Picking the right college backpack is an important choice. 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. Therefore, it’s important the backpack you choose checks all the right boxes. The best backpacks for college students are large enough to carry your new laptop, books, 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 20 best backpacks for college students. While none of the bags on our list are as technologically advanced as to have a fingerprint-scanner locking system, they are tried and tested and loved by people who have used them.
We have options from top brands like Topo Designs and Fjallraven as well as budget buys and lesser-known commuter options. Check out all 20 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 countless Fjallraven and 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.
2. Mancro Laptop Backpack
BEST BUDGET BUY
Surely 8,000+ 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.
3. Fjallraven – Raven 28
While you can never go wrong with the Classic Fjallraven backpack, we like the Raven 28 model for college. Designed specifically for students, this backpack comes with a pocket for 15″ laptops, as well as extra compartments for textbooks, snacks and anything else you need during a long day on campus. This model doesn’t come in as many fun colors as other bags from Fjallraven, but it’s a durable and stylish laptop backpack that’s perfect for college students. And at a mid-range $110, it’s an affordable bag for most college students.Buy: Fjallraven - Raven 28 $65.97
4. lululemon City Adventurer Backpack
BEST FOR ATHLETIC TYPES
If you’re just as concerned with setting a personal record on your bench press as you are setting a personal record in class, this City Adventurer backpack from lululemon will be a great companion. Designed to be both an athletic bag and a college bag, you’re getting the best of both worlds without having to sacrifice either. With an exterior padded pocket, there’s room enough for a 15″ laptop, while an expandable pocket has enough room for all your sweaty gear. And with its minimalist design, it’ll look as good in the gym room as it does in the classroom.
5. JanSport Right Pack
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.Buy: JanSport Right Pack $24.99
6. 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 the Friendly Swede 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.
7. Fjallraven Recycled Kranken Backpack
For students most concerned about saving the planet, the Fjallraven Recycled Kranken 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.Buy: Fjallraven Recycled Kranken Backpack $94.95
8. 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. The backpack also sports buckled top straps and front-facing pockets to add to the bag’s 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.
9. Walfront Canvas Drawing Board Backpack
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 Walfront is an elegant 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.
10. Mission Workshop Rhake Backpack
BEST FOR THE LONG HAUL
While it’s one of the more expensive backpacks on this list, Mission Workshop’s Rhake backpack is a bag that’s a worthy investment for the long-haul. Built from highly-durable Cordura fabric, the bag is 100% weatherproof and built to last. But, should it happen to fall apart, Mission will replace the entire bag and ship it back to you completely free of charge. With its 22L capacity, you’ll have enough room for everything you can think of, including taking it as an overnight bag when you travel. Its padded laptop sleeve can be accessed on the side if you’re really in a hurry.
11. Patagonia Black Hole Backpack
Patagonia has been long known for its commitment to durable, high-quality and environmentally-friendly bags, and that tradition is alive and well in the Black Hole Backpack. At 25L, it’s got a massive amount of storage, which means you’ll be able to toss anything and everything you can think of in there without worry. But it’s got to be able to carry the essential supplies for class, which it does with ease. A padded 15″ laptop sleeve allows for clear division inside the bag so things don’t get too jumbled around. Plus, the 100% recycled polyester ripstop has been coated with a TPU laminate that will hold up well in the elements.
12. Topo Designs Klettersack Backpack
BEST FOR WEEKEND HIKERS
Topo Designs was born and bred in the Colorado wilderness, which makes all of their bags nature-ready. If you plan on making sure your weekend getaways involve totally disconnecting, while still making sure you can lug a laptop around, this is the college backpack you’ll want to have. Its large main compartment has room enough for snacks or notebooks, while its side water bottle pockets can keep you well-hydrated on the trail. Additionally, it has padded shoulder straps for all-day comfort.
13. MZ Wallace Quilted Metro Backpack
BEST FOR MINIMALISTS
Looking to strip it all down and only carry what you absolutely need? Then you’ll want a bag that won’t get in your way or overload you with needless amounts of storage. MZ Wallace’s quilted Metro college backpack has just the right amount of pockets (two in front and one main storage compartment with room for a laptop) for you to load it up and roll out. Super lightweight, it’s made for those who are constantly on the go. Plus its quilted exterior makes a bold statement that will make it fun — even when class might not be.
14. Eastpak Macnee Coated-Canvas Backpack
Drawing from classic military-style bags, this backpack from Eastpak is a modern update on a vintage favorite. The rolltop closure evokes that old-school style bag while incorporating modern features like a water-resistant outer. Its all-black design is great for those that aren’t fussy about color. And, as with all college backpacks, there are plenty of pockets for storing all your various items, while also having a padded laptop sleeve.
15. Topo Designs Light Pack
BEST COLOR OPTIONS
We had to include at least one more option from Topo Designs. While we love their classic leather and canvas day pack, the $145 price tag is more than many broke college students can afford. For a more affordable option from this popular apparel company that costs less than $75, go with the brand’s popular Light Backpack. Like all the best college backpacks, this bag can fit your laptop and textbooks with ease. However, it also comes in retro 90s coloring that’s perfect for standing out on campus.
16. 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.Buy: Herschel Dawson $65.47
17. Timbuk2 Rogue Laptop Backpack
You know the blue tarp material that they use to cover pools in the winter or throw over construction sites during rainstorms? Its full name is tarpaulin, and the water-resistant material is now used to make stylish and durable backpacks. If you want something that will withstand the elements, this Rogue Laptop Backpack is the golden ticket. The top-loading pack includes a roomy main compartment, so nothing will get in the way of squeezing a few extra items in there. Plus, it’s available in four different colors, so you can find the shade that fits you best.Buy: TIMBUK2 Rogue Laptop Backpack, Nautical $46.95
18. 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.Buy: The North Face Borealis Backpack - TNF Black, TNF Black, One Size $88.95
19. JanSport Big Campus Backpack
BEST LARGE JANSPORT
If you’re the type of person who likes to schedule everything on the same day, then you need a bag that can handle the textbook stack for back-to-back classes. That’s where this Big Campus Backpack from Jansport swoops in. Measuring out to a roomy 17.5″ x 13″ x 10″, this bag has two main compartments with plenty of space for all your goods. Plus, it even has a few extra zipper pockets, and it comes in the classic Jansport style. Not to mention, the ergonomic S-curve shoulder straps help your back handle the heavy school load.
20. Pendleton Wool Accented Backpack
Urban Outfitters is the epicenter of all things cool and in-the-now, so it’s no surprise that they supply this trendy bag from Pendleton. The tan canvas backpack should hold up well and is plenty sturdy enough to hold your books and laptop. Furthermore, the front-zip pocket features a blue woven design so you can bring those laid back desert vibes to campus.