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The Best College Backpacks for All Needs & Budgets in 2024

Key Takeaways
  • A good college backpack balances price, comfort, and capacity, ensuring value without sacrificing ergonomics or space for essentials.
  • Features and quality are paramount, with the best picks offering durability, ample organization, and special amenities like built-in USB ports or water-repellent materials.
  • Among top recommendations are The North Face Borealis for all-day comfort, the budget-friendly Carhartt Classic Laptop Backpack, and the versatile Nordace Siena, each catering to different student priorities.

Undoubtedly, your constant companion on a college campus is a backpack that carries all the essentials comfortably and stylishly! Of course, it’s not just for toting gear (although its main purpose is to securely organize your belongings), but also an opportunity to express your personal style.

For this reason, you need a backpack that is both versatile and unparalleled in terms of comfort, durability, aesthetics, and more. Now, since the market is oversaturated with options, here’s a curated list to match your diverse needs and preferences.

Best College Backpacks
Best College Backpacks

What Makes a Good College Backpack?

When selecting the best college backpacks, there are specific factors to take into account to streamline your search. The criteria listed below will yield a selection of backpacks that offer exceptional value and demand. Let’s take a closer look at the elements that will help you find the perfect backpack for your college days!

1. Price

The first factor to consider is your budget. Your primary goal should be to opt for a backpack that provides great value for its cost. While it is not necessary to spend a large sum on a single item, the decision depends on both your budget and preferences. Numerous backpack options are available on the market that will meet your requirements while remaining within your budget.

However, as the price increases, you may access additional features, so it’s crucial to note that price shouldn’t be the sole determining factor.

2. Comfort

The most significant factor influencing the ranking of backpacks is their comfort and ergonomic design. Regardless of the number of impressive features a backpack may possess, it’s ineffective if it doesn’t provide optimal comfort to the user. Comfort in backpacks can be found in various aspects, such as shoulder and back padding, adjustable straps, hip and chest belts, and more.

It’s essential to inspect these features before making a purchase. These elements not only enhance comfort but also contribute to improving your overall posture and balance while carrying a backpack.

3. Capacity

The storage capacity of your backpack determines the amount of supplies it can accommodate, directly influencing the weight you carry. Therefore, when selecting a backpack size, ensure it offers adequate space for your required items. Typically, medium-sized backpacks are preferable as they discourage the storage of excess weight, which can have long-term effects.

In short, the capacity of your backpack should align with your body structure and the daily essentials you need to pack.

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Backpack with Laptop Compartment
Packing Essentials in Backpack

4. Features

Let’s not overlook the most prominent aspect of a backpack: its design. With a multitude of cool features available for backpacks, it can be quite challenging to find one that complements your style while also offering appealing elements such as additional compartments, laptop sleeves, hidden pockets, and so on.

Incorporating such elements enhances a backpack’s value, improves its utility, and facilitates effortless organization. Therefore, opt for a backpack that provides features tailored to your preferences.

5. Quality

Finally, the construction of your backpack is crucial in assessing its quality. The choice of materials used in its manufacturing largely impacts its durability and lifespan. A backpack crafted from high-quality materials will far outlast one made from cheaper alternatives and will be less susceptible to wear and tear.

Hence, it’s critical to inspect the quality of fabrics, leather, etc., to ensure that it is well-constructed and long-lasting. Additionally, you can enhance a backpack’s sustainability through regular cleaning and maintenance routines.

READ MORE: Factors That Will Aid You in Buying the Best Laptop Backpack ➜

7 Best College Backpacks – Our Top Picks

Whether you’re spending the entire day on campus, commuting to the workplace right after, carrying more than just essentials to your classes, or living in your reputation era, there’s a backpack for all your needs.

1. The North Face Borealis Backpack

Best All-Day Comfort


  • Lightweight & comfortable to carry all-day
  • Multiple compartments for various storage options
  • Women-specific Flexvent backing
  • U-pull zippers
  • Bungee cord system for additional storage and compression
  • Padded sections for laptops/tablets/etc.


  • Takes time to get used to the waist strap

As a college student, you need quality, functionality, and design, all in a single backpack but not at the cost of comfort of course. The North Face is renowned for crafting high-quality and durable products, and the Borealis Backpack is no exception.

Featuring numerous compartments and dedicated sections for laptop, iPad, water bottles, pens, and even clothing, this backpack ensures that it never feels heavy or overstuffed. But if it does, the bungee cord system enables you to add extra items and adjust for a perfect fit, while the comfortable chest straps and hip belt evenly distribute weight, enhancing comfort.

Certified by the American Chiropractic Association for its Flexvent suspension system, the backpack prioritizes ergonomics with padded shoulder straps, a rounded back panel, and stitch lines designed for comfort. Carry it wherever you go without trouble!

↪ Specifications

  • Dimensions: 5.75 inches (depth) x 11-inches (width) x 18.74 inches (height)
  • Capacity: 27 liters
  • Weight: 1.15 pounds
  • Price: $99

2. Carhartt 25L Classic Laptop Backpack

Best Budget


  • Water-repellent & durable
  • Separate mesh slots for your smaller belongings
  • Side pockets for storing water bottle
  • Affordability at its best


  • Not very stylish

As if college wasn’t already breaking your bank, you’d spend hundreds of dollars on bags, right? For those with champagne taste on a beer budget, consider the Carhartt Classic Laptop Backpack.

This simple yet useful design features dedicated laptop storage plus mesh slots for phones, wallets, pencils, notes, and whatnot! Not to mention it’s made of water-repellent polyester. Talk about maximum practicality at minimum costs!

↪ Specifications

  • Dimensions: 6 inches (depth) x 12 inches (width) x 17.5 inches (height)
  • Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Capacity: 27 liters
  • Price: $59

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3. Nordace Siena Backpack

Best Smart and Versatile


  • Plenty of pockets for maximum organization plus an anti-theft zippered one
  • Ergonomic shoulder straps
  • Built-in USB charging port
  • Soft and resilient materials


  • Not very durable

Looking for a backpack that easily transitions from campus to the workplace and beyond? The Nordace Siena backpack offers a contemporary, versatile aesthetic that delivers optimally in both form and function. It looks just as much like a college carryall as a professional bag.

Plus, with its anti-theft compartment at the back, you can travel worry-free about pickpockets. For students in tech-related majors, it even includes a built-in USB port, ensuring you have power on the go.

↪ Specifications

  • Dimensions: 6.03 inches (depth) x 11.04 inches (width) x 16.54 inches (height)
  • Weight: 1.9 pound
  • Capacity: 19 liters
  • Price: $109

4. Eastpak Padded Double Backpack

Best Street Style


  • Water-resistant polyester material
  • Padded Double’s soft straps for added comfort
  • Phone/sunglasses pocket


  • Cannot carry large water bottles

Let’s face it, college is all about blending a bit of style with comfort. While you won’t typically see people in tuxedos, maintaining a cool reputation is important, that is if you have one. And what better way to do so than with a street-style backpack that complements your attire?

With its large main compartment, elasticized slip pocket, two front zipped pockets, and a hidden stash pocket at the back, not to mention comfortably padded shoulder straps and a phone/sunglasses zipped pouch with soft lining, what more could you ask for at this price point?

However, for some, a dealbreaker is the single small pocket for a water bottle, making it not only difficult to balance weight evenly but also impossible to carry large water bottles.

↪ Specifications

  • Dimensions: 18.5 inches (height) x 11.2 inches (width) x 8.3 inches (depth)
  • Weight: 1.18 pounds
  • Capacity: 24 liters
  • Price: $65.00

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5. Herschel Little America Backpack

Best Storage


  • Two internal side pockets for extra storage
  • Easily expandable & collapsible
  • Padded backside for comfort
  • Magnetic strap closures


  • Little overwhelming for shorter back

Many college students are accustomed to simply stashing their belongings before and after class, preferring to exit quickly with all their items rather than sorting them into separate compartments. For them, the Herschel Little America backpack is a perfect choice. However, this doesn’t mean you cannot stay organized if you prefer.

With its main compartment, two inner pockets, laptop compartment, and more, it is a timeless classic carryall. Due to its height, it’s best suited for taller individuals and may be a bit overwhelming for others. Nonetheless, the extra height adds to the spaciousness of the backpack.

↪ Specifications

  • Dimensions: 7 inches (depth) x 11.25 inches (width) x 19.5 inches (height)
  • Weight: 2.07 pounds
  • Capacity: 25 liters
  • Price: $120

6. Carhartt Cargo Series Backpack

Best Feature


  • Hook-N-Haul system for three-can insulated cooler
  • Highly durable & water-repellant cordura material
  • Optimum organization and accessibility


  • Not aesthetically pleasing

College is like unexpected weather; you never know what you’ll end up needing. But have you ever wondered what college is like in unexpected weather? It’s definitely a situation where backpacks can end up soaked, putting all your belongings at risk, particularly your laptop and eyewear. That’s where the Carhartt Cargo Series backpack comes in.

With triple needle stitching, made of Cordura ripstop, and treated with Rain Defender durable water-repellent, you never have to worry about the safety of items inside the pack. What’s even better is that it comes with a Hook-N-Haul system for attaching extra items, like the insulated cooler, which can safely carry your lunch and drinks.

And of course, features like the padded air-mesh back panel, contour-fit shoulder straps, and hideaway waist belt are just a few add-ons to ensure comfort and convenience.

↪ Specifications

Dimensions: 9.5 inches (depth) x 12.25 inches (width) x 18 inches (height)
Cooler: 3 inches (depth) x 9 inches (width) x 5.5 inches (height)
Weight: 1 pound
Capacity: 20 liters
Price: $99

7. Fjällräven Kånken Laptop Backpack

Best Expandable


  • Vintage-influenced with modern updates
  • Cushioned straps & padded laptop compartment
  • Top handles for extra versatility


  • Not ideal for carrying heavier gear
  • Lacks inner compartments for better organization

Now, if you’re up for aesthetics but do not want to compromise functionality, the Fjällräven Kånken Laptop is precisely what you need. This expandable backpack is compact, lending to its versatility, while the rectangular, boxy yet sleek design evokes vintage charm. Not to mention the double top handles come in handy when navigating buses and jump from table to table at the library.

Though the look of the backpack goes perfectly with all outfits, it does not offer many inner compartments to help you stay organized. That, you’ll need to overlook!

↪ Specifications

Dimensions: 6.3 inches (depth) x 11.02 inches (width) x 15.75 inches (height)
Capacity: 18 liters
Weight: 18 ounces
Price: $115

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Wrap Up

From timeless classic book bags to sporty carryalls and even tech and travel carry-ons, the options are endless. Our curated collection features backpacks of different sizes and styles, each tailored to accommodate various student preferences. You just need to be clear about what you want from your college backpack.

Some prefer ample space and multiple compartments, while others prioritize an aesthetic and versatile design. Also, keep your budget in mind. Why spend hundreds when almost similar options are available at half the price? Then, once you’ve made your selection, be sure to go through customer feedback and reviews to gain insights into the quality of each chosen backpack.


What factors influence the price of a college backpack?

The price of a college backpack is determined by several factors including material quality, durability, style, size, design, and additional features. Typically, a backpack constructed from durable materials with enhanced comfort features tends to have a higher price compared to one made from lower-quality materials. Similarly, a backpack equipped with extra compartments and user-friendly features will demand a higher price due to its convenience and versatility.

What are some additional features that distinguish a college backpack?

Backpacks crafted from weather-resistant or waterproof materials, or incorporating security elements such as hidden pockets and lockable zippers, are highly sought after by customers. These features not only provide practical advantages but also enhance the visual appeal of the backpack.

How should I organize a college backpack?

Begin by emptying your college backpack entirely. Next, categorize your supplies according to subjects and how frequently they are used. Store loose items in smaller pockets or separate cases. Additionally, place essential items at the top for easy access. It’s important to regularly clean and organize your backpack to maintain its cleanliness.


Kamil Anwar

Kamil is a certified MCITP, CCNA (W), CCNA (S) and a former British Computer Society Member with over 9 years of experience Configuring, Deploying and Managing Switches, Firewalls and Domain Controllers also an old-school still active on FreeNode.