Whether you have a young student that is starting their first day of preschool or an older child heading back to the classroom in the fall, a backpack is a must-have item for all kids. They carry lunches and books, gym clothes, pencil cases, water bottles, and in some cases, cell phones. The times, they are a-changing. But kids’ backpacks still need to be durable, functional, and (most?) importantly, look cute and cool.
When picking a backpack for your child, size is important. The bag should be no larger than your child’s back, which means upgrading to a larger bag every year or every few years may be necessary.
With tablets, electronics, and textbooks being used sooner and sooner in the classroom, backpacks take on a hefty load. Still, it’s important to not exceed 10 percent of your child’s weight in their bag. Ensure your child’s bag has adequate padding on the shoulders. A chest strap to help evenly distribute weight helps, as do backpacks with wheels that completely take the pressure off the child’s back.
Whatever age your little one is when they start their next school year, they’re going to need a backpack. Check out some of the best options to help them get to class with all their back-to-school essentials.
1. Vaschy Little Kid Backpacks
Affordable, durable, comfortable and available in a variety of prints kids will love, the Vaschy Little Kid Backpacks hits all our marks for backpack must-haves. A great option for preschoolers, the Vaschy features an elastic side pocket for drinks, an interior name tag, a large, exterior zippered pocket and a large interior that includes a padded divider for tablets. We also like that the kid’s backpack, which is made of lightweight, water-resistant polyester, includes padded shoulder straps and a chest strap for added comfort.
Vaschy Little Kid Backpacks
2. JanSport SuperBreak One Backpack
Yes, JanSport is still around and they’re still making highly durable backpacks for kids that will take students from the fall to summer vacation and beyond. The company makes several styles of backpacks, including roller bag options, but one of our favorites is the SuperBreak One. The backpack, which is available in several solid color and print options, includes a large interior section and a zippered exterior pocket. Padded straps finish off this no-fuss backpack, which is great for big kids and anyone who is tired of forgetting which pocket, divider, or section they left their pencil case in.
JanSport SuperBreak One Backpack
3. Adidas Youth Creator Backpack
For kids who like a sporty design and need a backpack that will work for school and soccer practice, we like the Adidas Youth Creator Backpack. Available in several color combinations, the Youth Creator features dual side mesh pockets, perfect for water bottles or sneakers. An internal laptop sleeve is designed for computers or notebooks and three zippered sections make it easy to keep school, lunch and sports items separate. The lightweight and water-resistant backpack for kids is a great option for elementary to junior high students.
adidas Youth Creator Backpack
4. Herschel Kids’ Heritage Backpack
BEST SIZE OPTIONS
As we mentioned earlier, size is important when it comes to fitting your child for a backpack. Though it’s tempting to buy a backpack they will ‘grow into,’ this could cause your child to overload their pack and have poor weight distribution, which can lead to a sore back and neck. Herschel makes high-quality, durable and fashionable bags and that includes their Heritage Backpack. The streamlined style is available in three sizes and several cool color combinations. A front zippered pocket and large main compartment provide plenty of storage space, while the trademark Hershel red and white striped interior makes it easy to spot items inside the bag. We also like that the Heritage backpack comes with a removable sternum strap to assist with weight distribution.
Herschel Kids' Heritage Backpack
5. Skip Hop Zoo Pack Backpack
BEST FOR TODDLERS
For little (little) ones heading to their first day of daycare or preschool, they need a backpack for kids that can house diapers, a change of clothes or their favorite stuffy. The Skip Hop Zoo Pack Backpack is a great option for young scholars who want to carry their own bag into the classroom. The BPA and phthalate-free bag is lined and can be wiped clean. Adjustable padded shoulders, a large zipped top closure and a medium zippered exterior pocket are just some of the features parents will love, while kids will be excited about the brightly colored animal design.
Skip Hop Zoo Pack Backpack
6. Cat & Jack Camo Backpack
Keep your kiddos comfortable with a backpack that can hold all their items using the Cat & Jack Camo Backpack. A great option for elementary students and available in several patterns, the Camo kid’s backpack has a spacious 16.5” main compartment, a laptop divider, a large outer pocket and two side mesh pockets for drinks and small items. The padded straps stay in place using the chest strap, while a padded back adds extra comfort.
Read More: Best Backpacks for College Students
Cat & Jack Camo Backpack
7. Kane Kids Travel Backpack by State
BEST FOR TRAVEL
If you need a backpack that your child can use during the school year and on their next airplane trip, we recommend the Kane Kids Travel Backpack. SPY received an adult version of the Kane backpack and we were impressed with its lightweight feel and durability, as well as its impressive construction and wipe-clean surface. The Kane is available in several sizes and colors for kids, including the travel option, which includes a strap to fit over suitcase handles. Made from recycled materials, the Kane has two side pockets for water bottles, a front zippered pocket for personal items, and a large interior that will fit a laptop up to 13”. For kids who like to match, State also sells matching lunch boxes, suitcases and kit bags.
Kane Kids Travel Backpack by State
8. Mackenzie Navy Pink Multi Hearts Backpack with Wheels
BEST FOR HEAVY LOADS
Homework, amirite parents? None of us remember having it as early as our kids do now, but here we are … and here is all their stuff. For kids with extra books, gym clothes, lunch boxes and everything else needed to make it to the last bell, there’s the Mackenzie backpack from Pottery Barn. The Mackenzie comes in several sizes, but the rolling option is ideal for kids with lots of stuff. Made from rugged, water-resistant fabric, the kid’s backpack has side mesh pockets for water bottles, a larger interior section and a front zippered pocket. Two straps on the front can hold jackets or stuffies and a media cutout for headphones is also included. When kids want to use the roller as a backpack, there’s a fabric overlay that can cover the wheels.
Mackenzie Navy Pink Multi Hearts Backpack with Wheels
9. LL Bean Junior Original Book Pack
We may be repeating ourselves, but it has to be said — kids have a lot to carry, literally and physically. For the physical stuff, there’s the ultra-lightweight LL Bean Junior Original Book Pack. Available in several sizes, the Junior is perfect for young students carrying their lunch, a change of clothes or any other goodies. One mesh pocket on the side can hold water, and padded, adjustable straps make for a comfortable carrying design. Available in several bright patterns, the weatherproof bag includes 3M Scotchlite reflective strips and weighs only 13 ounces. One of our favorite features? The entire bag is machine washable.
LL Bean Junior Original Book Pack
10. PAW Patrol Kids Blue Youth Backpack
For Paw Patrol fans who want to be at school on the double, there’s the Paw Patrol backpack for young scholars. Kids will love seeing their favorite characters on their bag, as well as their names (this backpack for kids can be personalized). Adjustable, padded shoulder straps, two side pockets, a large interior, and a front pocket with a zippered closure create a bag that is both fun and functional.