Custom Bags and Promotional Totes: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide
If you’re looking to give your clients, prospects or employees a gift that’s useful for them and exposure-boosting for you, custom promotional bags are the product for you. Why? Because custom promotional bags:
- Are practical for everyday use.
- Can be used by anyone.
- Are carried everywhere, from public transit to industry events. (That means lots of exposure for your organization.)
Plus, there’s a bag for every organization, event and purpose under the sun. With such a wide selection available, though, it can be tough to know where to start.
That’s why we’ve crafted the ultimate buyer’s guide to custom promotional bags. With this guide, you’ll be able to pick bags that are perfectly suited to both your and your recipient’s needs.
Read on to find the ideal custom bag for your promotion, from lunch bags to backpacks to totes. Or, jump ahead to the section you’re interested in:
- A Bag for Every Occasion or Industry
- Bags for Retail Shops and E-Commerce
- Bags for Grocery Stores and Farmers’ Markets
- Bags for Trade Shows
- Corporate and Executive Bags
- Bags for Employees and Staff
- Bags for Education
- Bags for Healthcare
- Bags for Other Occasions
- Consider Your Budget
- Select the Right Material
- Customization Options
- Additional Options to Consider
- Special Features and Trends
A Bag for Every Occasion or Industry
No matter what your organization does or who your customers are, there’s a custom bag that matches the occasion you have in mind. Let’s take a look at some of the best options for popular types of occasions.
Bags for Retail Shops and E-Commerce
Whether your company has a physical retail space or operates entirely online, custom bags can be a fantastic way to get both brand recognition and far-reaching exposure as they’re toted around. These are some of our top picks for retail and e-commerce shops:
Biodegradable Plastic Bags
Want to spread the word about your shop while still remaining eco-friendly? Then biodegradable plastic bags are a great choice for you. The bag pictured above, the 7 1/2" x 10" Biodegradable Plastic Bag, is available in a variety of bold, saturated colors and has reinforced handles.
Frosted Plastic Bags
If you’re going for a chic, more upscale look, our selection of frosted plastic bags will be right up your alley. The bag pictured above is the 8" x 10" x 4" Brite Plastic Bag and is available in an array of elegant colors. Plus, its soft loop handles allow for convenient carrying.
Kraft Paper Bags
For a more natural alternative to plastic bags, try kraft paper bags like the 12" x 13" x 8" washable kraft paper bag pictured above. With a washable paper construction and a distinctive leather-like feel, it’s a beautiful alternative to standard plastic bags.
Paper Gift Bags
Other types of kraft paper bags give your shop the opportunity to create pretty and memorable gift bags for each customer. Take the 16" x 12" Billboard White Bag pictured above: Just add some tissue paper and you’ve got a gorgeous gift bag shoppers will be happy to show off.
Reusable and durable, tote bags also have the benefit of a large imprint area. That means even more space for your company logo. High-quality totes like the one pictured above, the Traditional Canvas Tote, are popular with customers and have even become downright iconic in some cases. Just look at tote from The New Yorker, which has become a status symbol in its own right.
Tote bags are also a perfect option for free gifts, whether they’re distributed at makeup counters, bookstores or e-commerce shops.
Bags for Grocery Stores and Farmers’ Markets
At grocery stores and farmers’ markets, there are few things customers will appreciate more than a generously-sized custom bag to carry their produce and snacks. Plus, your brand will get exposure long after your customers leave. Here are some branded bags for grocery stores and farmer’s markets we love:
Polypropylene bags like the Mighty Shopping Tote pictured above have the advantage of being reusable and sturdy as well as low-cost. This one has comfortable reinforced handles and a six-inch gusset for additional space.
Laminated bags stand apart from regular reusable shopping bags because they’re waterproof from the outside and can be easily wiped clean. Some, like the Eco Statement Tote pictured above, are even made from recycled plastic bottles.
Natural Cotton Bags
Natural cotton bags have plenty of benefits: They’re breathable, hypoallergenic, eco-friendly and durable. The Natural Cotton Tote pictured above is available in a variety of vibrant colors with matching drop handles.
Like cotton, jute is a natural and eco-friendly fiber that can be woven into strong, super-durable fabric. The Jute Grocery Tote pictured above is crafted from a blend of jute and cotton and boasts attractive vinyl handles that have a leather-like look. Customers are sure to love that it’s eco-friendly and made from renewable resources.
For more products made with renewable resources, check out our Eco-Friendly Promotional Products Buying Guide.
Basic Paper Bags
Although they may be basic, brown paper bags are simple classics that will never go out of style. The Brown Paper Carry-Out Bag pictured above sports twisted paper handles and an extra-wide gusset.
Washable Paper Bags
Most paper bags will disintegrate when washed, but not these. The full-color washable kraft paper bag pictured above can be cleaned in a washing machine and has a lovely leather-like feel.
Bags for Trade Shows
Trade shows offer a myriad of opportunities to connect with your target audience. If you’re looking to deepen those connections with a personalized bag, these are some of your best options.
Ensure trade show attendees remember your booth by giving away samples, prizes and marketing materials in eye-catching plastic bags. The 7" x 9" full-color plastic bag with die-cut handles pictured above is a perfect example. It has plenty of room for your brand message and is equipped with reinforced handles for added durability.
At most trade shows, the show organizers will provide attendees with a variety of free promotional items. Tote bags like the Conference Tote pictured above are ideal for this purpose. It’s made from sturdy poly-canvas and features a variety of practical pockets.
Corporate and Executive Bags
When you’re giving custom bags to important clients, high-profile prospects or executives, you want to make a favorable first impression. All of these promotional bags can help you do just that.
Whether your recipients are avid hikers or are simply fond of the outdoorsy look, you’re sure to hit the mark with a high-quality outdoor backpack. With its reflective accents, handy compartments and ultra-comfy straps, the Basecamp® Ascent Backpack pictured above is a prime example.
For gym enthusiasts and fitness buffs, there’s no better choice than a well-made duffle or gym bag. The Exploit Sport Bag pictured above boasts several practical pockets and a coordinated color scheme.
Laptop bags are some of the most practical types of bags you can give your recipients. The Reversible Laptop Sleeve pictured above is made from durable Neoprene, stretches to fit most laptops and features two color choices for your recipients.
Go beyond a laptop sleeve with an entire backpack designed around convenient laptop transport. In addition to a dedicated laptop pocket, the Braden 15" Backpack with Laptop Sleeve pictured above also features a mesh water bottle pocket, adjustable padded shoulder straps and a front zippered pocket.
The right travel bag can go a long way to make trips more enjoyable. The Eclipse® Toiletry Bag pictured above has plenty of pockets, zips up into a compact form and can be unfolded to hang on a towel rack or hook. Plus, black leather accents add an undeniably sleek touch.
Messenger Bags and Briefcases
Whether in the office or on the road, messenger bags and briefcases are incredibly convenient. Take, for example, the Associate Briefcase pictured above. It features a strong polycanvas construction, an adjustable shoulder strap and plenty of zippered compartments.
Bags for Employees and Staff
There are few better ways to show employee appreciation than with a personalized bag your team can use to rep their company. These are a few of our top picks.
With the right lunch bag, your employees can enjoy a fresh meal in the office every day of the week. The Lunch-N-Carry Enviro Tote pictured above is a fantastic choice: it features a clear ID pocket for easy identification, reinforced handles and a spectrum of available colors.
Laptop totes are a clever combination of practical tote bags and protective laptop sleeves. The Tranzip Universal 15" Laptop Tote, pictured above, features a weather-resistant bottom, hardy canvas construction, unisex design, padded laptop sleeve and plenty of additional pockets.
Bags for Education
From kindergarten to college, every student needs a reliable bag. Whether a backpack or a sports duffle, any of these bags will be useful to students of all ages.
Tote bags also make ideal appreciation gifts and giveaways for teachers, administrators and volunteers. The Economy Tote- Natural, with its extra long handles, is lightweight yet strong enough to accommodate the weight of books and planning materials. Choose a one, two or three color imprint option for your school or team logo.
Planning an education conference or back-to-school welcome for all staff? Consider the Dias Tote Bag, with a one or two color imprint option. The Dias Bag is a perfect choice to distribute conference materials to attendees and can be reused after the event is over.
Animal-themed backpacks like the Paws N’ Claws Drawstring Backpack in Frog are so cute, every kid will want one. With its roomy interior, easy-to-use drawstring closure and bright colors, this backpack is perfect for even the youngest children.
Basic backpacks are particularly ideal for students in grades K-12. The Tech Backpack pictured above is made from durable polyester and PVC, includes a padded computer sleeve and boasts a front tech pocket with a headphone port.
If you’re looking for a book bag that students can use to store their most essential books, the Cotton Canvas 15" X 15" Book Tote is the bag for you. It features a classic design, long handles and a full-color imprint area for your brand logo and message.
Sports Duffle Bags
Want to get your brand represented by an entire school’s sports team? Just pass out personalized sports duffle bags emblazoned with your logo. The Lasting Impact Sport Duffle pictured above is made from long-lasting polyester and features plenty of storage space, a media port, elastic bungee cords for external storage and an adjustable shoulder strap.
Higher-end all-in-one backpacks are the perfect choice for busy college students. The Ogio® Excelsior Pack has two large compartments, multiple additional pockets, a padded laptop sleeve and padded adjustable straps.
Bags for Healthcare
Distribute healthcare-related literature while promoting your brand at local medical offices with a colorful plastic bag. We love the 9" x 12" Biodegradable Plastic Bags.
Gifts for Nurses
Show nurses you appreciate their work with a high-quality personalized bag. You can’t go wrong with the Cotton Canvas Nautical Tote. Visit our Guide to Nurses Week for more gift ideas for Nurses Week as well browse our healthcare promotional products page.
Bags for Other Occasions
We’ve only just begun to scratch the surface. You can also purchase custom bags for a variety of other occasions, including:
- Outdoor events: Drawstring bags are lightweight and foldable, making them ideal for outdoor events. We like the Zip-Front Drawstring Backpack.
- Weddings: Small paper bags are perfect for handing out wedding favors and other goodies. We’re fans of the Small White Paper Treat Bag.
- Halloween: Your message will be all over town with branded trick or treat bags. One of our top picks is the Full Color Purple Plastic Halloween Treat Bag.
- Healthcare: Distribute healthcare-related literature while promoting your brand at local medical offices with a colorful plastic bag. We love the 9" x 12" Biodegradable Plastic Bags.
- Non-profit and charity events: By giving away custom bags at non-profit and charity events, you’ll show you care while gaining exposure for your organization. The Value Drawstring Backpack is a wonderful choice.
- Gym and yoga: Show off your message at gyms and yoga studios across town with a gym or yoga bag. We can’t get enough of the Dune Yoga Bag.
Consider Your Budget
When you’re considering which personalized bags to purchase, you’ll also need to take your budget into account.
For instance, if you’re passing out swag bags at a trade show, you’ll likely want to go with a disposable and inexpensive option.
On the other hand, if you’re aiming to show your employees some appreciation or impress important clients, a high-quality reusable bag is the way to go.
Fortunately, there’s an array of choices for every budget and occasion. These are the best custom promotional bags for each price range:
Perfect for large events such as trade shows, conferences and the like, these branded bags are all available for $5 or less.
Non-Woven Drawstring Backpack
With its generous capacity, lightweight materials and tear- and water-resistant materials, the Non-Woven Drawstring Backpack is perfect for field trips, commuting and more. It’s crafted from durable polypropylene and is available in a veritable rainbow of colors.
Large Best Value Grocery Tote
Made from water and tear-resistant polypropylene, the custom Large Best Value Grocery Tote isn’t just reusable and eco-friendly. It also has a larger capacity than most disposable paper grocery bags, and folds flat for easy storage.
Budget Boat Tote
This custom bag looks much more expensive than it is. The Budget Boat Tote is crafted from rugged polycanvas accented with colorful trim, making it perfect for groceries and errands, as well as both school and work.
All priced at $10 or less, these printed bags are ideal for distributing at slightly smaller events or offering as a free gift to new customers.
Mercury Messenger Bag
The Mercury Messenger Bag is the definition of functional. It’s made of heavy-duty polyester that can handle plenty of wear and tear, and also features a convenient media port, a water bottle pocket, organizer pockets and an adjustable strap.
The Ovation Portfolio is a durable custom bag that’s both sleek enough for a business meeting and convenient enough for everyday use. It’s equipped with a zippered main compartment, handy water bottle pocket, an ID window, pen loops, front pocket and more.
Cargo Cooler Bag
Your next company picnic or corporate day trip won’t be complete without this portable Cargo Cooler Bag. It’s insulated, crafted from tough nylon and large enough to fit an entire six-pack of cans.
If you’re looking to show employee appreciation or thank attendees of small and intimate events, you can’t go wrong with these personalized bags. Best of all, they’re each available for less than $20.
With its sturdy, comfortable build and convenient pockets, the Apex Backpack is universally appealing. Your customers and employees will love bringing this backpack to the gym, classes, hikes and more.
Around Town Duffle
The Around Town Duffle is just as perfect for the gym as it is for weekend trips. It’s made of hardy polyester and is outfitted with roomy zippered pockets, a mesh water bottle pocket and a non-slip shoulder strap.
Travel Shoe Bag
Once you try the custom Travel Shoe Bag, you won’t know how you ever lived without it. Made of robust polyester, this bag features extra zippered storage pockets and a large rubber handle, as well as cleverly designed vents to help shoe odors escape.
When you’re looking to reward exceptional employee performance, impress VIP clients or sway important prospects, these $20-and-up custom bags have your back.
High Sierra® Packable 30" Wheel-N-Go Duffle
The High Sierra Packable 30” Wheel-N-Go Duffle is simply the branded bag for recipients who are always on the go. It’s made of rip-stop nylon and durable polycanvas, can be packed into its own drawstring pouch and can be used as either a duffle or backpack.
Roomy, sturdy and cleverly designed, the custom Expedition Duffle is sure to be a hit for multi-day trips. Plus, it can easily double as a gym bag. It features a massive main compartment, a ventilated end pocket, four additional zippered pockets and two mesh water bottle pockets.
KOOZIE® Tailgate Rolling Kooler
Have an upcoming company tailgate, picnic or barbecue? The KOOZIE Tailgate Rolling Kooler is a must. It boasts a spacious main compartment, mesh side pockets, a zippered front pocket, a collapsible handle and four wheels for easy transportation.
Select the Right Material
With such a vast array of materials available, it’s important to select the one that’s best for your purpose, occasion and budget. Here’s a rundown of some of the most popular custom bag materials.
Polypropylene is a type of polymer that’s used to make many different products, from rope to outdoor carpet to food containers. When used to construct custom bags, polypropylene has the advantage of being both lightweight, durable and water-resistant.
However, polypropylene can’t be machine-washed.
One of our favorite polypropylene bags is the Colored Handle Tote Bag shown above. With its clean lines and ample imprint space, it’s perfect for organizations of all kinds to gain exposure.
Polycanvas is a material that looks and feels like traditional cotton canvas but is made with polyester.
This fabric can be a fantastic choice because it’s lighter than all-cotton canvas, but is just as strong and durable. Plus, polycanvas can usually be machine-washed.
We’re fans of the polycanvas Drop Bottom Duffle Sling Bag, shown above. It features a secure drawstring and webbing closure, a zippered drop bottom pocket and several different carrying options.
Much like polyethylene, polyester is also a type of polymer that’s used to create an assortment of consumer products. From clothing to furniture, it’s likely that every household has at least a little polyester in it.
When it comes to custom promotional bags, polyester is a desirable material due to its resistance to wear and ease-of-cleaning—just give it a quick wipe-down and you’ll be on your way.
One popular example is the Destin Drawstring Backpack shown above. With a rainbow of colors to choose from, every organization can find an option that’s perfect for them.
While nylon is yet another type of polymer, it differs from polypropylene and polyester in that it’s exceptionally strong and yet impressively silky. For those reasons, nylon has been used for everything from women’s stockings to parachutes.
In terms of promotional bags, nylon is known for its long-lasting qualities and easy cleaning. If it gets dirty, it can simply be wiped clean.
Take for example the Village Nylon Tote Bag shown above, which is stylish, roomy and equipped with metal support feet.
The last material on our list is also considered to be premium-quality: Cotton canvas. Woven from cotton fibers, cotton canvas is heavy-duty and durable.
Unlike polymer-based synthetic fabrics, however, it’s also breathable and thus is less likely to trap odors.
We like the Day Trip Cotton Canvas Boat Tote pictured above. It can withstand wear and tear and has a beautiful natural look that can perfectly complement any logo.
At this point, you’re probably starting to get closer to a final decision and want to get into specifics. That’s where these customization options come in.
Simply mix and match the options you prefer and watch your perfect promotional bag take shape.
Select Your Imprint Area and Type
The imprint area is the area on each product that will display your logo and unique artwork or message. The size of an imprint area will vary depending on the size and type of item you choose, and the dimensions are always available on each product’s page on our website.
When deciding on the type of imprint you want on your custom bags:
- First consider the size of the imprint that comes standard with your choice.
- Then, determine whether you want to go for a simple one-color look or a full-color look, as well as an engraved, debossed, embossed or embroidered look.
Let’s take a look at each option individually.
A one-color imprint is usually the most affordable choice. Just because it’s less costly doesn’t mean it’s less impactful, though. With the right color choice, your logo can stand out against the background of your custom bags.
For example, the logo on the TranSport Tote pictured above is perfectly coordinated with the bag’s accent colors and doesn’t fail to make an immediate impression. The TranSport Tote is also a great choice thanks to its convenient pockets and zippered main compartment.
Eye-catching full-color imprints have color variation throughout the logo design and can make more complicated artwork look truly stunning. If you have a recognizable logo with multiple colors, a full-color imprint will be the way to go.
Full-color imprints include thermal transfer imprints, as seen here on the Full Color Design Plastic Halloween Treat Bag:
Thermal transfer imprints won’t fade over time and are compatible with a wide array of materials.
Full-color imprints also include dye sublimation, as seen here on the To-Dye-For Sublimated Drawstring Backpack:
Dye sublimation is a rich and high-quality full-color imprint that can incorporate bold and gradient colors.
High-quality embroidered logos are long-lasting and present a professional and upscale look for your brand. Plus, the use of multiple thread colors can create a multidimensional effect.
Take for example the OGIO Carbon Pack and its accompanying embroidered logo:
Engraved, Debossed or Embossed Patch
Laser engraved, debossed or embossed imprints on a patch will give a retail look to your promotional bags. Both engraving and debossing create a recessed design, while embossing creates a raised design.
Either way, your recipients will appreciate having an item that is not only useful, but looks polished and high-end, too.
One prime example is the laser-engraved Seaport Dopp Kit:
Production Time and Rush Service
Imprinted bags run the gamut in terms of production times, so always remember to plan ahead if you need to have your custom branded bags by a particular date.
If you’re in a jam, though, there will always be a suitable option with rush or 24-hour service. Pair it with rush shipping and you’re sure to make your deadline.
Here are some popular promotional bags available with rush or 24-hour service:
Pack Away Shopping Tote
Available in an array of vibrant colors, the Pack Away Shopping Tote comes with a built-in drawstring bag for hassle-free storage. Once packed, this tote is so small it can easily fit inside a purse. If you’re in a rush, we’ve got you covered with two-day service.
Nautical Times Tote
Constructed of durable polyester, sporting unique nautical details and available with 24-hour service, the Nautical Times Tote is a no-brainer. With a bag this aesthetically pleasing, your recipients won’t have any idea you were crunched for time.
Jumbo Jetsetter Duffle
With a sleek appearance, roomy compartments and a ventilated end pocket, the Jumbo Jetsetter Duffle has it all. Best of all, it’s available in as little as two days.
Additional Options to Consider
These are some other things you can consider to ensure that your custom bags are perfect for your needs.
Choose Between Imported or USA-Made
Only interested in purchasing promotional bags made in the USA? No worries — we’ve got plenty to choose from.
Be sure to check out these popular American-made options:
- Kraft trick or treat bag: This 100 percent recyclable kraft trick or treat bag features twisted paper handles, sturdy kraft paper and a festive pumpkin graphic.
- 7" x 10 1/2" Die Cut Handle Bag: The 7" x 10 1/2" Die Cut Handle Bag is a customer favorite thanks to its durability, classic design and a rainbow of available colors.
- Zipping Cotton Tote: The Zipping Cotton Tote is crafted from natural unbleached cotton and boasts a convenient zipper closure.
Special Features and Trends
Solid colors and basic materials will never go out of style. When you want your custom bags to stand out, though, just take a look at some of the current trends and popular special features available.
Here are some of our top picks:
Iridescent: From fashion to home decor, iridescent items of all kinds are having a major moment. Take advantage of this rainbow-hued craze with iridescent promotional products. We love the Holographic Gift Tote, which is crafted from sturdy polyurethane and features comfortable double handles.
Metallic: If you’re looking for promotional bags with an attention-grabbing touch of bling, metallic bags are your answer. We like the Shine On Tote, which features a durable laminated finish and long easy-to-use handles.
Natural and eco-friendly: Show that your brand cares with a natural and eco-friendly bag. We’re fans of the Eco-Woven Lunch Bag, which is outfitted with colorful trim and foam insulation.
Patterned: Sometimes solid colors just aren’t going to cut it, and that’s where patterned custom bags come in. We’re especially fond of the Morgan Patterned Drawstring Bag, which sports a selection of modern patterns and a handy drawstring closure.
Marble: A marble bag is ideal for creating a luxe look that stands out from the crowd. We love the Marble Patterned Tote, which is crafted from sturdy polyester and features a realistic marble design.
Washable paper: Combining the light weight of paper, the feel of leather and the convenient washability of cloth, washable paper bags do it all. We can’t get enough of the full color 13" x 13" x 5 washable kraft paper bag, which comes with handy web carrying handles.
Canvas backpacks: Stroll through any college campus and you’re sure to see plenty of students sporting attractive canvas backpacks. We like the Urban Edge Cruz Canvas Backpack, which is constructed from cotton canvas and features genuine leather accents.
Tech-friendly: Give your recipients what they want with custom tech-friendly bags that can accommodate all their favorite tech accessories. We’re fans of the Wellesley Smart Backpack, which is equipped with multiple tech ports, an RFID-lined pocket and more.
No matter which type of custom bag you choose, you’re guaranteed to reach your customers in a big way. After all, a 2019 study from the Advertising Specialty Institute found that:
- Seventy-three percent of consumers own promotional bags.
- Consumers keep promotional bags for an average of 11 months.
- One promotional bag will generate 3,300 impressions in its lifetime.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, 50 percent of consumers are more likely to do business with the company that gave them the promotional bag.
Next time you’re looking to reach new customers, show employee appreciation or make a company event more special, use this buying guide to choose a custom bag that’s perfect for you.