It’s a wonder there haven’t been more songs about backpacks since the one we all sang along to on Dora the Explorer. Backpacks hold all of the essentials of college life. Forget a briefcase full of cash; your backpack is worth more with your small fortune of textbooks in there. And what would proud, basic girls do without backpack’s mesh side pockets to hold their monogrammed coffee tumblers? Plus, your backpack has probably been the treasure chest that hid your booze collection from your RA while walking to a BYOB get-together once or twice.
Get the 10 Best Backpacks for College
A bad backpack is a backstabber that leaves you almost as unprepared as your group project slacker; a good bag will always have your back. Since picking the best backpack for college is one of the most important items on anyone’s back-to-school packing list, we created a guide just for you.
We surveyed students on the best college backpacks available based on comfort, durability, organization, weight and style.
The Dobler pack sports a simple, classic design for backpack minimalists. Large main pocket? Check. Organizer-equipped front pocket? Yup. Tablet sleeve and mesh water bottle pockets? Sure thing. But wait! I have a 17-inch monster laptop! No problem, there’s a sleeve for that too. This college backpack is like the cargo shorts of backpacks with all its functionality, but way cooler. Trust us. Six different color schemes exist, most with a sharp contrast between pack face and zippers.Price: $39.99
Finding the best college backpacks is easy!
If you’re ready to take a minute and research further, check out our guide to the best college backpacks for 2018. Ideally your backpack will last for a year or more, and even in this modern world that seems to fear commitment, you should make sure to choose the best backpack for college that fits your academic needs. Our guide to choosing the best backpack makes your life easier. We describe the features plus the perks. Then we top it all off with real life examples and feedback from students.
Not sure what to sling around your shoulder this semester? Start here!
10 More College Backpacks for 2018
Written by Kelsey Llewelyn
You know how Dora the Explorer’s backpack always has exactly what she needs? Try out the Yorepek Travel Backpack to discover the real-life version of that magical backpack. Although this water resistant bag is neither purple nor anthropomorphic, it will help you tremendously on your daily quests. Protect your belongings with the backpack’s anti-theft lockable zips and removable key ring while storing your electronics in the phone bag and laptop compartment. On top of all that, charge your phone with the external USB port. Thanks to the multi-panel design of the backpack, you’ll never complain about its lack of comfort and back support. See? We told you this backpack has everything.Price: $46.99
Designers, models and the Kardashians flaunt transparent plastic shoes, umbrellas, jackets and bags. Make your college campus your own runway by flaunting this fashion trend via your backpack. The clear PVC of the bag exposes the contents of your bag, allowing you to show off that cute new notebook or array of highlighters. The adjustable padded straps and assortment of spacious external pockets transform this bag from a fashion accessory into a highly functional and comfortable backpack.Price: $24.99
Skittles lets you taste the rainbow, but L.L. Bean lets you wear it. Choose from a seemingly endless selection of backpack colors to really pop on campus. “I’ve had my L.L. Bean backpack since first day of kindergarten,” William and Mary senior and lifelong L.L. Bean fan Brittony Trumbull said. “It can hold so much stuff, has tons of pockets and is incredibly durable. I have only had to replace it twice in the past 17 years and that’s just because I wanted to upgrade a side up to fit my needs.” Want to personalize your backpack even more? L.L. Bean provides free monogramming on all of its backpacks.
A Swedish brand, Fjallraven creates comfortable, stylish and functional backpacks. We see this multi-pocketed backpack regularly on Instagram and on the backs of students in cities all over the world. Made in a wide variety of colors and color combinations, the Fjallraven Kanken Classic Pack is sweet on your eyes and even sweeter on your back.
Buy a Patagonia backpack once and you’ll own a Patagonia backpack forever. Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard urges shoppers not to buy new products, but to repair their old ones. With this environmentally friendly mission, Patagonia creates ageless, durable products and offers to fix broken ones. “I like my Patagonia backpack because it gives me good back support. It’s meant for hiking so it can carry my heavy books,” Washington University freshman Mackenzie Llewellyn said. Though initially expensive, the Patagonia Chacabuco Backpack lasts years and benefits the environment, all while exuding style.Price: $85.00
Fashionably modern and incredibly comfortable, the Herschel Supply Co. Settlement Backpack boasts spacious pockets, a laptop compartment, cell phone sleeve and headphone port. Herschel blends a vintage outdoorsy look with global fashion and functionality. Spot other Herschel enthusiasts with the backpack’s red signature nylon lining. Now that you know, you’ll notice them everywhere.Price: $42.95
The North Face Borealis Backpack helps you compartmentalize everything. Highly organized students love the internal organization of the front compartment, which contains a padded tablet sleeve and a few zip pockets for miscellaneous items. Easily access your water bottle from one of the backpack’s two mesh pockets as well as your phone from a side compartment.
The Tumi Voyageur Backpack exudes elegance, style and class. On the expensive side, this backpack lasts a long time (think long after college graduation), making the investment totally worth it. It contains a padded laptop compartment, U-zip pockets and phone pockets. The backpack’s waterproof nylon exterior means that in a downpour, you may get wet but the valuables inside your backpack definitely won’t. Check out the Tumi Voyaguer Just in Case Travel Backpack for a less expensive, yet equally chic alternative.Price: $303.11
9. HikePro 20L
School backpack by day and invaluable hiking partner at night, the HikePro 20L resists rain, folds up into a tiny transportable package and holds school and hiking supplies alike. Lighter than your workload between semesters, the HikePro 20L endures any and all weather conditions, keeping your books dry and your back straight.Price: $15.99
With its suede leather bottom, padded shoulder straps and laptop sleeve, the JanSport unites style, comfort and functionality in the Right Pack Laptop Backpack. The backpack’s front zipper compartments afford organization and safety as well. Whether your signature color is pink blush, Tahitian orange or Viking red, JanSport makes it easy to rock your signature color.Price: $26.98
Aspiring chefs, outdoor junkies and those prone to tripping up stairs all need first-aid kits at some point or another. This lightweight first-aid kit comes with a pair of scissors, alcohol pads, antiseptic cleaning wipes, a tweezer, bandages, safety pins, tape and many other valuable items for minor physical injuries. The nylon bag contains 66 emergency-ready pieces and fits into the palm of your hand.Price: $11.95
2. Water bottle
The hunt for the perfect water bottle mimics the hunt for a perfect pair of jeans. They come in many different shapes and sizes, but few fit you perfectly. “I loved my Kappa Swell until I realized it is a purely professional water bottle and sucks for sports purposes,” William and Mary senior Erin Johnson said. “So, I will be buying a Hydro Flask bottle, which keeps drinks just as cold but has better grip, a loop to clip to my harness, and a sports top thing you can squeeze into your mouth.” Moral of the story? Those seeking a professional, chic accessory should invest in a Swell, while those interested in adventure parks and hiking should purchase a Hydro Flask bottle.Price for Swell: $10.99 Price for Hydro Flask: $29.95
Never walk home alone in the dark again. Bright, light and portable, the Coast HP1 flashlight fits perfectly inside backpack compartments. Having a flashlight with you at all time rocks for a few reasons: you can’t be caught off guard in the dark, you look like Nancy Drew sleuthing and you always have a creepy light source for scary stories. In short, we can’t see a downside of always being equipped with a mini flashlight. Need a smaller flashlight with similar abilities? Check out the Coast G19.Price: $9.99
Don’t limit your fire playlist to car and shower jam sessions. Instead, throw a mini speaker in your backpack and bring the heat with you wherever you go. At about half a pound, the Anker Mini Portable Speaker fits comfortably in your backpack, providing high-quality music for 15 hours as well as a noise-cancelling microphone. Connect this batter-powered speaker to your device within a 66-foot Bluetooth range before jamming on the go.Price: $29.80
Make your pencil pouch as poppin’ as Lil Mama’s lip-gloss (although we can’t guarantee the boys will chase you after school). Designed in New York City, the Poppin Pencil Pouch keeps your pencils, lipstick and dorm key dry and safe. Simply wipe this coated canvas case clean when rogue stains or marks tarnish its exterior. Available in aqua, pink, navy, pool blue, blush and metallic colors, every pouch contains an interior, colorful cotton lining.Price: $7.00
Read on to find out what your backpack says about you.
Written by Lianne D’arcy
Anyone can check their horoscope every month. What your nails say about you exists as only one Google search away. The internet constantly tells us what our favorite foods, what our hairstyles and even what our handwriting says about us. But what about our backpacks? You know, the thing you drag to class every day. Well no need to look further. What your backpack says about you, right here.
It’s a-me, Bowser! What this pack lacks in practicality, it makes up for in personality. Those that wear this backpack store all their mushroom boosts and flower–power-ups in here while they conquer the Mushroom Kingdom, and maybe a few study guides and notebooks, too. But be warned: If you use this backpack, make sure you don’t keep Princess Peach in there. Mario is always watching.
If you have this backpack, I already know what lies inside. Papers. Perhaps a small recording device. A yellow legal pad. Quality pens… and more papers. Those who have this bag are probably always running late or on their way to finish a huge paper, because their deadline was like, yesterday. I know you, English and journalism majors. I am you.
I also know what lies within this black hole of a backpack: the void. This backpack is where all forgotten papers and halfhearted assignments go as their final resting place. Say goodbye to anything that comes within 500 feet of this pack, because it will most definitely disappear forever.
Right now, curvy is cool. Thick thighs save lives, right? Even if these backpack users aren’t known for their cake, they’re no strangers to curves. I’m pretty sure your spine looks like a question mark if you have this bag. If this pack says anything about you, it’s: “I have scoliosis.” Thanks, gen chem.
Those that roll their bags are either headed to the airport or are suffering from the aftermath of the 500lb JanSport, seriously. While they might save you that extra bit of effort, is it really worth it? Navigating the quad with this thing in hand looks about as impossible as maneuvering the bars on Thirsty Thursday with a jetpack.
I have no judgments when it comes to this pack—only questions. What do you carry in here? A single tube of chapstick? One piece of paper? Air? Do you guys even go to school? How much did Urban Outfitters overcharge you for this? Please let me know as soon as possible, and thank you for your time.
If you see someone with a waterproof bag sprinting, you’d better start running too, because these people don’t mess around. I can just tell that these bags don’t carry around mere college assignments: they carry zombie apocalypse survivor gear. Crossbows. Baseball bats. Probably a granola bar or two. People with this bag are ready. If you ever want to get stranded on an island with someone, choose the guy with the waterproof bag, seriously.
If you have this backpack, you have no fear. I bet you stare God in the face and walk backward into hell like that one guy on Twitter. I bet you sleep with your closet doors open without batting an eye and you probably don’t even have a protective case over your phone. I’d even go as far to say that I think you don’t use the protective strap on your Wii remote controller. Please repent for your sins.
9. Walmart bag
Once, in the middle of a macroeconomics lecture, I saw a boy. He walked in twenty minutes late, waltzed to the back row and then whipped out a single notebook from a plastic Wal-Mart bag. He leaned back in his chair, adjusted his beanie and then casually asked me for a pencil. If you’ve ever used a plastic Wal-Mart bag as a purse or backpack, don’t worry. That’s just life sometimes.
More Back-to-School Prep:
*Updated November 26, 2016 by Caitlin Mason to include 10 new top backpacks from interviews with students on their favorites. We added even more of the hottest college backpacks for you to choose from.
**Updated January 6, 2017 by Marin McCall to include more student interviews and a buying guide.
***Updated by Kelsey Llewelyn on July 9, 2018 to include 10 more backpacks and 5 accessories
****Updated by Lianne D’Arcy on December 12, 2018 to include What Your Backpack Says About You.