BEST BACKPACKS FOR HIGH SCHOOL & COLLEGE | NOVEMBER 2018

It’s important to have a quality backpack that suits your educational needs. A backpack should be sturdy enough to hold heavy books and it should be comfortable enough to wear to, from, and in between classes. Whatever your style or unique needs, there’s a backpack out there for you. The ReviewLab team has selected the best backpacks of the bunch by conducting thorough research to narrow down our selection. We’ve chosen backpacks that fit specific needs, such transporting a laptop, or preventing theft. Below, you’ll also find a buying guide to aid you in your decision making process. Our individual reviews provide a concise outline of each of our selected backpacks to help you narrow your choice. Read more about our methodology.

Best Overall

91

Our top pick is the Herschel Supply Co Pop Quiz Backpack. The backpack is from the reputable Herschel brand and features a classic design that won’t go out of style. It pairs an attractive design with construction that will hold up for years.

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91
RUNNER-UP

The JanSport Right Pack Backpack is our runner-up for best overall. It’s a great looking book and laptop bag with a super durable construction that will last for years. An extensive variety of colors and styles will suit all types of students.

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Best Value

93

Our value pick is the AmazonBasics Classic Backpack. The super basic, low-priced option is a great choice for students on a shoestring budget who want a simple, reliable backpack for going to and from class.

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89
RUNNER-UP

The Mancro Backpack is our budget runner-up because of its low price and versatile construction. This affordable bag is packed with features usually seen in more expensive backpacks.

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Best by Category

Best Laptop Backpack

90

The OGIO Renegade RSS Laptop Backpack is a great option for college gamer types who want to be able to load up Steam when taking study breaks. It’s well designed, super functional, and extremely durable.

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Best Waterproof Backpack

97

The Hikpro Packable Backpack is appropriate for students who need a backpack that can do double time as a light travel pack or hiking bag. This waterproof bag holds up well in rainy conditions making it a good choice for students who walk or bike to school. 

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Best Anti-Theft Backpack

84

The Oscaurt Anti-theft Backpack has plenty of features for the person who is concerned about theft. It’s a good choice for those who travel to school on crowded public transit.

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Best Sport Style Backpack

94

The Under Armour Storm Hustle II Backpack is a good quality bag with weather-resistant sports styling. It can carry schoolbooks but it’s also functional for after-school trips to the gym.

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Best Vintage Style Backpack

89

The leather construction and vintage style of the BLUBOON Vintage Backpack set it apart from other bookbags. It’s a great choice for the student who prefers a classic, vintage backpack look.

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Backpacks for High School & College BUYING GUIDE

  • KEY CONSIDERATIONS

    Size

    The size of the backpack required depends on how many books you need to lug around each day for school and whether you need to also carry a laptop or other kind of electronic device. Some backpacks have various compartments to make organizing materials easier for the user. Having extra exterior pockets is useful, too, for storing smaller items.

    Straps

    A backpack’s straps should be comfortable. The shoulder straps allow the backpack’s weight to be evenly distributed so as not to put strain on the body. When choosing a backpack for school, look for straps that have padding and are wide enough to reduce pressure points. Make sure the straps are adjustable so the backpack doesn’t bounce around as you move.

    Durability

    You shouldn’t need to replace your backpack every semester. A good backpack should last throughout most of your studies. Look for a bag made of thick, tear-resistant fabric. Some backpacks feature a protected bottom, which helps keep the most high-wear area from tearing apart. Look also at the straps to see if they are securely stitched to the backpack. Pay attention to the quality of the zippers as well. Metal zippers will last longer than plastic ones. Read the wash instructions to see if it can be machine-washed since even quality bags will need to be cleaned occasionally.

  • PRICE BREAKDOWN

    A basic backpack can cost as low as $15. Budget backpacks are not as durable but will provide the same amount of interior room as other options. They likely won’t have a lining and even if they have a laptop compartment, it won’t be well padded. More durable options with more features, such as padded laptop compartments and charging ports, will usually cost $50 or more.

FULL product reviews

We research hundreds of products in order to bring you a final, unbiased list of the very best. We also use a proprietary algorithm to score each product in terms of quality, value, and brand reputation. These subscores are then weighted to calculate our overall scores. Read more about how we calculate our scores.

2K products
considered
97K RATINGS
ANALYZED
31 research
hours

Best Overall

TOP PICK

Herschel Supply Co Pop Quiz Backpack

Its combination of quality materials and intelligent design secured a top spot for the Herschel Supply Co Pop Quiz Backpack. The 22L bag Is roomy enough to carry books and a laptop in a generously padded compartment. There’s also enough extra pocket space to store additional items. The striped lining makes it easy to spot and retrieve whatever you’ve stored inside the bag.

  • 91overall
  • 95quality
  • 57value
  • 90brand

Why We Recommend It

  • Carries a lot. The 22L backpack holds plenty and has a spot for laptops.
  • Features a well-protected laptop compartment. The padded sleeve can accommodate a 15-inch laptop.
  • Premium look and feel. The Herschel brand is known for its quality bags and this backpack is no exception. It features sturdy metal zippers and a tough polyester fabric construction.
  • Backed by a lifetime warranty. Reviewers appreciate the generous warranty.
  • Sunglasses compartment. The additional small padded compartment allows users to store delicate items.
  • Striped lining. Reviewers like the light colored lining since it makes it easy to locate small items.
  • Comfortable to wear. The straps evenly distribute weight so the bag doesn’t sit heavily on the shoulders.

Other Considerations

  • No pocket for water bottle. Users note that the bag doesn’t have a spot for water bottles.
RUNNER UP

JanSport Right Pack Backpack

Our runner-up for best overall, the JanSport Right Pack Backpack, doesn’t differ much from our top pick. It’s just as durable, is big enough to hold all the essentials, looks great, and is comfortable to haul around. The zippers sometimes snag, placing it in the runner-up spot. Other than that small caveat, it’s an excellent backpack choice for students.

  • 91overall
  • 95quality
  • 64value
  • 90brand

Why We Recommend It

  • Super durable construction. The bag will last for several years thanks to a highly resistant leather bottom and sturdy zippers that won’t break. The bag also comes with a lifetime warranty.
  • Lightweight. When unfilled, the bag is lightweight, according to reviewers.
  • Roomy interior. The inside of the bag is big enough to accommodate books, and there’s a laptop sleeve that can accommodate a 15-inch computer.
  • Attractive style. The bag is available in a variety of colors to suit varied tastes and features classic leather detailing.
  • Comfortable straps. Reviewers like the wide padded straps on the JanSport backpack.

Other Considerations

  • Lacks an exterior water bottle pouch. Like our top pick, this backpack is also missing a spot for a water bottle.
  • Zippers sometimes snag on the inner lining. The zippers on the bag sometimes get stuck, say reviewers.

Best Value

TOP PICK

AmazonBasics Classic Backpack

The AmazonBasics Class Backpack is an excellent and affordable bag option for high school or college students. The no-frills design is super roomy and is extremely durable considering its budget price tag. Two exterior pockets offer busy students a convenient spot for snacks or beverages. Water resistant fabric keeps items inside the bag from getting damaged from accidental spills or rain.

  • 93overall
  • 92quality
  • 98value
  • 89brand

Why We Recommend It

  • Low price. Reviewers are impressed with the bag considering the price paid.
  • Plenty of room inside. The bag is fully capable of holding books and a laptop inside the large zippered interior space.
  • Strong straps. Reviewers say the straps are solidly secured to the bag and seem likely to hold even when the bag is overstuffed.
  • Super lightweight. The bag is light as a feather when empty, according to reviewers.
  • Side pockets can fit a water bottle. There are two exterior side pockets that are large enough to each fit a water bottle.
  • Water resistant fabric. Reviewers appreciate the water-resistant construction of the backpack, which helps to protect items inside the bag if caught in the rain.

Other Considerations

  • Straps could be wider and more comfortable. Reviewers point out that while the straps are sturdy, they are fairly thin and fail to distribute the bag’s weight evenly across the shoulders.
RUNNER UP

Mancro Backpack

The Mancro Backpack is our runner-up budget pick. It’s a feature-rich backpack at an affordable price. The Mancro bag provides plenty of room, including a laptop compartment and lots of pockets for organized storage. The water-resistant covering and ergonomically designed straps are impressive design details for such a well-priced backpack.

  • 89overall
  • 90quality
  • 80value
  • 86brand

Why We Recommend It

  • Lightweight. Reviewers like that the bag is not heavy.
  • Holds a lot. The bag has three main pockets with several interior storage spaces for little accessories. On the exterior, there are two side pockets. Inside, the backpack will fit almost any laptop up to 17-inches.
  • Water resistant. Reviewers mention that the bag holds up well in light rain and water doesn’t easily soak through.
  • Comfortable even when fully packed. Reviewers comment that the curved shoulder straps fit well and don’t put unnecessary pressure on the body.
  • Convenient USB port. The bag features a USB port that can be used in tandem with a portable battery for quickly charging accessories on the go. A battery must be purchased separately.
  • Nice design. The bag is offered in multiple colors and features a sleek design. Covered in nylon, the bag is opened via durable metal zippers.
  • Great price. The bag has a surprising number of features for such a low-price.

Other Considerations

  • Lack of bottom protection. The bottom of the bag is not padded or double-lined which makes this a vulnerable spot. Users should be careful when setting the bag down, especially if they are transporting a laptop.
  • No convenient place for a battery pack. The bag doesn’t have a special compartment or slot to fit a battery pack, despite the inclusion of a USB port.

BEST BY CATEGORY

Best Laptop Backpack

why buy?

Laptop backpacks feature protective compartments to fit electronic devices from portable computers to small tablets. Most are able to fit a standard 15-inch laptop, and the sleeves that contain the valuable electronic devices usually feature some kind of padding. Most backpacks marketed toward students have a laptop compartment, but laptop-specific bags have space for accessories and are better able to protect your Mac book or PC.

Top Pick

OGIO Renegade RSS Laptop Backpack

The OGIO Renegade RSS Laptop Backpack was designed with the tech-obsessed in mind. Need room for laptop peripherals? You’ll find it with the OGIO backpack. The bag has space for a laptop, tablet, and necessary accessories. The bag is designed so electronics stay protected and secure. There’s a crushproof compartment for storing easily breakable personal items. It’s a great choice for students who require a laptop for their studies.

  • 90overall
  • 95quality
  • 50value
  • 89brand

Why We Recommend It

  • Tons of space for all sorts of laptop accessories. The bag is dotted with various compartments to store extra laptop accessories. There’s even a padded pocket made especially for tablets or e-readers.
  • Fits larger laptops. Most laptop bags fit up to 15-inch laptops. The OGIO has room for devices up to 17-inches (including the casing).
  • Protective design. The backpack features a unique reactive suspension system which helps protect electronic devices if the bag is dropped. Compartments are also well padded to protect what’s inside.
  • Comfortable to wear. Reviewers like the adjustable padded straps since they make it easy to transport even heavy loads.
  • Exterior won’t rip or tear. The bag is designed with durability in mind and features rip proof material.
  • Neat crush proof pocket. Reviewers find that the tech vault pocket is a valuable addition to an already impressive bag. The pocket is great for storing delicate items such as sunglasses.

Other Considerations

  • Heavy. This is a hefty bag, and it can fit a lot of stuff so expect it to feel heavy when carrying it.

Best Waterproof Backpack

why buy?

For students who walk to class, often finding themselves running through heavy rain with their backpacks raised over their heads, a waterproof backpack ensures that electronics and books don’t get soaked. They are also a great option for students who enjoy weekend outdoor adventures.

Top Pick

Hikpro Packable Backpack

For students who need a bag that works for both school and outdoor activities, the Hikpro Packable Backpack is a great choice. It’s affordable, made of super resistant materials, and can easily be folded for storage or travel. The waterproofing works well, keeping everything inside – all 20L of it — safe from moisture.

  • 97overall
  • 97quality
  • 100value
  • 94brand

Why We Recommend It

  • Inexpensive. The bag is affordable which reviewers appreciate.
  • Very durable. Made of abrasion resistant nylon material, the Hikpro won’t rip or tear as easily as other bags. It also features high-quality metal zippers.
  • Collapsible. The ultra-lightweight bag is super packable and can be folded up very small for travel purposes.
  • Impressive waterproofing. Reviewers are impressed at how well the budget bag protects interior contents from water and moisture.
  • Roomy. The bag can hold 20L of stuff and features plenty of compartments for organizing. There are three main compartments, and an easy access exterior pocket along with two outer mesh pockets for a water bottle.
  • Comfortable to wear. The straps on the bag are wide enough to support the weight of what’s packed inside, and they breathe well, too.

Other Considerations

  • Water can get in with very heavy rainfall. Some users report water infiltration during very heavy rainfall.
  • Straps feel uncomfortable after long periods. After a while, the straps need to be readjusted to prevent bouncing.

Best Anti-Theft Backpack

why buy?

Students living in dense cities or those who take public transportation to get to class might find it useful to own an anti-theft backpack. This type of backpack is great for discouraging pickpockets thanks to hidden pockets for valuables and zippers that are tough to unzip quickly and stealthily.

Top Pick

Oscaurt Anti-Theft Backpack

The Oscaurt Anti-theft Backpack is a solid choice for students worried about having their valuables stolen. Hidden zippers are tough for potential thieves to spot and require a bit more effort to open than a standard zipper as they’re tucked under a piece of fabric. It’s also safe to charge electronics with the Oscaurt bag, as they can be charged inside the bag without being exposed to others.

  • 84overall
  • 88quality
  • 52value
  • 78brand

Why We Recommend It

  • Easy access. Reviewers love that the bag opens very wide, so getting stuff in and out of the 12L bag is a cinch.
  • Convenient charging. Items can be charged while they’re safely inside the bag, thanks to a nifty USB charging port.
  • Hidden zipper protects valuables. The main pocket and a smaller outer pocket feature stealth zippers. They’re tough for would-be thieves to locate so it’s not easy to unzip the bag unnoticed.
  • Sleek, modern look.  Reviewers like the overall aesthetic of the Oscaurt bag.
  • High-quality fabric. EVA material covers the exterior of the bag to protect what’s inside. The bag holds its shape well and features reflective strips for visibility.

Other Considerations

  • A little small. The bag has a capacity of 12L, which is less than other options on this list.
  • Not really water resistant as advertised. Some reviewers point out that the bag is not entirely resistant to water, which is disappointing.

Best Sport Style Backpack

why buy?

This type of backpack features a more casual sports styling. Sport-style backpacks are ideal for students who find themselves at the gym at the end of a long study session. Some sports backpacks have special laundry compartments to store wet or smelly clothing and most are covered in tear-resistant fabric.

Top Pick

Under Armour Storm Hustle II Backpack

The Under Armour Storm Hustle II Backpack is a great choice for busy students who don’t have time to run home for a change of clothes before after school athletic activities. The bag is capable of holding books and a laptop, and has room for sweaty clothing bound for the laundry bin. HeatGear straps make the bag comfortable to wear and plenty of storage room makes it easy to organize schoolwork and workout gear.

  • 94overall
  • 96quality
  • 86value
  • 91brand

Why We Recommend It

  • Good size. The backpack features plenty of interior space for books and has a soft lined slot for laptops of up to 15-inches.
  • Lightweight. Reviewers find the backpack easy to carry because it doesn’t add extra weight to whatever is being lugged around.
  • Durable construction. The bag is made of strong polyester and nylon and the bottom of the bag is resistant to wear.
  • Lots of pockets. There are eight pockets on this bag: three inside pockets and five on the outside, including two outer pockets that can hold water bottles.
  • Comfortable to wear. The bag features HeatGear straps that are adjustable and help with air circulation—especially useful on hot days or when carrying a heavy load.
  • Easy to clean. Reviewers like that the bag can easily be thrown in the wash and look good as new.
  • Water-resistant. A UA Storm Tech exterior makes the bag water repellent.
  • Front laundry pocket. The front storage area is perfect for storing dirty or wet gym clothes.

Other Considerations

  • Doesn’t stand upright when packed. Some reviewers complain that the bag is not rigid enough to hold its shape.

Best Vintage Style Backpack

why buy?

For the fashion conscious student, vintage backpacks don’t look like a traditional book bag. Attention to detail on these bags gives them a premium look that works for school or for casual outings.

Top Pick

BLUBOON Vintage Backpack

The BLUBOON Vintage Backpack is perfect for students who are looking for something out of the ordinary. A little more fashion-focused than traditional bookbags, the BLUBOON backpack is attractive, yet constructed with durability in mind. The roomy bag has space for a laptop and books and features comfortable straps that can be adjusted to the user.

  • 89overall
  • 91quality
  • 66value
  • 88brand

Why We Recommend It

  • Affordable price tag. The well-priced bag comes with multiple muted color options.
  • Attractive vintage look. The leather and canvas construction offers a nostalgic design with a soft back and drawstring closure.
  • Durable. According to reviewers, the bag’s leather construction is highly durable. The bag also has nice quality zippers and strong straps that can support a fully packed bag.
  • Adjustable straps. The straps are long enough to accommodate students of all sizes and shapes.
  • Lots of storage space. The 22.6L bag has various interior pockets and front zip pockets, too. The large interior drawstring compartment features a 15-inch laptop sleeve.

Other Considerations

  • Unstructured with no bottom support. The bag cannot stand upright when set down, and there’s no added protection for the bottom of the backpack.