How to Choose the Best Custom Bags: 5 Expert Tips

How to Choose the Best Custom Bags: 5 Expert Tips



Woman with a logo tote bag

When it comes to promotional apparel, sometimes you have to think outside the box... in fact, sometimes you have to think so far outside the box that you wind up thinking inside the bag.

  The value of a custom bag      

Whether it's backpacks, messenger bags, or even tote bags, there's a higher perceived value around custom bags than most other promotional products.

Part of this appeal comes from the fact that many bags feel more expensive than custom t-shirts or custom hoodies. However, on a pragmatic level, bags tend to be longer-lasting than most kinds of apparel (just about the only thing that might last as long are custom jackets ).

(And, by the way, if you're looking to buy screen-printed drawstring or tote bags, you'll find them in our   accessories section . If you're looking for an embroidered bag, check our embroidery section .)

 Types of custom bags      


Robolto shows off the different types of bags

While there are many kinds of bags, only a handful are popular for customization. These include:

  • Backpacks
  • Messenger Bags
  • Duffel Bags
  • Tote Bags
  • Drawstring Bags

Backpacks, messenger bags, and duffel bags tend to be the more expensive side. As such, they're more of a premium item (meaning that they're less likely to be used for giveaways).

Meanwhile, tote bags and drawstring bags are far more affordable -- in fact, they're a LOT cheaper than most people assume (often costing about as much as a custom t-shirt) -- which makes them a great choice for giveaways. )

So, which type of bag is best for your uses? Here's an overview of each type of bag and how they might be used.


  Custom backpacks      


Jean jacket girl with an olive backpack

Even among custom bags, backpacks are a higher-end product -- basically a premium item among premium items. However, that added cost comes with a LOT of added value.

Custom backpacks are durable and offer a lot of storage space (including specialized storage space in the form of pockets). And, for certain activities (including school and camping), they're absurdly practical. The odds of a backpack being used are far higher than that of custom t-shirts. On top of that, backpacks are much more likely to be saved (and cherished) than t-shirts.

(Note: For a less-expensive option, you might consider drawstring bags .)

  Occasions for using a custom backpack      

-Custom school backpacks    

Regardless of age, children generally need backpacks for school and what better option than a custom backpack with the school's name or logo?

Schoolgirl with a navy blue backpack

For public schools, you might consider selling custom backpacks as part of a fundraiser (taking the orders before buying the backpacks). However, if you run a private school, the cost of a backpack could be baked into the tuition.

-Custom retreat backpacks    

We all need a break sometimes, an opportunity to refresh and/or reconnect. If you organize men's retreats, church retreats, wellness retreats, etc, custom backpacks can be a great way of commemorating the occasion and then keeping these events in attendees' minds.

-Custom camping backpacks    

Whether summer camps, Bible camps, music camps, or any other kind of camp, attendees often need backpacks and a branded backpack just makes sense.


Guy looking stylish with a nice backpack

And, if you regularly hike or camp with a group, custom backpacks can be neat for showing an extra bit of camaraderie.

  Custom messenger bags


Glasses guy with a brown messenger bag

Remember briefcases? Once an omnipresent item in offices, briefcases have increasingly fallen out of favor ever since professional settings started to become more casual. Nowadays, you might be more likely to see a messenger bag than a briefcase.

In terms of convenience, a messenger bag often makes more sense than a briefcase. After all, you're getting the same amount of storage space while trading sturdy handles for a sturdy strap, which makes carrying your essentials a lot easier.

If you're outfitting a sales force or other employees in a public-facing role, custom messenger bags emblazoned with your company logo will help you project a more consistent brand image.


Port Authority BG305 messenger bag

What can you fit in a messenger bag? A laptop, for starters. Papers. Pens. Any number of items you (or employees) may need in a professional setting.

Pictured above is Port Authority's BG305 messenger bag ( available in 4 colors ), a reasonably-priced option that can be used to outfit a sales force without breaking the bank. The BG304 ( available in 4 colors ) is even more affordable, but doesn't offer nearly as much specialized storage space. (Namely, the BG304 messenger bag just offers a large, zippered main compartment and then an open pouch on the outside.)


OGIO 711207 Corporate City Corp Messenger Bag in blue

For a higher-end option, there's the more expensive OGIO Corporate City Corp Messenger Bag (711207,   available in 3 colors ). It features more pockets, pouches, and specialized compartments (including a zippered exterior pocket on each side). More importantly, the padding is thicker, offering better protection for a laptop.

  Custom duffel bags (a.k.a. custom duffle bags)      


OGIO 711007 duffel

Where messenger bags are geared for professional settings (although they're a great casual choice, too), duffel bags fall on the personal side. They're a great option for overnight travel or a trip to the gym.

"Is it duffel or duffle?"    

Although both spellings are correct, you're more likely to see "duffel" used in American English and "duffle" is more common when it comes to British and Australian English.

Best uses for a customized duffel bag?    

  • Sports teams (whether they're pro, semi-pro, or youth/kids/school)
  • Gyms
  • Team-building exercises
  • Anything related to athletics or fitness


  Custom tote bags      


Woman carrying a personalized tote bag. Personalized tote bags are cost-effective promotional merchandise

Unlike some of the other options seen so far, custom tote bags are extremely budget-friendly -- in fact, they can be cheaper than custom t-shirts!

Custom tote bags are also extremely practical. Most use a strong enough material that they can carry heavy items and, in many cases, are even good with sharp objects. Whether totes are taken shopping or to the beach, they're super-popular bags that are sure to be seen.

What are some of the best uses for promotional tote bags?

-Conferences and trade shows (ie, custom swag bags)    

Conference attendees need something to carry all of their conference swag and what better way to make an impression than with a custom tote bag? Your logo tote bags will be on display as attendees walk from booth to booth (or between attending events) and, as a result, lure potential customers right to your booth.

-Formal celebrations (ie, custom gift bags)    

Custom totes are a great added gift for wedding parties, baby showers, and other special events where guests need something to help bring home their party favors and other goodies. And a guest might hold onto a quality custom tote bag much longer than anything contained within that bag.


Woman with a custom tote, which is basically a gift that can hold gifts

A tote is effectively a gift that can hold gifts. How cool is that?

-Luxury businesses (ie, custom goodie bags)    

If you own a spa, hair salon, or other business providing a service seen as a luxury, custom totes can be a great way to either promote your business (as a low-cost freebie that other people will see) or to bundle products for sale (ie, a gift bag). Keep in mind when ordering in bulk, tote bags can be   very inexpensive... while still feeling like a nicer promotional item.

-After-the-fact usage (ie, custom reusable bags)    

Considering that totes are reusable bags, they tend to get used time and time again (which is super-eco-friendly, if you're interested in saving the planet). While you might focus on the initial usage for your custom tote bag, keep in mind the repeated use is where you'll likely get the most attention for your brand, cause, or event.

And, with state and local governments increasingly banning single-use plastic bags ( ten states have a ban so far, and many smaller municipalities have rules ), totes and other reusable bags are only going to become more relevant.

(Looking for custom tote bags FAQs? Be sure sure to check out our full guide for buying custom tote bags! And see more custom tote bags by checking out our full collection for   printing and embroidery .)


  Custom drawstring bags (a.k.a. custom cinch bags)      

 having fun while wearing custom drawstring bags

Drawstring bags tend to be made using thin, flexible materials giving you a large, adjustable storage space that's cinched at the top with a drawstring. Although some models also contain a zippered pocket, many just have one large storage space.

"How does a custom drawstring bag stack up against a custom backpack?"    

While there's some similarity between drawstring bags and backpacks -- since both are carried on a person's back with the help of shoulder straps -- the difference in quality is immediately apparent.

Backpacks tend to use a thicker, sturdier material (meaning there's less give, but more protection). They have many dedicated storage spaces, most of which can be sealed with a zipper. A backpack's shoulder straps tend to be thicker and padded, which makes carrying heavy objects more comfortable (where drawstring cords can "bite" your shoulders).

However, drawstring bags are much cheaper (for example, the BPNWBP --   available in 10 colors -- can be even less expensive than totes).

When are customized drawstring bags useful?    

Custom drawstring bags work well as low-end promotional items for a giveaway. They make the most sense when it's something related to athletic activities (like a gym, marathon, or sports team) or for a younger crowd (ie, children). ( And, if you have any drawstring bag questions, be sure to check out our full guide.)


  5 tips for choosing the perfect custom bag

So, which custom bags are right for you? Here are 5 things to think about.

#1 - The customized bag's purpose    

90% of the time, the best bag will be decided by how you plan on using it.

  • Giveaway at a conference? You want customized tote bags.
  • Giveaway at an athletic event? Usually drawstring bags.
  • Outfitting a sales team? Messenger bags give give you a more professional look.
  • Using them for a spa or resort? Usually tote bags.
  • A nice end of the year giveaway to a youth soccer team? Well... that's a bit trickier. Drawstring bags will work, but so will duffel bags and backpacks.

#2 - How big of a budget do you have for custom merchandise?    

Custom bags can be expensive... or, if you're going with custom tote bags, they be cheap. Depending on your budget, your best option might be determined by how much you're either willing or able to spend.

OGIO Big Dome duffel

However, if you're reselling the bags, cost is less of an issue because your expenses can be passed along to customers. (And a higher-end bag might help you sell those bags for a higher price.)

The other consideration is going to be the number of recipients. While Bolt Printing has a minimum order quantity (meaning you need to order at least 12 bags), there's no maximum -- meaning you can order any number of bags. Need 200 bags? We have you covered. A thousand? Awesome. Two-thousand? It's getting to be a bit much, but cool. Three-thousand? Okay, this hypothetical is getting big. However, whatever you need, we'll provide. (But, if you need thousands of bags, we probably won't be able to offer next-day turnaround times!)

When a customer wants a low-cost tote bag, we point them to the BP7LHT

Best of all, you stand to save a LOT of money on bulk orders -- the cost per-item for 144+ branded tote bags is almost HALF the price they'd be if you were sticking with the minimum quantity. And, whether ordering a few or a lot, the BP7LHT ( seen above and discussed earlier) is a great option that can stretch your marketing dollars.


#3 - Screen printing vs embroidery    

Most promotional bags can be embroidered, however not every bag is good for printing.

The benefit to screen printing is you can get a very large decoration on a bag at a low cost, which makes it great for custom tote bags and drawstring bags. (In fact, printed tote bags can be ridiculously cheap -- making them a better choice than custom tees for small businesses looking to build their name.)

Embroidery, on the other hand, gives you the choice of lots of colors (at no extra cost), but -- since the cost of embroidery is driven by stitch count -- larger designs are more expensive.

Why not just print everything? Because printing works best on a flat, rigid surface, something not offered by a lot of bags -- on top of the customization area often being on the small side.

In short, the type of bag may determine the customization available. However, when there's a choice, printing will work best if you want a large design. Beyond that, it's a matter of preference where one method might look better than the other depending on the design and bag.

#4 - Product color (and how it impacts your custom design)    


Liberty Bags 8881 color selection. These non-woven bags offer a lot of variety

What color bags will you choose? Depending on the color, your design may either pop or get lost. (And, as seen above with the Liberty Bags 8881, some bags are available in a LOT of colors -- that particular style   has 15 options! )

Likewise, certain bag colors might be a better fit for your organization than others -- and could appeal more to certain customers. (For example, pink drawstring bags might appeal to a sorority... but most fraternity members likely won't use them.)

#5 - Longevity (ie, you'll get more use from a durable custom canvas bag)    

Depending on the quality of a bag, it can last a very, very long time. And that's a good thing, if you're trying to build awareness for your business or cause. However, if you don't need to keep your name out there five or ten years down the road, how long a bag lasts may be less of a consideration.

 Keep in mind that logo tote bags can be seen by a lot of people when running errands (at grocery stores, malls, or even farmers markets). It's also worth noting that cotton canvas tote bags are environmentally friendly -- using them to carry groceries reduces plastic waste.

  Whatever type of bag (or customized apparel) you need, Bolt Printing has you covered      

The cat's out of the bag! When it comes to custom bags, Bolt has everything you need. (We even offer   reusable grocery bags & cooler/lunch bags !)


Upload artwork or use clipart in our design lab


Our online design lab makes creating awesome custom bags easy. Just upload your artwork into our studio, place it where you want, and then add any additional elements. Don't have art? No problem! Bolt has an extensive collection of clip-art so you're bound to find something you like. And with low prices, no set-up fees, AND free shipping, how can you lose? Be sure to check out our   design studio today .