After an abrupt end to normal school days in the spring due to Covid-19, back-to-school has taken on a whole new meaning. Many parents have their fingers crossed that kids will be heading out the door this fall. Regardless of what going back to school will look like, school shopping is bound to help kids get excited about the new academic year.
The necessary gear may look different this year; which is definitely something to keep in mind when shopping for a new backpack. Whatever your student’s age, they’ll likely want a pack with easy-access pockets to keep hand sanitizer and an extra face mask at the ready.
Cute first backpacks for preschoolers
Zoo Little Kid Backpack, Fox ($21.99; amazon.com)
SkipHop’s best-selling pint-size backpack is available in over a dozen designs from butterfly to narwhal. There’s an adjustable side mesh pocket for a water bottle or sippy cup, an easy-to-clean internal lining and an insulated zippered pouch for snacks. The Skiphop website has even more characters and availability.
Herschel Supply Co. Kids Heritage Backpack, Orient Blue ($55.62; amazon.com)
This mini-me Herschel backpack, which comes in over 20 patterns (including polka dots, floral and even plaid), includes the company’s signature red and white striped lining, a front storage pocket with key clip, and a chest clip for a comfortable fit.
Lone Cone 15-Inch Little Learner Backpack ($25; amazon.com)
Perfect for daycare or preschool, the Lone Cone Little Learners pack can fit school folders, a lunch box, snacks and more. While the 15” is sized for preschoolers, there’s also a 17” version with a padded sleeve for elementary school kids who need to bring a tablet to school.
Puma Little Backpack ($22.86; amazon.com)
This sporty pack can hold all the preschool essentials in its multiple pockets, and isn’t so babyish that they’ll outgrow it when they’re a line leader in kindergarten.
Stephen Joseph Sidekick Backpack & Lunch Pal ($42; nordstrom.com)
The 14-inch size of this ready-for-preschool backpack and its matching lunch carrier means that you may even get some mileage into kindergarten. Like the company’s signature rain gear, the pack comes in a range of whimsical designs including airplane and bear. You can also get a 16-inch Stephen Joseph All Over Print Backpack on Amazon for $28.99.
Backpacks for elementary school kids
Lands End Kids ClassMate Large Backpack ($49.95; landsend.com)
Lands End ClassMate backpacks, available in four sizes and dozens of colorways (solids and patterns including rainbows, camo and tie-dye), can last a few seasons so consider choosing an option your kid can live with for a while. (Tall order — we get it.). Multiple exterior and interior pockets help keep kids organized and the padded straps with chest clip ensure a comfortable fit.
AmazonBasics Classic School Backpack ($10.36, originally $12; amazon.com)
Just want a budget backpack without a lot of fuss? This AmazonBasics classic-style option can hold lunch and books (and even a laptop for older kids) in the roomy inner pocket and smaller items in the outer one. It’s available in solids and color blocks as well as a clear option for schools that require see-through bags.
Lego Minifigure Heritage Classic Backpack ($55; zappos.com)
Sure, you could go classic for brick-loving kids, but it won’t have a Lego head for each one of their moods. With a laptop compartment, water bottle pocket and padded straps with an adjustable chest strap, this pack is a good option for older Lego superfans, too.
Adidas Kids Young Creator Backpack (starting at $28.99; amazon.com)
This sporty-cool Adidas pack (available in three additional colorways) features three external zip pockets and two water bottle pockets, making it ideal for taking kids through the day to whatever after-school activities their schedule may hold.
Isaac Morris Pusheen Backpack ($27.99; amazon.com)
The only thing missing from this zippered canvas backpack with multiple zippered pockets is a Pusheen-approved snack backpack clip like this plush donut.
Backpacks for middle schoolers
Roxy Winter Waves Backpack ($45; zappos.com)
Soft girls are no doubt loving the floral backpack trend and it’s hard to pick just one from Quicksilver’s Roxy brand. We love the contrasting stripes on this one, but there’s a pretty black floral option, too, among others. All of the bags have a streamlined internal design with an outer pocket.
Herschel Supply Co. Classic X-Large Backpack ($60; nordstrom.com)
The oversize version of Herschel’s classic pack, the XL features padded straps, a top carry handle and an interior padded laptop pocket. Rainbow tie-dye too bold for middle school? The pack is available in over 50 other colorways on the Hershel website and is a great option for students of any age.
Under Armour Hustle 4.0 Backpack (starting at $41.25; amazon.com)
Fans of Under Armour’s Hustle 4.0 backpack are legion — it even made the cut in Gabrielle Union’s Amazon celebrity store — and with over 20 colorways to choose from, it’s easy to make this style your own. With a front pocket organizer for phones and supplies, a laptop sleeve and a laundry/shoe compartment at the bottom, the bag can go from class to the court, field or pool.
Adidas Floral Print Backpack ($45; nordstrom.com)
A sporty take on the floral backpack trend, this sleek Adidas backpack has an interior wall pocket and padded straps.
AmazonBasics Sports Backpack (starting at $14.49; amazon.com)
Want a sports backpack that won’t break the bank? This AmazonBasics option is tricked out with detailing including an organizational panel, laptop sleeve, bottom shoe pocket, two water bottle holders and multiple pockets.
Backpacks for high schoolers
Sprayground Torpedo Shark Fuzzy Camo Backpack ($70; nordstrom.com)
The camo-print canvas pack from cult-favorite brand Sprayground includes exterior slip and zip pockets as well as a laptop sleeve and, like most Sprayground bags, is a limited-edition style.
L.L. Bean Super Deluxe Book Pack ($59.95; llbean.com)
The Volvo of backpacks, there probably isn’t anything more reliable than a bag from L.L. Bean. With sizes and styles for every age — from the Junior Original Book Pack to the Portable Locker in a range of colors and prints — there’s one for every kid’s and adult’s needs. Designed specifically for high school and college students, the Super Deluxe Book Pack has an ergonomic design (with a waist belt that can be tucked in when not in use), ripstop nylon material and organizational detailing.
Fjällräven Kånken ($79.95; zappos.com)
You don’t have to be a VSCO girl to love Fjällräven’s signature Kånken pack, originally designed for Swedish school kids and now beloved by all. If this perfect-for-fall neutral combo isn’t your style, the pack comes in over 30 additional colorways.
State Women’s Kane Backpack, Gold ($59.90, originally $85; amazon.com)
With metallics still big for fall, State’s classic Kane bag is on trend as ever. The lined interior features multiple organizational pockets, slip pockets, pen holders as well as a water bottle pocket that’s just the right size for a S’well. The Kane Kids version of this pack is also available in 35 other colorways on the State site.
Vans Old Skool III Backpack ($36; zappos.com)
It might seem repetitive to label anything by Vans as old-school, but this nylon pack hits the mark with a classic silhouette and color options from floral to the classic check. All backpack fabrics have coordinating kicks, of course.
Backpacks for college students
The North Face Jester ($69; thenorthface.com)
The new Jester pack from The North Face has been updated to “meet the needs of the modern user.” Translation: In addition to a padded laptop sleeve, water bottle pockets, molded shoulder straps and a bungee system for extra storage, the pack, which comes in 14 different colorways, is also designed to stay balanced when open for easy access to essentials.
This subtle floral pattern from classic backpack maker JanSport channels Vera Bradley at a lower price point. Detailing includes a padded laptop sleeve as well as an organizer panel with a key fob.
Baboon Backpack ($89; baboontothemoon.com)
Like all bags from adventure luggage brand Baboon, the Baboon backpack is made of self-proclaimed machete-proof ballistic nylon that resists dirt and water. The classic style, available in nine colors, includes two external pockets and an internal laptop sleeve and can do double duty as both a school bag and travel bag.
eBags Professional Slim Laptop Backpack ($69.99 with coupon, originally $99.99; amazon.com)
With multiple internal and external pockets, padded laptop sleeve, a next-level front pocket organizational panel and more, this eBags backpack is a reliable workhorse. The heathered gray adds a level of professionalism which can take it past college and into the real world.
Carhartt Legacy Work Backpack ($52.59, originally $69.98; amazon.com)
The Carhartt Legacy Work Backpack may be designed for the grown-up world, but it’s also a great option for college students with multiple exterior pockets, contoured straps, an organizational front panel for phone and keys, as well as both an interior laptop sleeve and tablet storage. The polyester material has a Rain Defender water repellent to help keep gear dry while the bag also features an abrasion-resistant base.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailers’ listed prices at the time of publication.