9 Best Tote & Messenger Bags for College Students

chrisAbout the Author: Hi, I’m Chris Drew, a former teacher and university professor, and this is my website! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

My favorite messenger bag for ladies is the ECOSUSI Vegan Leather Satchel. It’s got a really unique design. My favorite bag for men is the DHK Vintage bag. I love the faded leather look. Both are presented below:

The full shortlist of the best messenger bags for college students is:

  • Topfox Messenger bag (Unisex)
  • DHK Vintage Handmade Leather Messenger Bag (Men)
  • ECOSUSI Vegan Leather Satchel (Women)
  • Beschoi Handmade Leather Vintage Messenger Bag (Men)
  • Lacdo 360° Protective Laptop Shoulder Bag (Unisex)
  • Aibag Vintage Crossbody Purse (Unisex)
  • EaseGave Briefcase for Women (Women)
  • RAVUO Canvas Satchel for Laptops (Men)
  • Leaper Retro Messenger Sling Bag (Unisex)

Looking for the most Affordable Option?

Jump to the Topfox Messenger bag review – it’s a super affordable unisex bag for college students!

Read Also: Best backpacks for college students

The Best Messenger Bags for College Students

1. Topfox Messenger bag (Unisex)

Quick Review: Want a cheap messenger bag that looks good and gets the job done? Look no further. My favorite thing about this one is how many internal pockets it has for smartphones, etc.

Benefits for College Students:

You won’t have to break the bank for this messenger bag. It’s affordable and still looks great. 

When you open it up, you’ll notice that this back has dozens of different pockets for storing phones, credit cards, pens and of course you laptop!

The reason I’ve classified this as for men and women is that (even though it’s advertised as being for men), many women report that they’ve bought it and loved it! So, it’s clearly a hit for all genders.

The bag is water resistant, but not waterproof. As it’s a durable canvas bag, you’ll find it can withstand a bit of bad weather. Unless you’re in a super rainy city, you should do okay weather-wise with this bag.

What not to Like:

Overall I think it’s great. The only downside is that it’s not totally waterproof, but just ‘water resistant’.

2. DHK Vintage Handmade Leather Messenger Bag (Men)

Quick Review: I like the distressed leather look for a men’s messenger bag. Inside, there is plenty of room for your laptop plus textbooks.

Benefits for College Students:

You might like the distressed leather look. I am personally a fan of this sort of look for a messenger bag for men. The leather is goat hide leather which I found interesting.

There is plenty of room for a laptop plus your textbooks in this bag. You could also keep smaller valuables in the front two pockets that are opened and closed via buckles. There is also a zipper pocket for quicker access.

What not to Like:

You may find that the leather is a bit stiff when you get it. The leather will loosen and relax with use.

3. ECOSUSI Vegan Leather Satchel (Women)

Quick Review: A cute women’s satchel that can also be turned into a backpack. Check out the images on Amazon for an idea of outfits that’d match this great bag.

Benefits for College Students:

The main drawing card is the design. You don’t have to choose between a shoulder bag and backpack anymore! This one can be changed to suit your needs. It’s also got a cute flower design on the front. The brand calls it a “retro antique detail.”

It’ll fit a 15.6 inch laptop as well as any A4 papers or textbooks you’ll need for the day. The open front pocket’s a great spot to keep your cosmetics.

What not to Like:

You have to open the main flap to get to all pockets, so there’s no easy-to-access pocket for smaller items.

4. Beschoi Handmade Leather Vintage Messenger Bag (Men)

Quick Review: You’ll have a great unique look if you go with this one. Its blue canvas stands out from the crowd and matches the cowhide leather really well.

Benefits for College Students:

The biggest drawing point of this bag is its color. If you’re sick of black, coffee and leather colors try this one instead!

It’s also a very simple design. There is one main pocket with an embedded laptop sleeve. You can secure the laptop with a velcro strap.

The outer pockets don’t have their own zips or buckles. Instead, they’re secured when you close the top strap. The cool thing about the outer pockets is that they’re big enough to hold a small book or diary, which I thought was a great purpose for those pockets.

5. Lacdo 360° Protective Laptop Shoulder Bag (Unisex)

Quick Review: You’ll want this one if you’re really concerned about protecting your laptop. It’s got unparalleled padding to protect your tech.

Benefits for College Students:

Get this one if your main concern is protection for your laptop.

The big drawing card of this one is the very good cushioning for your laptop. The cushioning goes all around the sides of the laptop, protecting it from all angles.

But, you’ll have to get the right size for your laptop. You can buy it for a 13, 14, or 15 inch laptop. Make sure you get the correct size so that the laptop is fully protected and held securely.

Choose between light gray and dark black colors.

All pockets are secured by zips. The front two pockets will hold your pens, cards, notepads, charging cords, etc. The main pocket is primarily for your laptop but you’ll be able to fit some more books in there, too.

6. Aibag Vintage Crossbody Bag (Unisex)

Quick Review: You’ll show off your own style with this bag. It’s got a more vertical shape than most tote bags. It also comes in five different colors – choose your color so no one on campus has a bag quite like yours.

Benefits for College Students:

Choose between five different colors depending on your style. It’s actually really spacious and fits a whole lot of items, including most laptops and tablets. I love that it’s not as stiff as leather satchels.

I also like that it sits a little forward on your hip which would be great for wearing out and about in town. I often want bags that sit right there when I’m traveling in new cities where I need to be able to see and protect my items.

What not to Like:

You have to open the main flap to get to all pockets, so there’s no easy-to-access pocket for smaller items.

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7. EaseGave Briefcase for Women (Women)

Quick Review: Get this one if you’re after a professional look and feel. It’s chic but also fits all your college gear including your 15.6 inch laptop. Select from 6 different colors.

Benefits for College Students:

It’s an elegant messenger bag for girls who like to look the part. You have the choice between 6 colors and 2 different designs for the same reasonable price.

There’s plenty of room to include all your cosmetics as well as your college gear. It can hold up to a 15.6 inch laptop (i.e. an average size for a laptop). Inside, there are two main compartments so you can sort and separate your contents.

The bag isn’t fully waterproof, but I’ve read that it seems to do a decent job of managing the weather without a worry.

8. RAVUO Canvas Satchel for Laptops (Men)

Quick Review: You’ll be getting a modern looking messenger bag here for a very affordable price. I’m a huge fan of the quick release buckle so you can get to your laptop and textbooks with ease.

Benefits for College Students:

If you’re seeking a more modern look, here’s your bag. The black / grey colored option will go with just about any outfit. You can also select the coffee color which is also a nice neutral design.

The quick release buckles are a great design idea and I love that the buckles are hidden from view when the bag is closed.

Your bag will have several pockets including side pockets for drinks and umbrellas. The front pockets have space for credit cards, student cards, etc. built-in.

Lastly, like most tote bags on the market, it is made of water resistant canvas material that should withhold most bad weather for a while.

9. Leaper Retro Messenger Sling Bag (Unisex)

Quick Review: This over-the shoulder sling bag is half messenger bag, half backpack. Choose between 19 colors to suit your personality. Check out at the model images on Amazon (click the image) for fashion ideas.

Benefits for College Students:

The great range of colors is a huge attraction – choose the color that suits your personality.

The zips on this bag open up really wide. Inside, there are pockets for storing your phone, pens and other small belongings.

It comes in 2 sizes (Medium and Large). The medium has one side pocket for easy access to things you’ll use in every class. The large has two side pockets, with one ideal for a drink.

What not to Like:

The small only fits a 10 inch tablet or small laptop. The large only fits a 13 inch laptop. So, it’s a small bag – if you want to include a laptop, make sure yours is a 13-inch or smaller before buying.

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What to Look for in a Messenger Bag (for Students)


Price points range from $30 to $150. Cheaper bags are obviously great for your college budget, but also think about durability. A good quality bag could last you all the way through college.

Laptop Compatible

If you’re taking a laptop to and from class, you’ll want a messenger or tote bag that’s got space for your laptop plus your books. All the bags in this list have space for a laptop.

But, you’ll need to check your laptop size. The average laptop is 15.6 inches. Some bags (like the Leaper Retro Sling Bag) only fit 13 inch laptops.

If you’re super concerned about protecting your laptop, get one with a serious amount of protective padding. The best from the list above for protection for your laptop is the  Lacdo 360° Protective Laptop Shoulder Bag.


You’ll probably want a bag with several pockets.

There should be one pocket or sleeve for holding your laptop. Then, there needs to be space for textbooks, your charger, lunch, and notepads.

Additional smaller pockets are required if you want to carry pens, glasses, smartphones and other smaller items.

Side pockets are great for carrying an umbrella or drink bottle.

When looking at the pockets, see whether there are outer pockets accessible without having to fiddle with the top flap. A quick access pocket is usually good for storing things you’ll access a lot throughout the day.


It’s hard to find a waterproof bag, but most are water resistant at the very least. I’d recommend reading through the reviews to see what people have said about how the bag you’re considering has held up against the elements.

Waterproofing may be a bigger concern for you if you live in a rainy city or you have valuable electronics that you need to protect.


Of course, the fashion and style are incredibly important. We all have our own style – so look through the items above to find the style that suits you best.

Environmental or Ethical Concerns

Ethical issues are increasingly part of our consumption habits. Be aware that many of the above bags do contain leather. If you’re after an ethical option, go for ‘vegan leather’ – see the ECOSUSI Vegan Leather Satchel above as an example.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of thoughts that go into your purchase. Buying a bag really is a personal decision based on your own fashion preferences.

But, you also need to keep in mind functionality. For college students, this is usually your laptop, charger, lunch and textbooks that you’ll need for the day.

You might also want to think about what you want out of smaller pockets, especially outer pockets that might hold drinks or your keys and pens.

To make your life easier, I have included what I think are the 9 best messenger bags for students. I hope this helped you with making your decision!

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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