The Best School Backpack for High School and College for 2023

Find the best backpack to take on the school year.

The Best School Backpack for High School and College for 2022

In 50 different lists of school essentials across 50 different homes in 50 different countries, backpacks are likely to come in only after books and stationery. They hold said books and stationery throughout the school year and can even serve as a cheeky fashion statement.
Without backpacks, more books would get ruined and misplaced as you’d have to take them everywhere in your hands or in plastic bags that break under the slightest amount of pressure.

Apart from being essentials, backpacks also have to be long-lasting since they have many uses within and outside of school. For example, they can help hold and move cameras and other equipment during your summer internship.

When searching for the perfect backpack, it’s easy to get carried away by features that are less important like colors, and forget more important features like size and padding. With this list, you are guaranteed to find backpacks that would catch your eyes and serve you for a long time.

How We Picked

  • Size/Capacity/Weight

    Of what use is having a backpack if it cannot hold all the books you need? In this list are backpacks that are big enough to hold all your books and a few extras.

  • Strength/Durability

    Not only do the best backpacks hold everything they need to hold, but they also do so without creasing or breaking.

  • Strong Zippers

    Broken zippers are the most common backpack fault and they open up opportunities to get your items lost or stolen.

  • Cost-Effectiveness

    When prepping for the school year, there’s so much to spend on, and going over and beyond on a backpack may not be the best idea. You want a cool spot between cheap and overpriced.

Our Top Picks

Best Pick

The North Face Borealis Backpack

The North Face Borealis Backpack

This choice is a bit pricey, but worth all your coins.

A house disguised as a backpack.

Buy Now for $98.95

The North Face Borealis is a haven of space. We’re convinced you can fit a car inside it somehow.

Does the job it has been doing for decades - holds your books and valuables, keeps them safe, and protects your back. It does them very well too.

Most Cost-Effective

Matein Travel Backpack

Matein Travel Backpack

Reliable and waterproof.

Looking for a super high-quality backpack without splashing out? You’re at the right place.

Buy Now for $29.99

Waterproof, light, and spacious, this backpack keeps your back and baggage safe and sound.

Everything We Recommend

Best Pick

The North Face Borealis Backpack

The North Face Borealis Backpack

This choice is a bit pricey, but worth all your coins.

$98.95

Buy Now

Most Cost-Effective

Matein Travel Backpack

Matein Travel Backpack

Reliable and waterproof.

$29.99

Buy Now

Who This Is For

The backpacks in this ranking are for students in high school or college who need strong, reliable backpacks that would serve them without any issues.

Why Shoulder Strapped Backpacks Are Better For You

Double shoulder strapped backpacks are the best for you because they distribute weight equally between both shoulders thereby preventing or reducing the risk of joint deformation. When single strapped bags are worn, the body leans the other way to neutralize the weight and balance the body out. This can lead to poor spinal posture and, in the long run, scoliosis.
Strapped backpacks also help to maintain good posture thanks to the equal weight distribution between shoulders. There’s a caveat though – ensure the bags are not too heavy before you pick them up.

Why You Should Trust Us

There are backpacks in pretty much every home. We are sure you’ve owned one at some point. Many people care less about researching features and finding the best, and that’s why so many people have to buy new backpacks every time. We want to save you from this problem and as such, we’ve gone through the hassle of finding you the best of the lot.

How We Picked

Unlike movies, tv shows, music, sports teams, or vehicles, there’s no event or ceremony to pick or award the best backpacks with all things considered. Yes, some people have made assertions in different capacities, but how accurate are these?

We’ve gone through a deep dive of user reviews, specifications, and physio recommendations to unearth the cream of the crop when it comes to backpacks. We considered only backpacks that can, at least, hold a respectable amount of books and essentials.

Spacing in backpacks is great, but what’s even greater is how the spacing is distributed. Because we know that sometimes, you don’t want your books to be in the same place with your iPad and you want your stationery to be easily located, we checked out backpacks that have an impressive amount and range of pockets and compartments.

Physios warn against carrying too much in your backpacks, but sometimes, backpacks already weigh so much that with the addition of only a few books, they become super heavy. Backpacks like this were quickly disqualified from our ratings.

On the other hand, backpacks that break or start to tear with a decent amount of load were also disqualified as they would only cause you to spend extra on fixing them or getting replacements. We observed pricing and only backpacks that met quality and design requirements while maintaining decent pricing made this list.

All backpacks in this list are double strapped for weight distribution and support.

In the same vein, only backpacks of the highest quality and design standards were considered for this list.

Also, you can rest assured that all backpacks on this list are super easy to clean or wash if necessary.

Our Picks For You

Best Pick - The North Face Borealis Backpack

Best Pick

The North Face Borealis Backpack

The North Face Borealis Backpack

This choice is a bit pricey, but worth all your coins.

A house disguised as a backpack.

Buy Now for $98.95

Who It’s For (Get This If)

This backpack is perfect for industrious people who, on more than a few occasions, have some trouble making up their minds as is common with high schoolers and college students. It is an expanse of space in there and we’re convinced that should you one day make an impulsive decision to live out of a car or tent in the middle of nowhere, this North Face Borealis backpack is your best bet for holding supplies to last you a very long time.

Why Is It Great

With this backpack, there is no chance of you walking around campus with a book (or books) in your hands because you ran out of bag space. It has a healthy amount of space and an exciting amount of pockets and compartments for holding items you don’t want to keep together. It’s adequately padded in the back and straps to reduce strain and help preserve your posture and, in the same vein, it has chest and waist straps that physiotherapists recommend for a healthier backpacking experience.

Potential Flaws

This backpack is on the longer side and may look out of place on a shorter person. It’s also top-heavy and likely to fall over if there’s nothing in it. Some users have mentioned the shoulder straps starting to wear out quickly but that looks more like an exception rather than a norm so, maybe look out for that.

Other Options

Compared to others on this list, this is a decently priced backpack. Northface is a reliable brand that offers a host of other backpacks of equal quality and different size specifications and designs. One unique thing about this offering from Northface is the availability of a women-only version. All versions of this backpack have been produced with around 75% recycled and responsibly sourced materials. It features padded double straps and a top strap. It has a large, well-padded, protective compartment for laptops, tablets, and books, and expandable side compartments to hold water bottles or phones. It’s made of soft fabric and has an external pocket for keys and sunglasses in front. It is super easy to slip on and can sit comfortably on your back for as long as you want it to.

This backpack can hold the equivalent of 28L worth of baggage. When empty, it weighs about as much as a little puppy and is 19.5” in length.

Runner Up - Fjallraven Kanken Classic Backpack

Who It’s For (Get This If)

This will fit right on your back if you love a comfy, spacious backpack that has a bit of history to it. First sold in 1978, this backpack has served schoolgoers for many decades and is still going strong.

Why Is It Great

As earlier stated, your grandkids are going to love these. Many users have passed these down to their kids and grandkids without a single zipper broken or out of place. It’s heavily padded and has enough compartments to hold your books, laptop, water bottle, and a few extra snacks or journals if you so wish.

Potential Flaws

The most common complaint among users and buyers is about (unfortunately) purchasing a fake and that is something you need to watch out for. Only purchase from the official website or licensed stores and vendors on the internet.

Other Options

A bit on the pricier side, the Fjällräven Kånken Laptop backpack may not be your cup of tea. In this case, other offerings of this bag from the Swedish company including the Fjällräven Kånken mini backpack may be more within your budget. This bag sports a boxy shape that helps keep your items organized and soft zippers that allow easy retrieval of its contents.

This backpack opens up and down like a suitcase so you can view all its contents and have more control over how things are arranged. Also, in what is good news for your back and posture, this backpack is sturdy and does not sag backward or pull down like many others.

This quick-drying, water-resistant backpack features four spacious compartments, and a more than comfortable 17” padded room for laptops and other valuables. It weighs less than 1kg and can hold items up to the equivalent of 20L.

Most Cost-Effective - Matein Travel Backpack

Most Cost-Effective

Matein Travel Backpack

Matein Travel Backpack

Reliable and waterproof.

Looking for a super high-quality backpack without splashing out? You’re at the right place.

Buy Now for $29.99

Who It’s For (Get This If)

This backpack is the working-class hero. It’s for anyone who wants a backpack of the highest caliber without exhausting their savings.



Why Is It Great

Apart from being pretty and water-resistant, this backpack is padded to the core and has a sturdy build that prevents it from bulging out even if you chuck your lunch inside it. It has loads of space and pockets aplenty. It features padded straps that take the strain off your shoulders. It is by far and away one of the most recommended and reviewed backpacks and that’s not down to the price.

Potential Flaws

One thing to beware of when purchasing this backpack is the reduced amount of padding when compared to others on this list. If you plan on carrying your laptop or tablet in this, you would have to be extra cautious with it.

Other Options

This is the best value backpack anywhere in the market. You get a spacious, lightweight bag of great quality and eye-catching design all at a nice price level. It features a USB charging port and a sturdy bottom to keep it upright whether or not there’s anything in it. It fits right on the back and isn’t too big for shorter people or too small for taller people. It has loads of space to hold your books and stationery, daily necessities, and tech electronic accessories.

Rain? Not a problem if you have the MATEIN travel backpack. This backpack comes in two size variants - 15” and 17” which hold up to 28L and 35 L respectively. Both variants weigh just under 2 lbs and are made of durable, waterproof polyester fabric.

Almost Made The Cut - JanSport Right Pack

Almost Made The Cut

JanSport Right Pack

JanSport Right Pack

A classic.

Simple is not out of style.

Buy Now for $84.00

Who It’s For (Get This If)

This backpack is for people who love designs that stand out by not doing too much. If you want a backpack that looks like a backpack and has the original backpack look and feel, look no further.

Why Is It Great

This backpack has been around for decades. It has seen one or two upgrades over the years, one of them being the new padded laptop sleeve, but it still maintains the originality that sets it apart from the crowd. It weighs just around 1 lb when empty and can hold around 31L worth of baggage.

Potential Flaws

Although not a common occurrence, some complaints have been raised about the zipper on this backpack and this is something you should look out for should you decide to get it. Pricing is alright on this backpack - it costs exactly what it should as its standout features fall just short of the best of the best.

Care and Maintenance

Depending on what they are made out of, many backpacks can go in the washing machine. To be on the safer side, be sure to check the label to confirm whether or not yours is machine compliant. If it is, open all zippers and take out everything in the bag.

Take out any detachable pockets or compartments and dust the bag. Then spot clean with detergent and some warm water to get rid of physical stains. After all this is done, turn the backpack inside out and place it inside a laundry bag or pillow case and into the washing machine.

If you’re washing by hand, remove all content of the bag and get rid of dust and physical debris. Then remove any detachable and spot clean. After this, place the bag into a basin filled with lukewarm water and detergent and gently scrub all through with a sponge or washcloth. Rinse in a bowl of water when you’re done and proceed to dry.

After washing, dry the bag in a place with a lot of air circulation, preferably out in the sun. Leave all zippers and pockets open so the inner parts dry up as well. Remember to turn the backpack over to the right side before drying after washing in the machine.

Unless visibly stained and dirty, there’s usually no need to wash your backpack more than two or three times a year.

To keep the straps on your backpack from wearing out, tighten the shoulder straps by pulling on the loose ends. Also, if available, buckle the chest and waist straps. 

Generally, manufacturers and physiotherapists warn against carrying backpacks that are heavier than 10-15% of your body weight. 10% of the body weight is the advised limit and 15% is the absolute maximum any bag should weigh.