The 8 Best Backpacks for College and Long-lasting Use

The Herschel Pop Quiz Backpack is our top pick

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The Spruce / Lecia Landis

Every college student needs a backpack—ideally, one that’s spacious, durable, and useful enough to get you through the next four years.

We researched the best choices from top brands, considering the comfort, stability, and organization of each one. Based on those factors, the Herschel Pop Quiz Backpack is our top pick. The spacious backpack has a padded laptop sleeve, fleece lined pockets for glasses, and a water-resistant base to protect against spills.

Here, the best backpacks for college.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Herschel Pop Quiz Backpack

4.9
Herschel Pop Quiz Backpack
What We Like
  • Has a padded laptop sleeve

  • Has a fleece-lined pocket for sunglasses

  • Available in various colors and patterns

  • Lifetime warranty

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

What do buyers say? 85% of 3,700+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 5 stars.

Herschel is widely beloved in the backpack space, and the brand’s Pop Quiz Backpack doesn’t disappoint. This option is spacious, durable, and lightweight—and it offers just enough compartments to keep your must-haves organized, earning the top spot in this roundup.

The bag comes equipped with a padded laptop sleeve, a fleece-lined sunglasses pocket, and a few other compartments you can use to store your go-tos. The base of the bag is lined with a water-resistant, faux leather panel that promises to keep your stuff safe when you encounter spills and puddles.

Herschel has a lifetime warranty so if anything happens to your bag, you can swap it out for a new one, which is a huge plus. There are 16 colors and designs to choose from, so you can guarantee it looks trendy and stylish along with being durable and practical. Users also loved how comfortable the backpack feels during the day, while some wished there were a few more organizational pockets.

Size: 11.75 x 6 x 17.5 inches | Materials: Fabric, fleece lining, faux leather base | Compartments: 1 + internal laptop sleeve | Pockets: 1 zippered pocket | Capacity: 22 L

Best Budget: Modoker 15.6-Inch Vintage Laptop Backpack with USB Charging Port

Modoker Vintage Laptop Backpack

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Durable

  • Built-in USB port

  • Available in various colors

What We Don't Like
  • May feel bulky

Searching for a solid backpack that won’t break the bank? Modoker’s Vintage Laptop Backpack may be exactly what you’re looking for. The backpack is crafted from a durable nylon material, and its faux leather details lend it plenty of sleek style. The backpack boasts six different compartments: a laptop sleeve, a spacious main compartment, two water bottle pockets, and two compact pockets fit for smaller must-haves. Even better: It comes with a built-in USB port you can use to recharge your phone while you're on the go.

Size: 11.8 x 6.8 x 15.8 inches | Material: Nylon | Compartments: 2 + internal laptop sleeve | Pockets: 3 zippered pockets + 2 water bottle holders | Capacity: 25 L

Best for Laptop: Moleskine Metro Backpack

Moleskine Metro Backpack
What We Like
  • Sleek and compact

  • Water-repellent material

  • Fits laptops up to 15 inches

  • Available in various colors

What We Don't Like
  • Not as spacious as other bags

  • No small pockets

If you’re looking for a sleek, compact backpack that can help keep your laptop safe from the elements, Moleskine’s Metro Backpack is an excellent pick. This backpack is crafted from water-repellent nylon material, and it boasts a protective polyurethane base that promises to keep your electronics safe from spills and puddles. The simple backpack comes with two streamlined compartments: one for your laptop and one for everything else. And since it boasts such a low-profile silhouette, it’s an excellent pick for commuting, traveling, and day-to-day use.

Size: 12.25 x 5.25 x 18.5 inches | Material: Polyamide, PU | Compartments: 2 | Pockets: 2 zippered pockets | Capacity: 15 L

Best Waterproof : United By Blue 15L Commuter Pack

United By Blue 15L Commuter Pack

United By Blue

What We Like
  • Waterproof

  • Lightweight

  • Made from recycled materials

  • Has a padded laptop sleeve

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Many backpacks claim to be water-resistant, but United By Blue's 15L Commuter Pack is complete with a durable water repellant finish for resisting both water and stains. The bag is crafted from a coated polyester, which promises to keep your must-haves safe—even if you get caught in the rain. On the interior of the bag, you’ll find a padded laptop sleeve to secure your favorite devices. And on the outside of the bag, you’ll find a smaller pocket for valuables. The best part is that for every product purchased, United By Blue removes a pound of trash from oceans and waterways.

Size: 19 x 14 x 5 inches | Material: Recycled Polyester | Compartments: 1 + internal laptop sleeve | Pockets: 2 zippered pockets | Capacity: 15 L

Best Lightweight: Paravel Fold-Up Backpack

Paravel Recycled Nylon Fold-Up Backpack
What We Like
  • Foldable

  • Easy to clean

  • Crafted from recycled water bottles

  • Available in various colors

What We Don't Like
  • Buckles may be uncomfortable

  • Not a lot of padding

Paravel’s Fold-Up Backpack is not your average backpack. The bag is crafted from durable nylon, so it’s incredibly easy to clean—and when empty, it can fold down to a fraction of its size. This makes the bag a particularly useful pick for hikes, picnics, and other day trips. Its spacious interior can hold snacks, drinks, sunscreen, and other necessities you might use up on the go. And once you’re finished using the bag to store stuff, you can fold it inside one of its pockets and carry it around like a wallet, which is great news for tiny dorms.

Size: 9 x 13 x 16 inches | Material: Nylon | Compartments: 1 | Pockets: 2 zippered pockets | Capacity: Not listed

Best for Travel: Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Backpack

4.6
Travelon Anti Theft Classic Backpack
TripSavvy / Conor Ralph.
What We Like
  • Slash-resistant material

  • Zippers come equipped with locks

  • Interior has RFID-blocking pockets

  • Available in various colors

What We Don't Like
  • Smaller than other options

  • Not as breathable as other backpacks

Whether you’re taking a vacation or spending a semester abroad, you need a bag that can hold up to a little wear and tear—and that can keep your stuff safe. Travelon’s Anti-Theft Classic Backpack promises to do both of those things masterfully. The durable bag is crafted from a slash-resistant material, and since all of its exterior zip-up pockets come with built-in locks, you can rest assured knowing your stuff will stay safe and secure. Even better? The interior of the bag is lined with RFID-blocking pockets that make it easy to keep your cards and your passport out of harm’s way.

Size: 12 x 6 x 16 inches | Material: Polyester | Compartments: 1 + internal laptop sleeve | Pockets: 2 zippered pockets + water bottle holder | Capacity: 11 L

Best Rolling: JanSport Drive 8 Backpack

Driver 8 backpack

Courtesy of JanSport

What We Like
  • Water-resistant

  • Has a padded laptop sleeve

  • Available in various colors

  • Lifetime warranty

What We Don't Like
  • May tip over when weighted too heavily

Don’t feel like carrying your stuff around all day? JanSport has you covered. The brand’s Driver 8 rolling backpack is a classic backpack that doubles as a rolling bag, making it easy for you to transport your stuff exactly how you want to. The bag is crafted from a durable, water-resistant fabric, and its spacious interior will give you plenty of room to store your stuff. Take advantage of the bag’s two main compartments and its padded laptop sleeve, and use the extra exterior pockets to keep your smaller must-haves organized.

Size: 17.5 x 13 x 10 inches | Material: Polyester, mesh | Compartments: 2 + internal laptop sleeve | Pockets: 2 zippered pockets + 1 water bottle holder | Capacity: 36 L

Best Charging: Oscaurt Laptop Backpack

4.6
oscaurt Laptop Backpack, Anti-theft Travel Backpack, Business School Bookbag
TripSavvy / Conor Ralph.
What We Like
  • Anti-theft material

  • Water-resistant

  • Built-in USB port

  • Loaded with pockets and compartments

What We Don't Like
  • Not very large or spacious

  • Zippers may be tough to use

A dead battery is always a bummer. Thankfully, Oscaurt’s Laptop Backpack makes it easy to recharge your favorite devices on the go. The budget-friendly backpack is crafted from a water-resistant, anti-theft material, and it comes equipped with a USB port you can use to recharge your devices whenever you need to. On the interior of the bag, you’ll find a series of pockets and compartments. All these options make it easy to keep your must-haves organized and secure, whether you’re traveling with a laptop, a water bottle, or a handful of smaller must-haves.

Size: 11 x 5 x 17 inches | Material: PVC polyester, fine twill polyester | Compartments: 1 + internal laptop sleeve | Pockets: 3 zippered pockets + water bottle holder | Capacity: Not listed

Final Verdict

Our favorite college backpack is the Herschel Pop Quiz Backpack (view at Amazon) due to its spacious design with various compartments to hold your laptop, supplies, sunglasses, and more. As an added bonus, it's also water-resistant. Looking for something designed around your laptop? Try Moleskine's Backpack Metro Collection (view at Food52). It's water-repellent, durable, and will keep your electronics perfectly safe.

What to Look for in a College Backpack

Stability

In college, you aren’t just carrying a backpack around—you’re also setting it down in classrooms, coffee shops, and more. “This pack is your portable office,” Liana Delucca Johnson, co-founder and head of equipment at Agency Aspect, says. “There is nothing worse than a pack that falls face first in the dirt or on the classroom floor.” So look for a backpack that has a sturdy base and a durable, easy-to-grab top handle.

Organization

Your backpack should make it easy for you to store and organize your stuff, so look for something that has all the pockets and compartments you need. Keep an eye out for padded laptop sleeves, side panels for water bottles, and more. And make sure your backpack is adequately roomy. Most standard backpacks can fit a 15-inch laptop, but double-check that the one you’re looking at has space for other necessities, too.

Comfort

Since you’ll be walking all around campus with your backpack, you’ll want to invest in something comfortable. Look for options that are padded and breathable, and keep an eye out for weight, too. “Keep in mind how much the backpack weighs empty,” Delucca Johnson says. If your backpack is already uncomfortably heavy when empty, just imagine how it’ll feel when it’s full.

Why Trust The Spruce?

As a seasoned lifestyle writer, Lindsey Lanquist understands what a difference a great product recommendation can make. That’s why she makes sure to recommend products that are sleek, reliable, and well-reviewed by those who’ve tried them. To write this article, she consulted experts and selected backpacks for their durability, size, and comfort.

Updated by
Lindsey Lanquist
Lindsey Lanquist The Spruce
Lindsey Lanquist is a Nashville-based writer and product reviewer for The Spruce who covers health, fitness, food, and lifestyle. She has written for MyDomaine since August 2019. And her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, SELF, Byrdie, Verywell, StyleCaster, SheKnows, and NYLON.
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