Picking the right college backpack can get pretty tricky. Of course, you want to look stylish, but you’re also going to be using the bag for at least a year and possibly beyond, depending on how well you get on with it. As you finally head back to campus for the Fall 2021 semester, having a cool backpack is more important than ever. What’s the point of taking all that time at home if you’re going to come back to campus looking lame?
Therefore, it’s important to choose college backpacks that check all the right boxes. The best backpacks for college students are large enough to carry your new laptop, books, your best water bottle and other daily essentials. It should also rest comfortably on your shoulders throughout the day and be durable enough to last for several semesters.
If you’re not quite sure what you want or need in your bag, it’s definitely worth checking out our guide ensuring you pick the right backpack. Deciding between looks and function as well as comfort and capacity are all important factors that need to be considered before you commit your cash.
To help you decide, we put together a list of the best backpacks for college students. We have options from top brands like Topo Designs and Fjallraven as well as budget buys and lesser-known commuter options. Check out all 10 and decide which option is best for your college experience.
1. Herschel Supply Co. Pop Quiz Laptop Backpack
If you head to any college campus in the United States today, you’ll find a sea of Herschel Supply Co. backpacks. You’ll also find several options from these companies on this list, for the simple reason that these companies make the best backpacks for college students, period. This option from Herschel is well-reviewed, large enough to hold a 15-inch laptop, durable and on-trend. However, it’s also an unpretentious backpack, perfect as an everyday carryall for class.
Herschel Supply Co. Pop Quiz Backpack
2. Mancro Laptop Backpack
BEST BUDGET BUY
Surely 13,000+ people can’t be wrong? The Mancro Laptop Backpack has an impressive number of five-star reviews and sports a simple yet stylish design, which provides a versatility few other bags can achieve. There’s a wealth of pockets for comfortable storage of everything from your smartphone and laptop (up to 15.6″) to a bottle, an umbrella and even your lunch. The smart bag also sports an easy-to-carry handle on top and a padlock for security, plus a built-in USB port for easy charging on the go.
Mancro Laptop Backpack
3. JanSport Right Pack College Backpacks
BEST CLASSIC STYLE
The JanSport Right Pack is the right choice for you if you are after a classic college backpack. It’s available in a range of colors and features one main compartment as well as a front accessory pocket. The bottom of the backpack is reinforced with suede leather for durability and style. Furthermore, the bag’s straps are padded for comfort, and there’s a top-mounted carry handle for alternative carrying options. Pretty much every student in America is familiar with JanSport bags, and you can never go wrong by picking out one that speaks to you. No matter the colorway, this is always one of the best backpacks for college students.
JanSport Right Pack Backpack
4. The Friendly Swede Waterproof Backpack
BEST FOR WET CONDITIONS
If your college is located somewhere more prone to rain than shine, it’s worth investing in this waterproof backpack. It might not be the most stylish backpack on the list, but its minimalist look is still pretty cool. Plus, it will always keep your belongings dry. This backpack is available in either black or white and features a roll-top main compartment to ensure no raindrops find their way inside. The backpack also features three outer zip pockets that are waterproof and ideal for smartphones or other small essentials.
The Friendly Swede Waterproof Backpack
5. The North Face Borealis Backpack
BEST FOR BACK PROBLEMS
Hauling around a heavy bag usually takes a nasty toll on your back, especially if you do it every day. That’s why we love this spacious option from North Face. This nylon and polyester backpack features adjustable shoulder straps that boast an extra layer of foam. Plus, the bag has a padded back panel with a spine channel that’s even been endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association. If you pick this one up, your back will thank us later.
The North Face Borealis Backpack
6. Fjallraven Recycled Kanken Backpack
For students most concerned about saving the planet, the Fjallraven Recycled Kanken Backpack is made entirely from recycled water bottles. It’s also colored using a far less intensive dying process to further aid the environment. The bag itself sports a range of carrying options, including tote handles and straps, as well as two open side pockets and a rain flap for protection from the elements. Inside, there’s a large central storage space along with an info tag so your bag is easy to identify if you lose it.
Fjallraven Recycled Kanken Backpack
7. Herschel Little America Mid-Volume Backpack
With over 20 color combinations to choose from, the Herschel Little America Mid-Volume Backpack allows the wearer to express his or her personality through their backpack. These college backpacks also sport buckled top straps and front-facing pockets to add to the bags’ impressive rucksack style. On the front pocket, there’s a Herschel brand patch for a classy finish. The bag’s straps are padded for comfort, and the top pocket features a drawstring to ensure your belongings are always secure inside.
Herschel Little America Mid-Volume Backpack
8. Tanchen 4K Canvas Artist Portfolio
BEST FOR ART STUDENTS
If you’re an art student that’s looking for a stylish yet practical solution for carrying both your canvas and your gear to and from class, this canvas bag from Tanchen is a sturdy yet good-looking solution to your problem. The heavy canvas gives the whole bag a really slick and stylish appearance. And while looking good is great, it’s got to be functional too. Good news there, as the bag has plenty of exterior pocket storage to carry a smaller size laptop and any art supplies you may need for class.
Tanchen 4K Canvas Artist Portfolio
9. XRAY Expandable Roll Top Backpack
Drawing from classic military-style bags, this backpack from XRAY is a modern update on a vintage favorite. The rolltop closure evokes that old-school style bag while incorporating modern features like a waterproof outer and space to keep your laptop. Its toned-down, all-black design is great for those that aren’t into super bold colors. And, as with all college backpacks, there are plenty of pockets for storing all your various items.
XRAY Expandable Roll Top Backpack
10. Herschel Dawson
MOST ORGANIZED HERSCHEL
What makes the Dawson backpack different from other Herschel bags is that the front of the bag features two separate pockets instead of one large front compartment, so you’ll be able to throw your earbuds and keys in one pocket and your pens in the other. The 20.5L main compartment features a drawstring closure with a foam lining for added protection. The backpack comes in a variety of different color combinations, from classic black and tan to a vibrant Monaco blue.