Poll: Are backpacks appropriate for women business travelers?

a brown backpack with a strapYou guys know that I love purses. I mean, I LOVE them. I will shop for them, look at them, and talk about them all day. Having a cute purse makes me happy! When I get questions about purses, I rub my hands together and dive into shopping mode, I mean, research mode. Recently, I have been getting this question a lot: Are backpacks appropriate for women business travelers?

Here’s the deal. I’m not really a backpack person. While shopping for a new purse, it wouldn’t even occur to me to look at the backpacks. Not that I have anything against them. Both of my sisters have very cute leather backpacks that they use as purses, and whenever I’m up there I think, maybe I should get one. But they live in Chicago, have to walk to work, and work in non-traditional fields. So my reference point for backpacks is not exactly crystal clear. Many consider traveling to be a special situation, where practicality sometimes supersedes traditional rules. It would certainly be better for your back and shoulders to distribute the weight of your laptop instead of carrying it on one arm. But would people subconsciously associate school, and therefore immaturity and youthfulness, with your backpack and possibly you?

Let me be clear. I’m not talking about that canvas Jansport you had in college. I’m talking about a sleek leather backpack, similar to the one pictured above from Le Donne.

For the most conservative offices, backpacks are probably not appropriate, and people who work there are pretty aware of who they are. For the rest of us, I wanted to get my readers’ opinions. What do you think?

ETA: Let me rephrase the question. Are they appropriate in a professional setting, like as a purse? During actual travel, I guess it really doesn’t matter what your bags look like. At some point, though, someone you work with is going to see at least one of your bags. So is it appropriate to use a backpack as a purse once you get to the office?

Are backpacks appropriate for a female business traveler?

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  1. I have two backpacks — one from LL Bean for my netbook and other things, which I use for traveling (it’s great on the plane) and a small one that is use in lieu of a purse when I’m traveling. The “purse” one is great for when I’m going sightseeing, etc. It’s compact but can hold my camera &/or a small umbrella.

  2. I think it would be wrong to say they aren’t appropriate for women when you see men carrying very nice backpacks for business travel. Swiss Gear especially makes some really sturdy functional bags.

  3. I cringe inside whenever I travel with my SwissGear backpack. It’s an excellent bag, and very functional, but it’s not stylish. But, it packs more than any tote. One of the bigger issues I have with my backpack is the possibility that I may be required to put it in the overhead bin, but it has my cash, id, etc. Also, I can’t put my (normally huge) purse in it, and the backpack is usually very bulky.

  4. I voted “sometimes” b/c I’m often traveling in a more casual outfit–sneakers, etc. and it’s easier to move quickly [and hands-free] when I get to my event city. I get lots of stuff inside, laptop, toiletries, work docs, snacks & my cute little purse.

  5. I say travel with whatever makes you comfortable. If you are concerned about the image of carrying a backpack, I might suggest a cross-body or messenger style bag. It is easy to adjust in a way that will distribute the weight a little better than perhaps a just shoulder ba. You can easily swing it around so it sits on your back and it allows you to be more hands free kind of like a backpack.

  6. I have finally given in and bought myself a (very expensive) TUMI backpack for travel with my huge, heavy, company-issued computer, files, carry-on liquids, small purse, etc. But I do differentiate between carrying a computer and files from carrying the normal “purse” items, and I bring a small purse for that purpose. As for a backpack in the office, I don’t see why one wouldn’t use a nice (clean, un-torn) one to get to/from work or to/from a client meeting. I’ve had enough back problems over the years to know that health is far more important than some out-of-date notion about what a professional woman should be carrying.

  7. I carry a backpack (an old school college style, at that) every day for commuting. I’ve tried all kinds and it is the most convenient and most comfortable (I also carry a purse – I’m still working out how to just carry one bag on my commute even after several years – I think a tiny purse that fits in the backpack is the key). I carry workout clothes, sometimes shoes, lunch, pens, tissues, makeup, hairspray, and a few other essentials in it. I know it isn’t super stylish but I’ve come down in the “I don’t care” camp. I use it when traveling as well.

  8. I’m a backpack gal myself, but I also work in the fairly relaxed (business casual) health care IT field. I just bought a Timbuk 2 backpack that I loooove for its looks and functionality.

  9. It doesn’t matter if you use a backpack to work! The main thing is that you do your job in the most efficient manner for you. If that means carrying your laptop on your back, so be it. A leather backpack is a very appropriate bag for work and looks great!

    Joe from Backpack and Gear

  10. I agree with you, RW. It depends on your job. In engineering, I was totally cool wearing a backpack that I got at a trade show. But in the banking world, I bet I’d need something nicer.

  11. I used a nice Targus laptop backpack, but even though I was dressed in business casual I frequently got asked if I was a student. I changed to a laptop purse and that doesn’t happen anymore.

  12. I wear a canvas backpack to work. Carrying a tote seems like an ergonomic nightmare with all the files I have to schlep back and forth on the subway. I used to have a nice leather backpack but it was heavy and cleaning it was an expensive pain, so Swiss Gear it is. I don’t know that any of my co-workers notice or care.

  13. Okay, so I work for a state agency in Oregon and am frequently moving around from office to site. So I may not be exactly a “typical” case.

    But many of my colleagues carry backpacks. I still use a more traditional purse but have been considering a slick Timbuktu backpack to make my life easier if slightly less stylish.

  14. I have thought about getting a back-pack style lap top bag. Lap tops are heave and can be unwieldy when navigating through the airport. I would still carry a proper handbag however. to me backpacks are just very very 1994 no matter how expensive or sleek their styling might be

  15. Thanks for this poll, as it’s a question I am struggling with. I travel a lot globally for work, for up to 16 days at a time, multiple destinations, a few times/year. I had a SwissGear backpack that I loved, until a colleague said, “whaddaya got in that thing?”. Then I switched to a tote style from kailochic that I love for its more feminine style and organization, but it is hard on my shoulder. It is starting to wear out and now I’m undecided which route to go. Searching for something that will hold all I need (computer, files, chargers, novel, liquids) and still look stylish, without bright “woman style” pink colors.

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