Briefcase vs Backpacks

Both of them are worlds apart, one has this classy, vintage, down-to-business look image, one is functional, sporty and considered to be a laid-back casual accessory. Both have their own charm and both come in a variety of colors and designs to suit your mood or fashion sense. We’ll focus on the main differences between a briefcase and a backpack, not only in their appearance, but also on how either one can benefit you.

But first, let’s take a brief look at how they differ from each other, then later we’ll take a closer look at each of the following categories.

Comparison Chart

Purpose/FunctionCarry business files or tech devices. Appropriate for professional formal settingsCarry personal items of all sorts. Appropriate of school, travel or a spacious daily bag
MaterialsMostly made in leather, some being made from fabricsMostly made using lightweight materials such as canvas, nylon
Which Carries more?Can carry minimal and slim items such as files & laptopCan carry a variety of different sized items such as a water bottle, clothes, books
Look/FeelClassic, professional, formalcasual, multifunctional, fashionable

Weight Distribution
All weight is in one spot/side, not evenly distributedweight is distributed on the shoulders and back evenly

What is a Briefcase? 

A briefcase is a flat, rectangular case that typically has a small handle on top of it to be carried by hand. Some modern designs come with an optional shoulder strap too. 

A briefcase was originally a type of legal case: a specific type of document case. Its name is derived from its original function as a case that was used to carry briefs. It also used to feature locks as the main purpose was to carry confidential documents. Though now all designs don’t necessarily come with locks, their function of being used to transport important documents continues today in many professions.

What is a backpack?

A backpack is a bag that has two shoulder straps that are worn over each shoulder. It features one or more compartments to store items. It typically has a main pouch that closes with a zipper and multiple additional external pockets. Many types even come with external features that let you attach your gear to it.

A backpack is often used to carry goods over long distances or periods of time. Backpacks are often preferred for carrying heavy loads. They come in a range of varieties with different types designed specifically to serve different purposes. 

Feature Comparison 1 – Materials

Though most are made using natural or faux leather the briefcase is made of other materials as well. The traditional and classic type of briefcase is made of leather, but nowadays, they are available in fabric materials too.

The backpack is more versatile in material as many are designed to be lightweight and water-resistant for either tackling challenges of everyday use or adventure sports, thus are designed from a variety of materials such as nylon and canvas, but many designer brands use leather for their line of luxurious backpacks.

Feature Comparison 2 – Which Carries More?

The briefcase is typically slim and compact, not stretchable. It can carry a few folders, sometimes a laptop and bundles of cash as shown in so many action movies, but that’s about it.

The backpack, on the other hand, is basically a bag for all occasions, it comes in a lot of different sizes and typically has multiple compartments, with the main compartment being large and spacious. It also comes with side pockets and front pockets for more storage options. There are so many types of it that you’ll be able to surely find one that’ll be perfectly suitable for whichever situation you need to carry things for.

Feature Comparison 3 – Look and Feel

The briefcase is considered a dignified business accessory. It definitely gives off a more vintage and professional image. It’s made to look formal so it has a classic design that hasn’t changed much over the years.

The backpack, on the other hand, is more casual and has a look that corresponds to the modern age. Backpacks also come in an array of designs now, so you can choose one that fits your style and purpose.

Feature Comparison 4 – Function/Purpose

The backpack is all about function, while the briefcase tries to take it back to the days where it was all about business. When you’re on the go, on your feet or moving from place to place, whether that’s your morning commute to your office or a hike up a mountain, a backpack can get the job done. It has multiple compartments for storage, leaves your hands completely free, is spacious, comfortable to carry and many also come with a padded laptop compartment or sleeve.

The briefcase is for a more static or stationary lifestyle. It’s better if your primary purpose is to carry documents or a laptop and look formal. It’s not particularly versatile or very spacious, so where it will be the perfect option for a teacher, lawyer or banker it may not be as good of a choice for a student or athlete.

Feature Comparison 5 – Weight

Since the briefcase is designed with a handle to be carried by hand or even if provided with a strap, is supposed to be worn over one shoulder, all the weight is put in one spot. There’s no weight distribution, so if you often carry a heavy load, using a briefcase might hurt your shoulder and back.

The backpack distributes the weight on the shoulders and back evenly (when both straps are worn of course), so even with a full load, you won’t feel it that much if you have the right straps for it.

Another point to consider is that the briefcase is designed for office work, so it’s primarily made of leather, which is a heavier material compared to other options out there; whereas the backpack is typically made out of nylon or similar lighter materials.


If you’re looking to get something that’s mainly functional and can carry a lot of stuff, the backpack is probably better suited for you. If you want something classic and more formal, the briefcase is the better choice.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone and some people may like and use both depending on their lifestyle and preferences. What matters is that you like it and feel comfortable in whichever one you’re using.

A briefcase will definitely turn heads towards you while a backpack is more than just a statement. It’s functional, you can use it to keep your water bottle, towel, change of clothes, laptop, lunch, books; whatever you wish.

A briefcase will never replace a backpack because they serve different purposes. Just like a kitchen knife can’t replace a hammer because they’re made for different things. The choice is up to you really.

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