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Articles / Campus Life / Best Backpacks for College 2021

Aug. 2, 2021

Best Backpacks for College 2021

Two Students with Backpacks.jpg
Photo courtesy of Fjällräven

Best Backpacks for College Students

As a college student, it is important to find a backpack that will support you through your studies. The right backpack will hold all of your important school supplies such as textbooks, a laptop, notebooks, and pens.

If you are looking to buy a new backpack for college and are wondering what to look for in a college backpack, consider where you are going to school, what your major is, and what kind of things you will need with you throughout the day. Some students will require carrying a lot of supplies and some students might only need a few items.

Listed below are some great college backpacks along with testimonials from students and professionals who have used that bag.

  1. Matein Travel Laptop Backpack - Best Backpack for Laptops
  2. Timbuk2 Spire Pack - Best Water-Resistant Backpack
  3. Fjällräven Kanken Art - Best Eco-Friendly Backpack
  4. North Face Borealis Backpack - Best Backpack for Your Back
  5. Herschel Supply Co. Backpack - Best Bag to Help You Stay Organized
  6. Aer Fit 3 - Best Backpack for Going from School to Working Out
  7. Osprey Farpoint Travel Backpack - Best Travel Backpack
  8. Vera Bradley Campus Backpack - Best Backpack Style and Colors
  9. Granite Gear Superior - Best Full-Feature Back Backpack -
  10. Modoker Vintage Laptop Backpack - Best Budget Backpack
  11. Dakine Split Adventure - Best Day-Hiking Pack

Best Laptop Backpack

Matein Travel Laptop Backpack

The Matein Travel Laptop Backpack is a durable backpack with lots of storage space. The bag is designed to fit books, a laptop, and supplies all at the same time. 

The Matein backpack has a large main compartment, a separate laptop compartment, a front organizer compartment, and external USB charging port, an anti-theft back zipper pocket, and even a luggage strap on the back.

Allan Borch, a graduate of University of Queensland in Australia and founder of a digital marketing company, notes the advantages of this backpack’s versatility. 

“It has plenty of padding, so you won't feel like it's constantly digging into your skin.” Borch says, “Best of all, there's a built-in USB port that makes it easy to charge your phone on the go — just add a portable battery!”

Best Waterproof Backpack

Timbuk2 Spire Pack

Nothing beats a waterproof backpack. The Timbuk2 Spire Pack is a great backpack for students who need a bag for all weather conditions.

Additional features include a large main compartment to hold books and other essentials, external webbing for attachments like carabiners, side pockets for a water bottle, and a small outer pocket for pencils, cash, earbuds, etc. Plus, the bag comes with a lifetime warranty.

James Bullard, a student in Seattle and founder of the music site Sound Fro, speaks from experience when recommending the Timbuk2 Spire Pack.

“This has proven to be a good choice as it rains on campus constantly. This laptop backpack is designed to handle the outdoors with water-resistant TPU and canvas fabric,” Bullard says. “I love the large roomy interior and adjustable straps, plus there's a sternum strap, perfect to use when biking or traveling.”

Most Sustainable Backpack

Fjällräven Kanken Art 2021

Fjällräven is currently one of the most popular backpack brands for college students. The stylish and functional bags come in an an array of colors and styles. But the newest Kanke Art backpack is an eco-friendly backpack with a mission that many college students can get on board with.

By the year 2050, it is estimated that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, unless humans seriously change the way we handle our waste. The newest Kanken Art was launched on June 8, 2021 – World Ocean Day. It aims to increase awareness around this issue and inspire change. 

The bag is part of the Fjällräven’s Arctic Fox Initiative. It was created in partnership with two non-profits, the Leave No Trace Center, dedicated to teaching people to enjoy the outdoors more responsibly, and the 2 Minute Foundation, a UK-based charity devoted to cleaning up the planet two minutes at a time. 

The Kanken Art is made from recycled polyester and organic cotton. One percent of every purchase goes to the Arctic Fox Initiative.

The bag comes in two color palettes, Ocean Surface and Ocean Deep, and four styles, classic, mini, sling and laptop. The backpack was designed by Swedish illustrator and animator Linn Fritz, taking inspiration from the ocean and actual pieces of plastic. Watch the video below to see how Fritz designed the Kanken Art 2021.

Most Comfortable Backpack For Your Back

North Face Borealis Backpack

The North Face Borealis is a sturdy, comfortable backpack made from nylon and polyester. The Borealis features easy-access organization and super-comfy FlexVent™ suspension. 

Features of the backpack include a large main compartment for books and binders, a front compartment, a removable waist belt, a laptop compartment, and more.

Stephan Jacob, a Stanford grad and editor of the tech website Best for Android, loves the Borealis for the comfort and back support. 

“I constantly suffer from chronic back pain due to a car accident years ago,” says Jacob. “When it came to choosing a school bag, the Borealis Backpack from North Face was a no-brainer because it’s been endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association.”

Best Backpack For Staying Organized

Herschel Supply Co. Pop Quiz Backpack

The Herschel Pop Quiz Backpack is a great bag for staying organized. The bag features two front pocket organizers, a 15” laptop sleeve in the main compartment, padded shoulder straps, and an air mesh padded back.

At 22L, the Herschel Pop Quiz is a slim bag perfect for students who want a backpack big enough to hold a laptop and a few essentials such as a textbook and a binder. The two front compartments are perfect for keeping pens, highlighters, and other supplies organized. 

Best Backpack for Going from Class to the Gym

Aer Fit 3

Best for students who will not be carrying tons of books, the Aer Fit 3 is compact, lightweight, and stylish.  Features of the Aer Fit 3 include a nylon fabric exterior, antimicrobial coated interior lining, quick-access top pocket, and a front-loaded main compartment.

David McHugh, a recent grad from University of Colorado - Denver and founder of a fitness website, suggests the Aer Fit 3 for the bag’s versatility. 

“Carrying a gym bag as well as their regular backpack just doesn't work when you have a commute,” says McHugh. “We recommend the Aer Fit 3, which packs an incredible amount of items in a seemingly compact space. You'll have room for your shoes, water bottle, gym clothes, as well as every essential item you'd need to carry to class”

Best Travel Backpack

Osprey FarPoint Travel Pack

The Osprey FarPoint backpack is a comfortable backpack with supportive shoulder straps. The backpack is perfect for carrying heavy textbooks around campus all day.

Features of the Osprey FarPoint include large, lockable U-zip duffel-style access to the main compartment, compact design, and a lockable zipper to keep laptops and valuables safe.

Will Hatton, University of Exeter grad and founder of the The Broke Backpacker, is an expert in all things travel. Hatton recommends an Osprey backpack since school backpacks need to be just as sturdy as travel backpacks. 

He notes, “school/college backpacks are used a lot more and so [they] need to be just as, if not more, sturdy than travel backpacks.”

Most Stylish Backpack

Vera_Bradley_Summer Rain.png

Vera Bradley Campus Backpack

Vera Bradley’s Campus Backpack in recycled cotton is a great option for students who value both form and function. The backpack has a simple, classic style, and comes in an array of beautiful colors with creative names, “Climbing Ivy Green”, “Summer Rain,” and “Citronella Glow.” The bag can be monogrammed in a variety of styles, so you’ll never grab the wrong backpack after lunch. 

The Campus backpack features an abundance of convenient pockets on the inside and out, a padded laptop compartment, and a hidden back pocket to keep valuables safe. The Campus Backpack also has padded shoulder straps to make it easier on your back to lug everything you need for the day around campus The bag is endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association.

And, the Campus Backpack it’s made from recycled cotton, meaning this bag is not only stylish and comfortable, it’s sustainable too.

Best Full-Feature Backpack

Granite Gear Superior

The Granite Gear Superior backpack is a large, fully featured backpack great for students who carry a full load of books. The backpack is designed to fit a lot of supplies while providing excellent lumbar support. 

Essential features include four different zippered compartment and a suspension system with a load bearing, hide-away hip belt, a raised foam back panel with lumbar support, and a breathable shoulder harness.

Aaron Simmons, founder of a test prep website, suggests the Granite Gear Superior for the bag’s style and functionality.

“The brand's unique technology lets the shoulder harness, sternum strap, waist belt and back panel work together to help make heavy loads feel easier to carry. So, it’s great for lugging around textbooks without feeling the strain on your back. Plus, it can fit a 17-inch laptop and has plenty of pockets.”

Best Budget Backpack

Modoker Vintage Laptop Backpack

The Modoker Vintage Laptop Backpack is an affordable backpack for students who want a versatile bag. The backpack has a stylish vintage look and is roomy enough to carry everything you need.  

Mark Stephenson, a graduate of Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania and founder of a footware website, recommends the Modoker for the style and function of the bag.

“A budget-friendly option, this college backpack manages to combine style and function with its old-fashioned appearance and modern features,” Stephenson notes. “With loads of compartments for the big stuff and pockets for your water, the best thing is that it comes with a built-in USB port you can use to recharge your phone while you're on the go.”

Best Day-Hiking Backpack

Dakine Split Adventure

The Dakine Split Adventure was designed for “hassle-free adventure.” The backpack is built with organizer pockets and features a water-resistant nylon outer material. 

The split-level opening and generous storage compartment is perfect for keeping wet clothes or muddy shoes away from your books and computer. At 38L, the Split Adventure is large and sturdy enough to hold several textbooks, notebooks, and other supplies. It’s also a great size for overnight trips or outside excursions.

Joel Speyers, avid traveler and backpack expert, recommends the Dakine Split Adventure for the good use of space and because the bag is great for hiking and traveling while not being used for school. Speyer says the bag is, “Great for both on and off campus. Plenty of space for toting that laptop or class books, but also great for the weekend hiking trip or off campus fun.”

Keep Reading

Check out more Best of lists and articles about going back to school.

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Written by

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By Sam Jacquez and Joy Bullen

Sam Jaquez a freelance writer, a blogger, and a bookmark collector. She studied at the University of Massachusetts Boston where she earned a degree in English. Sam has written articles about productivity, college, film & tv, and science.

Joy Bullen, MA is College Confidential's Senior Editor and Head of Content. She is a graduate of Kenyon College, where she majored in English and writing. She also earned an MA in psychology from The New School for Social Research in NYC.

Before becoming a full-time writer and editor, Joy coached thousands of prospective and enrolled college students on admissions and academic and career success. She also managed a team of academic and career coaches and consulted with universities on how to create programs that have better outcomes for students.

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