School rucksacks: Best Backpacks for Students in 2021

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Best Backpacks for Students in 2021

  • A good school backpack serves as an all-in-one carrier for essentials, including a tablet and books.
  • Backpacks come in many styles, sizes, and materials and should be durable enough to last for years.
  • The best backpack for students of all ages is the long-lasting JanSport Big Student Backpack.

As a high school teacher, I’ve seen backpacks in all states of disrepair, so I know how important it is to find a bag that is durable enough to be used day in and day out.

For kids and teenagers, it’s much more about how the backpack looks than how functional it is, so the tough job as a parent is to find one that is durable and big enough for all your child’s school supplies and lunch box, but that also looks cool. In elementary school, I was jealous of my best friend who had her initials monogrammed on her backpack, and in high school, I was dying for a messenger bag. Functionality clearly wasn’t on the top of my priority list as a child.

If you find the right backpack, it can last your child quite a few years, but finding the right one is key. We’ve made the process a little bit easier for you with a few tips and some of our favorite backpacks.

To help you find the best backpacks for your kids, I combined my experience as a teacher and student with expert and buyer reviews. From backpacks for preschoolers to college kids, these bags will help your child start the school year on the right foot. Below, find tips for selecting a quality backpack in our “what to look” for explainer.

Here are the best backpacks for students in 2021 

Updated on 06/29/2021: We added expert insight into what makes a good backpack, added more product specs, a slide on how to pack a backpack, and a list of backpacks we’re testing for an update to this guide in late summer 2021.

12 Best Kids Backpacks – Top-Rated School Book Bags for 2021

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Nothing says back-to-school more than shopping for a new backpack, but it’s hard to find one that checks off all the boxes for both parents and kids. You’ll need it to be durable so you won’t have to replace it and organized so it can hold all of the schoolwork and school supplies, all while having a fun and inviting appearance so students actually want to wear it.

The Good Housekeeping Institute Textiles Lab tests backpacks for durability features like tear strength, strap strength and abrasion resistance as well as comfort aspects like the amount of padding in the straps and weight when it’s empty. We also look at the overall design and organizational components and make sure that the material is water-resistant. Lastly, we have standard packing loads for different age groups to make sure it’ll hold everything they need.

The picks ahead are winners from our test along with some new styles with unique features and rave reviews. Here are the best kids backpacks for the 2021 school year:

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Best Overall Kids Backpack

Original Book Pack

L.L.Bean
llbean.com

$36.95

L.L.Bean’s backpacks are consistently top performers in our test and stand out in particular for being durable, functional and kid-friendly thanks to the variety of fun prints. The fabric holds up to our abrasion and water repellency tests, so you can expect it to last for years. This version in particular is the brand’s most popular (and most basic) style with one main compartment plus front pockets for organization.  

There’s also good padding in the back and on the shoulder straps, plus reflective strips for safety. The one callout  is that there aren’t straps at the waist and chest for added support. For even more space, the Deluxe Book Pack version has two large compartments.

  • Durable fabric
  • Padded straps and back panel
  • Available in solid colors and prints
  • No straps at the waist or chest

Best Value Kids Backpack

Junior Backpack

Everest
amazon.com

$16.08

If you’re looking to save, this basic backpack has over 2,000 five-star reviews ranging from toddler parents to college students. It’s incredibly lightweight at just over half a pound, and though it’s not as spacious as others, it also comes in a larger version for older kids and adults that’s still under $15. 

There’s one roomy main compartment with a small pocket in front, and the straps are both padded and adjustable. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles you’ll get with pricier backpacks (like water bottle holders on the side or padding at the back), but the price can’t be beat.

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Available in a variety of colors
  • Fewer organizational compartments

Best Backpack for Elementary School

Mackenzie Backpack

Pottery Barn Kids
potterybarnkids. com

$39.50

The fun designs from PBK – from ballerinas to space themes to Disney prints – let any young kid’s personality shine through and make wearing the backpack that much more exciting. Each one can also be monogrammed for $10 to make it extra personal.

On top of looking cute, the bag is made to be fully functional thanks to the strong, water-resistant fabric, padded straps and back and organizing pockets and straps on the outside. Plus, it comes in lots of variations, including multiple sizes and matching lunch bags.

  • Designs and sizes for every kid’s preference
  • Strong materials and good support
  • Larger sizes are pricier than others

Best Backpack for Middle School and High School

Northern Pass II Backpack

Columbia
amazon. com

$74.47

This style from Columbia earned the highest score for 13- to 18-year-olds in our Lab’s test and it has features that make it versatile to use from middle school and high school through college and beyond. 

It held our packing load with room to spare, uses fabric that’s both durable and water-repellent and has excellent padding in the straps. Plus, it has lots of compartments to keep students organized, including a padded sleeve for laptops. And besides this green, it’s available in other colors like black, blue and pink. The only downside is that it’s missing extra support straps around the chest and waist. 

  • Durable, water-repellent fabric
  • Good storage, including laptop sleeve
  • Comfortable padding
  • No straps at the waist or chest

Best Backpack for Preschool

Zoo Toddler Backpack

Skip Hop
amazon. com

$17.99

Designed for toddlers to kindergarteners, this themed backpack comes in tons of animal and character options. It’s smaller than other backpacks so it’ll fit little bodies, yet still has compartments for snacks and supplies, plus a loop on top so kids can hang it on their hooks. 

Some of our product experts use this one at home with their young children and see just how much the toddlers love showing off the characters at school or on outings.

  • Sized well for young kids
  • Plenty of character options

Best Backpack for College

Laptop Backpack

Whether they’re heading to class, traveling on break, or going on job interviews, this versatile college backpack has everything a student needs: tons of pockets to stay organized (including a separate laptop compartment), a built-in USB port to add a battery and charge devices on the go, and lots of padding to make it comfortable.  

It also has a zippered pocket against the back for valuables and waterproof materials to help the contents stay safe. It’s an Amazon bestseller with over 42,000 reviews from users who swear it’s both useful and professional.

  • Laptop compartment with built-in USB port
  • Plenty of organizational compartments

Best Fashion Kids Backpack

Kane Kids Backpack

State Bags
statebags.com

$95.00

Whether your kid loves metallics, colorful sparkles, camo prints, sport designs or more, State stands out for having a wide assortment of truly unique styles for any preference. Besides the fun factor, it’s also well-made with a large compartment for supplies, organizational pockets and padded straps for comfort.  The brand has a give-back model and donates money to charities supporting children for every bag sold. 

Most Durable Kids Backpack

Borealis Backpack

The North Face
amazon.com

$117.99

This super popular style from The North Face was a top performer in our tests over 10 years ago and still continues to impress both our experts and real users. It stood out especially for holding up during our Lab’s abrasion, water-resistance and durability drop testing. It also has tons of padding for comfort, a separate laptop compartment and reflective features for safety. Plus, it comes in tons of colors.

  • Popular for high school and college
  • Durable materials for long-term use
  • Pricier than others
  • Not for younger kids

Best Lightweight Kids Backpack

ClassMate Medium Backpack

Lands’ End
landsend. com

$39.95

A backpack’s load can get heavy enough, so students don’t need the bag itself weighing them down. This one from Lands’ End was among the lightest in our test, but it still held our entire load for 7 to 12-year-olds with room to spare. It comes in other colors and prints as well as larger sizes. Plus, you can choose to personalize it for an extra $8.

  • Light and spacious
  • Plenty of size and print options
  • Material wasn’t as abrasion- or water-resistant in tests

Most Popular Kids Backpack

Superbreak One Backpack

JanSport
amazon. com

$60.00

It’s an Amazon’s bestseller and one of the most searched for kids backpack brands on the Internet. Though it’s a more basic design with one main compartment and no chest strap, users love that it’s roomy, lightweight and lasts for years. It comes in a variety of prints and solid colors for boys, girls and gender neutral styles.

  • Popular with great reviews
  • Lightweight and versatile
  • The brand isn’t among the most durable in our tests

Best Basic Kids Backpack

Kids’ Heritage Backpack

Herschel
amazon. com

$49.99

If you’re looking for a simple design, Herschel’s popular backpack for kids has one main roomy compartment with a smaller section in the front. It comes in three youth sizes to fit children of all ages, plus lots of prints to keep it kid-friendly. We also love that it has a durable material to protect the base of the bag, a chest clip for added support and a side bottle holder for convenience.

  • Three sizes to find the best fit
  • Ideal for those who prefer minimal designs
  • Less organization for older kids

Best Novelty Kids Backpack

Sequin School Backpack

Le Vasty
amazon. com

$30.99

If you’ve got a kid who loves to stand out, you need to check out this sparkly backpack. It comes several color combos and the sequins are all reversible so kids can create their own designs every day. On top of that, it also has some functional features: the large main compartment has a padded laptop sleeve, and there are smaller pockets on the outside. It has a near-perfect rating on Amazon from parents who say their girls are obsessed.

  • Reversible sequin design
  • Rave reviews
  • May be too flashy for some kids

Lexie Sachs, Good Housekeeping Institute
Textiles Director
Lexie Sachs earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Fiber Science from Cornell University, and she researches, tests and reports on fabric-based products ranging from sheets, mattresses and towels to bras, fitness apparel and other clothing.

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‘We’re here for you.’ CDR Back-to-School Backpack Drive helps 130 Branford students

BRANFOR — Thanks to a town-wide effort quarterbacked by the Community Dining Room, over 130 Branford students (K-12) are now heading back to school with spanking new backpacks loaded with notebooks, highlighters, crayons, calculators, binders and other essential supplies.

Last week, CDR staff and volunteers distributed the packs just outside its headquarters on Harrison Avenue. The distribution was part of CDR’s Tuesday Kids’ Night for Families, with food donations provided by Cilantro’s in Guilford and Stop & Shop in Branford.

The CDR, a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1985, has as its mission “to serve the community by feeding the hungry and helping with other basic human needs,” according to its website.

During the summer, CDR volunteer and program coordinator Andrea Savino and fundraising coordinator Courtney Rosenberg set up collection points at the Branford Police Department, the Branford First Selectman’s Office and the Joseph Trapasso Community House.

The drive also found support from a host of local organizations, including Vox Church, a group from Turtle Bay Condos, the recruitment group for the Branford service unit of the Girl Scouts, as well as Linda and Diane Sobolewski. Town hall employees donated $5 or brought in $5 worth of supplies to dress down Fridays.

“Every little bit helps, especially now,” said CDR Executive Director Judy Barron. “Families have taken so many different financial hits during COVID from loss of jobs to struggling to get the bills paid, and the last thing they need is this extra cost of school supplies.”

“Having a backpack full of crisp, clean notebooks, binders and pens helps kids go back into school with the confidence that I can do this. I can do whatever my teacher asks me to do because I have the tools to do it,” said Rosenberg, who’s been recognized by the Branford Board of Education as the force behind the annual backpack drive.

“Our kids never have to think that they don’t have what the next person has,” Diana Pappacoda, director of the Branford Early Learning Center, said. “That’s invaluable.”

Studies bear this out. According to a 2017 annual impact report commissioned by the Kids in Need Foundation, a national nonprofit dedicated to providing free school supplies to students most in need, “76 percent of educators said student self-esteem improved when students had the school supplies they needed.”

For Barron, it’s simple. “This initiative follows our mission,” she said. “CDR is more than just a meal. There’s no reason that kids shouldn’t have what they need to start the school year.”

The backpack drive coincided with the launch of the Healthy Snack Pack Program, funded by a grant from the Dunkin’ Joy in Child Foundation to “provide the simple joys of childhood to kids battling hunger or illness,” according to its website

A part of CDR’s Healthy Meal Initiative, “we’re going to have bento boxes filled with healthy snacks like fruit, raisins, granola bars, and apple sauce every Tuesday night,” Savino, the program coordinator, said.

“It’s all about nourishing our kids, and our community, with good, healthy food,” she added.

For both programs — for all CDR programs, in fact — there are no income guidelines.

“Just show up,” Barron said. “We’re here for you.”

21 best back-to-school backpacks for 2021

NY Post may be compensated and/or receive an affiliate commission if you buy through our links.

A new school year is on the way and backpacks are must-haves for those heading back on campus.

The must-have bags hold essentials, eliminate the torture of carrying books on your own and add a splash of style to any wardrobe.

We know how hard it can be to find the perfect bag, so we’ve rounded up options for students of all ages.

Whether you’re shopping for your tots or college students, you’re sure to score something back to school-worthy.

With top choices from brands, like Herschel, L. L. Bean and Vans, you can trust you’re buying a bag that will last. Plus, there’s even an antimicrobial option that is a must-have for this school year and all others after.

And since pricing for the trendy backpacks starts at just $22, you can stock up on as many as you like. Below, you’ll find 21 of our favorite back-to-school bags.

Elementary School

Carhartt Legacy Classic Work Pack, price: $49.99

Zappos

This Carhartt bag is a cool choice. It features water-repellent technology, a classic color and comfy padded straps.


Herschel Nova Backpack, price: $64.99

Amazon

Your kids will love this trendy Herschel backpack. It features a cool top handle, tons of storage options and an adorable polka dot design.


Dare to Roam Antimicrobial Mini Prodigy Backpack, price: $72

Dare To Roam

From singer, songwriter and mom Ciara, the Mini Prodigy bag is a must for the 2021 school year, as the backpack is made of antimicrobial nylon with a waterproof finish to keep their belongings as germ and spill-free as can be.


Skip Hop Zoo Pug Big Kid Backpack, price: $28

Nordstrom

Your kids will love this Skip Hop book-bag. It is fun, lightweight and features an adorable baby pug.


L.L. Bean Junior Original Book Pack, price: $29.95

L.L. Bean

This alligator-themed bag is sure to be a classroom favorite. It is lightweight, trendy and great for kids.


Mackenzie Little Critters Backpack Bundle, price: $47.50

Pottery Barn

This beautiful bundle is a top choice for your elementary school student. The spacious backpack is perfect for all of their supplies. And the adorable lunch box is durable and super easy to clean.


Middle School

Vera Bradley Women’s Signature Cotton Campus Backpack, price: $115

Amazon

This Vera Bradley bag is one your tweens will love. It features tons of pockets, is lightweight and has a fabulous floral design.


L.L Bean Mountain Classic Cordura Pack, price: $89.

99

L.L Bean

This Codura bag will last for years to come. It is tough, water-resistant and perfect for all of your adventures.


Carhatt Trade Backpack, price: $34.99

Carhatt

This no-frills bag works for every occasion. It is durable, has multiple pockets and comes in a variety of colors.


Parkland Kingston Polka Dot Backpack, price: $49.99

Nordstrom

This polka dot style backpack is sustainable, long-lasting and extra roomy.


JanSport Main Campus, price: $48

JanSport

JanSport is one of the best backpack brands around and their Main Campus bag definitely lives up to its hype. It has a laptop sleeve, multiple pockets and a fob for keys.


High School

Vans Old Skool III Backpack, price: $36

Nordstrom

This throwback book bag is stylish, spacious and super durable.


Carhatt Legacy Compact Backpack, price: $29.99

Carhatt

This backpack really does it all. Perfect for any occasion, you’ll love its padded straps and extra storage space.


The North Face Jester, price: $69.99

The North Face

This modern backpack features a sleek design and an extra spacious interior. Plus, it’s been endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association.


Ted Baker London Reyy Floral Drawstring Backpack, price: $129

Nordstrom

This Ted Baker bag features a beautiful floral design, a drawstring closure and easy access to all your school essentials.


Longchamp Le Pilage Backpack, price: $129.99

Nordstron

This backpack is stylish, compact and has tons of space.


College

Herschel Supply Co. Pop Quiz Laptop Backpack, price: $79.99

Amazon

This Herschel backpack is spacious, durable and perfect for a new school year.


The North Face Recon, price: $99

The North Face

The Recon backpack is easy to carry, features stretchable pockets and tons of room for books and supplies.


JanSport Hatchett Backpack, price: $60

JanSport

This JanSport backpack is great for both work and play. Featuring tons of pockets, a laptop sleeve and an organizer panel, it’s the college staple you have to have.


Burberry Marco Ble Logo Backpack, price: $590

Nordstrom

Upgrade your bag collection with this luxe Burberry bookbag. It features a chic design, adjustable straps and a comfy diamond quilted back.


Kenneth Cole Reaction Women’s Chelsea Backpack, price: $140

Amazon

This Kenneth Cole backpack is the definition of sophisticated. Decked with a cool gold tone, spacious interior and great top handle, it’s a top choice for college students.

These are the 10 best backpacks for New York City kids’ for back-to-school