The 8 Best Backpacks to Buy for College in 2018

Carry your gear around in style

Caucasian college student using laptop outdoors
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There aren’t many similarities between preparing for college and shopping for the first day of elementary school, but finding the right backpack is one of them. A great backpack can help you comfortably and efficiently carry your books, laptop, and supplies all over campus semester after semester.

The best backpacks are both stylish and functional, protecting your gear and helping you get through college just a little more easily. We've found some of the best college student backpacks for the optimal experience inside the classroom and out.


  • 01 of 08

    Best Overall: The North Face Borealis Backpack

    Simple, strong, and reliable are just a few words to describe The North Face Borealis Backpack.

    The 28-liter bag includes a fleece-lined laptop sleeve and two large compartments for notebooks and study material. Smaller pockets are great for holding delicate items and the parachute cord on the rear is perfect for carrying towels or blankets on a weekend getaway.

    The Borealis boasts strong and comfortable shoulder straps, a padded top handle and plenty of other straps for comfort while walking, biking, or hiking. This large backpack is tough and can be used for just about anything. It’s perfect for college because you can load it up with your books, laptop, some snacks, and anything else, and it's still comfortable to carry.

  • 02 of 08

    Best Budget: Modoker Vintage Backpack

    Of course, you want a backpack that can help you carry your tablet and books across the quad. Don’t you also want one that will turn a few heads? The Modoker Vintage Backpack is a unisex backpack that is stylish, subtle, and perfect for a college student's tight budget.

    Available in gray and black, the Modoker bag features a durable nylon material made to look like a traditional canvas and leather backpack. It’ll give users the stylish appeal of an outdoorsman of yore, with the functionality necessary in college today.

    The backpack includes an external charging port with a built-in cable for easy charging of phones or tablets on the way to class. The bag features six compartments and can hold a 15.6-inch laptop. Due to the unique material, students won’t have to worry about scratches or water damage, either.

    Stylish and traditional, but functional and ready for the modern campus, this backpack is a great option for any student. Its price tag makes it even more impressive.

  • 03 of 08

    Best Anti-Theft: Kopack Slim Backpack

    The Kopack Slim Backpack has a few features not found in your average backpack. They're designed to help prevent theft, giving you a little peace of mind as you travel around campus.

    The dual-layer zipper is puncture proof, to ensure that whatever you zip into your bag will stay there. Match the anti-theft zipper with the lockable D-ring zipper pull and you can secure any of your goods from thieves.

    The Kopack bag also features a hidden laptop compartment. This keeps prying eyes away from your personal items when you take the laptop out and keeps hands off the computer when you open the rest of your bag.

    The skinny backpack also features 17 slots for easy organization and an external charging USB port for phones or tablets. It includes straps designed for comfort and is available in multiple colors, including gray, black, and pink.

  • 04 of 08

    Best Athletic: Under Armour 3.0 Hustle Backpack

    Available in more than a dozen colors and designs, the Under Armor 3.0 Hustle Backpack is a sporty option for active students. The bag features a sleek design and an “element-battling, highly water-resistant finish.”

    While this bag has many of the benefits of a typical college backpack, including a laptop sleeve and comfortable straps (UA HeatGear straps), it is unique for its athletic shape. The compact bag is perfect for going to the gym after class or wearing on a bike as you cycle to and from campus. It’s also perfect for sporty outdoor trips like a trail run on the weekend.

    Overall, the Under Armor unisex bag is a great option for any student athlete, no matter your favorite activities.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Best Water-Resistant: Hikpro 3.0 Backpack

    Many backpacks have some level of water resistance to keep your laptop and books dry. However, the Hikpro backpack is uniquely designed for water protection with its nylon exterior and interior.

    Weighing less than 1/2 pound and having a 20-liter volume, the Hikpro 3.0 Backpack is a great option for any college student. The bag features a simple exterior design with two mesh side pockets, a small front pocket, and a large main pocket with multiple compartments.

    This bag is designed for multiple uses. Although optimal for college, the high-grade water-resistant material is also great for hiking or biking. It is also available in nine very colorful designs.

  • 06 of 08

    Best Laptop Bag: AmazonBasics Laptop Bag

    If you’re a business student or someone who simply loves typing notes, you may want to skip the traditional backpack and go for a more professional look. The AmazonBasics laptop/tablet bag is a hugely popular option that carries a more business-savvy look and a lighter load.

    Perfect for graduate students, this shoulder bag has a nearly perfect user rating with more than 12,000 reviews and a low cost. Multiple sizes are available, so there's sure to be one that fits your mobile device or laptop. This bag is simple, though it features several compartments for notebooks, pens, or other devices.

  • 07 of 08

    Best Rolling: J World Sundance Rolling Backpack

    If you’d prefer to roll your books rather than carry them on your back, consider the J World New York Sundance Rolling Backpack. This one is perfect for students on large campuses that require tons of walking. It's also great for anyone who flies home frequently and needs a bag that works in the airport.

    These rolling bags are 20 inches tall and made to hold laptops safely in a padded sleeve. Like any backpack, this rolling bag includes a front pocket for writing materials, comfortable straps, and a handle.

    J World offers several rolling backpacks for students. The Sundance features dozens of fun designs and colors to stand out. Students can also choose the Sunrise for a more muted style.

  • 08 of 08

    Best Messenger Bag: Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag

    A bit of a step up in style from a traditional backpack, messenger bags are a popular choice for college students. This one from Timbuk2 offers a more sophisticated look for carrying books and other necessities, but it also comes in a ton of colors from basic black to hot pink and striped versions. It also comes in a variety of sizes from extra-small to large.

    Timbuk2 was founded in San Francisco by a bike messenger, so they’re made for life on the go. The large size is equipped with seven pockets in all—five slip and two zip pockets, including one made just for a water bottle and a small zip pocket under the flap that’s the right size for holding a phone. They’re all distributed evenly throughout the bag for maximum organization potential and comfort.

    Made of waterproof material, customers say contents of the bag stay dry even during a downpour. Overall, reviewers comment that the bag is well-made, versatile and comfortable to wear.