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Best School Backpacks

Updated August 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 45 Models Considered
  • 6 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 108 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best school backpacks

    Last Updated August 2018

    When it's time for your kids to head back to school, you'll find yourself on the business end of a long list of supplies. A school backpack might just be one item to check off, but your child will be carrying it around all year, so it needs to be both sturdy and stylish.

    Choose the wrong school backpack and you'll have one disappointed kiddo on your hands, but equally, you need to make sure your choice is based on the quality and features of the backpack, not just what style your child likes.

    If you're starting to feel overwhelmed, you're not alone! We at BestReviews have put together this shopping guide so you can find the information you need to pick the right school backpack and get on with the important task of parenting.

    School backpacks come in a wide range of colors and patterns. Some even feature cartoon characters, which might appeal to younger wearers.

    Types of school backpacks

    Standard: Most school backpacks fit into this category. Unless your child has any specific wants or needs, you'll probably end up getting a standard school backpack.

    Laptop: These backpacks are much like standard backpacks, but these feature one padded compartment large enough to fit a laptop. If your child needs to take a laptop or other fragile electronic device to school, a laptop backpack will help to protect it, as well as provide enough space for other necessary gear.

    Two-in-one: Some school backpacks are convertible so they can also be used as a shoulder bag or messenger bag. Two-in-one school backpacks are ideal for kids who like a change now and again. That said, it might not be good for your child to carry a very heavy school bag over the shoulder, so you do need to be cautious.

    Wheeled: You can find school backpacks with wheels and an extendable handle that can be pulled along much like a wheeled suitcase. While these backpacks are great for kids who can't carry a backpack (either at all or for extended periods) due to medical conditions, many schools ban them, so check before buying.

    Rugged reliability

    If you want a school backpack that will last, this classic from The North Face will serve your child well. It’s sturdy enough to stand up to heavy everyday use without damage and water resistant to protect books and laptop. You’ll pay a premium for the quality, but this backpack delivers.

    School backpack features to consider

    External size

    Look at the external size of any backpack you're considering and make sure it isn’t too large for your child. You can find smaller models suitable for younger kids who would be swamped by a full-size backpack.

    Internal capacity

    Along with the external size, you should consider the size and capacity of the backpack's interior. Find out what your child needs to take to school each day and make sure there's enough room for everything. Factor in books, lunch, and any special projects that need to fit in there. If your kid has a locker at school, you can probably get away with buying a slightly smaller bag since your child won’t have to carry everything around all the time.

    Compartments

    Some backpacks have just one large compartment, while others have a range of compartments and pockets. While children in elementary school might be able to manage with just one compartment, middle schoolers and high schoolers will find it a struggle. Having plenty of compartments makes it easier to stay organized because the student can separate laptop or tablet, textbooks, projects, pens, lunch, and other supplies.

    Style

    It might not matter that much to you, but it’s likely that your child cares a lot about the backpack’s style. While you shouldn't sacrifice substance for style, it should be possible to find a high-quality, functional backpack that's also fashionable. Assuming it's not a surprise or the wearer isn't too young to choose, you should involve your child in picking the backpack style. You might let your kid have free rein, or you could offer a selection that you deem suitable. Otherwise, think about the sorts of things your child likes – favorite colors, personal style, what's in at the moment – in order to help you decide.

    Comfort

    Since your child will be wearing this school backpack for fairly long periods of time at least five days a week, you should make sure it's comfortable to wear. As a rule, backpacks with wide, well-padded straps are more comfortable because the straps more evenly distribute the weight of the bag over the wearer's shoulders.

    EXPERT TIP

    Some school backpacks have reflective strips that can help keep the wearer safe if when walking to or from school in the dark.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Some school backpacks are very expensive, so think about your budget in advance and stick to it.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Chest and waist straps can help redistribute pressure on the shoulders and make carrying a heavy backpack more comfortable.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    School backpack prices

    You can find school backpacks in a wide range of price points, from $10 to $100 and up, so you should be able to find something to fit your budget. Inexpensive school backpacks start at less than $10, but we wouldn't recommend choosing one of the cheapest models because these are unlikely to last more than a couple of months with regular use.

    Although maybe not flashy, reliable school backpacks priced around $25 to $30 are common. High-end backpacks could set you back well over $100.

    Good for gadgets

    Tech-savvy students who need to bring a laptop or tablet to school will love the padded pouch in this Eastsport backpack and the comfortable cushioned straps. With plenty of pockets and pouches for supplies and even water bottles, this backpack will keep your kid organized.

    Tips

    • Choose a durable backpack. Your child will be using it daily and filling it with heavy books, so an insufficiently durable option is unlikely to last the school year.

    • Consider what your kid will be comfortable with and actually use. Sure, you might want to buy a backpack with a waist strap to relieve pressure from the shoulders, but if your child will never use the strap for fear of looking uncool, there's no point pushing for this feature.

    • Think about weather. A good school backpack should be waterproof or at least water resistant to protect the books and homework stowed inside. Avoid models with exposed zippers because water can leak in through them.

    • Follow any school rules. Many schools have some rules about what backpacks are allowed – only plain colors or small enough to fit in a locker, for example. Be sure to consult these rules before buying.
    When choosing a school backpack, it’s great to involve your child in the decision-making process, but you might have to impose some restrictions on budget, size, quality, and comfort.

    FAQ

    Q. My child's backpack seems awfully heavy. Should I be concerned?

    A. If you're concerned about how heavy your child's backpack is when full, it's worth weighing it to make sure it's of a safe weight. Your child shouldn't be carrying a backpack that weighs any more than 15% of his or her body weight, and even that might be too heavy for some kids. If your child is struggling under the weight of the school backpack, think of some strategies to minimize it, such as leaving books for afternoon classes in the locker and collecting them during lunch break.

    Q. Should I buy more than one school backpack?

    A. While you might be able to make do with a single school backpack, there's always the risk that you'll be left in an awkward situation if a zipper breaks or a strap snaps. The trouble with having a backup backpack is that it might be deemed "uncool" by the time your child needs to use it. If you do buy a second backpack, it might be worth buying something fairly plain and timeless that isn't likely to go out of fashion within six months or so.

    Q. My child wants the latest "on-trend" backpack. Should I buy it for her?

    A. Many parents have mixed feelings about buying their kids the latest trends. It's natural for your child to want to fit in, especially if all her friends are sporting the newest trendy backpack. However, you don't want to buy something that won't last. As long as it's of decent quality, has all the features she needs, and fits in your budget, there isn’t any harm in making your child happy by purchasing the latest in backpack fads.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Karen
      Karen
      Writer
    • Lauren
      Lauren
      Writer
    • Linsay
      Linsay
      Editor
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer