Updated June 06, 2019 by Melissa Harr

The 10 Best Backpacks For College

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This wiki has been updated 20 times since it was first published in March of 2015. College students are faced with a constant dilemma: return home between classes or take everything you need for the day with you? Either way, you're going to want a good bag. Whether you're transporting a laptop, smartphone, tablet, or just beer, these backpacks will haul it all, giving you flexibility without damaging your back. And if you really have to, you could even use them to carry books. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best backpack for college on Amazon.

10. AmazonBasics Laptop

9. Brinch Unisex

8. Oakley Kitchen Sink

7. Sosoon Laptop Bag

6. Victoriatourist V6002

5. Under Armour Hustle 3.0

4. Case Logic Evolution Deluxe

3. JanSport Big Student Series

2. The North Face Unisex Haystack

1. Herschel Heritage

Special Honors

L.L.Bean x Flowfold Center Zip The L.L.Bean x Flowfold Center Zip looks something like an old-school hiker's pack, but it would be perfectly at home at any institution of higher education. Made in the USA, it features an innovative, waterproof X-Pac fabric that will keep your expensive texts dry. llbean.com

Patagonia Refugio Help offset your bag's environmental footprint with the Patagonia Refugio, which features recycled nylon and the strength to last throughout your college career and beyond. The padded laptop sleeve is made for computers up to 15 inches, while the front pocket helps keep your cords and other miscellaneous gear organized. patagonia.com

Tom Bihn Synapse 25 It may be an investment, but the Tom Bihn Synapse 25 can easily transition from campus to working world, so you can count on getting plenty of long-term use. In fact, it is guaranteed to be free from defects for life. Note that you'll need to purchase a padded laptop sleeve separately. tombihn.com

Editor's Notes

June 04, 2019:

Let's face it, we could make a list of the top 50 college backpacks and still barely scratch the surface, but we'd like to think we've created a list that has something for most: for the lover of all things tactical, the Oakley Men's Kitchen Sink; for the traditionalist, the JanSport Big Student; for the fan of modern styling, the Herschel Heritage; for the budget-conscious, the AmazonBasics Laptop; and more. If you're looking for something that ticks all the boxes and is not too pricey, we might suggest the Case Logic Evolution Deluxe. It's relatively plain but still sleek, easy to organize, and designed for all of today's gadget needs. Along the same lines, there's the The North Face Unisex Haystack, but it's more of an investment. Finally, we decided to keep the Brinch Unisex. It has an interesting design, and the gray makes the accent colors really pop, but some think it looks like an astronaut's pack when it's worn. If you're quite short, it may be a bit too boxy.

How To Choose The Best College Backpack For You

But you may also want a few minor compartments for storing cosmetics, medication, snacks, or any personal items, as well.

If you're a college student, you may use a backpack to carry clothes, makeup, beer, video games, mobile devices, athletic gear, and maybe even the occasional textbook. The point being that a college backpack represents a significant investment. Consequently, you want to choose a bag that's right for you.

The overriding idea of a college backpack is to function as a utility, which is why most top bags are made out of durable materials including reinforced nylon, polyester, and leather. Materials like these won't easily wear or fray as a result of bearing considerable weight, especially if a backpack features any type of interior padding along the frame. Padded backpacks can ease the burden on a student's shoulders, just as padded straps can enable a backpack to rest more comfortably along the back rail of a chair.

Compartments are an essential component of any backpack. Yes, you need at least one major compartment in the front of the pack for storing pens and other stationery. But you may also want a few minor compartments for storing cosmetics, medication, snacks, or any personal items, as well.

Any college backpack's central compartment should be deep enough to accommodate large textbooks, binders, and notebooks. If you carry a laptop or a tablet to class, you either want to keep that device in a separate bag, or you want to ensure that it's stored in an isolated, cushioned compartment where there isn't any chance of it getting damaged or crushed.

Several Keys To Organizing Your College Backpack

It sounds simple, right? You toss some books into a backpack, and you're on your way to class. And yet the reality is that this is a shortsighted approach. Ideally, you want to keep your backpack light, and orderly. You want to feel assured you've packed the books - and only the books - that you'll need for every class. One method of doing this is to separate your textbooks based on which classes are being held on different days of the week. This way you can fill your bag with one small stack at the beginning of every morning, and then replace that stack with another the following day.

One method of doing this is to separate your textbooks based on which classes are being held on different days of the week.

Minimizing the amount of weight that you keep in a backpack will allow for lighter travel, and it will also reduce the level of stress on a backpack's lining, long-term. More often than not, when a hole begins to form along a backpack's lower corners, that hole is the result of too many textbooks rubbing hard against the fabric over the course of several months.

If you carry pens, pencils, a compass, or any other pointed instruments, it's beneficial to store those items in a plastic case. The case will provide a buffer for the backpack's stationery compartment, and it will also keep those items from sticking out and pricking your skin.

If you own a five-subject notebook there probably isn't any need to remove that notebook from a backpack at all. If, on the other hand, specific classes require you to keep separate notebooks, be sure that each of those notebooks features a different-colored cover. Color-coding is an efficient way to avoid packing the wrong notebook, and it may also wind up saving you a considerable amount of time.

Buying a Backpack For College: A Parent's Guide

Let's say you're buying a college backpack for your son or daughter, and you want it to be a surprise. You know that this backpack needs to look cool for the simple reason that college kids can be the world's worst cynics. But more importantly, you want to choose a backpack that has value, and will last.

Oddly enough, you may be able to get some good ideas from social media.

So where do you start? Oddly enough, you may be able to get some good ideas from social media. Take a look at some of your son or daughter's recent Facebook photos (assuming that you have access to them, of course). What type of backpacks are the other kids in those photos wearing? More often than not, you'll begin to see a lot of the same colors, styles, and brands.

If your child spends a lot of time on a laptop (or any other digital device), then you'll probably want to pursue a cushioned bag that features at least one specially-padded compartment. If your child's major requires him or her to work with art supplies or drafting tools, then you'll probably want to pursue a bag that features several stationery compartments, as well.

If you want to learn more about a specific backpack, read some of its customer reviews. Be sure to give specific weight to any of these reviews that were obviously written by a college student, as these could provide the most reliable gauge of how effective a backpack will be on a day-to-day basis.

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Melissa Harr
Last updated on June 06, 2019 by Melissa Harr

Melissa Harr is a language-obsessed writer from Chicagoland who holds both a bachelor of arts and master of arts in English. Although she began as a TEFL teacher, earning several teaching certificates and working in both Russia and Vietnam, she moved into freelance writing to satisfy her passion for the written word. She has published full-length courses and books in the realm of arts & crafts and DIY; in fact, most of her non-working time is spent knitting, cleaning, or committing acts of home improvement. Along with an extensive knowledge of tools, home goods, and crafts and organizational supplies, she has ample experience (okay, an obsession) with travel gear, luggage, and the electronics that make modern life more convenient.


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