Unless you’re shopping items from the off-brand bargain bin, chances are, most any school backpack you buy today will be built well-enough that it can last you for many years of schooling. There’s been a good load of advancements in materials and construction, after all, leading to backpacks that are technical and durable while still sporting reasonably affordable price tags.
That’s why, it’s such a good time to invest in a good backpack. With the breadth of options available, you can spend $600 on a luxury premium brand or take that same money to get multiple backpacks with different uses in mind. Chances are, you’ll end up with good products that will leave you satisfied either way.
If we were buying backpacks for the coming school year, here are some of the ones we’ll be looking to cop. Maybe, you’ll like them, too.
While designed for the gym, there are plenty of good reasons to use this backpack as an everyday school bag. From the stylish backpack/tote design and fold-down drawstring top to the coated protective bottom and curved ergonomic shoulder straps, it’s a thoughtfully-made backpack that’s perfectly-sized for the daily essentials. And yes, there’s an integrated laptop sleeve, so there’s a designated spot for your computer, while a large zippered front pocket allows you to keep a good load of stuff off the main compartment.
Easily one of the best-looking backpacks at the price point, this structured pack is made from durable and water-resistant 1000D polyester, with padding in both the front and back for increased protection. Yes, we don’t like the idea of having to unbuckle two straps (as good-looking as they may be) before getting access to the zippered closure, either, but that should provide extra security when you need it (otherwise, just don’t buckle them). It holds 15.7 liters and contains a padded sleeve sized for 15-inch laptops.
We’re big fans of Everlane’s aesthetic of clean and minimal designs, whether it’s with shirts, pants, or accessories. Fortunately, that simple yet effective approach makes its way to this backpack, too, as it pairs the elegant lines with a water-resistant cotton twill shell and leather detailing that really make the bag look more expensive than its actual price. The 19-liter interior has a 15-inch laptop pocket, while the exterior sports a zippered front pouch and two side pockets for keeping small items within easy reach.
Topo Designs has a few school-worthy options in their daypack collection, with this one sliding in as our easy favorite. Named after the Y-shaped strap on the front flap, this stylish pack combines a 17-liter main compartment, 1000D nylon construction with a water-repellent finish, a padded base, and heavy duty hardware, making it a great bag for your daily essentials. A zippered pocket on the flap and expandable side pockets offer convenient storage to help you keep smaller items within easy reach.
At this point, this backpack has become as ubiquitous as some of Jansport’s and Herschel’s most popular models. And it’s for good reason, as it marries a great combination of both utility and style, with its backpack/tote design, excellent rain protection, and roomy 16 liters of space. It’s available in a ton of colors, although we’re partial to this colorful Art Edition, which slaps all the colors onto the darn thing. Other notable elements include a two-strap tote handle, X-shape shoulder straps for extra support, and a convenient seat pad on the back pocket for those times you want to plop down on the ground without getting your pants dirty.
Rains is best known for their waterproof outerwear – jackets, raincoats, and other garments designed for the most inclement weather. Naturally, if they’re going to make bags, it has to bear the same weather-resistant build and that’s exactly what this backpack brings to your gear stash. Sporting a minimalist design, this backpack opens up to a 16-liter compartment with a sleeve for a 13-inch laptop, making it more suited to students who prefer to pack light. If you want a backpack with straightforward design, excellent rain-shrugging performance, and a minimal profile, this is one to definitely consider.
Designed for cyclists, this 15-liter backpack sports a comfortable frame to make it easy on your back during bike rides and a waist belt to secure it when commuting with a heavy load in tow. Equipped with multiple compartments, it’s got designated rooms for organizing varied pieces of fear, whether you’re packing a laptop, a water bladder, bike tools, a jacket, and even a helmet. That’s right, there’s a harness out in front that you can use to carry a helmet, so you can keep it out of the main compartment to make room for other gear. Suffice to say, you can maximize every bit of that 15-liter capacity in clever ways. Made from 420D nylon, it’s also durable and water-resistant, so you can ride your bike in inclement weather without worrying about your stash.
As part of Patagonia’s Black Hole collection, this backpack is made from 100 percent recycled fabric, lining, and webbing, making it the perfect bag for the sustainability-obsessed. At 26-liters, the “mini” in the name feels like a misnomer, but that’s because it’s designed for travel rather than schooling. If you carry plenty of stuff to school, though, this backpack, which can also be carried like a small suitcase or a duffel, will prove extremely useful, with its ability to open flat like a suitcase, multiple interior zippered compartments, and padded 15-inch laptop sleeve. There’s even a dedicated compartment you can use to hold shoes, during days you’re spending a good chunk of it in training. And yes, it’s as durable and weather-resistant as any of Patagonia’s usual bags.
Granted, this is aimed more at office professionals than college school kids. If you want a bag that can transition between school and office alike, though, this bag’s tote briefcase profile is hard to match, making it perfect for students splitting the day between classes and internships. When going to work, tuck the backpack straps into the discreet holsters and carry it as a tall-profile briefcase; when attending class, pull out the straps and carry it on your shoulder like any regular backpack. With 20 liters of storage, a 15-inch laptop sleeve, and a vertical front pocket, it’s got everything you need to stash all the daily essentials, while the water-resistant woven construction keeps your gear protected whether at school or at work.
At over $300, Wilson’s Journeyman Pack is already one of the more expensive backpacks out there. Dress that same bag model in a luxurious vegetable-tanned leather shell, though, and you get one of the most premium backpacks money can buy. As with the original packs, it gets a 21-liter capacity, a 15-inch padded laptop pocket, and multiple pockets, both inside and out. To really bring home the premium feel, it gets solid brass hardware, wool-lined straps, and dry-finish tin cloth lining. If you want the highest-quality backpack and don’t mind shelling out the cash, this is easily one of the nicest bags you can get.