The right bag makes all the difference in every promotion.

In today’s highly mobile society, the right bag to carry and protect our many (expensive) technical devices—laptops, smartphones, tablets and e-readers—is essential. According to the U.S. Travel Association, U.S. residents logged 1.7 billion trips for leisure and 459 million trips for business in 2015.

To better accommodate the needs of travelers and their important gear, manufacturers have upped their game in making products that are more lightweight, comfortable to carry, durable and easier to maneuver than ever before. In no place is this trend more evident than in the backpack market, where styles continue to evolve from the very first modern backpack, developed by Gerry Outdoors in 1967.

Although the first backpacks were originally intended for hikers, college students began using them to lug their books around campus, prompting companies to begin creating backpacks designed specifically for students. By the 1980s, backpacks had become part of every back-to-school checklist. Now, with students relying less on textbooks and more on laptops and tablets, backpacks are being redesigned again with mobile device storage in mind.

Other types of bags are also evolving to meet customers’ changing needs, with more eco-friendly fabrics, compactable designs and dynamic, full-color decoration to make logos and images stand out. Read on to see some great bag options for gifts, incentives and promotions, and for tips on choosing bags for specific purposes as well as how to distinguish between good, better and best backpacks.

Suitcases And Satchels To Schlep Your Stuff


This colorful bag is a premium, stylish and clever compactable tote that makes your logo or artwork pop. From bag to ball, the 24/7 bag is a snap to keep with you all the time. It can carry up to 35 lbs, and its versatile strap design featuring a felt patch to avoid slipping off shoulders makes it a go-to bag for an entire day’s worth of activities.

Flip & Tumble, LLC PPAI 588867



Find comfort and style in the phthalate-free, low-lead Sota Backpack. Featuring a unique zippered opening with front clip closure, a front zippered pocket, inside zippered pocket and slash pocket for extra storage space, the backpack also includes a top webbed handle, an air-mesh padded back, reflective striping on the front so you can be more visible at night and adjustable shoulder straps for carrying comfort. Choose a standard one-color logo or a TruColor multicolor imprint for the same price.

Starline USA, Inc. PPAI 112719



Fashion meets function with this on-trend quilted bag collection. The faux-leather tote features soft, quilted, slate grey micro-check fabric accented with faux leather accents and gold-plated grommets and buckles. The quilted day pack has padded shoulder straps and a fully lined interior, and a padded divider. The quilted overnighter is fully lined with an oversized inside zipper pocket.

AAA Innovations PPAI 110972



When affordable luxury and useful convenience is paramount, this complete line of bags including travel, messenger, cross-body and computer bags along with executive briefcases, wallets, mobile cases and travel accessories is sure to fit the bill. Debossing any of the products with a company logo creates a unique piece that is conceptually interesting and visually stunning.

Bugatti PPAI 545540



Designed and engineered for the global sophisticate, BRX bags are virtually weightless due to the strategic use of lightweight, durable 420D nylon, 600D polyester and water-resistant tarpaulin. The Outsider® handle provides greater interior capacity and increased packing space, making it easier to go anywhere, from off the beaten path to the lap of luxury.

Incentive Concepts PPAI 212912



Designed to be the perfect carry-on travel bag or gym sport duffel, this large canvas and leather bag features a matching luggage tag, polished nickel hardware, sturdy leather handles, five bottom feet, an adjustable padded shoulder strap, an easy access exterior zippered pocket and a roomy inside compartment with mesh and zippered pockets.

Strong Leather Co. PPAI 113072



These seriously strong luggage stickers that you apply to your luggage make for easy, quick identification. The stickers are made from thick vinyl and have aggressive adhesive for durability and longevity without damaging the surface. One sheet Includes five bright stickers plus a writable contact ID sticker.

Gill Studios, Inc. PPAI 114157


The new Dunes™ Laminated Tote is a natural-color laminated tote with a subtle canvas-like appearance. A large non-woven polypropylene pocket on the front shows off your imprint. The 16-inch by 12-inch bag includes 28-inch handles and an optional plastic bottom insert available. The bag is shown here with a ColorVista imprint process.

BAG MAKERS, Inc. PPAI 111408



Busy travelers love the Switzer Canyon Rolling Carry-On. With telescoping handles and 360-degree spinner wheels, it is easy to maneuver. The handle position extends to 12 or 21 inches so you can find a comfortable length. The large main compartment has a two-way zipper, a snap-out zippered toiletry bag, clothes holder with a quick-release buckle and an expandable zippered front. Polydrill lining protects against spills and tears and the bag comes with a matching luggage tag.

Beacon Promotions PPAI 113702



The Wenger Synergy Backpack offers a triple-protection padded compartment for up to a 16-inch laptop and also has a dedicated 10-inch tablet/eReader pocket. The CaseBase Stabilizing Platform keeps the bag standing in an upright position. Air-flow back padding and shock-absorbing shoulder straps make it comfortable to carry, and a Quik Pocket provides easy access to items you need most frequently. The pass-thru grab handle trolley strap slides over the handle system of wheeled luggage for easy travel.

Victorinox Swiss Army, Inc. PPAI 113873



This sanded calf leather wheeled travel bag features a sports design with broad appeal. A telescoping handle and in-line skate wheels allow for easy rolling while dual handles with a handle wrap make it a cinch to carry. Two exterior open pockets and two interior zippered pockets accommodate plenty of travel items in style.

Scully Leather PPAI 174962

Categorically Speaking

Factors to consider when choosing bags for five popular purposes

jennifer-mcfadden-headshot-webJennifer McFadden, communications director for BAG MAKERS, Inc., shares advice for how to pick the best bag for your client’s promotion. Here’s what she says you should consider when working with clients who choose bags for the following purposes.

Trade Shows—Far more people will walk by a trade-show booth than walk into it. If you provide a great show bag, attendees will carry it and advertise for you throughout the show floor. The best way to bring all eyes to your trade-show bag is to use a four-color imprint. A one-color imprint lets you tell people your company name and website; a full-color imprint lets you show people what your company does with a photograph or picture of your product or service. The full-color imprint tells your story when you’re not around to talk about it. Look for higher GSM material for greater durability, and wide adjustable shoulder straps for comfort.

Trade Show

Trade Shows

Event Goody Bags—You should consider several things for event goody bags—the customer’s budget, the size of the giveaway items, and whether the customer’s message is short- or long-term. Plastic die-cuts are a popular option for a one-time-use bag. Customers who want more mileage for their message should consider nonwoven bags, like our Celebration Totes, that get used (and seen) repeatedly.

Higher-end Gift Bags—A heavy stock or unusual shape will lend a higher perceived value to gift bags. (We often suggest our Reverse Trapezoid EuroTotes for higher-end gift bags because of their distinctive style.) Foil imprints lend an upscale look, and custom tissue, ribbon and bows complete the package


Higher-end Gifts

Shopping Bags—When choosing grocery totes, you want a bag that won’t break when packed full of items. Look for a high GSM, reinforced handles, and plastic bottom boards, like those offered in our Big and Little Thunder Totes. Distributors also can consider space-saving, convenient collapsible bags; for example, our T-Pac Poly T-Shirt Bag has a large interior pocket that transforms into the bag’s storage pouch. For more upscale shopping bags, Mesh Panel Totes combine fashion and function. They pair a retail look with the functionality of a shopping tote.

School Bags—When choosing bags for schools, look for features that provide added value or safety; for example, our Explorer Backpacks have reflective stripes that bounce light back from 50 feet, making students more visible at night.



Pack Patrol

What increases backpack quality—and the accompanying price? Andrew Spellman, vice president of corporate channels at Victorinox Swiss Army, Inc., lays it all out so you know what specific items to look for when designing the perfect pack for your client’s budget. He says the most important consideration overall is weight. “In real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. In luggage and bags it’s all about lightweight, lightweight, lightweight.”

Here’s an overview of what other elements take a backpack from good to great.


  • Design: Generic, singular main body
  • Fabric: Inexpensive fabric such as cotton canvas or 250-400D nylon
  • Functionality: Just the basics; no protection


  • Design: More storage elements such as pockets and zippers and better comfort and safety with items such as padded shoulder straps and reflective trim
  • Fabric: Thicker, heavier polyester fabric or 600D nylon with PVC backing to add sturdiness and form
  • Functionality: Upgrades to appeal to casual users


  • Design: Added protection such as thicker, padded laptop sleeves with memory foam; useful extras such as more pockets, premium YKK zippers, custom-designed branded wheels, zip-away pockets for items such as water bottles; palm-facing rotating handle, water-resistant fabric and zippers, ventilation system for better comfort, etc.
  • Fabric: 800D nylon to 1680D ballistic nylon fabric such as CORDURA®
  • Functionality: Organizational tools and enhanced durability for serious students and business travelers                                           

Julie Richie is associate editor for PPB.