The Best Backpacks for Back-to-School at 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 24, 2020

When you're carrying your everyday essentials on your back, a durable, well-organized and stylish bag is key. We have you covered from preschool to college with backpacks that are both parent- and kid-approved.


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.

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$26.50 - $79.50

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 lunch box 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.

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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.

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Tough enough to handle day-hikes, but also handy for everyday school use, the REI Co-op Workload Mini Pack is perfect for late elementary kids. The padded back and straps, as well as a sternum strap, add complete comfort as they start to carry heavier books and binders. Plus, they can still pick a fun pattern that's a little more grown-up. Clever pockets keep your kiddo organized — an interior sleeve stows a tablet, a panel is designed to hold pens and pencils and a side pocket keeps a water bottle within reach.

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Once your kiddo hits double digits (the big 10!), the L.L.Bean Deluxe book 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.

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

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With the largest storage capacity of any backpack on our list, the Columbia Northern Pass II is ready to tackle middle school and beyond. Extra pockets all around the bag give your teen spots to store school necessities and extra-curricular accessories. Inside the main compartment, a dual-sided padded sleeve protects a laptop or tablet.

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

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Send your college freshman off to university with a backpack that keeps his laptop protected. With over 10 compartments, there's also plenty of space to tote books, notebooks, binders, wallet and keys. And since he'll need battery at 100 percent (to call home, naturally), the built-in USB charger allows for on-the-go phone charging.

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