Finding the best backpacks for college – or, for the more traditionally minded, the best bookbags for college students – is essential. After all, it’s one of the few items that we use every day, for hours, and that we use to carry our books, wallet, phone, keys, laptop, snack, water bottle, iPad, gym clothes, and much more. The best backpacks for college students have to be comfortable, practical, spacious, durable, and – of course – cool and stylish looking. With these criteria in mind, we’ve compiled a selection of the top backpacks for college or university.
- Standout design
- Functional and comfortable
Based in Vancouver, Canada, the Herschel Supply Company brings West Coast cool to campuses around the world. Herschel backpacks excel at combining unique design, elegance, and comfort – they are the ideal choice if you are looking for a quality product that makes you stand out from the crowd.
A perfect member of the Herschel family is the Retreat Backpack, which – thanks to its look and features – we thought is also the best Herschel backpack for college. With it’s classic lines and carefully crafted details, its looks are stunning. Even the inside – featuring Herschel’s famous red-and-white striped lining – is simply georgous. This unisex backpack is available in a variety of different colors (our example pictured above is Navy) that will appeal to any taste.
But don’t let its looks deceive you. The Retreat Backpack is also a very sturdy and practical companion. Among others, it offers a padded sleeve for laptops or tablets (up to 15.6“), comfortable shoulder straps and back support, adjustable drawstring and magentic strap closures, and plenty of storage room. There are two external and two internal pockets, one of which is actually meant for your favourite music player and boasts a headphone port.
Given it’s fantastic design and functionality, this is our top pick for the best backpacks for college students. You simply can’t go wrong with this one.
- Particularly sturdy
- Unique minimalist look
What comes from Sweden, is available in 40 different colors, and makes you want to say „Skål“? Why, it’s Fjallraven’s Kanken Daypack! This classic icon of a backpack was originally designed as an ergonomic miracle for Swedish school children in 1970s, but has since conquered the college campuses of America and many other countries as well.
The Kranken Daypack is made from a nifty material called Vinylon, which is durable and extremely moisture resistent, which comes in handy when you’re exposed to the occasional rain shower. Best of all, through continued use, the fabric becomes even sturdier (but not less comfortable) as its fibres tighten. It’s also light, roomy, and just generally a pleasure to have as your daily companion (although a companion that you still have to carry around on your back). It’s medium-sized but still large enough to carry a 15 inch laptop, books, and a few extras. The side pockets could be larger but are still sufficient for a phone, umbrella, or small bottle.
Overall, an excellent example of functional Scandinavian design and a great backpack especially (but not only) for those students who cycle or just spend a lot of time outdoors.
- High-tech shoulder straps
Is Under Armour really the new Nike? We don’t know, but we do know that what’s good enough for the President of the United States is good enough for us. Lucky for us, therefore, that Under Armour now also makes backpacks, which unsurprisingly are among the most popular and best backpacks for college.
The top rated model is the Under Armour Storm Hustle II Backpack. This backpack is similar to the Fjallraven Kanken Daypack in that it’s also extremely water resistant (hence the reference to storm in its name) and sturdy, featuring a tough mixture of polyester and nylon and a reinforced panel at the bottom. In terms of the design, however, this is a different story altogether and quite different from the Kanken.
The Storm Hustle is not minimalistic in the slightest, as its look and features show. There’s a laptop sleeve, multiple interior and exterior pockets, specially designed comfort shoulder straps that keep you cool, two side pockets for water bottles, and more. In terms of the look, we are reminded of Under Armour’s aggressive and sporty approach, which is reflected in the vivid colour combinations and modern fabric pattern design. This backpack signals strength and endurance – ideal both for a trip to the library or the gym!
- Great multi-purpose bag
- Very comfortable
The North Face Jester is another contemporary and sporty looking backpack for college students, however with a somewhat more relaxed look and softer curves than Under Armour’s Storm Hustle.
As many enthusiasts of North Face products already know, this brand ensures leading quality paired with high-tech functionality. These qualities are also clearly reflected in the Jester backpack. The Jester boasts a suspension system with thick, comfortable shoulder straps and a contoured back panel with mesh that allows for sufficient air flow to keep your back nice and cool. Inside, there is a shock absorbing floating laptop sleeve, along with 26 liters of storage space. On the outside, the Jester provides an accessories pocket, mesh side pockets, and also bungee cord system o loop in items such as a raincoat or umbrella.
This is a versatile, multi-purpose item that offers comfort and practicality with an unassuming look. Affordable, reliable, and one of the best backpacks for college. If you already like the brand, this is the best North Face backpack for college students.
- Great for tech storage
- Ideal for travelling
Luggage and travel equipment specialist SwissGear has created an extremely versatile rucksack that is one of the very best backpacks for college students with laptops, given that this manufacturer has paid particular attention to the needs of those who carry tech gadgets. In addition, it’s also ideal for those students who travel frequently.
Like a Swiss army knife, this nifty piece of kit offers multiple tools in a compact design. The laptop and tablet compartment has an adjustable divider and is nicely padded, giving your trusted tech gadgets a safe home. Aslo, the built-in ScanSmart technology means that you don’t have to pull out your device when you go through airport security screening – just leave it in the bag. The laptop compartment can be accessed via a side zipper, which allows you to take out your device while still wearing the backpack (at least on one shoulder).
Of course, there’s much more. The ScanSmart Backpack’s features include an ergonomic shoulder strap system with sternum strap for added comfort; an airflow pack panel; organizer compartment with key fob and a various dividers for and pockets; easy-access front pocket; wire reinforced top handle; and fleece lined pocket for glasses (perhaps also made by Oakley) or phone. The design is understated and clean, with reflector stripes for added visibility and safety.
- Cool retro look
- Made of cotton
Most of today’s best backpacks for college are made of synthetic fibers. In contrast, EcoCity’s Vintage Canvas Daypack (which thanks to it’s spacious main compartment is also one of the best book bags for college) uses only high-quality pure cotton canvas. This adds to vintage look and feel, but it’s not ideal for those who need a highly waterproof bag.
Despite the vintage label, this daypack still features a laptop/tablet sleeve, although it’s on the smaller end. It has several pockets at the front, back, and side pockets, but again these are for smaller items (for example, a water bottle would have to be carried in the main compartment). Nevertheless, it’s ideal for those who don’t carry too much stuff around and appreciate the retro look and the eco concept of a backpack made out of natural material. Given its more traditional design, this is also easily one of the best bookbags for college students.
- Extremely spacious
- Heavy-duty look & feel
Oakely’s Men’s Kitchen Sink Backpack does exactly what it promises. Capable of holding everything a human being (okay, a college student) would need for an entire day or two, the Oakley stuns with a uncompromising concept. It has plenty of hooks, straps, and loops, which not only look great but also serve a purpose – attaching smaller items for easy access.
The Kitchen Sink Backpack opens at the top, revealing the very large main compartment, which also includes a dedicated section for your laptop. Need to store a computer, several books, camera, jacket, gym gear, running shoes, drink and snacks, and various accessessories at once? No problem for the Oakley Backpack. In fact, there may still be room left. Go with our preferred black and silver hardware colour scheme option (there are others to choose from) and you’re good to go. It’s not a very light backpack, even when it’s empty, but that’s easily balanced by its comfort design features and sturdiness that it offers in return. Clearly one of the best backpacks for college students that need to lug around plenty of stuff on a regular basis.
- Fun and inexpensive
- Unique looking
Are you looking for an affordable yet stylish backpack to carry around campus and beyond? HotStyle’s new SmileDay Vintage Laptop Backpack for College, which echoes a look that is increasingly popular among younger crowds in Asia, might just fit the bill.
The SmileDay’s strength is really is it’s appealing retro design and straightforward features. It has everything one would wish for in a simple backpack but not more. Two front pockets, a roomy main compartment with medium-sized (15“) laptop or tablet sleeve, synthetic leather trim strap, and a bright and sunny look – what’s not to like? It’s a good allround backpack of decent quality. Overall, this is a great alternative for college students who are tired of the mainstream brands.
- Very versatile
The High Sierra Loop Backpack is remarkable in that it offers to serve you both when you’re heading to class or hiking up the nearest mountain. Around campus, its compartments with multiple dividers, key fob hook, media shoulder strap pocket with headphone port, and sleeve for digital gear multi-compartment will come in handy. During outdoor activities and sports, adjustable side compression feature, adjustable bottom webbing straps for a rain coat, sleeping bag, or any other extra gear, and the hanging accessories pocket will be particularly appreciated.
Although the High Sierra brand is normally known for outdoors and adventure gear, with the Loop Backpack they’ve managed to create a versatile, appealing, and extremely affordable medium-sized backpack that will make you look equally good around campus and on nature trails. It’s practical and comfortable – featuring a shoulder strap suspension system – and a perfect fusion, representing one of the best backpacks for college and outdoor living.
*All product images on this page courtesy of Amazon.com