Believe it or not, we’re almost in the throes of that magical season that we shopping enthusiasts refer to as “back to school.” Sure, we’re still a little ways off from the changing of the leaves, the dropping of the mercury, and the unearthing of the knitwear, but here in the land of fashion we’re always on the lookout for that upcoming shift — be it in seasons, environments, or trends — that will dictate a new mode of dressing. And returning to school — or work — is one of the most exciting changes that happens in the calendar year, bringing with it the need for one let’s-get-down-to-business bag to carry it all.
If you’re someone who is returning to —or beginning their journey in — a scholarly milieu of any kind, your satchel needs are unique. What you need is the best college backpack, and it can’t be just any backpack. It has to have room for digital and analog learning devices (in other words, a laptop, notebook, and textbooks) and maybe even snacks, water, and gym clothes. It should also be stylish and polished, as you may find yourself toting it to a networking event, internship or (fingers crossed) a job interview. Click through to see the cutest backpacks for college that deliver equally on style and functionality, and will hopefully keep you in a state of togetherness while you balance your grade point average with a healthy amount of … um, socializing.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. All product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.
The North Face Women’s Jester
Is it finally time to join the North Face gang? If you’re one of many college students trekking to class with ten pounds of books, an impressive collection of pens, and a filled-to-the-brim Hydroflask then yes, it’s finally time to invest. The Jester is famous amongst college campuses for its American Chiropractic Association-approved lumbar panels, its sleek stylish design, and convenient compartment-filled interior.
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The North Face Women’s Jester, $, available at The North Face
Fjallraven Kanken Padded Laptop Backpack
Fjallraven’s retro Nordic styling presents a perfect option if you’re looking for a workhorse rucksack that doesn’t appear too heavy-duty. With a zippered, padded interior compartment big enough for a laptop and plenty of exterior pockets, this classic and boxy option will keep you feeling organized and (hopefully) a little stylish.
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Fjallraven Kanken 15” Padded Laptop Backpack, $, available at Urban Outfitters
Dagne Dover Dakota Backpack
This sleek, dead simple neoprene pack is a favorite from one of R29 readers’ best-loved brands. Dagne Dover is known for stylish, high-capacity bags that boast tech-friendly, down-to-the-item interior organization for those who have a lot to keep track of.
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Dagne Dover Dakota Neoprene Backpack, $, available at Dagne Dover
Carhartt Classic Work Backpack With Laptop Sleeve
The heritage workwear brand does not disappoint with this super-sturdy backpack, in the brand’s beloved signature shade of brown. It boasts a water-repellant exterior and a padded laptop sleeve, along with a ventilated back panel and contoured straps for extra comfort.
Carhartt Classic Work Backpack with Padded Laptop Sleeve, $, available at Amazon
Tumi Voyageur Carson Backpack
The higher price tag on this premium backpack doesn’t seem to stop superfans from taking the plunge — and then singing the bag’s praises after the fact. It has “space for EVERYTHING,” raved one customer. “I love the separate laptop pocket, the size is ideal and there are lots of pockets to organize everything you might need.” We were also intrigued by the possibly most ringing endorsement of a product that we’ve ever read: “I got it when it wasn’t on sale and am thrilled I bought it.” Wow.
TUMI Carson Backpack, $, available at TUMI
Db The Scholar Backpack
Rest assured, this deceptively simple pack does live up to its name. With adjustable exterior webbing for strapping on a skateboard or yoga mat, a roomy interior capacity with a separate 15” laptop compartment, and — I quote from the product description here — a “small zippered compartment [that] keeps snacks close by,” this is a student-friendly accessory if we ever saw one.
BDB The Scholar Backpack, $, available at Backcountry
Eastsport Tech Backpack
She might not be the prettiest gal at the pageant but for under $30, and plenty of positive reviews, this multipurpose backpack is pretty unbeatable when it comes to value. “Spacious,” “sturdy,” “cheap,” and “strong,” are the superlatives used over and over again making this backpack a low-investment, high-yield functional pick.
Eastsport Tech Backpack, $, available at Amazon
Lululemon Assert Backpack 2.0
This roomy companion will accommodate books, extra clothes, or whatever else you find yourself needing to bring to class. There are separate compartments for your laptop and water bottle, in addition to a high-capacity exterior pocket for anything else you might need to keep close at hand.
Lululemon Assert Backpack 2.0 24L, $, available at Lululemon
Everlane Modern Snap Backpack
Everlane’s well-priced and stylish rucksack has a 15” inch laptop-friendly interior, along with side slip pockets for those things that you reach for every five minutes. “One of the best purchases I’ve ever made,” wrote one reviewer. “This backpack looks so sleek and is lightweight but best of all it’s functional. You can carry so much stuff if you need to while being comfortable. I used it for a weekend away and it was great. worth every penny.”
Everlane The ReNew 15 Inch Transit Backpack, $, available at Everlane
This monochromatic, super lightweight style comes with Jansport’s lifetime warranty. The classic, two-compartment build looks clean and streamlines the day-to-day basics of class – to work – to home, and back.
JanSport SUPERBREAK®, $, available at JanSport
Madewell Transport Rucksack
One of Madewell’s best-selling items is this extremely cool, extremely functional leather rucksack. One customer describes her satisfaction in pulling the trigger after eyeing it for months: “When I started developing back pain from carrying my books and research in my purse, I decided it was time to buy it. It’s extremely soft and carries a lot. It is elegant and grown-up. I can carry my laptop, numerous books and notebooks, makeup bag, wallet, and much more in it. So worth it.”
Madewell The Transport Rucksack, $, available at Madewell
Topo Designs Light Pack Backpack
This cultishly beloved outdoor brand gets our attention by combining a decidedly un-shy color palette with thoughtful functionality. Their lightweight backpack boasts an eye-catching design, along with an interior laptop sleeve and generously padded straps — helpful whether you’re hauling supplies on a camping trip or toting multiple math textbooks across the quad.
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Topo Designs Light Pack, $, available at REI
CYUREAY Convertible Tote Daypack Laptop
With an extra-long strap that can convert from shoulder-sling to backpack strap with a few small adjustments, the potential of this interchangeable tote is endless. It’s also roomy enough for travel, so you can tote it to class on Friday before heading home for the weekend.
CYUREAY Convertible Tote Daypack, $, available at Amazon
Herschel Supply Co. Classic Mid-Volume Light Backpack
For those in search of the fewest frills and the most classic collegiate design, we present the tried-and-true silhouette of this Herschel Supply Co. pack. With every single detail that you remember from elementary school — including a top carrying loop, roomy exterior pockets, and sewn padded straps — it boats the perfect combination of nostalgia and function.
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Herschel Classic Backpack, $, available at Herschel
STATE Lorimer Backpack
We love STATE’s simple and sturdy rucksacks and totes for their classic design and high capacity, and also for their mission of social good — for every handbag purchased, the company donates a fully-stocked backpack to schoolchildren in need of new supplies, or make an in-kind donation to partner charities that support children.
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State Bags Lorimer Backpack, $, available at State Bags
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