Best Backpacks for College
Klaus Vedfelt

21 Best Backpacks for College Students That Are Spacious and Lightweight 

The smartest picks out there. 

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The best backpack for college will have to pull a lot of weight. It has to protect your delicate laptop on the way to class, house gym clothes, and even double as a carry-on for trips back home during school breaks. 

So it's essential to find a backpack for school that can help you do the heavy lifting comfortably and stylishly (of course!). We suggest looking for a roomy bag with plenty of organizational compartments, including a dedicated laptop sleeve. Wide, cushioned straps can help distribute the weight evenly for a more comfortable commute. Depending on where you live, you may also want to opt for a backpack constructed with water-resistant materials to keep all your school gear safe. 

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You won't have to worry about finding the right pick though because there are plenty of styles, colors, and types to choose from. Yes, there are the same classics—like Jansport and North Face—you relied on in your younger years. But some fashion brands—like Coach and MZ Wallace—are also creating plenty of ultra-cool, luxe options that still happen to be highly functional. There are also tons of budget-friendly backpacks on Amazon

Whether you prefer a sophisticated leather laptop backpack, a solid black quilted number, or a more durable water-resistant canvas, these are the best backpacks for college students. 

Our top picks:

Best overall college backpack

Estarer PU Leather Backpack

This faux leather laptop backpack may look like something you'd score at your favorite vintage thrift, but it's actually a budget-friendly Amazon pick packed with modern conveniences. Inside, you'll find a padded laptop sleeve, a padded iPad pocket, and even a small security pocket for your wallet. 

User review: “I have used this backpack as a college backpack for a few months now and I love it. Because it is more square, it keeps my laptop and folders nice and straight, and makes it easier to keep organized. It's comfortable, durable (so far), and very cute!!!!”

Pros: Made with durable faux leather   Has sturdy shoulder straps 

Cons: X Some users note the hardware starts to fall apart after a few months of frequent use

Dimensions: ‎4 x 13 x 16 inches

Weight: 2.2 pounds

Best backpack for college students with laptops

It may be a little pricier, but this backpack from Calpak is worth every penny. For starters, the faux leather design, complete with exposed stitching and contrasting hardware, is nothing short of show-stopping. But inside, you'll get everything you need, too. One side features a padded laptop sleeve and a phone pouch; the other is deep enough for whatever else you need to tote (books, your wallet, a set of gym clothes). It also has a luggage trolley sleeve on the back that slips right over the handle of your carry-on for easy travel. 

User review: “After weeks of searching for a functional and stylish laptop backpack, I choose this one and the research paid off. Very attractive, it has earned admiration and compliments from friends and strangers. More importantly, it is functional, sturdy, easily organized, and lightweight. Excellent value for the money.”

Pros: Sophisticated design details   Has a built-in luggage trolley sleeve Comes in multiple colors

Cons: X Expensive

Dimensions: ‎15.5 x 11.5 x 4.5 inches

Weight: 3 pounds

Warranty: 1 year

Best North Face backpack

The North Face Jester School Laptop Backpack

It may be a bit sportier, but this backpack by The North Face is just as campus-ready as others on the list. The roomy 28L pick includes plenty of storage: a padded internal laptop sleeve, two external water bottle pockets, and a front compartment complete with extra zippered pockets inside. Another unique feature that sets it apart? This backpack stands upright on its own, so you'll have an easier time loading and unloading. The icing on the cake: It's endorsed as ergonomic by the American Chiropractic Association. (That means it's extra comfortable to carry.)

User review: “Great backpack for college students who can’t return to their dorm between classes. This backpack holds up well for a student always on the go. Even holding up from several hiking trips.” 

Pros: Stands upright for easy loading   Large capacity Endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association

Cons: X Second pocket is on the small side

Dimensions: ‎20 x 14 x 2 inches

Weight: 14.8 ounces

Best backpacks for college guys

NIKE Heritage Backpack 2.0

Thinking about buying this backpack? Just do it. It has everything you could ever want, including an internal laptop sleeve pocket, a zippered front pouch for tech accessories, and an exterior front pouch for keys and other small essentials. You'll have no trouble carrying the load comfortably, either, thanks to the wide, padded straps. 

User review: "It’s perfect for me! It’ll fit all my books and has a slot for my laptop! Great buy for college/high school"." 

Pros: Comes in multiple colors   Wide, padded straps

Cons: X Not very structured, so tends to flop over if not filled

Dimensions: ‎7.87 x 5.91 x 1.97 inches

Weight: 13.6 ounces

Best affordable backpack

LOVEVOOK Laptop Backpack for Women

Looking for a very specific color? Chances are you'll find it in the LOVEOOK Laptop Backpack—it comes in a whopping 20 different colors. The bag does more than satisfy your style, though. The structured backpack has a relatively roomy interior with organizational pockets like a sleeve for your laptop. It also has two front-zip pockets, two side pockets for a water bottle or two, and even a USB charging port to keep you powered up. 

User review: “I bought this bag for college and so far it has held up wonderfully. I do carry heavy books in it, more than one at a time! All the different pockets help me with keeping my stuffed organized, whether it be my laptop, charger, snacks, etc. I have walked to classes in the rain and nothing inside got wet.”

Pros: Multi pockets design Durable fabrication 

Cons: X Some users note that the interior compartment is not very spacious 

Dimensions: ‎‎7.48 x 11.81 x 16.14 inches

Weight: 1.48 pounds

Best luxe backpack

Coach Gotham Backpack

Does it get any more sophisticated than super soft pebbled calf leather? If you're on the hunt for refined, there's no doubt this backpack from Coach is it. Available in two colors, the genuine leather backpack is more than easy on the eyes. It has an interior 15-inch laptop sleeve, plus an interior phone pocket and two exterior zip pockets for other essentials you need quick access to. A breathable mesh back and padded adjustable straps ensure your comfort. 

User review: “I love this bag. The green is nice and rich but subtle enough to be paired with different color outfits. The bag is sleek and holds its shape very well! That's the main reason I was interested in the bag. Fits my 13-inch MacBook Air with ease!”

Pros: Lots of storage pockets   Genuine pebbled leather

Cons: X Expensive

Dimensions: ‎‎7.48 x 11.81 x 16.14 inches

Weight: 1.83 pounds

Best leather backpack

Cole Haan Triboro Leather Backpack

Another high-quality leather option, this backpack from Cole Haan has just as much to offer at a slightly lower price. The interior features multiple compartments, including a laptop sleeve suitable for computers up to 16 inches, a smaller tech pocket for phones, and more. Like other great backpacks, it also has a breathable mesh back and wide, padded straps for comfort. 

User review: “Classic, looks great, leather feels great, straps are durable.”

Pros: Real leather   Multiple organizational compartments

Cons: X Expensive

Dimensions: ‎‎11 x 18 x 6 inches

Weight: Not listed

Best backpack for travel

Everlane The ReNew Transit Backpack

Need to hop on a plane to make your way to college? You’ll love this 100% recycled polyester travel backpack. The water-resistant pick comes in five sophisticated colors, and in addition to the roomy interior that's perfect for school, is built to make travel easier. Think: a pass-through strap that attaches to a rolling suitcase and a front laptop pocket to simplify the TSA screening process. 

User review: “I absolutely love this backpack! I've gone through so many backpacks that claim to be wonderful, but this one is it!! It's perfect for airplane travel as a personal item. The single large compartment is so much more convenient when trying to find an item instead of trying to remember which pocket you put something in. The front pocket is large enough to fit whatever you need, and the top flap zipper pocket is wonderful for phone, keys, kindle, etc. I'm so glad I finally found this!!”

Pros: Travel-friendly   Water-resistant finish

Cons: X Some customers would like the laptop sleeve to come with padding

Dimensions: ‎‎17.5 x 7.25 x 12 inches

Weight: Not listed

Best waterproof backpack

Rains Mini Reflective Waterproof Backpack

Wet weather threatening to rain on your parade? (Or, more likely, ruin your laptop.) This sleek and slim backpack is fully waterproof, so you can make it to class without any mishaps. And don't worry—it's roomy enough to fit the essentials—a laptop, chargers, wallet, books. It also has smooth shoulder straps that won't dig in, despite their narrow profile. 

User review: “Got this backpack in off-white and black—it is very comfortable, distributes the weight of my computer, etc, very well across my back, and is very attractive. It easily holds my MacBook Air, a leather-bound appointment book, a couple of pads, and a thick glasses case. After years of carrying a thin-strapped leather tote, this is so much lighter on my shoulders. Really happy with my purchase.” 

Pros: Waterproof fabric Available in 10+ colors 

Cons: X Not as roomy as other options

Dimensions: 11.4 x 15.7 x 3.9 inches

Weight: Not listed

Best classic backpack

Herschel Classic Backpack

Herschel backpacks come in just about every color under the sun, so you can choose something that's spot-on with your unique personal style. They've got a really basic, but sleek silhouette that goes with just about any outfit, too. Inside, the backpack is nice and roomy. And to seal the deal, it's made from a lightweight cotton canvas that takes scuffs and spills in stride. 

User review: “Amazing durability and very lightweight! Used it for one year of college and still looks brand new. Definitely coming with me into my second year. Cute color too!”

Pros: Very durable   Comes in a wide range of colors and patterns

Cons: X Some users wish the backpack had some padding

Dimensions: 6 x 12.5 x 17.5 inches

Weight: 1.29 pounds

Best color selection

FJÄLLRÄVEN Kånken 15-Inch Laptop Backpack

If the campus is sprawling, you'll want something exceptionally lightweight, like this backpack. Not only is it feather-weight, but the fabric is also moisture-repellent, so you won't have to make a mad dash for the classroom if it starts to rain. A full front zip reveals a roomy interior for books, folders, and more, plus a laptop sleeve for devices up to 15 inches.

User review: “Purchased for my daughter for school. Very good quality and construction. Backpack is holding up well to school demands and wear.” 

Pros: Comes in a wide range of colors   Water-resistant

Cons: X Some shoppers note that there is not enough interior padding to protect a laptop 

Dimensions: 16 x 10 x 6 inches

Weight: 1 pound

Best backpack for athletes

Lululemon New Crew Backpack 22L

Students who spend a big chunk of time at sports practice or in the gym should set their sights on a backpack specifically made for the active set. This fabric backpack from lululemon is water repellant, so sweat-soiled clothes won't leave behind a stench. Importantly, it also has a roomy interior, an exterior padded laptop sleeve, an exterior pocket for smaller essentials, and a side water bottle pocket. It doubles as a great carry-on, too, thanks to the luggage trolley sleeve on the backside. 

User review: “I love this backpack so much. It’s so cute, and it’s the perfect size for me. I use this backpack for the gym and school. The great thing about this backpack is that it’s extremely comfortable and there’s a laptop compartment. My 24-ounce shaker bottle fits perfectly.”

Pros: Water-repellant fabric   

Cons: X Some shoppers note that the zippers can be faulty

Dimensions: 11.4 x 7.3 x 16.5 inches

Weight: Not listed

Best machine-washable

Vera Bradley Recycled Cotton Campus Backpack

Vera Bradley's cotton backpacks have long been a staple around schools, and it's easy to see why. For starters, the bags come in a whole host of fun patterns and colors. And they're ultra-lightweight for easy carrying, plus highly functional. The backpack features multiple compartments, including two mesh tech sleeves for laptops and tablets and a zippered front pocket for easy access to essentials like your dorm room key. Best of all? You can toss the whole thing in the washing machine for a quick refresh. 

User review: "I thought this backpack might be too small for what I needed but it turned out to be just perfect. It is very comparable to the size of the classic JanSport SuperBreak but with extra pockets and storage. I can definitely fit more into this bag than my old JanSport. It fits my 15" Samsung laptop perfectly and also my 36oz YETI bottle which I am so happy about. The fabric is good quality and very soft, plus I love this green color. Love, love, love it! Very happy with this bag." 

Pros: Machine-washable Comes in a wide range of colors and patterns

Cons: X Gets very wet in bad weather

Dimensions: 7.5 x 12 x 16.5 inches

Weight: 1.52 pounds

Best backpack with multiple pockets

Kenneth Cole Reaction Chelsea Laptop Bag

This fashion-forward backpack has a stylish chevron quilted design complete with contrasting gold hardware. But it's more than a looker—it's fully water- and tear-resistant to hold up to whatever you put it through. And although it's very lightweight, it's roomy enough for both a laptop and a tablet (there are dedicated pockets for each), books, gym clothes, a wallet, and more. It even has a trolley strap to fit over most carry-ons. 

User review: “I’ve had this backpack for three years and it still looks like the day I received it. Perfect for school—both high school and college—and traveling. It also really has a lot more space than you think, there’s especially many pockets and zippers to keep all your things organized. Definitely would recommend.” 

Pros: Built-in trolley strap Water- and tear-resistant

Cons: X Some shoppers say the water bottle pocket is too small

Dimensions: 11 x 7.5 x 16 inches

Weight: 2 pounds

Best backpack with charging port

Matein Travel Laptop Backpack

This backpack's more than 80,000 reviews should be a good indication of its overall value. The bag, which comes in over 15 colors and patterns, is super budget-friendly. Still, it boasts must-haves like a roomy interior complete with a laptop sleeve and a front compartment with many pockets—pen pockets, a key fob hook, a built-in USB port, and more—so you'll never fumble to find exactly what you need. 

User review: “Dude this camo backpack is legit! A ridiculous amount of pockets, super lightweight even with my laptop inside. Very thin and easy to travel with! The straps are comfortable for my shoulders. I was little worried buying this sight unseen on Amazon…. But I don’t regret a thing! And I’m buying more for some friends.” 

Pros: Built-in USB port   Tons of organizational pockets

Cons: X Some shoppers with the laptop sleeve had more padding

Dimensions: 18 x 12 x 7.8 inches

Weight: 1.56 pounds

Best nostalgic backpack

Can you ever really go wrong with a classic like Jansport? I mean, there's a reason it's been a go-to for so long. The nylon backpack is made with durability in mind—from the heavy-duty exterior material to the zippers, everything is built to be extra sturdy and long-lasting, so you can tote the same pack for years on end. And while it may not have quite as many pockets than some others, sometimes the simpler, the better. The large main compartment will hold plenty of the big stuff—books, a laptop sleeve, and more—while a zippered exterior pocket is perfect for smaller essentials. 

User review: “This backpack was the perfect size for me to use to carry my college textbooks and laptop in without being big or heavy. It gets rid of a lot of the extra, annoying pockets that many backpacks have so you an fit more in it. It still has enough pockets for my use. It's super light and has held up very well to some rough treatment. It's also a great size for a plane carry on bag. Highly recommend!” 

Pros: Comes in a wide range of colors Highly durable

Cons: X No dedicated laptop pocket or sleeve

Dimensions: 18.19 x 15.31 x 2.01 inches

Weight: 1.54 pounds

Best Large Capacity Backpack

It's all about simplicity here. The sleek backpack sacrifices tons of little organizational pockets in favor of making the interior pocket as spacious as possible—ideal for jamming in everything you need for a full day on campus. Still, it comes equipped with the must-haves: an interior mesh pocket, a laptop compartment, and two side pockets for water bottles. It also has wide, padded adjustable straps to help you tote everything without strain. 

User review: “I was looking for something to carry my gym clothes/shoes/work outfits as well as my laptop, iPad etc. This bag is perfect and allows me to take everything I need without to carry multiple heavy shoulder bags. Love it!”

Pros: Wide, padded adjustable straps   Very spacious interior

Cons: X Some users say the straps are hard to adjust

Dimensions: 18 x 13 x 6 inches

Weight: 1.9 pounds

Best eco-friendly backpack

TIMBUK2 Tuck Laptop Backpack

Sleek, yet sporty, this structured backpack has a super cute contrasting neon pink and green design. And even though it's tapered for a sleeker look, shoppers say it has a surprisingly large capacity that's perfectly adequate for school. Some stand-out features include space for a 15-inch laptop, side slip pockets, and an exterior zip. Also nice: It's made of recycled polyester.

User review: "Love it!! I bought it for school. I have lots of space."

Pros: Rear-access laptop compartment Lightweight 

Cons: X Some shoppers say the water bottle holders are a bit small

Dimensions: 18 x 18 x 5.5 inches

Weight: Not listed

Best quilted backpack

MZ Wallace Metro Deluxe Backpack

Arguably one of the most popular accessory brands at the moment, it's no surprise MZ Wallace makes a cool option for college kids. The lightweight quilted option looks more like a handbag in design, but functions like a backpack. It has a relatively roomy interior, a laptop compartment, a removable zip pouch for smaller items, and even a luggage sleeve for travel. 

User review: “If you’re debating on getting this backpack, the answer is YES! I use it for work—I put my laptop, lunch, and commuter shoes in it. If you really wanted to, you could probably fit more.”

Pros: Sophisticated quilted design   Super lightweight

Cons: X Expensive

Dimensions: 11.5 x 16.5 x 4 inches

Weight: Not listed

Best durable backpack

Topo Designs Rover Classic Water Resistant Backpack

Because of its narrow, tall design, this backpack can fit a whole lot—enough to spend the day on campus without returning to your dorm. Inside you'll find a spacious main compartment and a secure laptop sleeve; outside you'll find a zippered pocket and two adjustable side water-bottle pockets. And no matter how packed it is, you can be sure your stuff isn't going anywhere—the backpack has a drawstring closure, as well as dual side-release buckles. 

User review: “School, work, play….doesn’t matter! This pack is the jack of all trades. Plenty of space for a little bit of everything!” 

Pros: Large capacity Comes in a wide range of colors Water-resistant

Cons: X Some shoppers say water bottle pockets are too small

Dimensions: 11 x 17 x 4.5 inches

Weight: Not listed

Best ergonomic backpack

L.L.Bean Comfort Carry Laptop Pack

A bit utilitarian-looking? Sure, but you're paying for comfort here. L.L.Bean's super durable backpack is ergonomically designed with a rigid back panel, an adjustable sternum strap, a tuck-away waist belt, extra foam padding, breathable mesh straps to minimize strain on your body—no matter how much you have to lug around every day. It'll suit your organizational needs, too. The backpack comes equipped with a top pocket for quick phone access, a water bottle pocket for containers up to 32 ounces, and a padded laptop sleeve for computers 15 inches and smaller. 

User review: “Bought for my daughter heading to college, she loves it… water bottle holder is nice, rain cover is nice, and she can use for overnight treks as well as our family hikes. Super durable and versatile.”

Pros: Highly durable   Ergonomically-designed

Cons: X Not as stylish as other options

Dimensions: 18.75 x 11.75 x 10 inches

Weight: 1.85 pounds