The 10 Best School Backpacks

Updated November 09, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

10 Best School Backpacks
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We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. Even as an increasing amount of school work is assigned and completed electronically, students still require a good backpack to tote important texts and other materials. The book bags on our list range from models ideal for very young kids all the way up to some that are better suited for college students and young athletes. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best school backpack on Amazon.

10. J World New York Lollipop

The light-up rolling wheels and telescoping luggage-inspired handle of the J World New York Lollipop will help your little ones lug heavy books around the school with ease and style, no matter how much homework they've been assigned.
  • padded air mesh shoulder straps
  • comes with a lunch bag
  • too small for older children
Brand J World New York
Model RBS-16LSP BLUE RASPBERR
Weight 5.2 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

9. EcoCity Vintage

If you are the tree hugger type, you'll love the EcoCity Vintage. It's made from a highly eco-friendly, all-natural cotton canvas, and it's also a comfortable bag that boasts a simple stylishness that almost anyone will appreciate.
  • soft leather straps and tassels
  • easily adjustable
  • material is not waterproof
Brand EcoCity
Model pending
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

8. JanSport Superbreak

As the millennial generation reaches into the '80s and '90s for fashion inspiration, the JanSport Superbreak has enjoyed a remarkable resurgence in an overcrowded marketplace. Regardless of its retro feel, its simplicity is a draw.
  • padded back and straps
  • large front compartment
  • time-tested 30-year-old quality
Brand JanSport
Model T5011F8
Weight 16 ounces
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

7. Dakine Mission

With more than 30 color combinations and patterns to choose from, you're guaranteed to find a design for the Dakine Mission that will suit the particular tastes of the student in question. The bag's laptop sleeve can hold computers up to 15 inches in screen size.
  • fleece-lined glasses pocket
  • waist belt stows away
  • gloves compartment is a little small
Brand Dakine
Model 8100610-Augusta
Weight 2.3 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

6. Adidas Stadium Team

The athlete in your family will certainly appreciate the sporty style of the Adidas Stadium Team, while you're sure to thank the heavens for its separate laundry compartment into which your young Olympian can shove his or her most offensive threads.
  • spacious interior
  • quilted back panel
  • waterproofing stops at the base
Brand adidas
Model 104390
Weight 16 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

5. Vbiger Leather Casual

While most backpacks designed for women and girls take relatively few risks beyond the addition of a more feminine color or pattern, the Vbiger Leather Casual places its aesthetic value at the forefront, earning fashion points without sacrificing much functionality.
  • dicron-lined pu leather
  • secure zipper closure
  • not the roomiest option
Brand VBIGER
Model pending
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

4. Star Wars Boba Fett

The odds that a kid doesn't like a certain space action movie are about as good as the likelihood that a child would prefer Brussels sprouts to brownies. The Star Wars Boba Fett takes its design elements from one of the most popular villains in the galaxy far, far away.
  • officially licensed
  • laptop compartment
  • top zipper is tough to close
Brand Star Wars
Model BP3VJQSTW
Weight 2.3 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

3. Outjoy Shockproof Travel Bag

The Outjoy Shockproof Travel Bag outfits a student with all the amenities that education in the digital age entails. It has a shockproof compartment for laptop and tablet transport, as well as a rain cover to protect electronics on long, wet walks home.
  • ergonomic shoulder straps
  • media wire port
  • strong compression cinches
Brand OUTJOY
Model pending
Weight 2.6 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

2. LovelySprouts Toddler Animal

Given the fact that kids seem to enter school at increasingly younger ages, it would be foolish to overlook a good pack for a toddler. The LovelySprouts Toddler Animal provides a bright and cheerful means for your little one to carry around a lunch and some crayons.
  • gender-neutral designs
  • made from eco-friendly materials
  • ideal for preschool to third grade
Brand LovelySprouts
Model pending
Weight 7.2 ounces
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

1. 5.11 Tactical Rush

Designed by a special operations combat veteran, the 5.11 Tactical Rush makes good use of just about every square inch in its build. It features convenient eyeglass and administrative compartments for quick access to important accessories like pens and erasers.
  • internal frame support
  • contoured shoulder straps
  • hydration pocket with bladder hanger
Brand 5.11
Model 5-58602-026-1SZ-P
Weight pending
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

Compartmentalize Your Life

A backpack is a simple thing. It's got zippers, pockets, a main compartment, straps, etc. Each one is like a canvas for manufacturers to try to capture a potential aspect of personality, something that will resonate with a buyer either for aesthetic or practical reasons.

Since they are often designed around carrying books and school supplies, the first consideration in building a backpack should be the size of the main compartment. Sometimes that compartment will be subdivided for organizational purposes or to hold an electronic device like a laptop or tablet. After that, anything is possible.

Over the years, more attention has been paid to the negative effects a heavy backpack can have on a kid that has to haul it back and forth to school every day. This is why so many bags for kids and adults nowadays have front straps that go across the chest and/or the waist.

Those extra straps came to school bags from the hiking packs worn by those crazy people that want to live outdoors a few weeks each year. When properly adjusted, the horizontal straps take the weight of the bag off of your shoulders and back, and place it squarely on the top of your hips, allowing your core and your legs to do the heavy carrying.

If you've never had the pleasure of reorienting your bag weight to your hips, do yourself that favor.

Put Your Back Into It

Full disclosure: My sister designs children's backpacks and school accessories as a career, but none of her designs made into our top five list or our top ten video. Better luck next year, sis.

I also bring that up because she's spoken to me at length about the practical sacrifices that manufacturers often make in the name of a look they think will sell. It's a competitive marketplace, and kids stand a significant chance of being bullied for having the wrong bag.

While adults don't necessarily have to fear that kind of bullying landscape, we do have to contend with all the fashion and beauty demands our media place on us, along with their attendant social anxieties.

That's why it's important to teach your kids, or to teach yourself, the most important rule of fashion: Be you.

Choose your bag with your heart, not your head. Don't worry about what other people are going to think. If you love how you look in whatever you're wearing, it'll look good on you, and people will take notice. That is, I guarantee, how it works.

A Storied Way To Carry Books (While We Still Have Books)

In the early parts of the 20th century, kids carried their books bound up in leather belts, generally called book straps. The straps turned a stack of books into a single mass that could be swung over the shoulder with relative security.

This was particularly useful in those days, since kids had to walk to an average of 10 miles to school in up to five feet of snow. Uphill. Both ways. You know, "Back in the day."

Then came the canvas backpacks of the 30s, 40s, and 50s, which had zippers on them pretty much from the outset. This make was the standard until nylon was introduced in the 60s. The material changed then, but the design was much the same.

I grew up in the 90s, when the only backpacks anybody wore were Jansports. If you didn't have that brand, you were weird. It was plain as day. Little did we know that the company reached back to the late 60s, when two outdoors enthusiasts wanted to make professional packs, but they didn't own a sewing machine.

The story goes that one of the men offered to bring a woman named Jan on board and he fell in love with her, eventually offering to name the company after her if she'd marry him.

It wasn't until the 70s that anyone thought a book bag should be cut and shaped to fit books. I guess sales were good enough up until then that nobody cared to innovate. But those square shapes persist in a major part of the industry today.

In recent years, as more classrooms have converted to digital technology, and as that tech gets smaller and more interconnected, backpacks have begun to shrink. In time, their era will come to an end, and we'll be the ones out on the porch with mason jars full of freshly squeezed lemonade telling stories of the good old days.



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Last updated on November 09, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.


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