When you’re a college student shuttling between classes, your entire life — laptop, textbooks, snacks — gets stuffed in your backpack. To discover the best versions, whether something more athletic or technical or fashion-y, we went straight to the source. Below, the best backpacks according to actual college students. (We’ve also spoken to a chiropractor about the best backpacks for your posture and spine, too.)
A Sporty Backpack
“I rely on this backpack for carrying all my school supplies — there are lots of pockets and compartments for every little thing I need — although I do forfeit style for functionality when I carry it. You can also see that it’s really lightweight and sporty, so when I’m not in school I’ll use it for day hikes.” — Sophie Shaw, New York University
A Comfortable Backpack
“While not necessarily the most fashionable choice, my backpack has a lot of cushion in the shoulder straps — making it comfortable on my long commute to campus. I have an awful habit of overpacking for class, so this backpack totally enables me.” — Isabella Murray, University of Minnesota
Note: This Adidas backpack is nearly sold out, but the Create II version is available and very similar.
A School/Gym Backpack
“I’ve used this backpack for the past three years — it’s ginormous. There’s a laptop sleeve and a pocket for pens and pencils, and I also use this bag for going to the gym or when I play basketball because there’s plenty of space for a pair of shoes and a change of clothes.” — Tim Stebbins, DePaul University
A Techie Backpack
“I like that this backpack provides stable protection for laptops/electronics, and its compact size. I use it around campus, for traveling, and to carry my camera and lenses when I am taking photos around the city. It’s also held up across the seasons in all kinds of inclement weather without any signs of serious wear.” — Ben Moore, Fordham University
This backpack is almost sold out, but here’s similar laptop backpack from Case Logic.
A Grown-Up Backpack
“The Tumi is made of this ballistic nylon material that keeps my bag looking like brand new, even after two years of rough commutes to school. It’s a backpack I could definitely use long after school is over, even when I’m working. And of course, it matches all my outfits.” — Rachel Molina, New York University
An Affordable Backpack
“When you live in a college dorm, you have absolutely zero space to store accessories, so your backpack becomes your go-to. I needed to find a backpack that could lug around my massive MacBook Pro everywhere. I was skeptical of this bag at first because of its low price point, but after carrying it around campus for four months and across two different continents, I can safely say it is the cutest and sturdiest backpack I have ever owned. Best of all, it is covered in little pockets that are perfect for keeping track of everything from pencils to snacks.” — Taylor Rogers, New York University
A Durable Backpack
“So I’ve had the same backpack since I was a freshman in high school and am now a senior in college. Obviously a phenomenal backpack! It can hold about five textbooks at a time (I don’t mind skipping the gym sometimes), snacks when I get hungry, clothes to change into after work, and any other miscellaneous items I need to live the hectic life of a college student. Extremely durable.” — Keegan Madden, University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana
A Sleek Backpack
“My backpack is that perfect not-too-big-not-too-small size that has more than enough room for my laptop and notebooks, without making me seem like I’ve got a boulder strapped to my back. I also really enjoy that it’s made of a structured felt material, which — in addition to being surprisingly rainproof — helps give the bag its super sleek and clean silhouette. It never looks dingy or worn-out, no matter how much I abuse it!” — Paris Martineau, New York University
A Bright and Colorful Backpack
“I’ve had this Patagonia Ironwood backpack for about a year and a half now, and it still looks like new. I took it all over Europe when I studied abroad, and its bright color means it’s impossible to miss. It’s functional but streamlined, so I don’t feel like a fifth grader with a backpack the size of a tortoise shell.” — Grace Halio, New York University
A Fashion Backpack
“I recently bought this backpack, which I love because it’s so small and almost doubles as a handbag. It doesn’t carry that many things — I’m not lugging around everything I need, but I can definitely fit my planner and pens and water bottle in it.” — Samia Faour, DePaul University
A Leather(ish) Backpack
“There are so many black faux leather backpacks on the market, but this one is my favorite because it’s a statement bag that’s also functional — I can still fit my laptop and essentials (though not that many books). The gold zippers add a stylish touch.” — Nihal Al Qawasmi, Pace University
Note: This is currently sold out, but here is a similar option.
An Eco-Friendly Backpack
“My favorite book bag is my Timberland backpack, which I’ve had for four years. It’s water-resistant, which is a great bonus, and actually made from recycled material. I think the exact model I have is no longer being sold, but the Ipswich Whitewashed comes really close — it’s also made with the same thread that comes from recycled plastic bottles.” — Tequan Browning, DePaul University
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