The 8 Best Kids' Backpacks of 2021

Carry these bags to school and beyond

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When you’re a kid, choosing a backpack is a pretty big deal. Your first backpack is a signal that you’re old enough—and responsible enough—to carry around your stuff all day. Your first grade-school backpack is a celebration of your official status as a big kid. And your first middle school backpack? That’s one of your first opportunities to explore your personal style—and to communicate it to others.

Given all that symbolism, buying a backpack can be a very exciting experience, but it can also be a pretty fraught one. After all, you want to invest in a genuinely great bag. So in addition to looking for something that expresses your individuality (or, if you’re shopping as a parent, your little one’s individuality), you’ll want to pay attention to durability, size, and storage space. 

Try to find something that’s hardy enough to hold up to wear and tear and prioritize pockets wherever you can. Then, pay attention to size. If your little one is prone to growth spurts, consider buying a bag they’ll grow into. That way, you won’t have to invest in a new backpack every single year.

Even with these tips, though, backpack shopping can be tough. So to make things a little easier, we’ve rounded up some of the best kids' backpacks on the market right now.

Our Top Picks
Lightweight and simply designed, this is a backpack that can be used for years to come.
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This affordable backpack is durable and lightweight, giving you decent bang for your buck.
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Practical and efficient, this backpack has double skate wheels for a smooth ride.
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Made from durable recycled ripstop nylon with a water repellent finish, this kid-sized backpack is great for outdoor adventures.
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Small enough to fit even a toddler, this backpack comes in seven fun dinosaur or unicorn patterns.
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Padded straps, an adjustable buckle, and waterproof, easy-to-clean material make this backpack a must-have for preschoolers.
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Waterproof and sturdy, this backpack has a padded back panel that makes it comfortable to wear.
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This diaper bag backpack is compact and surprisingly stylish, yet has 16 pockets and two compartments to fit everything.
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Best Overall: JanSport Superbreak Backpack

JanSport Superbreak Backpack

Size: 16.7 x 13 x 8.5 inches | Material: Polyester | Capacity: 26 L

What We Like
  • Lightweight but spacious

  • Water-repellant, durable fabric

  • Padded, comfortable straps

  • Available in various colors

What We Don't Like
  • Zippers may be tough to use

  • No bottom lining

If you’re looking for a classic backpack, it’s pretty hard to go wrong with JanSport’s Superbreak backpack. It's durable, reliable, and spacious, and since it weighs a mere 8 ounces (when empty), it’s not the kind of backpack that will weigh your little one down. You'll find a large main compartment fit for holding textbooks, folders, and more, plus a front utility pocket for storing and organizing smaller must-haves, like pencils, pens, and highlighters. Available in a wide variety of colors, this backpack has a lifetime warranty, so your kid will have it forever.

Best Budget: Everest Basic Backpack

 Everest Luggage Basic Backpack

Size: 11 x 5 x 15 inches | Material: Polyester | Capacity: 13.9 L

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Moisture-resistant fabric

  • Very budget-friendly

  • Available in various colors

What We Don't Like
  • Zippers may be tough to use

  • Not as durable as others

  • Not much padding

A classic backpack available at a ridiculously reasonable price point, Everest’s Basic Backpack is basically a dream come true. The backpack boasts a simple design: There's a main compartment for larger essentials and a smaller front pocket for littler must-haves. And though the 11-ounce backpack should be pretty lightweight, it promises to be spacious enough to store all your little one’s stuff.

What's also nice? The bag is designed to be moisture-resistant, and since it’s available in 27 different colors, it shouldn’t be hard for your little one to find an option they love.

Best Rolling: Rockland 17" Rolling Backpack

Rockland 17" Roadster Rolling Backpack

Size: 13 x 10 x 17 inches | Material: Polyester, mesh | Capacity: Not listed

What We Like
  • Spacious

  • Boasts five different pockets

  • Works as a classic or roller backpack

  • Available in various colors

What We Don't Like
  • May be difficult to handle

Rolling backpacks are a classic option for kids who don’t want their textbooks weighing them down, and Rockland’s Double Handle Rolling Backpack is a solid option that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. The backpack is crafted from soft polyester, and its simple design makes it easy for kids to store and organize their stuff.

On the interior you’ll find one large main compartment fit for holding textbooks and folders, and on the exterior you’ll find two small pockets that are great for pencils and notecards. You’ll also find mesh pockets lining the sides of the backpack, which are great for holding umbrellas on rainy days—and for holding water bottles on any day.

Best for Hiking: REI Co-op Tarn 12 Pack - Kids'

REI Co-op Tarn 12 Pack

Size: 14 x 10 x 5 inches | Material: Nylon | Capacity: 12 L

What We Like
  • Water-repellant

  • Lined with reflective details

  • Lots of pockets

What We Don't Like
  • Only available in two colors

Hiking backpacks aren’t just for adults—and REI Co-op’s Tarn 12 Pack proves it. The compact day pack was crafted with kids in mind—it’s specifically designed to suit kids between the ages of 5 to 8, but there are other sizes available for older kids. And since it’s crafted from durable, water-repellent nylon, it should make a solid companion on all your outdoor adventures.

The backpack boasts a large main compartment, two smaller front pockets, and two side mesh panels—giving your little one plenty of space to store and organize their essentials. Even better: It comes lined with reflective details that should keep your little one visible, even in low-light conditions.

Expert Buying Tip

Mesh side panels can be great for holding cups, water bottles, and umbrellas, but in order for them to be useful, they have to be tight enough to keep your stuff in place. That’s why Liana Delucca Johnson, co-founder and head of equipment at Agency Aspect, recommends taking them on a “run to the bus test.”

Put a couple of items in your side mesh panels and then run around with the backpack on. “Did your water bottle fall out?” she says. “If it did, then the backpack was probably not designed with a nice tight material to hold your bottle in.”

Best Toddler: Orezi Dinosaur Toddler Backpack

Orezi Dinosaur Toddler Backpack

Size: 10 x 4 x 12 inches | Material: Twill cloth | Capacity: Not listed

What We Like
  • Water-resistant, durable fabric

  • Machine-washable

  • 4 different compartments

  • Available in various patterns

What We Don't Like
  • Mesh panels won't fit all sippy cups

Orezi’s Dinosaur Toddler Backpack is cute, compact, and durable. And since it’s sized to fit both toddlers and preschoolers, your little one can keep it with them, even after a couple of growth spurts. The backpack is crafted from durable, water-resistant polyester, so it promises to hold up to the wear and tear of childhood. And since it’s machine-washable, it shouldn’t be too tough to clean.

The backpack boasts one large main compartment, one smaller front pocket, and two side mesh panels. It’s available in seven cute dinosaur prints, so your little one is sure to find an option they'll love.

Best for Preschool: HawLander Little Kids Backpack

HawLander Little Kids Backpack

Size: 11 x 5 x 15 inches | Material: Polyester | Capacity: 16 L 

What We Like
  • Lightweight but spacious

  • Water-resistant fabric

  • 4 different pockets

  • Available in various colors

What We Don't Like
  • Fabric isn't very thick or durable

  • May be big on smaller children

HawLander’s Little Kids Backpack is cute, durable, and lightweight. And even better: It’s the perfect size for kids between the ages of 3 to 6. The bag is crafted from durable, water-resistant polyester, and it promises to be easy to clean. And though the bag is incredibly lightweight—it weighs a mere 10.5 ounces—it should be big enough to hold all your little one’s necessities. There's a spacious main compartment, a smaller front pocket, and two side mesh panels that are perfect for water bottles, sippy cups, and more. Also great? The bag is available in seven versatile color palettes.

Best for Grade School: L.L. Bean Original Book Pack

L.L. Bean Original Book Pack

Size: 13 x 7.75 x 16 inches | Material: Polyester | Capacity: 24 L

What We Like
  • Lightweight but spacious

  • Weatherproof, durable fabric

  • Padded, comfortable back and straps

  • Available in various patterns

What We Don't Like
  • No subtle patterns; very vibrant

L.L. Bean’s Original Book Pack is a classic grade school backpack, and since it comes in 11 vibrant patterns, your little one can pick an option that’s as eye-catching as they want it to be. The backpack is crafted from durable, weatherproof polyester, and its extra-strong stitching and ultra-tough zippers promise to hold up to the wear and tear of grade school.

The back is padded for comfort, and the shoulder straps are adjustable for easy customization. The bag also boasts a spacious main compartment, two smaller front pockets, and two mesh side panels, so they'll have plenty of room to store all their stuff.

Best Diaper Bag: Ruvalino Diaper Bag Backpack

Diaper Bag Backpack

Size: 11.8 x 7.8 x 16.5 inches | Material: Polyester | Capacity: Not listed

What We Like
  • Compact and lightweight

  • Available in various colors

  • 16 pockets

  • Waterproof

What We Don't Like
  • Not machine-washable

One of the more important purchases you'll make when you have a baby is a good quality, reliable diaper bag, and this one found on Amazon checks all the boxes. It's compact and surprisingly stylish, yet has 16 pockets and two compartments to fit everything, from diapers and bottles to your wallet and keys, and even your laptop. Not only that, but it's made of a waterproof polyester material and comes in seven stylish colors so you won't feel like you're lugging around diapers.

Final Verdict

Overall, our top pick is the JanSport Superbreak (view at Amazon). Its spacious interior makes it easy to keep things organized, and it can handle all the wear and tear your little one might throw at it. However, if you're looking for something more budget-friendly, you can't go wrong with the Everest Basic Backpack (view at Amazon). It's lightweight, moisture-resistant, and comes in a variety of colors.

What to Look for in a Kids' Backpack

Durability

Kids' backpacks tend to get subjected to a lot of wear and tear, so you’ll want to invest in something that’s built to last. Delucca Johnson recommends shopping with the “drag test” in mind.

“Kids are hard on their backpacks, and I’ve seen my kids pull their bags like a tired dog on a leash,” she says. “Make sure the boot (bottom) of the bag is made of a sturdier material than the body of the bag.”

Stick with durable materials (polyester is one great option), and make sure the zipper is of good quality as well.

Size

Kids grow a lot—and fast—so finding a backpack that comfortably fits your little one can be tough. When in doubt, Delucca Johnson recommends buying a bag that your kid can grow into a little bit. That way, you shouldn’t have to buy a brand new bag every year. Younger kids can get away with a smaller size, but as they grow up, you'll want to be sure their backpack can fit iPads and laptops, as well as books and supplies.

Pockets

Your little one should be able to use their bag to store and organize their stuff. Delucca Johnson recommends looking for “some internal pocketing and organization to keep small items, like toys, secure.” Larger mesh panels can also be useful for keeping items like umbrellas and water bottles separate, and front pockets can be great for keeping track of chargers and accessories.

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 list, she consulted experts and selected backpacks based on durability, features, and customization.

Updated by Lindsey Lanquist
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