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How to choose a new book bag: Timbuk2 vs. Jansport backpack

Updated on September 9, 2012

Choose the right bag for back to school

Back to school time inspires many to buy a new book bag. There are more options than ever. This guide helps buyer to sort through what they want so they end up buying the right bag for their purposes. Messenger bag? Two-shoulder? Leather? Canvas? Nylon? The article uses two popular styles and brands, Timbuk2 messenger bags and Jansport two-shoulder bags, as examples for the many options.


The messenger style has been growing in popularity over the last decade. This style, first popularized by bicycle messengers in big cities, is a one shoulder design that emphasizes easy access to the contents of the bag. One shoulder bags have been around for centuries, but these are newly redesigned products that are frequently updated to have features consumers want.

The two shoulder style is not as popular as it once was, but still survives due to its functionality. The two shoulder style distributes weight better than the messenger bag and, therefore, is better for carrying a lot of weight.


Most bags are made out of synthetic fibers that are strong and water repellent. The straps are padded with synthetic material that breaks down over time. There are also leather bags available in both styles. Leather bags are more formal and tend to be durable. They also tend to be heavier and susceptible to water damage. Their straps, if not padded can be uncomfortable, but over time mold to a person's body and become more supple.

Timbuk2 Messenger Bag Review


The medium size Timbuk2 messenger bag can fit a laptop, two textbooks, and a few one subject notebooks. You can estimate from there whether you need a small, medium, or large Timbuk2 bag. While the bag can hold quite a bit. The one shoulder messenger design makes it uncomfortable to carry a lot of weight. This bag is not meant for law students. That is, you wouldn't want to be carrying around two or three leather-bound casebooks in it.


The selling point for messenger-style bags is their convenience for ease of access. A Timbuk2 bag's design allows for easy access to books and pockets even as you wear the bag. This makes Timbuk2 a great choice for commuters riding bicycles or riding public transportation. Have a seat of the bus, quickly grab something to read, and make productive use of your time. While the bag does have a divider for your laptop or iPad, you will still want a padded case for your computer to protect it. There is no built in padding to the basic Timbuk2.

While Timbuk2 bags are customizable, some of the custom design is really just a way to charge more for features that might have been standard. You can choose those features and other frills such as custom color patterns.


Timbuk2 calls the material they use to make their bags "ballistic nylon." Ballistic nylon was invented in World War II to do just what it sounds like–protect servicemen from shrapnel. It was an invention that led later to bulletproof fabrics. It certainly is not bulletproof. I also would not expect the nylon to stop shrapnel, but the fact that they call their material ballistic nylon does give you an idea as to its strength.


No water bottle pocket. This continues to annoy me. I have to clip it on to one of the loops on the outside of the bag and dangles around like giant keychain.

Not comfortable with a lot of weight.

More expensive.

Jansport Two Shoulder Bag

If you've decided that a messenger style isn't for you, consider a Jansport two shoulder bag. These bags are often inexpensive. Some styles sell for less than $40. They are functional and comfortable if not always stylish. Their durability matches that of Timbuk2 but at a lower cost.


Not as stylish as Timbuk2.

Does not allow convenient access to contents while wearing the bag.

Not customizable.

Warranty on Jansport vs. Timbuk2

Not all warranties are created equal. In the case of these two companies the difference is clear. Jansport has the better warranty. If your bag ever breaks down, Jansport will fix it. If your Timbuk2 bag breaks down they will only fix if they determine it is due to a defect. They get to make that decision. Based on these two warranties its clear which company is more confident in their work.


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  • Tonipet profile image

    Tonette Fornillos 6 years ago from The City of Generals

    Great tips. The messenger style has still been popular both for its unisex convenience and comfort. Thanks for the ideas.