There are a lot of things that people tell us to care about in school that are totally unimportant.

Nobody cares where you sit at lunch, nobody gives a shit about GPA after grad school, and nobody is sitting around judging you more than they are judging themselves. Really, all that matters is learning a few new things, making a few friends, and getting through the year in one piece, ideally with a few A’s to write home about.

All those things become a whole lot easier with the right backpack, which can serve as everything from a style statement to a Swiss army knife that helps you go from class to the library, across campus to club footy, and down to Capones 2$ Tuesday without a stop at home for jean shorts.

A canvas Jansport might have gotten you through pre-K, but this is the big leagues. We’ve got laptops now, chargers that hook up all sorts of ports and plug-ins, and professors requiring you to buy their own textbook and lug it into class.

We’ve got shoes for school, shoes for exercise, and shoes for eating pizza. Polo T-shirts for gamedays & pledge weeks, and we’ve got to pack a second shirt in case of a mess. There are sunglasses and frisbees for the good days and raincoats and poetry notebooks for the dreary ones. Taking up the top pockets are Earbuds for walking across the quad and noise-canceling monstrosities when it’s time to cram.

The packing lists for your day-to-day will grow bigger each year. You can slowly cram things fuller and hunch over against the strain or nip things in the bud with a backpack that can grow with you.

Today, we present to you those bags. These aren’t ya grandma’s L.L. Bean bags. You can find those in the thrift store. These are bags that are pushing the boundaries of backpack tech specs, dropping eye-popping sustainability scores, and looking damn good while they’re at it.

Best Overall Backpack For Students
Best Overall Backpack For Students

The Backpack by Stubble & Co

  • Capacity (L) > 21
  • Price ($) > 145
Best Laptop Backpack For Students
Best Laptop Backpack For Students

Tortuga Laptop Backpack

  • Capacity (L) > 24
  • Price ($) > 250
Best Eco Backpack For Students
Best Eco Backpack For Students

REI Ruckpack Recycled Backpack

  • Capacity (L) > 18
  • Price ($) > 65
Best Book Backpack For Students
Best Book Backpack For Students

Osprey Archeon 25

  • Capacity (L) > 25
  • Price ($) > 182
Best Outdoors Backpack For Students
Best Outdoors Backpack For Students

Osprey Skarab 30

  • Capacity (L) > 30
  • Price ($) > 150
Best Travel Backpack For Students
Best Travel Backpack For Students

Nomatic Travel Pack

  • Capacity (L) > 20
  • Price ($) > 299
Best Vegan Backpack For Students
Best Vegan Backpack For Students

Mahi Classic Vegan Cork Backpack

  • Capacity (L) > 23
  • Price ($) > 100
Best Gym Backpack For Students
Best Gym Backpack For Students

AER Duffel Backpack

  • Capacity (L) > 21
  • Price ($) > 179
Best Leather Backpack For Students
Best Leather Backpack For Students

Mahi Yale Backpack

  • Capacity (L) > 7
  • Price ($) > 140
Best Sling Bag For Students
Best Sling Bag For Students

Nomatic Navigator Sling 6L

  • Capacity (L) > 6
  • Price ($) > 130

The Best Backpacks For Students

For the most part, the best backpacks for students are simply the best backpacks. School, work, or mountaineering, it’s always easier with an Osprey. But it goes deeper than that. Plenty of backpacks niche down specifically towards the tears and strains of school life.

While Sophomore year can sometimes feel like you’re slowly hacking your way through the jungle, there are many things that a great school backpack should do differently than a backpacking option. 

Your school or college backpack should have ample space for textbooks, laptops, and study materials (duh!) But in addition to all that gear, you’ve got to have plenty of extra space for the extracurriculars. No matter your schedule, getting through the tough times means sneaking some room for personal items that help you end the day with your sanity intact.

Nomatic Travel Pack

From crowded hallways to beer-addled bike rides to the occasional coffee spill, your backpack needs to withstand all the rigors and stresses of academic life. Seek materials and construction that can endure the challenges of making your way downtown. 

Beyond efficiency, your school bag has got to look good (a school backpack should be a cool backpack). Unfortunately, people are going to notice what you’re carrying around on your back, even if it’s just subconsciously. Your real friends won’t care, and only real losers would judge someone for what backpack they have, but it happens, so take some extra time to decide what version of yourself you want to broadcast to the world. 

The final thing you should look for in any backpack is a warranty policy. All the bells and whistles in the world won’t mean a thing if the shoulder strap snaps on your first trip. Any backpack that’s not just talking a big game but actually providing value will put its money where its mouth is. 

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    Best Overall Backpack For Students – The Backpack by Stubble & Co

    The Backpack by Stubble and Co
    • Dims (in.) – 12 x 19 x 6
    • Weight (lbs) – 2
    • Capacity (L) – 21
    • Price ($) – 145

    This backpack thinks differently. You can tell the moment you get your hands on the smooth Tekwax canvas exterior that Stubble & Co. isn’t following in any footsteps but striking out on its own. Built to handle the year’s rigamarole, this pack uplifts any outfit, laptop, and syllabus to become one of one. 

    Great school backpacks sneak in high-tech weather-resistant features without steering the bag too far toward a backcountry category, and Stubble & Co. have deftly walked that line with this pack. The all-black finish and G-hook drawstring finish lock things into place, literally and stylistically. 

    I did notice that although this jet-black pack doesn’t stick out of a crowd, its bulky, boxy shape doesn’t exactly fit snugly across my shoulders. I found it difficult to squeeze through packed buses and felt the bag swing around corners when rushing to class on time.

    Still, the mountain-shaped plush cushion on the back stayed comfortable enough for me to overlook a few bulky details and appreciate this all-rounder for what it is: a phenomenal everyday carry and classic backpack for university.

    Best Laptop Backpack For Students – Tortuga Laptop Backpack

    Tortuga Laptop Backpack
    • Dims (in.) – 19.1 x 10.8 x 7.1
    • Weight (lbs) – 2
    • Capacity (L) – 24
    • Price ($) – 250

    Backcountry packs can get away without proper electronic storage, but no school bag should force you to store all your gear inside a supermassive black hole. Tortuga has a variety of backpacks built for electronics, and none of them take things as far as their laptop backpack, which also has separate tablet storage.

    The bag is personal-item-sized but still boasts 24 liters of storage, which makes it about as roomy as anything that Ryanair would let you take on a plane for free (Ryanair bags are a whole other thing….). Tortuga makes the most of it with an immense organizer panel that provides easy access to your most important gear. 

    Even though you’d have a tough time packing this bag to a point where it’s too much for your shoulders alone, I still greatly appreciate the sternum strap. A bit of lift from Tortuga’s solid support system makes the most challenging walks back from class a bit easier.

    Best Eco Backpack For Students – REI Ruckpack Recycled Backpack

    REI Ruckpack Recycled Backpack
    • Dims (in.) – 18 x 11 x 6
    • Weight (lbs) – 1
    • Capacity (L) – 18
    • Price ($) – 65

    REI is a natural choice for a student backpack. The brand is cheap without sacrificing quality, and the color schemes fit with fall days on campus. Sweetening the deal on this Ruckpack is the Recreational Equipper’s use of recycled materials to bring this day pack together. 

    Trash was redirected from the landfill and transformed into a slick laptop compartment, a handy top mesh pocket, and loads of external storage options that find ways to help out. While you might struggle to pack in an extra set of shoes in this slim daypack, the U-shaped opener stretches out and holds all the gear I need for a packed MWF schedule. 

    The lowkey reservoir slot nestled in the back of this pack is great for day hikes, and I’ve also found it to be a sneaky space for slipping in a bag of Franzia. All in all, it’s a versatile school backpack that will help you push your boundaries in and outside the classroom. 

    Best Quality Backpack For Students – Able Carry Daily Backpack

    • Dims (in.) – 21 x 12 x 8.6
    • Weight (lbs) – 2.9
    • Capacity (L) – 20
    • Price ($) – 138

    The Able Carry Daily Backpack stands out as the epitome of urban sophistication, merging both style and functionality seamlessly. Crafted with the rigors of daily use in mind, this backpack is constructed with durable Cordura nylon, ensuring longevity and resilience against everyday wear and tear. The minimalist design, coupled with its sleek aesthetics, ensures it suits a plethora of settings, from lecture halls to coffee shops. Plus, the water-resistant feature ensures that unexpected rain showers won’t dampen your notes or tech gadgets inside.

    For students constantly on the move, the backpack’s padded back panels and shoulder straps promise unparalleled comfort, making it an ideal companion for those long days on campus. The myriad of pockets and compartments provide ample organization, ensuring that books, devices, and personal items are always within easy reach. Whether you’re rushing to a group study session or simply hanging out in the library, the Able Carry Daily Backpack is the perfect amalgamation of style, durability, and practicality, tailored to the dynamic life of a student.

    Best Book Backpack For Students – Osprey Archeon 25

    Osprey Archeon 25
    • Dims (in.) – 21 x 12 x 9
    • Weight (lbs) – 2.9
    • Capacity (L) – 25
    • Price ($) – 182

    Anything bearing a white Osprey label is made from 100% recycled fabrics and is completely vegan, lacking any animal dyes or bull piss around the edges. The Archeon series, boasting the white label front and center, is one of Osprey’s most sustainable works yet.

    From discreet sling bags to 100 Liter behemoths, this line of bags boasts the white label and proves you don’t have to harm the earth to get through high school. Books, balls, and study guides all slide inside without the use of cowhide.

    Helping out the Archeon’s book-carrying abilities is a handy roll-top closure. If you’re traveling light or only heading on to campus for one class, you can condense your backpack and move freely. When it’s time to stuff things full and cram, the Archeon also obliges. It’s one of my favorite roll top backpacks for sure.

    In my quieter moments, I wish they had managed to find a vegan system for a robust hip belt. I find the simple belt clip to be somewhat lackluster. Still, it’s no big deal. Even when I stuff it full, the Archeon hangs loose on my back and helps me get to class in one piece. 

    Best Outdoors Backpack For Students – Osprey Skarab 30

    Osprey Skarab 30 Hydration Pack
    • Dims (in.) – 21 x 11 x 10
    • Weight (lbs) – 1.6
    • Capacity (L) – 30
    • Price ($) – 150

    Lots of backpacks will get you through a school day in one piece. When it’s time for an upgrade, why not splurge for a pack that will get you through far more than sociology. There aren’t a lot of daypacks more versatile than the Skarab 30. Billed as a hydration pack, the Skarab comes with its own reservoir system to help you get up and go no matter what’s on the agenda.

    Helping the Skarab’s cause most of all is the immense support system. A foam framesheet and a great set of legitimate hip supports are components that have been helping hikers for decades, and the Skarab is ready to take that support to the schoolyard. If you’ve got to stuff your bag full of a day’s worth of clothes, books, and lunch, having a real support system out back is priceless. 

    Unfortunately, the Skarab isn’t quite as sustainably made as some other Osprey backpacks we’ve looked at, but when I’m sippin’ my way through a sweaty climb to class and clipping in an extra splash of support for the long walk home, I’m more than ready to forgive its shortcomings. 

    The best present of all… is CONVENIENCE!

    Now, you could spend a fat chunk of $$$ on the WRONG present for someone. Wrong size hiking boots, wrong fit backpack, wrong shape sleeping bag… As any adventurer will tell you, gear is a personal choice.

    So give the adventurer in your life the gift of convenience: buy them an REI Co-op gift card! REI is The Broke Backpacker’s retailer of choice for ALL things outdoors, and an REI gift card is the perfect present you can buy from them. And then you won’t have to keep the receipt. 😉

    Buy on REI!

    Best Travel Backpack For Students – Nomatic Travel Pack

    Nomatic Travel Pack
    • Dims (in.) – 18 x 12 x 9
    • Weight (lbs) – 4
    • Capacity (L) – 20
    • Price ($) – 299

    This is a sign to throw caution in the wind and go to school across the country or across the world. Ideally, without putting yourself in a few hundred thousand dollars of debt to get there. Once you’ve committed to head out on your own or just for a semester abroad, the next thing you should do is buy the Nomatic Travel Pack. 

    Nomatic’s team has dedicated itself to turning things around on TSA by creating the most efficient air travel pack on the market, and they succeeded with flying colors. The Travel Pack boasts multiple carrying systems, hidden compartments, expandable/contractable storage, and a host of other special features otherwise unseen on the market. 

    Even if you don’t have to head far to get to school this year, the Nomatic Travel Pack is built to last, and it works great as an everyday carry. I talked myself into splurging on this pack with the mindset that even though I didn’t travel at the time, the pack is still great for everyday carry, and it can definitely grow with me.

    Years later, it’s been right on my back through higher highs and lower lows than I could ever have imagined. 

    Best Vegan Backpack For Students – Mahi Classic Vegan Cork Backpack

    Mahi Classic Vegan Cork Backpack
    • Dims (in.) – 18 x 15 x 6
    • Weight (lbs) – N/A
    • Capacity (L) – 23
    • Price ($) – 100

    Mahi has been steadily improving their classic Vegan Backpack, and it’s now confidently sitting at the forefront of the vegan leather market. The cork backpack comes in seven different righteous colors, all with the same corky finish. Previous iterations of cork bags hadn’t been much more than a vegan canvas sack, but the new Mahi classic is taking things up a notch. 

    Now dubbed the Mahi “3.0,” there’s a whole host of features inside and out that make the pack a worthy upgrade. Right inside the main zipper sits a three-slot front pocket that works great for keeping pen, paper, and phone chargers handy. Along the backside of the compartment sits a hefty laptop compartment with ample padding and enough space for a 16″ screen. 

    Outside the storage area, Mahi added water bottle pockets and waterproof lining to round out the pack. I’ve been eyeing these bags for a long time, but while the style and sustainability were there, the convenience was not. A backpack without a water bottle holder is useless. Mahi’s new Classic rectifies this injustice and finally earns it’s rightful place in my closet. 

    Best Leather Backpack For Students – Mahi Yale Backpack

    • Dims (in.) – W30cm (base) W28.5cm (top) x H36cm x D12cm (base) D4cm (top)
    • Weight (lbs) – 24
    • Capacity (L) – 7
    • Price ($) – 140

    Crafted with a 100% full-grain leather exterior, the bag exudes a vintage charm while promising durability. The interior is lined with 100% cotton, ensuring your belongings are nestled safely inside.

    In Vintage Brown Leather, this backpack is not just a utility item but a statement piece. It transitions seamlessly from a book bag to an overnight bag, gym bag, or travel companion for longer journeys. It can comfortably house an A4 pad and a 15″ laptop, catering to the academic and professional needs of students.

    The Mahi Yale Backpack is a smart investment for students looking for a stylish, durable, and versatile backpack. Its classic design, combined with practical features, make it suitable for various occasions, proving that you don’t have to compromise on style for functionality.

    Best Gym Backpack For Students – AER Duffel Backpack

    AER Duffel 3
    • Dims (in.) – 20 x 12 x 8
    • Weight (lbs) – 3
    • Capacity (L) – 21
    • Price ($) – 179

    AER’s signature duffel helps to keep it separated. The duffel backpack has a shoe compartment that also has space for your gym clothes to make sure smelly socks stay far away from book reports. Be warned: While the shoe compartment is separate, it doesn’t magically create additional storage space. If you shove one full, you’ll lose a few liters of storage in the other. 

    Beyond the distinct storage options, The humdrum details of this bag make it really pop. AER paid attention to loads of nooks and crannies that other bagmakers glanced past. Lots of those touches, like seriously comfortable grab handles and swinging sternum straps, sound silly at first but have really come in handy for me. 

    You probably don’t have to take a tuk-tuk to get to class on time, but if you do, take it from me. The AER swings around tough public transport like Tarzan bounces around the jungle. Once you get there, wherever there is, the cadaver pouch zipper opens up and helps break out the paperwork without spending half the period wading through a black hole. 

    Coolest Backpack For Students – Fjallraven Kanken

    Fjallraven Kanken
    • Dims (in.) – 14 x 12 x 6
    • Weight (lbs) – 1
    • Capacity (L) – 14
    • Price ($) – 100

    Cool doesn’t have to break the bank. While some high-tech backpacks on our list have loads of slick features and signature looks, they’ll run you back a few hundred bucks. Or, you can slap an Arctic fox on the front and call it a day.

     Fjallraven is the best thing that’s happened to college campuses’ since Patagonia, providing a great brand that takes sustainability seriously and helps get the conversation started. If you’re wondering why Fjallraven has made its way to the top of the sexiest brand charts, look no further than the Kanken bag. The monotone bag with a red fox in the middle just gets it.

    If it works best with your outfit as a tote, sling it over one shoulder and get on with it. If you’ve got a heavy load, tuck it under your shoulders and get rolling. You can even ignore all those straps and handle it briefcase style. No matter how you hold it, one exterior pocket keeps the little things right where you need them, and a comfortable main compartment stows everything else. 

    Best Sling Bag For Students – Nomatic Navigator Sling 6L

    Nomatic Navigator Sling 6L
    • Dims (in.) – 13 x 9 x 4
    • Weight (lbs) – 1.3
    • Capacity (L) – 6
    • Price ($) – 130

    After Nomatic tricked out a classic backpack, they turned their attention to the fanny pack. Over-shoulder bags have long been an essential part of the arsenal, but in decades of sling packs, none have squeezed capabilities in quite like this. The tote has built-in tablet storage and two other internal compartments that are RFID-safe on the inside and secret card + water bottle holders on the outside. 

    Because of all the storage options, The Sling pack is a bit heavy for a fanny pack, so I usually keep another one lying around the house for loose change and chapstick. My Sling pack is reserved for packing light without leaving any of the essentials behind. 

    Showing up is half the battle. To get through several classes, you might only need a pen, some paper, and an Adderall prescription. If you can sneak through your Monday schedule without a textbook or laptop, all you need to get through the day might be the Navigator Sling. 

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      Final Thoughts on The Best Student Backpacks

      We’ve sung, we’ve danced, we’ve stolen things, now let’s reflect.

      There is no one-size-fits-all in this world anywhere outside of the sock department. Each backpack on our list will cater to your needs, tastes, and personality different. My favorite backpack likely won’t be yours. 

      Great bags start with compartmentalizing. When I’m slipping in through the side door 4 minutes after class starts, I certainly don’t want to draw any attention to myself. In those moments, it becomes extra crucial that I can whip out my laptop without rustling through a cavernous main compartment and drawing attention to myself. 

      That means exterior pockets for cell phones, water bottles, and car keys, and plenty of dividers, laptop holders, and maybe even a stealthy pocket or two around the back. Inside your main compartment, the storage should feel the same, with plenty of space for books and raincoats separate from tablets and headphones. 

      Next, your bag should work like a pair of zip-off pants, seamlessly blending function into your style. It should not only carry your books but also elevate your look. After all, your backpack is sticking out your backside like a sore thumb. 

      Beyond how it looks, think about how it feels. You may not have any back problems now, but one day, you will. And the sooner you realize that fact and take preventative measures, the longer it will take for the back pain actually to set in.

      With the weight of the world (or at least a semester’s worth of notes) on your shoulders, comfort is paramount. Look for backpacks with padded shoulder straps, a ventilated back panel, and an ergonomic design to prevent the dreaded Quasimodo posture. 

      The perfect backpack for you will not just carry your burdens; it will carry your beer with you to your friend’s house. So, gear up, choose wisely, and let your backpack reflect your unique student persona. Whether you’re a fashion-forward trendsetter, a tech enthusiast, an eco-warrior, or an outdoor adventurer, there’s a backpack that will make your head spin. And for the love of Christ, do the readings. 

      And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!