If you’re off to college in the Fall, there’s a few critical must haves to pick up before you go. A convenient backpack is one of the most important tools in your arsenal, so we’ve round up some of the best.
We appreciate that a backpack is a very personal thing. Like anything that you wear or carry, it reflects upon your style. We’ve focused on backpacks that are available in numerous different colors so—in theory—there’s something for everyone’s taste.
There’s also the issue of size and compartments. You don’t want a backpack that’s only one compartment, but you also don’t necessarily want a backpack that’s made up of hundreds of different compartments. Human nature means you’re going to end up filling up the backpack to full capacity and potentially overloading yourself with stuff you just don’t need at all times. So, comfort and convenience is a big focus here.
As well as that, we’ll highlight when a backpack offers useful straps, and if there are any bonus features such as USB charging facilities. Flexibility is key after all.
Here are some of our favorite backpacks for college students.
Best All Rounder: JanSport Right Pack Backpack ($70)
The JanSport Right Pack Backpack is a fairly stylish and robust choice to consider. It has one main large compartment that offers an internal 15 inch laptop sleeve for storing your laptop safely. Alongside that is a front organizer pocket for tossing in stuff you need to access regularly.
Made from premium Cordura fabric with a suede leather bottom, it looks good and feels good to the touch. Its shoulder straps are padded and straight-cut so there’s no issue with them digging into your shoulders if you’re carrying it for a long time. It’s suitably durable too. If you’re in need of a general all-purpose backpack, this is the backpack for you. It’s an absolute classic that has remained unchanged for decades for a good reason.
Best For Daily College Use: Herschel Supply Co Heritage Backpack ($56)
Available in many different colors, the Herschel Supply Co Heritage Backpack looks neat and stylish. Much like the JanSport, it has a main compartment to store mostly anything imaginable, along with an interior sleeve pocket for your laptop. Where the Herschel goes further is its internal media pocket that has a headphone port for easy access. Its front compartment also has a key clip which is great for storing, well, your keys.
It’s not the biggest backpack out there with a capacity of 21.5L but recall what we noted earlier about the desire to stuff everything and anything in your bag. For a short trip away, or simply taking your books and laptop to school, it’s lightweight and comfortable so it’s a good option for most students.
Best For A Little Traveling: SwissGear Travel Gear Bungee ($45)
For those times when you need a backpack for your college stuff AND for traveling somewhere, the SwissGear Travel Gear Bungee is the backpack for you. It’s roomy with plenty of compartments so your laptop is safe in its own sleeve, alongside various other bits and pieces.
It offers a padded shoulder strap system for added comfort, with an airflow back system so you should avoid feeling too sweaty. There’s a space to store your phone, along with a headphone pull through slot too. Oh, and there’s a water bottle pocket which is always useful.
Best for USB Charging: Modoker Vintage Laptop Backpack ($24)
The Modoker Vintage Laptop Backpack is an old school kind of stylish, that’s backed up with some distinctly modern features. It looks like a satchel from days gone by, but it’s been made specifically with storing your laptop in mind. Able to fit up to a 15 inch laptop, it goes one further by offering an external USB charging port and a set-in charging cable. It doesn’t come with a power bank included, but they’re easy enough to purchase separately (have a look at our article on portable chargers to find out more), and you’ll be good to go for a while.
Besides the convenient laptop spot, the backpack also offers a roomy main compartment, a secondary pocket with a zipper, an additional front pocket, and two side pockets. The shoulder straps are comfortable and the material used is hard wearing. It’s not the biggest backpack out there, but for daily use, it’s a bit of a bargain.
Best For Commuting and Traveling: The North Face Jester Backpack ($100)
The North Face Jester Backpack isn’t cheap but if you need a backpack that’s also great for regular travel, it’s worth the extra cost. Made from 600D polyester, it’s very durable. It has a floating padded 15″ laptop sleeve in the main compartment which will protect your laptop from bumps and falls. Also included is a secure zippered pocket, a Velcro pocket, and plenty of spaces for pens or other small items.
Additionally, the backpack uses a Flex vent suspension system which boasts compression-molded shoulder straps, as well as a padded air-mesh back panel with a spine channel. What that means for you is maximum comfort with minimal risk of sweating while you carry it. There’s space for water bottle storage, and a bike-light loop to keep you illuminated too.
Because of such features and its price tag, it’s pretty heavy duty for just heading to college each day. However, if you regularly commute by cycle or you plan on traveling a lot in the future, this is a perfect backpack for such ambitions.
Best For Weight Distribution: Osprey Packs Parsec Daypack ($88)
Not everyone’s shoulders are as sturdy as they might like them to be. The Osprey Packs Parsec Daypack circumvents that issue a little by including a hip belt to keep the pack nice and secure to your body as you walk. Elsewhere, it works well as a general all-rounder backpack.
It has a front panel fabric “shove-it” pocket for, well, shoving whatever you need to casually discard, along with another front panel storage pocket for more secure items. Each pocket offers additional pouches for dividing stuff up safely, such as chargers, pens, or even toothpaste and toiletries. Inside is two padded sleeves for keeping your laptop, as well as tablet secure. There’s still enough room for more items in there too, such as your books or clothes.
Finally, there’s a blinker light attachment strap for if you’re riding a bike and need extra safety and illumination.
If you really liked our backpack picks but you’re looking for something a little more security minded—perhaps your commute to college takes you through some rough areas—be sure to check out our top picks for anti-theft backpacks as part of your back-to-school shopping.