The Best School Backpacks for Students of Every Age

Send your kids and teens back to school with backpacks that can handle everything they throw in it.

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July 14, 2021

When your kids are carrying their everyday essentials on their back, a durable, well-organized and stylish bag is key.

Size matters when selecting your kid's backpack. One that's too big or doesn't fit your kid well can cause back or shoulder pain. For the ideal backpack length, measure the distance between your child's shoulders to their belly button and add two inches. The right width matches the measurement between their shoulder blades with wiggle room of up to two inches wider.

One essential feature for backpacks is wide, padded straps for comfort and to distribute weight evenly. Encourage kids to wear both straps to keep their spine centered and not to cause undue stress to their neck. Also, look for backpacks with plenty of pockets and compartments, which allows kids to disburse their books and supplies throughout.

Keep scrolling to discover the best backpacks, from preschool to college that are both parent- and kid-approved.

Best Overall Backpack

Scandinavian design at its best, Fjallraven's classic Kanken backpack was originally designed to spare the backs of Swedish schoolchildren. Now, a favorite bag around the world, the hard-wearing and lightweight pack comes in two sizes — the original and the mini. Made from Vinylon, the backpack is water-resistant and masterful at handling drizzling days waiting for the school bus or walking across campus.

Best Backpack for Preschoolers

Ideal for your littlest ones, the Skip Hop Zoo backpacks are utterly adorable and functional. Let your preschooler pick out a favorite animal — unicorn, fox, ladybug or llama — to bring along with her to school. Big enough to tote all her school needs, it's also small enough for a two-year-old to carry.

Best Backpack for Kindergarten

As your kiddo heads into their first year of elementary school, they need a lightweight backpack for hauling their sharpened pencils and composition book. Two zippered compartments, interior pockets and mesh outer pockets make it easy to divvy out their essentials and keep them organized.

Best Backpack for Early Elementary

It's hard to beat Pottery Barn Kids' wide variety of prints for boys and girls. Whether your kids love dinosaurs, sports, fairies or even French bulldogs, they'll find a pattern to match their personality. Multiple straps and pockets ensure that everything has a place, including external straps to hold a lunchbox and two side pockets for water bottles or other get-to-quick items. The smaller size is perfect for your preschooler or kindergartener, while the larger option will last all the way through middle school.

Best Backpack for Grade School

Once your kiddo hits double digits (the big 10!), the L.L.Bean Deluxe pack will last them until they head off to college. With multiple large compartments and tons of pockets, this backpack has major storage and organization and most importantly, is one of the most durable bags on the market.

Best Backpack for Middle School

Some brands never go out of style and for more than 40 years, Jansport has been a favorite for kids and parents. With its lifetime warranty, you can feel confident that your tween will still be able to use it long after their school days are over.

Best Backpack for High School

When teens are already lugging heavy books, there's no reason to add any extra weight to their backpacks. This streamlined design from Herschel Supply Co. is super lightweight — no extra bells or whistles needed — but still gets the job done.

Best Backpack for College

Send your college freshman off to university with a backpack that keeps a laptop protected and easy to access. Designed as a great travel backpack, which also makes it perfect for coming home over break, it has multiple sections and pockets for stowing away class necessities.

Best Lightweight Backpack

When you're filling a backpack up with heavy textbooks, you don't want to add unnecessary extra weight. Water-resistant and durable, this lightweight backpack comes in at only .8 pounds. A fully padded back and padded shoulder straps make it a comfortable fit. Two compartments plus two outside pockets allow for easy storage.

Most Durable Backpack

The North Face's Borealis backpack has long been a fan favorite and is known for its extreme durability. An updated suspension system is certified by the American Chiropractic Association, ensuring safety and comfort, and multiple compartments provide easy organization, including a protective laptop sleeve

Best Value Backpack

Not only is this backpack less than $25, but it has more than 13,000 five-star reviews. With more than 10 compartments, there's also plenty of space to tote books, notebooks, binders, a wallet and keys. And since he'll need his cellphone battery at 100 percent (to call home, naturally), the built-in USB charger allows for on-the-go phone charging.

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