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Totes vs. Backpacks – The Ultimate Carrying Debate

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

 Dealing with back pain? Wanting to follow new trends? Don’t have enough room for all your things? Check out some methods of toting (no pun intended) your things around! 

As a brand new freshman who never used her previous backpack from senior year, I was ready to show off all the pins and patches it had, displaying slivers of my personality while travelling through American University’s campus. 

Very quickly, I began to gather that most girls carried totes instead, evidently commuting with much less materials than I did. What also stood out to me was how cute and stylish they were! Some bags had cool, trendy prints while others had quotes or slogans.

As weeks passed, I also struggled with back pain. Initially attributing it to the less-than-luxurious mattresses the dorms offered, I complained to a fellow student. When she told me she felt fine, I realized that maybe it was my heavy backpack instead? After all, I had spent months indoors, not using my bag at all, accustomed to carrying just my phone or laptop in my arms for virtual classes. So I made a switch—time to try the tote bag! 

My back felt better within days. Unfortunately, I had to bargain with myself and ultimately leave behind some items that would only fit into my backpack. Goodbye, heavy hardback novel from Kramers! See you later, snacks! 

While I had been converted to a tote bag user, I would switch back and forth. On days where I have to carry more items, I’ll bring the backpack and divide the load to make it easier to transport. 

What do AU students think?

I had to know more about what my peers thought, so I asked freshman, Sofia Marcus, what she preferred when it came to carrying her belongings around campus, “I love using a backpack with pockets, as it’s easier to put everything in there that I need to bring with me. I don’t really have a tote bag. I think they’re cute, just not sufficient for me”.

My roommate and fellow freshman, Gemma DeVries, had different feedback when I asked her the same question. 

“If it’s raining, I carry a backpack. My laptop can’t get wet and neither can my notes, so the zipper is ideal. Otherwise I always carry a tote bag! It hurts to carry everything on one shoulder all day.”

All in all, it is worthwhile to choose both and switch between the two. Pairing them with different outfits is fun, too, giving a sense of stylishness to your everyday life. 

Want to try the tote bag lifestyle? Check out Anna Woodward’s article on the best places to shop for a tote bag in DC!

Natalia Isabal

American '25

Hi there! My name is Natalia and I am a freshman at AU! I'm a Justice, Law & Criminology major who aspires to be a part of federal law enforcement. I'm from Boca Raton, FL, a dog person, a virgo, and an avid writer who would love to share her stories with the AU community.
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