- Buyer's Guide
The Best College Backpacks
College…a time to start carrying more responsibility on your shoulders (or maybe not depending on the first couple of years). A time to meet new people, explore new environments, and of course learn new things. And to help you do all that you need a trusty bag that’s got your back, whether you’re lugging home textbooks, hurtling towards your early morning lecture after a late night, or simply strolling to grab lunch between classes.
So what should you look for in a good college backpack? Durability is important – you’re going to be carrying a lot of weighty books and tech, not to mention likely using the backpack outside of college. But aesthetics also play a key role. After all, you want to look as awesome as possible and have a pack that suits your personal style. Not to mention budget considerations. School books, rent, booze (and more booze)…college life can suck up funds fast, leaving little in the way of cash for your carry. As the price goes up, in most cases so will the durability. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a backpack that will last all the way through college without breaking the bank. And lastly, consider the intended use. While some bags just need to carry study essentials, others may need to carry a little extra to accommodate sporting activities or the gym.
With these considerations in mind, we’ve selected some of our top picks for the best college backpacks…
The Burton Curbshark is a great budget-friendly option that offers lots of pockets for organization. A padded laptop compartment and a fleece-lined tablet sleeve take care of tech, with space for books and a jacket. This pack is also an alternative to the hard-to-come-by Metro Backpack from Japan-based Gravis (owned by Burton).
The Aurora pack’s back panel and shoulder straps are designed specifically for female users. Stylish looks complement the easy access provided by the Aurora’s wrap-around zipper, while fleece-lined compartments for a laptop/tablet and sunglasses keep valuables safe.
Need to organize a lot of tech and small daily carry items like pens and notebooks? This pack provides a padded 15″ laptop compartment, space for a tablet, quick-access pockets and enough interior space to store a jacket and some snacks. All delivered with a clean and slim exterior aesthetic.
The Aer Fit Pack is an attractive way to carry campus and workout gear in just one bag. The pack features a separate compartment for shoes or dirty clothing, a laptop compartment that fits a 15″ laptop, and interior organization for small items.
The simple and functional Topo Designs Daypack is versatile enough to hit the books or the trail. Durable 1000D Cordura construction, an interior laptop sleeve and organization panel, and a quick-access zipped exterior pocket are all wrapped up in Topo’s distinct heritage aesthetics.
The burly build quality of the Kletterwerks Day ensures this pack is tough enough for whatever campus life can throw at it, and ready for the outdoors and travel when studying is done. The pack includes a padded 15″ laptop sleeve, plus a front accessory pocket for keeping frequently needed items within easy reach.
Work hard, play hard. That’s the name of the game with the Aer Duffel Pack. The 24-liter volume offers more space than the Fit Pack (19 liters), making it a handy choice if you have a lot of sports or gym gear to haul but still want to keep things sleek and stylish. The front-loading main compartment provides easy access to the contents, and the pack also includes a ventilated shoe compartment. Rounding things off are padded compartments for a tablet and 15″ laptop, plus convenient quick-access side pockets.
Equally ready for urban and outdoor environments, the Arro 22 is happy to go where you go, whether it’s hunting down coffee for a caffeine break or getting some fresh air in your downtime. The pack accommodates a hydration bladder, fits a 15″ laptop, and offers a kangaroo pocket for storing an outer layer or study snacks.
If you’re after a more refined look for your campus carry, the AEL006 delivers with its understated and pared-back profile. This bag is good for users with smaller torsos, and fits up to a 13″ laptop. And for added peace of mind, the bag features a protective EVA exoskeleton to help keep your tech and other valuables safe and sound.
Love having a place for all your bits and pieces? Look to the Synapse 25, a great option for organizers who appreciate a choice of quick-access pockets. The main compartment suits flat items like notebooks and a laptop, but is large enough to stash a jacket or even use as an overnight bag. Water-repellent zips help protect your gear from the elements, making this a handy hauler for campus, day hikes and travel needs alike.
Elegance meets multifunctional design in the QWSTION Daypack. The smart unisex design comes in a choice of colorways and materials and offers several carry options. The handles can be attached vertically or horizontally, allowing the bag to be carried briefcase-style or as a tote, while stowable shoulder straps convert it into a backpack as required.
As the name suggests, this backpack is all about prioritizing access. A quick-release latch provides access to the main compartment in an easy single touch, while ejector tabs provide ready access to tech devices. The pack fits a 15″ laptop and features a molded EVA foam body for protecting the contents.
The eye-catching silhouette and flowing form of the Isar Twin Touch will draw admiring glances on the campus and further afield. Available in a variety of materials and colorways, this classy piece carries a 15″ laptop, documents and college essentials in effortless style.
The slim profile and minimalist design of the Archival Rucksack makes it equally at home in classrooms, cafes or heading out for drinks at the end of the day. Durable materials including waxed cotton twill, Horween Chromexcel leather and solid brass hardware will age well, and two exterior pockets provide organization for smaller EDC.
The Copenhagen brings grown-up style to the classic school pack. Features include a fleece-lined 15″ laptop compartment, tablet sleeve, removable raincover, and plenty of exterior and interior pockets for organizing smaller items. Built with weather-resistant fabrics, this pack is smart enough for campus and beyond.
While there are lots of great college packs out there, sometimes you want something with that personal touch to it. A custom pack…like the ones crafted by James Kamo from Rucksack Village. If you do choose this route, we’re not sure how long it’ll take to receive your pack – the waiting list is long, like real long. But it’ll be amazing and worth it in the end.