ransel it can still make you look like a 12-year-old at the office and pairing one with a suit is a hard sell. 

Plus, McCarthy said a lot of people wear their backpacks incorrectly, which doesn't help the look or keep you comfortable.

Sarah Tew/CNET Travel light and tight
Aside from being a more traditional choice for business use, shoulder bags have advantages over backpacks. The bag is closer to you, for konveksi tas instance. A shoulder bag can easily be swung forward to quickly get something out or slid back and out of the way with little effort. This also makes it a good choice for public transportation, so you can keep an eye on your stuff while taking up less space. 

Messenger bags aren't a stable ride, though, McCarthy said. While Timbuk2 ships its messengers with a cross-stabilization strap, it's an extra necessary step needed to keep the bag from swinging forward while biking. That's not an issue for backpacks. Plus, the messenger's design also means it's not entirely hands-free the way a backpack is, he added. 

The biggest downsides to a shoulder bag are arguably weight and size, though. Having all the weight on one shoulder all the time can result in muscle tightness along with back and neck pain. If you carry a 15-inch or larger laptop day-to-day, it quickly gets uncomfortable. Also, you can only make a shoulder bag so large before it just becomes awkward. That said, the compression straps typically used on messenger bags can help keep the bag tight when not fully loaded.  

Your choice in the end essentially comes down to your needs and personal style, and I guess how much back and shoulder pain you can live with. I commute between New Jersey and New York by train and bus, carry two phones and travel with a 4-pound laptop, so my preference is for a shoulder bag. A backpack is eminently better for running to catch said train and bus, however. 

What do you think is the better bag choice for a daily commute?    

Disclosure: CNET may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site. 

See the Especial Scope Backpack at Timbuk2See the Especial Stash Messenger at Timbuk2