25 Best College Backpacks (Review) in 2021

Brad Robinson
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Now that you’ve finally graduated, it’s time to start acting like a responsible, grownup young adult. But how? To be honest, I didn’t quite get how to do that until I moved to the “real” world and was forced to start paying bills and buying groceries.

When you’re just getting out of school, it may feel like you live in a perpetual state of “freedom” that’s only limited by your imagination. But as you get older, you might find that you decide to add some more responsibilities to your routine — like caretaking a dog or a cat; or having a career.

How do you prepare for this? Pack smart, of course!

These are the best college backpacks that will be essential to your university life, and then to your “real” adult life when you start getting out into the world and learning how to take care of yourself.

NameCategoryProduct
Carhartt Legacy Classic Work BackpackBest OverallCarhartt Legacy Classic Work Backpack
AmazonBasics Classic School BackpackBudget PickAmazonBasics Classic School Backpack
Thule EnRoute 23L BackpackUpgrade PickThule EnRoute 23L Backpack

1. Carhartt Legacy Classic Work Backpack

Our rating: 9 / 10

Carhartt Legacy Classic Work Backpack

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Pros:

  • Roomy enough to hold heavy textbooks
  • Durable

Designed as a combination between backpacks and bags, the Carhartt Legacy carries heavy loads and is tough enough for outdoor use. The main compartment has padded sleeves for up to a 17-inch laptop and textbooks and an organizer to keep smaller objects within easy reach. It has a side slash pocket, too. Rainproof using a water-resistant coating.

For even more functionality, the spring-loaded front door opens and closes both directions for easy access. The top compartment also has a mesh pocket for extra storage. The padded hip belt also provides extra support.

2. Herschel Retreat Backpack

Our rating: 9 / 10

Herschel Retreat Backpack

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Pros:

  • The spacious interior accommodates all the equipment you could need for a day at college.
  • The material is very durable and looks great.
  • It has a unique construction that allows you to carry the bag on your back or in your hands.
  • The straps are ergonomically designed for comfort.
  • The padded straps can be easily adjusted.

Cons:

  • You might not be able to carry a lot of books in the backpack.
  • By many measures, the Herschel Retreat is one of the best backpacks for college.

This college backpack features a spacious interior to accommodate all your college essentials. It has a large main compartment secured by a full-length zipper. Inside, you will find a padded sleeve for your laptop and a notebook pocket although some people have had problems fitting a laptop up to 15”.

The Retreat comes with a comfortable padded back and padded straps that can be easily adjusted.

This backpack also comes with a front organizer panel with multiple pockets to hold your smaller accessories and essentials.

3. JanSport Hatchet

Our rating: 9 / 10

JanSport Hatchet

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Pros:

  • It has many pockets
  • The backpack is lightweight
  • Has a roomy main compartment
  • Has an ergonomic design

This JanSport backpack may seem a bit heavy, but it’s an ideal choice for students going back to school. It’s a little heavy, but it comes with a long warranty and is generally very tough. This is probably a great choice for the college student who needs a bit more room. The Hatchet comes in multiple colors.

The backpack has an Airmesh back panel which you’ll appreciate during a warm day when you’ve got a lot of gear to carry. It’s not as breathable as some of the newer fabrics, but this one is tough as nails and will last you.

This JanSport backpack comes with a lot of pockets, including a padded laptop compartment. There is also a large front pocket, which is great for a water bottle and a dedicated area for smaller electronics.

4. AmazonBasics Laptop Computer Backpack

Our rating: 9 / 10

AmazonBasics Laptop Computer Backpack

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(Medium, Black)

The AmazonBasics medium-sized backpack is a great choice for students, thanks to its comfortable padding and extremely durable nylon material.

This backpack is a mid-size backpack, which means that if you’re going to carry up to a 17” laptop, it’s your bag for you.

5. Laptop Backpack

Our rating: 9 / 10

Laptop Backpack

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Pros:

  • Great design
  • Overall good quality
  • Well-padded storage
  • Removable USB charging cable
  • Spacious outer pockets
  • Secure protection for laptops
  • Laptop sleeve can be removed
  • Adjustable shoulder straps
  • Padded back panel
  • Comes with a free gift

For college students, finding a backpack that: is comfortable to carry around; doesn’t get in the way of studying; provides the protection your laptop deserves is crucial. The Mancro backpack can easily be converted from personal laptop protection to convenient school bookbag.

With its roomy, padded pockets and secure design, a travel laptop backpack is going to clean and organized. A study laptop bag made of water-resistant nylon, can handle your gear and withstand the daily wear and tear of living overseas. This convertible laptop backpack is a great gift for students and travelers. Don’t limit your backpack to college, take it wherever you go!

6. College Backpack

Our rating: 9 / 10

College Backpack

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A stylish backpack that is suitable for both genders. This multi-purpose bag can double as a schoolbag and a briefcase. It has a sleek design that is sturdy. The bag is also spacious in its design, making it ideal for travel. The laptop sleeve secures a 15.6-inch laptop.

This backpack by Arospa features plenty of pockets where you can keep both your laptop and schoolbooks. There is an interior pocket, several outer pockets, and a USB port where you can charge your gadgets.

The shoulder straps are padded, and the bottom of the bag is reinforced. Despite its good looks, this backpack is lightweight.

7. Herschel Heritage Backpack

Our rating: 8 / 10

Herschel Heritage Backpack

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Pros:

  • Multiple pockets for organization
  • Spacious main compartment with a padded laptop sleeve

This backpack from Herschel comes with a classic assortment of materials for its shell, which in this case is made from a sturdy, ultra-durable polyester that is coated for water resistance and durability.

This super sturdy backpack is built to last the rigors of daily use, whether you are hitting the books during class or traveling the globe for work.

It comes with a main compartment that is large enough for an up to 17-inch laptop. You can also fit numerous files, books, and notebooks in the main compartment as well. An additional front pocket is much smaller but still useful for storing smaller items.

8. Fjallraven – Foldsack No. 1 Backpack

Our rating: 8 / 10

Fjallraven - Foldsack No. 1 Backpack

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Pros:

  • Compression straps really help hold everything in place in this backpack which is great when you are traveling as you do not need to keep checking if everything is still in place.

Mocha Brown.

This backpack has a capacity of 26 liters and is very comfortable to wear due to padded shoulder straps with an ergonomic design. You will also find that this backpack has chest straps for added comfort when on the move.

The fabric of this backpack is polyester which is lightweight and durable. The design is stylish and very durable. In addition to that, it is easy to maintain and clean.

9. TIMBUK2 Parkside Laptop Backpack

Our rating: 8 / 10

TIMBUK2 Parkside Laptop Backpack

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Pros:

  • Good for those who carry laptops
  • Durable and well-built
  • Sturdy pull-out handle
  • Has a strap for securing the bag to a roll or shopping cart

Cons:

  • Wears out, tears quickly
  • Is not good for backpacking

Timbuk 2 is a company from San Francisco that makes durable backpacks. Timbuk 2 makes backpacks for both casual and business travel.

One of the most popular Timbuk 2 backpacks on the market today is the Parkside laptop backpack. This bag is highly popular for its simple, classic look and its high functionality. While it can be used for hiking and biking, each Timbuk 2 bag also has a special element that makes it even more functional.

The Parkside is organized, durable, and has a lot of spaces, including a padded laptop compartment. It also has more pockets so you can keep everything organized.

10. School Backpack,Vaschy Unisex Classic Water-resistant Backpack

Our rating: 8 / 10

School Backpack,Vaschy Unisex Classic Water-resistant Backpack

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Pros:

  • These backpacks are very reasonably priced, but they contain many features of backpacks that cost much more.
  • This backpack comes with a big main compartment, which can fit a laptop and a tablet as well.
  • There are also other compartments, so there will be no issues with keeping your things organized.
  • Students are often excited about this backpack because it comes with a separate computer bag.
  • The bag is padded and has many pockets, so it is ideal for keeping your computer safe.
  • The shoulder straps and the back panel of the backpack are cushioned and contoured for comfort as well.
  • The material is water-repellent, so this backpack will stay dry even in the rain.

Lightweight.Zipper Backpack for School/College/Travel/Hiking/Cycling

You can even see from the reviews how proud the manufacturer is of the backpack. They provide a 2-year warranty for any manufacturing defects, so you can be confident they will stand behind their product.

This is one of the best-selling backpacks in the market today thanks to its affordability, and users agree that they are getting a lot of value for the price they are paying.

11. Tommy Hilfiger Backpack Patriot Colorblock Canvas

Our rating: 8 / 10

Tommy Hilfiger Backpack Patriot Colorblock Canvas

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Pros:

  • Great for traveling or daily commuting
  • Well organized and padded compartments
  • Sturdy, durable material

Cons:

  • A little smaller than you might like
  • Not a wide range of colors available

Tommy Hilfiger makes a fine American-made canvas backpack that will do nicely for class, travel or simple everyday tasks.

One of the things that stands out about this backpack is its well-padded compartments, particularly its padded laptop compartment on the back of the bag.

This will keep your laptop from getting banged around during your commute or your travels.

12. Topo Designs Daypack

Our rating: 8 / 10

Topo Designs Daypack

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Pros:

  • Nothing you can pack in this waterproof bag will ever be damaged.

There are few things in life that you will be able to use for many different things over the years. You will probably have one backpack that you will use in various scenarios or maybe a few that you would use to go on various type of trips.

But the one thing that you always want backpacks for is to be able to take your gear with you no matter where you go. It can be very handy to have a simple bag that you can just add everything you want to have with you.

It can be the car keys, your wallet, the phone, and all the text books that you need for your class. It could be that you need to take some tools with you to work and need a backpack that you can fit everything into.

13. AmazonBasics Classic School Backpack

Our rating: 8 / 10

AmazonBasics Classic School Backpack

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The AmazonBasics Classic School Backpack comes in many different colors and many different sizes.

One of the more popular choices is the aqua version because of its color versatility. According to reviews, the aqua color can be worn with orange, red, green, grey, black, and even yellow.

The reason why the AmazonBasics Classic School Backpack is highly rated is because of its space. It has plenty of room but not so much room that you are wasting space.

14. Under Armour Storm Recruit Backpack

Our rating: 7 / 10

Under Armour Storm Recruit Backpack

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Pros:

  • padded sleeve that is great for laptops and tablets
  • Under Armour’s signature Storm fabric
  • front pockets for easy access to accessories
  • side mesh pockets
  • multiple interior pockets
  • the straps are very padded
  • padded back pocket
  • it’s lightweight
  • roomy
  • Under Armour’s heatgear pocket is great for holding hot and cold drinks

The Under Armour Recruit is an all-around great backpack. It’s also the best selling backpack on Amazon. The material it’s made with is great in keeping moisture out and is basically perfect for any season.

In terms of size, it has an 18-liter internal capacity. It’s called the Recruit because it was designed specifically for high school and college students. Some of the unique features of the Under Armour Recruit backpack include the easy access front pockets, heatgear pocket for things like warm liquids/coolers, a laptop sleeve, water bottle pockets, etc.

What’s unique about this backpack is that it has a special pocket outside of the laptop sleeve, which is perfect if you want to keep something safe.

15. The North Face Vault Backpack

Our rating: 7 / 10

The North Face Vault Backpack

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The North Face is a well-known brand when it comes to backpacks. This bag is popular for many reasons, and it is a popular choice at an affordable cost.

This backpack is made from durable ballistics nylon. The construction is influenced by military designs, something that we often see with brands with roots in the US. This makes it great for school use, with the added benefit of heavy duty construction.

The Vault comes with several pockets for storing a variety of things. The laptop sleeve is padded, making sure that your laptop and the rest of your belongings remain protected.

16. The North Face Pivoter Backpack

Our rating: 7 / 10

The North Face Pivoter Backpack

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Pros:

  • Padded laptop sleeve (fits 15.6 laptops)
  • Dimensions: 18h x 11w x 6.5d inches

Cons:

  • No ventilation system
  • A little heavy

The North Face Pivoter is a solid pack for college. It has one of the best laptop sleeves on the market and more pockets than most packs we’ve seen.

This is a great pack for the price. It has a top-loading design, so you can unzip the top and shove a bunch of stuff in.

There is webbing on the front of the pack with two webbing loops. If you are into add-on accessories, this is a plus. If you aren’t, it will just be a distraction.

17. Eastpak Women's Padded Pak'r Backpack

Our rating: 6 / 10

Eastpak Women's Padded Pak'r Backpack

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The Basics: The Eastpak Women's Padded Pak'r Backpack is made of polyester. It is designed for women, has one main compartment, and a bottom compartment. Multiple pockets include an MP3 player pocket, and a key chain holder. It also includes a laptop sleeve and phone pockets. Made in China.

What Reviewers Say:

Plenty of reviewers on Amazon loved this affordable Eastpak bag. They say it's very comfortable and stylish. It's lightweight, yet durable. It has plenty of storage compartments and is made well.

18. Victorinox Architecture Urban Rath Laptop Backpack

Our rating: 6 / 10

Victorinox Architecture Urban Rath Laptop Backpack

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Pros:

  • Spacious main compartment
  • Water-resistant material
  • Solid construction

The Victorinox Architecture comes with a wide array of pockets to help you get organized. This backpack is spartan in its design but highly functional in its everyday use.

There are two small mesh pockets in the front flap as well as a hip belt pocket with a clip inside the main compartment. These will allow you to always have quick access to small items like cables or pens.

Situated in the top front pocket, there is a zippered pocket that can be used to store valuables. This is a nice added feature that allows you to keep your wallet and keys close to you. It also means you can easily access your wallet quickly when needed.

19. The North Face Haystack Backpack

Our rating: 6 / 10

The North Face Haystack Backpack

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Pros:

  • Great water resistance
  • Stylish design
  • It comes with a laptop sleeve that can fit up to a 17-inch computer
  • It has an ergonomic design to ensure maximum comfort while wearing it
  • It comes with padded shoulder straps
  • It can hold up to 33 litres of content
  • It can be pricey

Cons:

  • It’s not rainproof
  • It’s not insulated
  • It can be too small if you are planning on carrying a laptop and all your other stuff.

If you’re looking for alternative backpack options to lug around your stuff, then this one should be on your to-buy list. It’s big enough to carry a laptop and have a place for all your stuff, and it’s stylish too.

20. Thule EnRoute 23L Backpack

Our rating: 6 / 10

Thule EnRoute 23L Backpack

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Pros:

  • Spacious in-built laptop compartment
  • Padded shoulder straps
  • Helps keep back cool
  • Aspect of security
  • Doesn’t move around on your back
  • Great for travelling
  • Is very easy to use
  • Fits all your books
  • Great for your everyday needs
  • Made from tough and durable material

Black.

If you’re looking for a stylish backpack that is also spacious enough to fit all your things in, then we wouldn’t recommend anything else.

This is the laptop backpack that can rival the likes of Eagle Creek or the North Face. The EnRoute series has backpacks in various sizes but the 23L backpack is the best-placed for everyday use.

21. JanSport Right Pack

Our rating: 6 / 10

JanSport Right Pack

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Pros:

  • Large capacity backpack
  • Designed with a water-resistant fabric
  • Inexpensive

Let’s face it: carrying a backpack filled with books, tablets, electronics, and snacks can weigh a lot. But, it only makes sense that you’d want something that fits your needs. This large backpack should give you the best value for your money.

The JanSport Right Pack Convertible 538 is one of the best backpacks you can get for its price. This backpack is a little on the pricey side, but the design makes it worth it. You’ll be able to hold a lot of weight in this backpack.

There’s a reason why this backpack is one of the most popular backpacks you can get for this year. It comes with a large capacity while still being lightweight. When fully packed, it can carry up to 32 liters worth of stuff. With this backpack, you can even carry a 13-inch iMac without a problem.

22. Backpack w/USB Charging Port Fits UNDER 15" Laptop & Notebook

Our rating: 5 / 10

Backpack w/USB Charging Port Fits UNDER 15" Laptop & Notebook

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Pros:

  • HIGHLY DURABLE -Made from a lightweight, water-resistant ripstop polyester, this backpack for women offers the type of durability and strength that will resist wear and tear. The backpack is lightweight and very comfortable. The padding makes carrying your belongings a breeze. It has adjustable padded shoulder straps and a zippered front pocket. The backpack makes a great gift for any occasion.
  • CROSSBODY OR BACKPACK -This backpack is the perfect size to be used as a carrying case, daily tote, or crossbody bag. Packs up small into the attached pouch for storage or travel.
  • LARGE CAPACITY -The bag has multiple compartments, and for many people, is the perfect size for a day trip. This backpack is big enough to hold a lot, including laptops, clothing, and accessories. It easily fits everything you need.
  • USB CHARGING PORT -Stay charged on the go with the built-in USB charging port. This means it will be easier to charge your iPad, iPhone, Android devices, and more with a 5V/2.1A output.

23. PUMA Evercat Thunder Backpack Gray/Black One Size

Our rating: 4 / 10

PUMA Evercat Thunder Backpack Gray/Black One Size

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Pros:

  • Made from water-resistant nylon
  • Double handles for carrying style
  • Spacious main compartment
  • Padded straps and back panel for added comfort

Cons:

  • Not very spacious pockets
  • Side pockets are difficult to access
  • Not good for laptops
  • Not suitable for small frames

Compact, lightweight and practical, this backpack is perfect for everyday use.

The PUMA Evercat Thunder Backpack is made from water-resistant nylon for extra durability. It has 4 inch diameter double handles for carrying style. For added comfort, the backpack has padded straps and back panel. It comes with a spacious main compartment with a padded interior that has an interior zip pocket which can be used to hold a laptop as well as an interior slip pocket. This backpack features two front pockets, one with a zipper. It is 7 inches deep and 10.25 inches high with a dimensions of 9.5 by 14.5 by 4.5 inches.

24. Police Genuine Leather Back pack

Our rating: 4 / 10

Police Genuine Leather Back pack

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the best backpacks for college students?

There are plenty of good options out there, and choosing the right backpack is important. Lately, there have been more backpacks that come equipped with laptop compartments and even water bladders. While these backpacks will no doubt make lugging that laptop and water around easier, it’s important to keep in mind what your actual needs are when choosing the right backpack.

What are the best quality backpacks?

If you want to carry more everyday things like food, work laptop, clothes, towels and toiletries for quick overnight trips, choose a backpack with a closeable compartment or external pockets. For example, the Thule Subterra backpack has a laptop sleeve and two side pockets, which is a convenient design for quick trips.

If you want space for personal items, a big water-bottle pocket and a wee compartment for carrying items like an umbrella, or lining your bag with a lunch box or carrying a laptop, go for a backpacks with multiple compartments. You’ll find the best quality in the internal and external compartments and Molle System that creates a lot of attachment options and versatility in the backpack space.

If you want durability in your backpack, you’ll need to look at these features as well:

Good weight of fabric for a tougher backpack.

Are Nordace backpacks good?

Generally speaking, Nordaperus backpacks are good. A lot of people report that their backpacks were heavy duty, lasting years of use. However, some people also reported that their backpack held up for a while, but then quickly began to fall apart. So, it’s not too conclusive as to whether they’re good or not.

If you’re thinking about getting a Nordacepack, you’ll want to look for one that’s waterproof, particularly in the bottom and the seams. They also make a difference in whether the backpacks have separable compartments or not.

Conclusion

This buying guide should be able to give you a better idea of what to look for in a college backpack and how you’re going to use it. You can then use our list of the 25 best college backpacks to further understand what options you have. The list contains everything from the top professional backpack to the best budget backpack for a fun night at the beach. So use this guide to make an informed buying decision instead of blindly spending your money on something you won’t like.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
Carhartt Legacy Classic Work BackpackBest OverallCarhartt Legacy Classic Work Backpack
AmazonBasics Classic School BackpackBudget PickAmazonBasics Classic School Backpack
Thule EnRoute 23L BackpackUpgrade PickThule EnRoute 23L Backpack