ESL Teachers living abroad often have a lot of stuff to carry. As teachers, we recommend bags that provide comfort and utility to teachers who need to carry a load to and from work.
Best Bags for Classroom ESL Teachers
Best Bags for Online ESL Teachers
What should I be looking for in a bag?
There are a number of factors you are going to have to consider when looking through the best bags for teachers. First of which will be what types of items and what quantities of these items you are going to be toting around. If you are a classroom ESL teacher for a high school, for example, you will probably have a few textbooks and tons of paperwork that you will be carrying back and forth between the school and home. You are going to want something that is easy to organize and that doesn’t put too much strain on your body. In contrast to this if you are an online ESL tutor you probably won’t be moving around as much but will need a good computer bag with extra room for when you decide to travel. Preferably, one that’s waterproof as your computer is going to be your lifeline to work. It is important to consider not just making things easier to carry but also safer. Backpacks, for example, are very convenient for lighter loads but for items that are heavy and bulky and that you will need to carry in large quantities using a backpack can potentially lead to long-term nerve and muscle damage in the neck and shoulders.
What types of bags do different teachers need?
As mentioned, different types of teachers and tutors are going to have vastly different needs for a bag or tote. I’ll examine some of those different requirements so that you can make the best decision when looking at teacher bags:
Online ESL tutors – if you are part of this growing segment of the global ESL teaching population then you are probably going to be looking for a bag for travel. The main benefit of working online is that you don’t have to commute to a school every day and thus won’t have to carry large amounts of papers and bulky textbooks. However, you may be considering how you are going to work when you go on holiday or if you want to travel on a more consistent basis. If this is the case then you want to find something that is going to protect all of your electronics and allow you to easily transport any props that you may use in your online classroom. The average online tutor is going to have at the very least a laptop, headset, and some kind of background. Aside from these items, some tutors may also use an external webcam, external microphone, props such as stuffed animals, a green screen, an ergonomic keyboard, a computer mouse, and a backup internet source such as a portable WiFi router. The most important thing if you are an online ESL tutor and you are looking for a bag is to make sure that your electronics are secure and your bag is preferably waterproof. Especially, if you are traveling to other countries there will be plenty of chances for your equipment to take a beating and minimizing the chance for anything to break will prevent you from losing revenue due to canceled classes or even potentially losing your job depending on your company’s cancellation policy. You will also want something that is easily lockable so that you can lessen the chances of items being stolen.
Classroom-based ESL teachers – if you are a classroom-based ESL teacher then you are probably looking for a bag that is going to make your daily commute easier. Especially, if you are in a major city where you are walking and constantly moving between cabs, subways, motorbikes, and sky trains or if you are in a remote village where the infrastructure isn’t great and you have to hike or traverse awkward terrains such as hills or rocky dirt paths. You will probably also have mountains of paperwork that you have to take home at the end of the day and bring back on top of any bulky textbooks you use in the classroom and any books that your students may be reading as part of their curriculum. If you are in a major city with good sidewalks and good public transportation, you may consider going the route of a rolling bag that takes the strain off your back. Conversely, if you are in a location that forces you to walk over uneven terrain or where the infrastructure is lacking and you have to walk then you are going to want to look for a very solid bag that distributes the weight in a way that you aren’t going to have neck or back pains at the end of each day.
What are the best bags for classroom ESL teachers?
- The Big Shot has comfortable and adjustable shoulder straps with a front facing latch to help better distribute the load. This can be great for teachers who commute by foot or bicycle or who find themselves having to utilize multiple methods of transportation where it may be inconvenient using a rolling back or something bulkier.
- The bag itself is water and weather resistant which can be a plus if you live in an area that experiences a lot of rain or harsh weather. There is also further padding for the laptop pocket so you have a bit more piece of mind that your electronics will be protected from both the weather and everyday wear and tear.
- There is an abundance of pouches and pockets spread throughout the bag which can make it convenient for you to store smaller items such as pencils, pens, and paper clips. There is also a dedicated laptop pouch as well as a water bottle holder to help you keep organized.
- If you are a teacher who has large classes with loads of paperwork then you may find yourself lacking room with the Big Shot. While there is plenty of space for a textbook or two and a couple of classes of paperwork, teachers who find themselves dragging large quantities of books and paperwork back and forth every day between school may find themselves needing something a bit bigger.
- Some space is sacrificed due to the fleece pocket as well as the abundance of compartments and pouches and pockets. This can be a plus if you have many small things you transport with you or a large minus if you really just need something for paperwork and textbooks.
- As this is a 50-liter hiking backpack there is plenty of room for teachers who find themselves with large quantities of paperwork and books to carry back and forth each day. The large main compartment has ample room for everything that you will need to carry including your laptop, cell phone, books, folders, and anything else you might need.
- The backpack is designed to take the weight off of your back and help to evenly distribute it on your hips. This is extremely beneficial if you are a teacher who finds yourself suffering from backaches after carrying a traditional school bag for longer periods of time.
- If you are in a location that rains a lot or teach in a tropical climate with high humidity then this bag can be great for keeping your papers and electronics dry. Aside from the water-resistant material the bag is made from, there is an extra waterproof cover included with the bag. If you know you are going to be commuting to your classroom in the rain then this is something that should be considered in order to save you from the headache of trashed homework.
- Some tutors may find this bag to be a bit overkill. If you only need something for carrying your laptop and a few folders back and forth then this may be a bit too much. The bag is 50-liter and is made for travelers and hikers so this may be a better option for teachers who have a lot to carry on a consistent basis.
- Some users have complained about the zippers giving out after consistent wear and tear. While this is something more prone to happen to users who are hiking and traveling and moving through different environments where their bags are taking a beating it should be taken into consideration. If you are someone who is very hard on your bag and notice that you break zippers easily then you might want to go easy on this one.
- The CoolBELL convertible bag can be carried as both a shoulder mounted messenger bag or as a backpack. This is especially helpful for teachers who want a backpack for the commute but also would like a briefcase or messenger bag to look more professional. It also gives you more carrying options if the shoulder mount begins to hurt your back.
- Because this is a laptop bag it is designed to fit long and thin items (like a laptop..or a lot of textbooks and folders). This can be very convenient if you are a teacher who has lots of folders and papers to carry on an everyday basis as you will be able to cram more in without making your bag overly bulky.
- As with the North Face Big Shot, there are a large number of compartments and pockets that make it easy to keep your small items such as pencils, pens, USB drive, etc. organized. If you are someone like me who likes to keep things in order then this can be a good solution.
- Some users have reported that the shoulder straps ripped after prolonged periods of use. Wear and tear is to be expected with any bag. However, if you are a teacher who is going to be rough with your bag and looking for something that can keep up with you this may not be the best option.
- As the bag is canvas it may not be the best option for teachers who work in tropical or other high humidity environments. Keeping a canvas bag clean and smell free in such locations can be a hassle and after prolonged periods of humidity and sweat your bag may have a funky smell that can be hard to get out.
What are the best bags for online ESL teachers?
- This bag is designed for gamers. But, if you are an online ESL teacher looking for a good bag to travel with then you can take advantage of this sturdily designed bag. There is ample room for you to store laptops of all sizes plus any other equipment you might carry with you. Each piece of equipment has its own space including a dedicated holder for headsets and dedicated pockets for an external camera and other computer equipment.
- There is an internal suspension system for the laptop area of the bag. This means that if you are going to be on the go and putting your bag through rough wear you can feel confident that your laptop as well as your other equipment is secure and will be able to withstand the wear and tear.
- The bag is designed for optimal weight distribution. So if you are like me and wearing a backpack for hours a day leaves you with a sore neck and aching back muscles then this bag may be one to consider. Along with the ergonomic design, the back of the bag has been designed with an airflow system to keep you from getting swamp back. This can be a great feature for teachers who will be traveling in hot or humid environments.
- The main drawback of this bag for many teachers is going to be the price. The adage that you get what you pay for holds true here and you are paying for a very premium product. However, you need to know that this bag is going to run a higher price than many of the bags on the list.
- The bag has 8 liters capacity so outside of your electronic equipment and a few props you be hard pressed to find extra space.
- Probably the best feature of this bag is that the laptop section unzips completely for easy access at the airport. Gone are the days of having to remove all of the contents of your bag in order to remove your laptop for airport security. This also makes it easy to access your equipment when you are ready to teach.
- There are separate compartments for both your laptop and a tablet if you carry both. Both compartments are in the zip area for easy access at airports and other checkpoints. This keeps the electronics separate from the rest of the bag so that the main compartment doesn’t lose any room and allows for plenty of storage for props and backgrounds. There are also a large number of pockets and pouches for things like phones and cables that you might be carrying with you for teaching.
- The bag is made of ballistic polyester which is very durable. If you are worried about wear and tear on your bag or if you know you are going to be moving around a lot and need a bag that can take a beating this bag is a good choice. The material is also water-resistant so your electronics are further protected from the elements.
- As with many other bags, some users have complained that the zippers break after repeated use. I’ll mention once more that this is going to be largely dependent on how much wear and tear you put your bag through and no bag is going to be perfect. However, if you feel like you are the kind of person who breaks zippers and tears straps on bags easily then this may be something you need to look into further before purchasing this bag.
- There is only padding on one side of the laptop due to the easy access feature for travel. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that your laptop is going to be less protected than if the padding was on both sides, it is nice to have padding all around and provides extra peace of mind.
- The bag is equipped with a solar-powered charging system. This can be extremely helpful if you are worried about keeping your phone or other portable WiFi router charged as a backup internet source for teaching. This is also extremely convenient as you can avoid carrying around extra portable battery chargers and can free up some of the room that those can take up for other equipment.
- The laptop pocket boasts sturdy and thick padding to make sure that your laptop is going to stay protected from the wear and tear that travel and everyday life can bring it. The bag itself is also waterproof so you don’t have to worry about rain or humidity causing your electronics to corrode and become useless.
- The simple design of the bag allows you to easily store your extra items such as headsets and backgrounds without having to worry about your bag becoming unorganized and cluttered.
- The bag is only built to hold a 14 inch (35.56 cm) laptop so if you have one that is bigger than this may not be the best bag for you.
- Some users have complained that the straps are not the best for handling heavy loads. This is important to consider if you have a heavy laptop and will be carrying a lot of extra equipment that can add significant weight to the overall load of the bag.
What’s the best bag for me?
As mentioned, before selecting a bag for yourself you will first need to think about what your specific needs as a teacher are going to be. You will need to think about what items you will be carrying around frequently and how much of these items you have as well as what your daily commute is like. For the best bags for teachers in the classroom, my personal favorite is the North Face Unisex Big Shot because of the overall price to value ratio. The bag boasts plenty of room for most teachers and because it comes from North Face there is the added assurance that you are getting a durable product from a trusted company that is going to last and go the distance. My vote for the best bags for online ESL teachers is the ASUS ROG Nomad backpack. Yes, this back is on the expensive side when compared to other bags on this list but when your paycheck is dependent on your laptop working properly then spending some extra money to ensure that it is protected can be a great return on your investment. Aside from the durability of the bag the ability to easily organize all of your extra equipment such as headsets and props and backgrounds can go a long way towards making sure you stay organized and productive while you travel. At the end of the day, you are going to have to look at what features you need in a backpack and just what level of durability and protection you are willing to pay for.