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Best Backpacks for College Students

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College students have to carry a lot of stuff with them as they make their way through a typical day at school. They have to carry textbooks, laptops, smartphones, and calculators alongside their personal belongings. The best backpacks for college are designed to hold all of these items in an organized and secure fashion and have features that help balance the load while reducing pressure on the body. Another aspect of the best backpacks is the fact they’re made from materials that resist the wear-and-tear that a college student can inflict on a pack. 

It’s a fact that picking a backpack is a highly personal decision. After all, the best backpacks for college students also have to align with personal needs and preferences for placement of a laptop, tablet, planners, and all other items that are needed for the day. Following is a look at the best backpacks for college students, and what makes them perfect for carrying the important things around campus:

1. Mancro Laptop Backpack


The Mancro laptop backpack has a utilitarian appearance that belies its highly versatile design and thoughtful features. It holds laptops up to 15.6″ in size, and has plenty of room left over for paperwork, folders, cables, chargers, and more. External pockets include side pockets for a water bottle and umbrella, and a front pocket for smaller items. It also has a built-in battery pack that has a USB connection and enables you to keep your devices charged when no outlets are available. All of these details make it one of the best laptop backpacks for college. A lock is included, allowing you to lock up the main compartment zipper and prevent someone from stealing your stuff. The backpack is made from water resistant nylon and features curved and padded shoulder straps for carrying comfort. 

2. Herschel Supply Little America Laptop Backpack

hershel little america

The Herschel Supply Little America backpack features handsome styling that was inspired by mountaineering backpacks. The compartments are secured with leather-look straps with magnetic buckles, and features a drawstring closure for the main compartment. It’s large enough to carry a 15″ laptop in a sleeve that’s padded and lined with fleece, and the internal pocket is the right size for your devices. The front pocket has a key clip and a hidden zipper pocket for your valuables. Padded shoulder straps are contoured for comfort and the air mesh padded back protects your back while keeping you from sweating. 

3. JanSport Right Pack College Backpacks

jansport right pack

The JanSport Right Pack model is the rugged and tough version of the classic JanSport backpack. The design is instantly recognizable with the major difference coming in the materials used for its construction. The body of the backpack is made with 915 Denier Cordura fabric that won’t tear easily and holds up to use and abuse. Suede leather is used on the bottom to protect the backpack from abrasion and prevent it from tearing out prematurely. It has one main compartment with a padded laptop sleeve that holds a 15″ laptop. The front compartment features a front pocket, and all compartments close up with a zipper. JanSport has been making backpacks for decades and is widely recognized as one of the best backpacks for college

4. Day Owl – the Backpack

day owl

The Day Owl backpack is a fine example of form follows function in terms of a simple design that elegantly covers all of your carrying needs. The padded laptop pocket can fit a 16″ laptop while the flat front pocket has dividers to carry everything from your wallet to your lunch. A floating pocket at the top holds your smalls, and a hidden water bottle pocket on the side features a spill resistant lining. A secret pocket on the other side is perfect for keys, a change purse, or a phone. All of these pockets close with YKK zippers. The backpack is made from First Mile waxed canvas that’s made from 100% recycled plastic bottles, and the lining is made from 100% recycled polyester. Its contoured shoulder straps are cushioned with foam made from algae, and water repellant neoprene keeps liquids from spilling through the water bottle pocket. 

5. Topo Designs Light Pack

topo light pack

The Topo Designs Light Pack is a small backpack that helps you carry your essentials and basics. It features a U-shape access to the main compartment that holds a laptop sleeve that accommodates a 15″ laptop. The front features a diagonal pocket with dual slip pockets and key clip. It also has a handle at the top for carrying. YKK zippers are used throughout the bag for closures and feature webbing pull tabs. Its shoulder straps are padded for comfort. The backpack is made out of 400D nylon pack cloth for durability. 

6. Topo Designs Rover Pack

topo rover

The Topo Designs Rover Pack is a box-shaped backpack that offers plenty of storage space for your everyday carry items. The top features a flap that has a zippered pocket and covers a drawstring cinch closure for the main compartment. Two cinch straps with side-release buckles help keep everything in place. Dual side compression straps and adjustable side water bottle pockets help you control the shape and containment of your gear. The roomy bottom pocket features a zipper closure with webbing tab pull. The adjustable shoulder straps are partly padded. All zipper closures use YKK zippers. The backpack is made from 1000D nylon for durability and stain resistance. 

7. The Friendly Swede Waterproof Backpack

friendly swede

The Friendly Swede waterproof backpack features a top-loading box shaped design that’s geared towards an urban lifestyle. The backpack features a 13″ laptop pocket with a sub-pocket that holds a tablet, wallet, keys, and more. There’s plenty of space for things like books, clothes, papers, and more. Its lid-style opening is secured with a zipper and has a handle on top for ease of carry. One side of the backpack has stitched loops for you to hang items with a carabiner or hold your bike lock while compression straps on the opposite side hold items like a picnic blanket or a yoga mat. A small zipper pocket on the front accommodates incidentals. The backpack is made from REACH standard materials that are non-toxic and water resistant. 

8. Carhartt Legacy Classic Work Backpack

carhartt work

The Carhartt Legacy Classic Work backpack brings Carhartt’s legendary rugged materials and design ethos to the classic backpack. The main compartment features a padded laptop and tablet sleeve and room for incidentals, while the two front pockets have room for smaller items. The backpack is made out of heavy-duty 1200D polyester twill that’s coated with Rain Defender water repellent. It’s constructed using triple needle stitching for reinforcement, YKK zippers for reliability and strength, metal hardware. The adjustable contoured shoulder straps are padded for comfort, and a handle is stitched to the top of the bag for an alternative to carrying the backpack. 

9. Fjallraven Raven 28


When you’re looking for a backpack that holds up to the rough and tumble of student life, the Fjallraven Raven 28 is the one for the job. The 28 in the model name refers to its 28-liter capacity. It features a separate padded pocket that’s capable of holding a 15″ laptop, a fleece lined pocket for incidentals and electronics, two zippered compartments with their own internal pockets, and a zippered front pocket. Two side pockets hold your water bottles and anything else that they can hold snug. The shoulder straps are padded and a foam framesheet protects your back. The Raven 28 is made from G-1000 Eco fabric that consists of a blend of recycled polyester and organically grown cotton with a waxed finish to resist water. 

10. JanSport Superbreak

jansport superbreak

The JanSport Superbreak features the classic JanSport backpack design with little in the way of extras, but offers lots of convenient features. It’s spacious enough for a 15.6″ laptop and the items you need to carry on a daily basis. There’s a side water bottle pocket that keeps your hydration handy, and a front utility pocket with organizer. It has a 2/3 padded back panel and padded shoulder straps to cushion the pressure from the weight of the backpack. A handle at the top gives you an alternative to carrying the bag on your back. The Superbreak comes in over 30 colors and patterns, and is made in part of recycled materials. 

What Features Make a Good Backpack for College?

You’re going to be carrying a lot of stuff with you as you make your way through college. That means you want a backpack that’s going to go the distance with you, protect your electronics, carry your books and papers, and give you a safe place for your keys and wallet. The best backpacks for college will have the following features: 

  • Padded laptop sleeve that’s large enough to carry your laptop.
  • Straps that are broad, padded and curved for comfort and shock absorption.
  • Interior pockets that keep your pens, wallet, keys, phone, and other incidentals contained securely
  • Fabrics that are durable such as nylon, polyester, or cotton blends with a high denier.
  • Water bottle pockets on the side.
  • Adjustable straps in key areas.
  • Zippers in key places 
  • Smaller size to reduce strain on your back

The best backpacks for college students will feature most or all of these details to help you stay comfortable while carrying your stuff. But if you find a backpack you like, and it doesn’t have some details, make sure to identify the most important details you need to keep your sensitive items safe and away from prying eyes and hands. 

Does Brand Really Matter?

The brand of the best backpacks for college does matter to a degree. Brand name manufacturers have a reputation to uphold, and they’re not going to construct backpacks that won’t last past a semester. Sometimes a quality brand costs more, but that extra cost is reflected in the fact that the backpack can hold the weight of its contents without ripping, have conveniences in the form of extra pockets, quality zippers, and thick padding on the back and shoulder straps to reduce strain. A no-name backpack manufacturer is less likely to put quality materials and construction into their products, and results in a backpack that won’t last long. However, there’s a backpack for every budget and need, and sometimes an inexpensive backpack can last long enough for a student to save up for a better one. 


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