Tote vs. Backpack - Which One Is Best?

Totes and backpacks are both popular choices, in particular for those that commute to work or school. But which one is best? Whether to choose a tote or backpack ultimately comes down to personal preference. However, there are some essential factors to consider when choosing which one to invest in. These are comfort, storage, accessibility, environmental friendliness and style. 

Let's break these down in more detail. 

1. Comfort 

As tote bags are often worn on one shoulder, you might find this causes strain on your shoulder and back (depending on what is in yours). A backpack, on the other hand, is designed to cause less strain on your shoulder and back because the weight becomes balanced. Depending on what you need to hold, and how long you plan to carry your holdall for, determine which option will be more comfortable. 

One benefit of totes when it comes to comfort? No back sweat. Backpacks can feel like another thick layer of clothing in the heat but, with a tote, you can enjoy a pleasant (and much cooler) stroll. 

2. Storage / Weight

The second factors to consider are storage and weight. What do you need to store in your tote? It might hold your groceries but, if you want to take it to work, will it fit your laptop, books, purse, keys? Can you take your tote on the plane if you're jetting off soon? Assess the occasion and determine if a tote or backpack is best to hold your belongings. Although you might imagine them to be weak, totes can actually hold a huge 30kg — find out more in our posts on How Much Weight Can a Tote Bag Hold? and What To Put in a Tote Bag on our blog page. 

 3. Accessibility

On a similar note, what offers you easier access to your items? Although backpacks offer handy side, front and back pockets to access your more important items fast, a tote in particular one with pockets — offers you access to all your items at once. Grab your purse, water bottle, keys, book and so on without needing to stop your strut. It's the best choice if you're often on-the-go.



4. Environmental Friendliness 

It is no secret that there are a lot of products out there that are harmful for the environment, contributing to dangerous pollution and climate change. 

Tote bags made from recycled and/or biodegradable materials are reusable, washable, able to be repurposed and — after you've exhausted their uses —  recycled again. This makes them more sustainable than most backpacks, and therefore better for the environment. In our current state, switching to reusable alternatives is the best thing to do. Consider this, and their wider environmental friendliness, when choosing between a biodegradable tote or backpack. 

5. Style

The last factor is style. Although there are some fashionable backpacks, and although we might be a bit biased, totes win this one hands down. Totes are "in" right now and their versatile designs and colours allow you to express yourself better than a backpack can. Likewise, totes go with just about any outfit — or can be decorated to! Wondering how to wear a regular tote well, or how to customise yours? Check out our guides on How to Style a Tote and How to Decorate Canvas Totes. 


And that's it! The five factors to consider when tallying up whether to go for a tote or backpack. When in doubt, go for both if you can. Although totes are the more versatile option, having both in your repertoire can make that daily choice simpler. You can even wear both to work if you have a lot to hold — I do it!

We are Tom's Totes. Our mission is to make plastic completely out of fashion, and to make sustainable lifestyle choices stylish. Support independent artists and join our mission to ditch plastic with our collection of biodegradable tote bagsprints and paint kits online.