23 Best Backpacks for College 2023: Campus-Ready Bags From Bellroy, Herschel & Patagonia

The best backpacks for college are a little misleading. When your commute requires balancing a phone in one hand and a breakfast sandwich in the other, a canvas tote ain’t going to cut it—let alone accommodate a 15-inch laptop and your gym clothes. So unless you work at a white shoe law firm or find yourself auditioning for the next season of Industry, they’re also crucial pretty much everywhere else. But what separates a merely good option from the really, truly great?

Storage capacity, for one. If you’re headed back to campus this fall, you’ll want a backpack with around 22L of volume. That’s enough space for a day of classes, and in the post-grad world, plenty of room for a change of clothes and a hefty lunch. But merely holding all your stuff does not a great backpack make; room for all your notebooks, binders, and miscellaneous papers is but one factor in the equation. 

The Best Backpacks for College

If you’re commuting to work or biking to class a good backpack has to be durable, comfortable, and ready and able to protect all your valuables. (Needless to say, a dedicated laptop sleeve is a non-negotiable.) But a great campus-friendly backpack—like the ones we’re talking about here—can do it all and look stylish, too. You may not think of a backpack as an essential part of your outfit, but neglecting the accessory you’ll turn to day in and day out is sort of like running to the end zone and then spiking the football at the one yard line.

So to help you make a splash wherever you find yourself in the coming months, we went deep on nearly two dozen of the very best backpacks for college and beyond. Whether you’re scrambling to get to class or an all-hands meeting at the office, each one spotlighted below will keep your shit in the condition it came in—and level-up your first day outfits in the process.

The Best Overall Backpack

Bellroy’s entire MO centers around balancing clean aesthetics with a deceptive amount of storage space; naturally, its flagship model boasts 20L of room cleverly engineered to fit everything you need for school, work, and anywhere you’re headed after. (The clamshell design offers easy access and visibility to all of your belongings, a rare feature among most backpacks.) The main compartment can easily hold an extra pair of shoes and a change of clothes, and fits laptops up to 16-inches in size. But true to Bellroy’s reputation, the best part of the Transit is the bevy of cleverly hidden exterior pockets that reduce visual clutter without limiting what can you shove in there. Inside you’ll find a water bottle pocket, a padded sunglasses pocket (at the top, so your favorite shades won’t get crushed), and a side pocket for your wallet, phone, and keys—with a keyholder! All of which makes the Transit a perfect pick and a hell of an upgrade for college students, commuters, and anyone who ever lamented the flimsy construction and unwieldy design of a standard issue canvas tote.

The Best Backpack for Nostalgic Grown-Ups

When the team at Unicode designed the backpack emoji, they probably had a JanSport in mind. After all these years, the brand’s legendary roster of backpacks remain exemplars of the form, as timeless, durable, and dependable as a pair of Levi’s 501s. The Right Pack takes Jansport’s classic SuperBreak backpack—the OG version you probably rocked in middle school—and upgrades it with super durable Cordura fabric for extra durability, with a dedicated 15” laptop sleeve added in for good measure. Like the SuperBreak, it features handsome suede accents as well as an easy-access organizer front pocket and handy water bottle pocket. It’s a great college backpack, for sure, but once you’ve left school behind, it’ll make for a great daily carry too. It may not be the most tech’d out bookbag on the market (the original design dates back to the ‘60s, after all), but that simplicity—along with the requisite nostalgia factor—continues to make it a winner.

The Best Virtually Indestructible Backpack

In dire need of a do-it-all bag that can stand up to whatever the day throws at it? Patagonia’s aptly-named Black Hole bag is for you. The Black Hole series is one of Patagonia’s toughest (and most sustainable), harnessing the power of recycled polyester ripstop coated with ultra-tough, weather-resistant TPU to keep your valuables secure on your next outdoor excursion or commute to work. This one offers plenty of clever storage and compartment space too, making it easy to access your laptop, charger, and backup charger(s) without having to dig through the cavernous 32-liter main compartment. Add a super aerated mesh back, padded shoulder straps, and a bonus sternum strap to the mix, and you’re left with a cushy workhouse backpack that won’t cramp your style—physically or otherwise.

The Best Old-School Backpack

This bag is deceptive: it may look like the long lost heirloom of a pioneering mountaineer, but it’s tricked out with features expressly designed for the here and now. That exact modern-retro approach has taken the Herschel Little America from trendy campus must-have to verified classic within the last decade. So don’t let the faux leather straps and old-school flap top fool you: inside you’ll find a litany of useful features—like a media pocket with a headphone port and a fleece-lined 15″ laptop sleeve—easily accessible via a magnet-secured drawstring closure. And because canvas can be stiff and overly burly, Herschel blends it with lightweight nylon and polyester and upgrades the contoured back with mesh for a more comfortable fit.

The Best Campground-to-Class Backpack

Filson’s put its gold mining heritage to use in a backpack that can handle its weight on the rocky terrain of the great outdoors and collegiate life. Weather-resistant and built to withstand countless flings across the room, the Dryden is decked out with interior pocket space, lined with nylon for extra durability along with two bottle pockets to keep dehydration at bay. It’s also equipped with extra cushy shoulder straps that are ergonomically designed to help offload some of the weight of those books you insisted on getting a physical copy of in your first trip to the college bookstore. You don’t need to be out in the field to make good use of this pack, but if you’re a geoscience major you can relax knowing you’ll be covered out there and when you return to the the cushy interiors of civilization.

The Best Backpack for Globetrotting Trustafarians

You don’t exactly need a luxury pack when you’re slinging texts on existentialism and calculus across the quad, but indulging in the finer things in life can be the final push you need over the finish line. And, crucially, you also don’t have to be fashion diehard to appreciate The Row’s minimalist nylon sack. Accented with leather straps, internal slot pockets, and a drawstring closure, it’s the sort of timeless piece you’ll be wearing long after graduation, for a summer of reminiscing and recharging before starting your first day on the job. It may not come with all the gadgets and gizmos you depended on as a freshman, but it’s more than equipped to handle adulthood. In the meantime, here’s to turning those eerily impeccable grassy fields into your personal runway.

Plus 18 More Backpacks We Love


Roll-top ripstock backpack

This sturdy nylon bag features a generously expanding roll top so you can pack it in for the first day of classes—and pack it down when the semester ends.


“Bamburgh” roll top backpack

Waterproof and expandable, this bag will carry you from class and back, rain or shine (along with some last minute travel when those Jet Blue sales pop up).


Don’t let the slim exterior full you—this bag is equipped with a padded laptop pocket inside the roomy exterior, water bottle holder, and a hidden slot for your smart tracker.

Engineered Garments

Versatility at its finest, this volumnous nylon bag can be worn a myriad of ways—over the shoulders, across the chest and by the top handles. So even if you’re strutting around campus with the same fit for the third day in a row your fellow peers will be none the wiser.


Everyday top handle backpack

A minimalist tote that’s equipped with durably handles for when the load gets heavy but can be discreetly tucked away when it’s time to hit the town.


This bag features six pockets—yes, you read that correctly, six— for storing away all your hefty textbooks, pens, baubles, and scribbled notes on critical race theory (wink).


Leave it to Nike to make an outdoors pack we’d comfortably sling on for first period. Bonus, there’s a stack of claps for your budding carabiner collection.


Hand painted leather knapsack

Each paint job on these Lotuff leather knapsacks takes 20-25 hours to complete so you can feel like you’re walking around with the Mona Lisa of packs in a sea of black and blue.

C.P. Company

“Lens” single strap backpack

A slingback pack that can actually hold a book or two for the swervier gent who feels two straps is so…passé.

Bleu de Chauffe

“Woody” Leather-Trimmed Cotton-Canvas Backpack

Handcrafted in France, this leather-trimmed canvas pack is a gift worthy of the senior who’s excelled in class—and in style.


This bag’s quality pedigree is legendary, so you can bet that it’ll last until you get your doctorate and beyond. Plus, the ability to get it monogrammed makes it extra personal.


Plenty of the same features that make the brand’s Transit bag one of our favorite, housed in a slightly more familiar backpack design.


As one of absolute favorite travel backpacks, the GR2 is ready-made for handling your worst TSA nightmares. By comparison, a couple of transfers on the bus and train should be a piece of cake.


Fjallraven’s Kanken series is hugely popular among veteran travelers who pack light. But if your laptop’s accompanying you to your destination, you’ll want to grab the Kanken’s burlier sibling instead. It offers the same distinct design with a more generous storage capacity accented by a protective laptop sleeve.

The North Face

As you’d expect, The North Face’s Borealis backpack is designed to conquer the elements, but it’s a perennial fave thanks to its bevy of adjustable bungee cords, well-organized interior compartments, and superior overall comfort.

Dagne Dover

Soft but deceptively durable, Dagne Dover’s riff on the genre uses lightweight neoprene to keep your goods safe in one compact, stylish pack.


Legacy standard work backpack

Naturally, you can count on Carhartt—the first name in durable workwear—to craft a damn good backpack. This one is made out of rugged 1200D polyester that’s hard-wearing and water-resistant, and comes with all the pocket space you’ll ever need—including a 15-inch padded laptop sleeve and two front compartments for your smaller accessories and phone.


Troubador’s Aero backpack is designed to make waltzing through TSA a cinch, but it’ll make the cross-campus trek (or office commute) a breeze, too. 

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top