Best College Backpacks
Best College Backpacks

Congrats on starting, resuming, or going back to college! Getting to class, participating in extracurriculars, or jumping between your classwork and job is a lot easier when you don’t have to worry about how to get your gear from one place to the next. We’re here to help!

Before we dive into the list, you must decide what you want from college backpacks. Are you going to be carrying a laptop? If so, how many inches is it? You’ll need a pack with a compartment that can accommodate that. Will you have books, and if so, are they thick or heavy? This will dictate how big your bag needs to be. Will you use this pack exclusively for class, or do you want to use it for the gym, intramurals, and work, too? This may change what features you look for when making a purchase.

Best College Backpacks | We tested the comfort of each pack.
Best College Backpacks | We tested the comfort of each pack.

It’s also important to know what you want out of your backpack. Do you want something that gets the job done, or do you want it to match your style, too? Maybe you’re looking for something to take to an interview or a student conference—the options are endless.

Hopefully, you have thought about what you will use this backpack for. Let’s dive into the list!

1. Fjallraven Kanken Laptop Backpack
Fjallraven Kanken Laptop Backpack Review

The Fjallraven Kanken Laptop Backpack is the perfect mixture of comfort and cuteness; plus, it was designed to carry a laptop, which makes it ideal for heading to class. The shoulder straps are comfortable, the laptop compartment is easily accessible, and the handles on the top of the pack make it easy to hop from table to table at the library.

In testing, the materials have faded over time. They're still just as durable, and it took three years of use to happen, but if you're an incoming freshman looking for a four-year companion, it's worth noting.

The laptop compartment can hold up to a 13" inch computer, which is all most students need. However, if you have a larger size device, they make bigger sizes of this same exact style backpack. We think it’s a cute way to get your gear from point A to point B comfortably, making it one of the best college backpacks on the market.

Why We Like It
  • It blends cuteness with comfort
  • Has a dedicated laptop compartment
What You Should Know
  • The material will fade over time
  • Side pockets are very small
See Full Review & Buying Options
2. Bellroy Classic Backpack Plus (Second Edition)
Bellroy Classic Backpack Plus 2nd Edition

If you're looking for one of the best college backpacks on the market that also has a sleek design, look no further than the Bellroy Classic Backpack Plus. The design is top-notch, the pack utilizes rugged recycled materials, and the harness system is comfortable, even with a load of books inside.

With odd-sized tech pockets and no false bottom on the laptop compartment, the organization isn't our favorite; however, there's enough space to fit all of your gear, and that's what matters. At 24 liters, you can fit your laptop, a few books and notebooks, and some workout clothing to hit the gym on the way home. No matter where you take this pack, it'll fit the bill.

At the time of writing, this pack comes in six colorways, so you can get one that matches your style or school colors. If you're looking for something smaller, go with the Classic Backpack (20L) or the Classic Backpack Compact (16L).

Why We Like It
  • It has a sleek design
  • There are three sizes to meet different needs
What You Should Know
  • Sizing of the internal pockets feels off
  • It isn’t the cheapest pack on this list
See Details & Buying Options
3. Topo Designs Daypack
Topo Designs Daypack In Detroit

If you're looking for a pack that you can get into the nitty gritty of your gear organization and segmentation but don't want to get one of the college backpacks that comes in a bland color, we've got you covered. The Topo Designs Daypack has intuitive organizational details you can use for college and comes in colorful, heritage styling. Plus, it's easy to attach gear to the exterior.

At the time of writing, there are four colorways to choose from. The color choices have a heritage style, and the pig nose and loop on the front make attaching gear easy. Whether you want to bring an umbrella or gym shoes to class, this pack has you covered.

The materials are thick, and there isn't any mesh on the back panel, so things can get warm, especially on sunny days, if you choose a darker colorway. This isn't uncommon for backpacks for college, but the lack of breathable mesh exacerbates this. However, in most conditions, this isn't an issue.

Considering the neat colorways and intuitive organization, we think this is one of the best backpacks for college.

Why We Like It
  • Heritage styling with good interior organization
  • You can attach gear to the exterior
What You Should Know
  • The water bottle pockets aren’t very stretchy
  • No ventilation on the back panel
See Full Review & Buying Options
4. Cotopaxi Batac 16L Daypack
Cotopaxi Batac in Detroit

There are a lot of colorful packs out there, but none quite as unique as the Cotopaxi Batac 16L. By choosing the Del Día option, you give bag makers in the Phillippines creative control over what your pack looks like, including which vibrant colors are chosen to construct it. How fun is that?

Before we get too far, we should mention that this pack doesn't have a dedicated laptop sleeve. However, you can combat this by buying and carrying one separately. This pack is lightweight, making it good for various uses if you’re looking for something to take you from days on campus to a weekend hike. However, if laptop protection is your top priority, this won't be one of the best school backpacks for you.

The shoulder straps are lightweight and breathable, which we dig. This isn't common for most college backpacks. If you can overcome the lack of a dedicated laptop sleeve, this might be one of the best backpacks for college out there.

Why We Like It
  • The colorways are vibrant and fun
  • Shoulder straps and back panel are comfortable
What You Should Know
  • No dedicated laptop compartment
  • Side pockets aren’t very structured
See Full Review & Buying Options
5. Aer City Pack
Aer City Pack Tom Outdoor 2

If you've been looking at college backpacks for ages and haven't found one that matches the professional look you're trying to emit throughout your collegiate career, we've got the pack for you. The Aer City Pack is sleek, professional, and has some of the best internal organization of any pack that we've tested here at Pack Hacker.

In addition to working on trips to, from, and around campus, you can use this pack to go to the gym or on trips back home. We don't love how the water bottle pockets eat into the main compartment; however, having a dedicated spot to hold a bottle is a nice inclusion.

For those wanting to look the part and have a functional pack that can do it all, the Aer City Pack might be one of the best backpacks for school, life, and travel.

Plus, at the time of posting, Pack Hacker Pro Members get an exclusive Aer discount code!

Why We Like It
  • It’s sleek enough for a job interview
  • There’s a dedicated spot for an AirTag or Tile
What You Should Know
  • The water bottle pocket eats into the main compartment
  • We don’t love the sternum strap
See Full Review & Buying Options
6. Able Carry Daily Backpack
Able Carry Daily Backpack in Detroit

We've all heard the tale of Goldilocks and her pursuit of things that are 'just right.' The Able Carry Daily Backpack is just right in numerous cases, including the harness system and amount of organization. It features a comfortable carry, just enough organization, and a sleek design, making it one of the best backpacks for college.

Some of the pockets feel flimsier than we'd like them to be; however, that's more personal preference and doesn't affect usage. At 20 liters, it's a good size for walking around campus and can be used to go to the gym or take an overnight trip with friends for a sports game or conference.

The look of this pack will make you blend in with the pack but impresses on further inspection, which we dig. This presence makes it one of our favorite college backpacks, and you'll be sure to keep using it after graduation, too.

Why We Like It
  • The harness system is very comfortable
  • Just enough organization to fit your daily essentials
What You Should Know
  • Some of the pockets on the inside feel too flimsy
  • The laptop compartment isn’t raised very high from the bottom of the pack
See Full Review & Buying Options
7. TOM BIHN Daylight Backpack
Tom Bihn Daylight Backpack Review

TOM BIHN Daylight Backpack If you're a fan of modular backpacks and want something lightweight to ensure you can fly across campus, look no further than the TOM BIHN Daylight Backpack. It comes in at just 15.4 ounces (or 436.6 grams) for the 525D ballistic nylon model and a meager 12.3 ounces (or 348.7 grams) for the 400D Halcyon model. Plus, TOM BIHN gear works in tandem with its other products, so you're investing in an ecosystem.

The laptop isn't suspended (sometimes called a false bottom), so it hits the floor when you set the pack down. You'll get used to this and get around it by hangingit over a seat, setting it on a hook, holding onto it, or setting it down gently. Who wants all those floor germs anyways?

Considering how lightweight this pack is (for its durability), the modularity TOM BIHN offers, and how many rad colorways it comes in, this might be one of our favorite backpacks for college.

Why We Like It
  • Lightweight for how durable it is
  • Has trademark TOM BIHN modularity options
What You Should Know
  • No false bottom or padding on the laptop sleeve
  • The back panel can be uncomfortable depending on the load
See Full Review & Buying Options
8. Boundary Supply Rennen Recycled Daypack
Boundary Supply Rennen Recycled Daypack Review

If you're looking for a backpack crafted from recycled materials that still has a modern look and feel, check out the Boundary Supply Rennen Recycled Daypack. As the name suggests, it utilizes recycled materials to create a stylish daypack that will look great on campus, on a long weekend trip, or over the holidays back home.

This pack isn't very structured, which some folks aren't into. However, this isn't much of an issue if you plan to fill it up with school gear daily. If you only plan to throw a laptop inside, it might look slightly saggy.

At the time of writing, the Rennen comes in three colorways, all of which utilize RE-3, a material designed for Boundary Supply. It's durable, feels nice to hold, and looks sleek. For those who want to keep the environment in mind when shopping for the best backpacks for college, look no further!

Why We Like It
  • It utilizes recycled materials
  • The design looks sleek and streamlined
What You Should Know
  • The materials don’t hold their weight
  • Water bottle pocket can’t grip onto bottles
See Full Review & Buying Options
9. Osprey Arcane Large Day Pack (V2)
Osprey Arcane Large Day Pack (V2)

If you want a backpack that can go on a hike, tackle a weekend trip, and carry your crap across campus, we've got the backpack for you. The Osprey Arcane Large Day comes in numerous colorways, is a comfortable fit, and is versatile enough to be used for various activities, from campus to the canyon.

It might get dirty easily depending on your chosen colorway, which isn't ideal. However, we've found other products in the arcane line easy to clean, and there are darker options if you want to avoid it altogether.

Many people think of hiking when they think of Osprey. This pack can handle the trail fairly well, but the intuitive organization, laptop sleeve, and sleek design make it effective on campus. Everything considered, this is one of the Pack Hacker team's favorite college backpacks.

Why We Like It
  • A pack that can do it all, from the trail back to campus
  • Laptop and tablet sleeves are suspended for protection
What You Should Know
  • Lighter colorways are easy to get dirty
  • No strap keepers on the pack
See Full Review & Buying Options
10. The North Face Jester Backpack
The North Face Jester Back Outdoor

The North Face Jester is a popular backpack for all ages that comes at a budget price. Why is it so popular? Well, it packs a lot of features into a sleek pack that will last you ages. What else is there to say?

(Considering we're a company that reviews travel backpacks, we have a few more things to say.)

The zippers open a smidge too easily for some users; however, once you're used to that, there is little else to complain about here. The bungee cord on the front of the pack is great for late fall and early spring coats when you'll be on campus all day, the back panel and shoulder straps are pretty comfortable, the top handle makes it easy to hop from seat to seat to sit by your friends in a large lecture hall, and it has water bottle pockets so you can stay hydrated.

Did we mention this is one of the cheaper college backpacks on this list? What's not to love?

Why We Like It
  • Great price for what you get
  • Back panel and shoulder straps are comfortable
What You Should Know
  • The zippers open a little too easily
  • Water bottle pockets aren’t perfect
See Full Review & Buying Options
11. The North Face Borealis Backpack
The North Face Borealis Backpack Review

If you like the North Face Jester Backpack, you'll be into their Borealis Backpack. It has premium materials, features, and high-quality hardware that still comes at a more-than-fair price tag.

The Borealis harness system is comfortable, has convenient external storage for your school gear, and comes in numerous colorways, so you can find a model that fits your vibe. It doesn't have any strap keepers, so there are some extra materials to work with; however, you can fix that yourself or go with the flow.

The bungee system on the front of the Borealis is large and easy to work with, so you can attach larger gear here. The sternum strap has an emergency whistle when you need to be heard on campus, and we dig the internal organization. For those looking for one of the best backpacks for college from a brand they've heard of, look no further than the Borealis!

Why We Like It
  • A comfortable and durable harness system
  • Lots of external storage that’s easy to use
What You Should Know
  • No strap keepers on the pack
  • The false bottom isn’t raised very high
See Full Review & Buying Options
12. Osprey Flare 28
Osprey Flare Review

The Osprey Flare 28 offers quality materials at a fair price with large water bottle pockets. The recycled polyester looks sleek, and you can trust the YKK zippers to hang onto the gear you stow inside.

The main compartment is quite large, so you can stow a lot of gear inside; however, reaching the bottom can be problematic because you've got to reach in blind. You can make it easier to find your gear by using organizers and a tech pouch.

The laptop compartment holds up to a 17-inch laptop, so it covers a wider range of student needs. However, there are only a few colorways available, which will be a bummer for those who like vibrant colors. However, the sleek look of these college backpacks will help you blend into your 8 AM chemistry lecture, so the professor is less likely to call on you!

Why We Like It
  • Quality materials from top to bottom
  • Lots of pockets for organization and segmentation
What You Should Know
  • Can be hard to access gear at the bottom of the main compartment
  • Feels a little outdoorsy
See Full Review & Buying Options
13. Trakke Canna Backpack (V2)
Trakke Canna Backpack (V2) Back

Are you searching for cute little backpacks for college that will match the aura you're trying to give off? We've got you covered. The second iteration of Trakke's Canna Backpack has a unique rectangular design, is crafted from waxed canvas, and is handmade in Scotland. How's that for a conversation starter?

The pockets inside the main compartment could be more intuitive, but they work well once you get used to them and their quirks. The orange lining makes it easier to find your gear inside unless all your gear is a vibrant orange color. Then, you might be out of luck!

The pack has a comfortable harness system and two handles on the top, which look unique and make it easy to carry your pack from one table to the next at the library once you realize that the plug at yours isn't working. You'd think with all that tuition you pay…

If you're looking for something unique, this is one of the best backpacks for college.

Why We Like It
  • The rectangular size is easy to load books into
  • We dig the handles on the top
What You Should Know
  • The internal organization takes some getting used to
  • It can be hard to use the metal strap adjustors
See Full Review & Buying Options
14. Fjallraven Vardag 25
Fjallraven Vardag 25 Review

The Fjallraven Vardag 25 has a subdued look and is super weather resistant, so if you're hoping to go under the radar or are worried about the Doppler radar, it's got you covered.

There is only a little segmentation inside for your school supplies, but you can use pouches and other organizers to make it easier to stow and find your gear. We dig the simple design—with two pockets, there isn't anywhere to lose your equipment or misplace your sunglasses for those early Friday morning classes. Who expects you not to go out dancing on Throwback Thursday Karaoke Night?

This pack comes in at a budget-friendly price, can be used for weekend trips or outings to the gym, and will ensure your gear stays dry. If any of that matters to you, this might be one of the college backpacks to consider!

Why We Like It
  • It has a subdued look
  • No issues with water resistance
What You Should Know
  • Not much organization inside
  • Can be difficult to access the laptop compartment
See Full Review & Buying Options
15. The Ridge Commuter Backpack (Weatherproof)
The Ridge Commuter Backpack Weatherproof Side

Wait, Ridge makes backpacks, not just wallets?

Jokes aside, the Ridge Commuter Backpack is an extraordinarily weatherproof option with enough organization to ensure all your school supplies have a home and a USB connector to charge your devices on the go.

The water bottle pocket isn't a team favorite, as you can't fit some larger bottles inside. However, your campus should have a plethora of water fountains, so you can fill up a smaller bottle more frequently and fit it inside.

The materials here are very water resistant so this thing can handle walks across campus in the pouring rain and a blizzard. There's a USB connector, so you can put a battery bank inside and charge your phone on the exterior. If this feature isn't for you, remove the cable on the inside!

The laptop compartment can handle computers up to 16 inches and has extra padding for protection, which we dig. If you're looking for a rugged backpack that can handle a wet climate, this might be one of the best college backpacks for you.

Why We Like It
  • It’s extraordinarily water resistant
  • Loads of internal organization for stowing gear
What You Should Know
  • The USB connector can be finicky
  • Water bottle pocket won’t work with large bottles
See Full Review & Buying Options
16. Carhartt Single-Compartment Backpack (27L)
Carhartt Single-Compartment Backpack (27L) Review

The Carhartt Single-Compartment Backpack is an excellent choice for college backpacks because it has numerous extra pockets to organize your school gear, pack extra goodies for extracurricular activities, and pack gym or intramural sports clothing.

The laptop sleeve feels harder to access than it should be; however, knowing it's safely tucked away in your pack is nice. Plus, it can accommodate up to a 15-inch computer.

The external compartments on the front and sides of the pack don't eat into the main compartment, either, so your extra goodies won't take up space you're storing other gear in. The pack has the classic Carhartt look we've all grown to recognize, too, which we dig.

If you're looking for a hardy backpack to get all your gear to class, the gym, and home on the weekend, this might be the pack for you!

Why We Like It
  • The pack has large extra pockets to stow and organize more gear
  • It has a classic look that matches other Carhartt gear
What You Should Know
  • The laptop compartment can be hard to reach
  • Not a ton of colorway options available
See Full Review & Buying Options

So there you have it! Some of the best college backpacks on the market. Hopefully, you’ve found the pack to help you through the next two, four, or six years of your collegiate career. Good luck!

August 15, 2023

Pack Hacker