Magazine
    Next Score View the next score

    Versus | Magazine

    Which is better, backpack or messenger bag?

    One strap or two? One shoulder or two? A back-to-school grudge match.

    Photos from AP

    With the new school year here, students need a suitable way to tote their belongings. A case can be made for both backpacks and messenger bags, two of the most popular options. But which one reigns supreme?

    STRAPS

    Backpack: 2

    Messenger bag: 1

    STAR POWER

    #TeamBackpack

    Advertisement

    Kanye West

    Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
    The day's top stories delivered every morning.
    Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

    Taylor Swift

    Natalie Portman

    LeBron James

    #TeamMessengerBag

    Brad Pitt

    Advertisement

    Hugh Jackman

    Charlize Theron

    Owen Wilson

    MOST COMMON CARGO

    Backpack: Books

    Messenger bag: Laptops

    ON THE SUBWAY

    Advertisement

    Backpack: As anyone who has boarded an MBTA train at rush hour can attest, bulging backpacks gobble up much-needed space and batter other passengers.

    Messenger bag: Shifted deftly to the front or back, the messenger bag can typically avoid drawing the ire of fellow passengers.

    POPULARITY CONTEST

    Backpack: In a 2014 survey by the NPD Group, backpack sales jumped 17 percent over the previous year for men — and 18 percent among women.

    Messenger bag: In the same survey, messenger bags saw a 20 percent sales jump with men — but just a 3 percent increase among women.

    ORIGIN STORY

    Reuters
    Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones carries a messenger bag.

    Backpack: Fed up with the bags of the time, an outdoor-store owner in Boulder, Colorado, reportedly created the first zippered backpack in 1938.

    Messenger bag: The tote received its first big break in 1981 when it appeared on the shoulder of Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

    FEAR FACTOR

    Backpack: More than 14,000 children are treated annually for backpack-related injuries, with 5,000 ending up in emergency rooms.

    Messenger bag: One shoulder bears all the weight, which can lead to “tension, pain, or even spasms,” according to Men’s Health magazine.

    MONEYBAGS

    Backpack: Lowell-based Bullet Blocker sells a $490 model, the Bulletproof 50. Promotional products industry leader Geiger of Lewiston, Maine, supplies drawstring backpacks for as little as $1.07 (if you buy 2,500).

    Messenger bag: Frank Clegg Leatherworks of Fall River produces a $915 beauty. Geiger’s polypropylene Rhythm model is just $1.99 (if you buy 1,000 of them).

    QUOTABLE

    Messenger bag: “It’s not a man purse. It’s called a satchel. Indiana Jones wears one.”  — Zach Galifianakis as Alan in The Hangover

    Backpack: “I showed up in LA with $500 and a backpack and I stayed at a shelter, so nobody handed me anything. I worked for every single thing that I have.”  — Academy Award-winning actor Jared Leto

    VERDICT

    Messenger bag: They’ll always have their place in the pantheon of portable baggage . . .

    Backpack:  . . . but the standby is an American icon.

    Sources: NPR; NPD Group; brainyquote.com; GQ; Men’s Health; US Consumer Product Safety Commission; IMDb

    Dugan Arnett can be reached at dugan.arnett@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @duganarnett.