The 8 Best Backpacks for College of 2021

Carry your gear around in style

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Every college student needs a backpack—ideally, one that’s spacious, durable, and useful enough to get you through the next four years. “A truly great backpack should become one of your most trusted companions,” Liana Delucca Johnson, co-founder and head of equipment at Agency Aspect, says. 

 When you’re investing in a brand new backpack, you’ll want to prioritize a few things—namely, stability, storage space, and comfort, Delucca Johnson says. Since you’ll be carrying your backpack everywhere, you’ll want it to stand up when you set it down. (A backpack prone to spilling is truly the worst.) You’ll also want a backpack that makes it easy to store your favorite items and something that’s comfortable enough to carry around every day. 

 To help you find that perfect bag, we’ve rounded up some of the best college backpacks on offer.

Our Top Picks
With a simple yet stylish design and various compartments, this backpack will have you looking cool and feeling organized.
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It marries style and function with its old-fashioned appearance and modern features.
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Made with an air-mesh design and featuring padded straps, this backpack fits laptops up to 15 inches.
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Crafted from a coated nylon material, this backpack is fully waterproof and has a padded laptop sleeve.
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This durable yet lightweight backpack conveniently folds up into a compact pouch, making it ideal for travel.
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With slash-resistant material and locking compartments, this bag will protect you from theft, making it ideal for travel.
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This well-made rolling backpack has a lifetime warranty and plenty of room to store everything you need to carry.
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Made of anti-theft material, this backpack has hidden pockets, a charging cable, and a built-in USB port.
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Best Overall: Herschel Pop Quiz Backpack

Herschel Pop Quiz Backpack

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

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

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. 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. Also nice? 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.

Best Budget: Modoker 15'' Vintage Laptop Backpack with USB Charging Port

Modoker 15'' Vintage Laptop Backpack with USB Charging Port

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

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.

Best for Laptop: Moleskine Metro Backpack

Moleskine Metro Backpack

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

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.

Best Waterproof: Timbuk2 Parker Commuter Backpack

Timbuk2 Parker Commuter Pack

Size: 11.8 x 5.5 x 20.5 inches | Material: Nylon | Compartments: 1 + internal laptop sleeve | Pockets: 3 zippered pockets + water bottle holder | Capacity: 26 L

What We Like
  • Waterproof

  • Lightweight

  • Large capacity

  • Has a padded laptop sleeve

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Many backpacks claim to be water-resistant, but Timbuk2’s Parker Commuter Backpack is fully waterproof. The bag is crafted from a coated nylon material, 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 handful of smaller pockets you can use to store water bottles, pens, and more.

Best Lightweight: Paravel Fold-Up Backpack

Paravel Recycled Nylon Fold-Up Backpack

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

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.

Best for Travel: Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Backpack

Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Backpack

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

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.

Best Rolling: JanSport Drive 8 Backpack

Driver 8 backpack

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

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.

Best Charging: Oscaurt Laptop Backpack

Oscaurt Laptop Backpack

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

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.

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,” Delucca Johnson 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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