Picking the best backpack for college students can get pretty tricky. Of course, you want to look stylish, but you’ll also be using the bag for at least a year and possibly beyond, depending on how well you get on with it.
Therefore, choosing college backpacks that check all the right boxes is important. The best backpacks for college students are large enough to carry your new laptop, books, your best water bottle and other daily essentials. It should also rest comfortably on your shoulders throughout the day and be durable enough to last several semesters — not just this one.
Today’s Top Deals
If you’re unsure what you want or need in your bag, it’s worth checking out SPY’s guide to ensure you pick the right backpack. Deciding between looks, function, comfort, and capacity are all important factors that need to be considered before you commit your cash.
To help you decide, SPY put together a list of the best backpacks for college students. We have options from top brands like Day Owl and Fjallraven alongside budget buys and lesser-known commuter options. Check out all 19 and decide which option is best for your college experience.
1. Day Owl Backpack
By keeping it casual in 2022, you’re keeping it trendy. Fashion trends nowadays are all about ease and comfort, and with this effortlessly cool Day Owl backpack, you’ll be hitting the nail on the head. It has a pretty mundane exterior that helps you merge into the crowd of people on campus, all while containing multiple secret pockets and a recycled canvas. It even comes with a lifetime of free repairs, so no matter how many times you rip it, Day Owl will fix it for you.
We love Day Owl so much that we named it one of the best products in the 2021 Man, SPY’s end-of-year product awards.
2. Herschel Supply Co. Pop Quiz Laptop Backpack
If you head to any college campus in the United States today, you’ll find a sea of Herschel Supply Co. backpacks. You’ll also find several options from these companies on this list for the simple reason that these companies make great backpacks for college students. 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.
3. Mancro Laptop Backpack
BEST BUDGET BUY
Surely over 15,000 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 that 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, a padlock for security and a built-in USB port for easy charging.
4. JanSport SuperBreak One Backpack
BEST CLASSIC STYLE
The JanSport SuperBreak One Backpack is the right choice if you are after a classic college backpack. It’s available in a range of colors and features one main compartment and a front accessory pocket. Furthermore, the bag’s straps are padded for comfort, and there’s a top-mounted carry handle for alternative carrying options. Plus, it’s a No. 1 best seller on Amazon with almost 25,000 five-star reviews.
5. The North Face Borealis Backpack
Hauling around a heavy bag usually takes a nasty toll on your back, especially if you do it daily. That’s why we love this spacious option from North Face. This nylon and polyester backpack features adjustable shoulder straps that boast an extra foam layer. The bag also 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. Plus, it’s dang cool.
6. Fjallraven Kanken Backpack
You can never go wrong with the Classic Fjallraven backpack, today, tomorrow or ever. The Kanken is a must-have backpack for college students. Look around your campus right now — you’ll spot at least three of these passing by. They’re as popular as it gets. The bag sports various carrying options, including tote handles and straps, two open side pockets and a rain flap for protection from the elements. Inside, there’s ample central storage space, a place to store a 15-inch laptop and an info tag, so your bag is easy to identify if you lose it. And if you’re more of the eco-leaning type, we highly recommend checking out Fjallraven’s Tree Kanken backpack as well!
7. Carhartt Legacy Standard Work Backpack
It’s safe to say we’re obsessed with Carhartt. How could you not be? The brand is just too damn cool. That said, we love this water-repellent backpack made for any college student. It has an enormous main compartment with room for a 15-inch laptop and two front pockets. Colors are limited to neutrals, but that’s all you need regarding Carhartt. Trust us, anything too eclectic is a no-no with this brand.
8. Lululemon City Adventurer Backpack
BEST FOR ATHLETIC TYPES
Suppose you’re just as concerned with setting a personal record on your bench press as you are setting a personal record in class. In that case, this City Adventurer backpack from Lululemon will be a great companion. Designed to be both an athletic bag and a stellar backpack for college students, you’re getting the best of both worlds without sacrificing either. An exterior padded pocket allows room for a 15″ laptop, while an expandable pocket has enough room for all your sweaty gear. And with its minimalist design and range of colorways, it’ll look as good in the gym room as it does in the classroom. Just because it isn’t your standard gym bag doesn’t mean it won’t work for workouts.
9. Fjallraven Raven 28 Backpack
BEST UPDATED FJALLRAVEN
The Fjallraven Raven 28 model is ideal for kids in college. Designed specifically for students, this backpack comes with a pocket for 15″ laptops and 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. And at $110, it’s an affordable bag for most college students and is undoubtedly one of the best Fjallraven backpacks.
10. Vessel Skyline Backpack
Minimalists will geek over this gorgeously sleek faux-leather backpack designed with water-resistant technology. The lustrous black exterior is so eye-popping that you forget it’s just a backpack. This baby has one large opening and an outside front bottom zip for extra stuff you’re bringing to class. When it rains or snows, you won’t even have to worry about the interior contents getting wet due to the water-resistant construction.
11. 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 this waterproof backpack. It might not be the most stylish backpack for college students 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.
12. Monos Metro Backpack
We’re swooning at this handsome all-black backpack from Monos. From on-campus dwellers to on-time commuters, a smaller bag is ideal for the kind of guy who doesn’t need to bring it all. Fit your keys and wallet in the front pouch while sliding your 15-inch laptop and a few notebooks in the larger zipped interiors. You’ll look great, and your back will thank you for carrying less. It’s also available in several colors, including black, green, blue and gray nylon finishes, and brown, tan and ivory vegan leather exteriors. Right now, you can only pre-order this bad boy, but we suggest you do it quickly before the limited quantity available begins to diminish.
13. 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 their personality through their backpack. These college backpacks also sport buckled top straps and front-facing pockets to add to the bags’ 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.
14. Vorspack Clear Backpack
BEST CLEAR BACKPACK
Bare it all in a clear pack that shows you don’t give a crap if people know what you’re lugging around. Popularized in recent years at concerts and music festivals, clear backpacks are now necessary for many big events. Snag one for any music festival you have coming up this year, or unapologetically show off that 14-cent Lisa Frank notebook you bought from Staples.
15. Everlane ReNew Transit Backpack
BEST FOR INTERNS
With a unique design and neutral charcoal color, Everlane’s ReNew Transit Backpack is a trendy, compact sack made from 100% recycled polyester with a water-resistant finish. And get this, there’s a discreet internal zipper laptop sleeve to ensure your MacBook stays safe and sound. Whether you’re on the way to a full-time position or you spilled your entire coffee on a woman’s lap on the A train, stay looking cool and confident with a backpack made to tackle whatever kind of day you’re having.
16. Patagonia Black Hole Backpack
Patagonia has long been 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 clear division inside the bag, so things don’t get too messy. Plus, the 100% recycled polyester ripstop has been coated with a TPU laminate that will hold up well in the elements.
17. XRAY Expandable Roll Top Backpack
Drawing from classic military-style bags, this backpack from XRAY is a modern update on a vintage favorite. The rolltop closure evokes that old-school style bag while incorporating modern features like a waterproof outer and space to keep your laptop. Its toned-down, all-green design is excellent for those that aren’t into super bold colors. And, as with all college backpacks, there are plenty of pockets for storing all your various items.
18. Herschel Dawson Backpack
MOST ORGANIZED HERSCHEL
What makes the Dawson backpack different from other Herschel bags is that the front 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 and many others.
19. MATEIN Rolling Backpack
BEST ROLLING BACKPACK
We know there’s a considerable vendetta against rolling backpacks, but hear us out. Textbooks can get heavy! Might as well roll them and save your back from any pain. MATEIN makes a, dare we say, stylish rolling backpack for college students. It comes in an all-black coloration, has all of the bells and whistles you can ask for in a backpack and can even be worn as a regular backpack in case you don’t want to use its rolling powers in front of others.
More Top Deals from SPY
Best of SPY