The 15 Best Backpacks for Back-to-School


School bags take a ton of abuse every day, so when you’re shopping for the best back-to-school backpacks to kick off your kid’s new semester, look for something that suits their style and your wallet. You’ll also want to make sure it’s built to last, feels comfortable even when crammed full of books, and won’t rip when they inevitably stuff it too full. 

Below you’ll find 15 budget-friendly school backpacks for the 2021-2022 school year for little children, elementary school-aged kids, and teens and college-aged students, all for under $50. 

Backpacks for Younger Kids

Skip Hop Zoo Little Kids’ & Toddler Harness Backpack 


This cute zoo animal backpack has a harness so caregivers can grab hold of an adventurous toddler who doesn’t always stick by their side. The tether is detachable, though, so this turns into the perfect small bag for daycare or preschool, too. Added extras include a small side mesh pocket for a juice box or mini water bottle, adjustable straps so you can size it just right for them, and an inner tag to write their name. Shown here is the fox, and there’s also a monkey and a unicorn buddy. 

Featured review: “I got this for my 1-year-old who has a propensity to dart away from when I’m tending to my eldest. Super safe! I had a different brand that broke on the shoulder straps but this one is excellent quality.”  

Dimensions: 3.25” L x 9” H x 7.5” W 

Price: $17.99 at Target 

Obersee Backpack with Insulated Cooler

pink obersee backpack

This cute back-to-school backpack is such a cheerful way to start the day. It’s well crafted, too, with plenty of pockets, including a convenient insulated front pocket to hold food, plus comfy padded straps and a chest strap for added support and wearability. 

Featured Review: “Cute bag. Very nice quality. Big enough for toddlers and elementary school kids. Purchased two and love them both.” 

Dimensions: 14.5″ W x 10″ D x 5.5″ H  

Price: $29.99 at Macy’s 

Naturally KIDS Dinosaur Backpack 

Naturally KIDS Dinosaur Backpack Amazon

This is such a unique style for a school backpack — instead of a pattern adorning their bag, there’s an actual stuffed dino to keep them company. The stuffed animal can be removed from the bag for snuggling during quiet time, and then easily reattached so it won’t get lost. Other nice touches: a reflective patch, adjustable straps, useful pockets and an attractive fabric design. 

Featured review: “Wow – super job on the construction of the product. A+ and how cute this is.” 

Dimensions: 8” W × 10” H × 3” D 

Price: $30.48 at Amazon 

Star Wars: The Mandalorian Backpack 

Mandalorian Backpack

This Mandalorian backpack has Grogu front and center above a faux leather pocket, designed to mimic the satchel he often rides in. You can even personalize this Disney backpack, and there’s room for up to 10 characters along the strap. 

Featured review: “Great quality and looks great. She liked the patterns and the monogram color matched the rest of it.” 

Dimensions: 16” H x 12” W x 5 1/2” D 

Price: $29.99 at shopDisney

Lands’ End Kids ClassMate Small Backpack 

Kids ClassMate Small Backpack Lands End

This little kid backpack is nice and lightweight, but have no fear — it’s seriously sturdy, crafted with a reinforced handle, chest straps for weight balancing, reflective trim for safety and more parent-pleasing details. Plus, it’s available in 13 different patterns. Bonus: It’s machine washable! 

Featured review: “We purchased this backpack almost two years ago. Still holds up, looks great, functions wonderfully. It easily fits a homework folder, lunchbag, water bottle. We keep lip balm, tissue and health forms in the front pouch, extra masks in the top zippered pocket for easy access. My daughter loves it!” 

Dimensions: 16”H x 11.5”W x 6”D 

Price: $34.95 at Lands’ End 

Backpacks for Elementary School Kids

Adidas Boys Classic 3S Backpack

adidas classic backpack

A sporty classic, this show-no-dirt backpack has a front “cooler” pocket to keep snacks chilled, a larger main pocket, side pockets for drinks, padded straps and an interior tag for their names. It looks great and does an impressive job hiding dirt. 

Featured review: “This backpack is [the] perfect size – just right for books and the front cooler fits a water bottle great. The color is fabulous.” 

Dimensions: 11.5″ L x 6″ W x 17″ H 

Price: $35 at Macy’s 

Vans Realm Backpack

Vans Realm Backpack Zappos

Skater brand Vans has a big range of cool cotton backpacks, including in their beloved checkerboard style, ideal for standing out in a crowd. 

Featured review: “It’s super simple (how I like it). It has one big pocket that also has a padded laptop sleeve, and a small front pocket with a zipper, pen holders, and a large pouch. The interior is black/really dark grey checkered so it’s a tiny detail but it makes the difference. Overall it’s a super sturdy bag.” 

Dimensions: 12 1/2″ W x 16 3/4″ H x 4 1/2 ” D 

Price: $36 at Zappos 

Fortnite The Multiplier Backpack 

Fortnite backpack

It seems like every kid is obsessed with Fortnite these days, and yeah, it’s hard to tear them away from playing it, but at least they can bring the game with them to school via this backpack. The bold pattern (this backpack is also available in three other Fortnite-inspired styles) may be what grabs their attention, but extras like the two roomy pockets, a padded laptop sleeve, water bottle holder and padded straps make it a quality buy all around.  

Featured review: “My third grader thinks [it’s] the coolest. This backpack’s quality is terrific and very spacious!” 

Dimensions: 18” H x 12” W x 7” D  

Price: $34.99 at Kohl’s 

Embark 17” Adaptive Backpack  

purple embark backpack

Attention to detail on this adaptive backpack — like bag hooks so it can be mounted on a wheelchair, straps that can be tucked away so they won’t tangle in wheels, a variety of accessible pockets for easy organizing and to hold ports and cables — makes this is a smart buy that’ll last all year long. The design is simple, with three solid colors to choose from, like lilac, shown here. Or, opt for blue or black. It’s big enough to hold a laptop, too. 

Featured review: “Awesome adaptive backpack. Large capacity for all your needs. Heavily padded for extra comfort if you needed to wear it. Easily attaches to wheelchair or other modes of modality. Lots of pockets and extra spots for all your transporting goods.” 

Dimensions: 17” H x 13” W x 7.5” D 

Price: $39.99 at Target 

L.L.Bean Deluxe Book Pack

L.L.Bean Deluxe Book Pack LL Bean

The brand brags their bag is “practically indestructible,” making it ideal for kids who aren’t famous for treating their stuff with all that much care. This bag is made with a machine washable waterproof fabric and features a reinforced bottom, waist belt, padded and ergonomically curved straps, reflective trim, interior tech pocket with a built-in cord port and two water bottle pockets. Comes in nine different shades. 

Featured review: “Best backpack ever! I have purchased this backpack for all SIX of my children! It has held up to everything and the warranty from LLB would cover any issues we could ever come across. We have used the Deluxe size for grades K-12.” 

Dimensions: 17″ H x 13″ W x 9.5″ D

Price: $49.95 at L.L. Bean 

Backpacks for High School and College

JanSport Big Student   

JanSport Backpack
Image: JanSport

Well made, reasonably-priced and available in an impressive range of patterns and colors, the classic JanSport backpack offers the same high quality design since the brand started crafting school bags back in 1967, but with some modern-day upgrades like a dedicated 15-inch padded laptop compartment to keep your child’s computer safe from damage. Added pluses: a padded back panel, zippered compartments and a water bottle holder. 

Featured review: “Great quality, functional pockets, beautiful colors! My daughter absolutely loves this backpack! It is beautifully vibrant. It has tons of well constructed, useful sized pockets and it has held up great so far. This year (due to Covid) my daughter has to carry all of her books around (no lockers, etc.) and it shows no signs of wear yet. I’m really impressed with the quality.” 

Dimensions: 17.5″ x 13″ x 10″  

Price: $39.99 at Amazon 

Nike Brasilia Extra Large Training Backpack 

Nike Brasilia Nike

This option is spacious but streamlined, even when stuffed full of all of their gear. This roomy backpack with a laptop pocket also has a padded back, external snack and water pockets, and is available in four colors: solid black, navy and black, aqua and black, and red and black. 

Featured review: “Love everything about this bag. There is a pocket for your ball, socks & shin guards and multiple pairs of cleats. Water bottle pocket on the side of the bag. A pocket to tote your laptop or notebook. Great purchase and highly recommended.” 

Dimensions: 20″ H x 13″ W x 7″ D

Price: $50 at Nike 

UGRACE Vintage Laptop Backpack

UGRACE Vintage Laptop Backpack Amazon

The mix of old-school vintage elegance with modern extras works so well on this bag. The touches that make it perfect for busy students include the built-in USB charging port and built-in charging cable (so they can charge their phones while they’re on the go) and six different compartments (including a laptop sleeve). Comes in five versatile, stylish colors. 

Featured review: “I purchased this for my daughter who carries books and a laptop to college. She says the straps are comfortable and it has plenty of room for everything she needs. One day she got caught in an unexpected rain shower and everything stayed dry. Would recommend this for anyone looking for a professional-looking backpack.” 

Dimensions: Size: 11.6″L x 17.2″H x 5.4″ W (29L x43H x13.5W cm) , fits up to 15.6″ laptop

Price: $23.99 at Amazon 

Tzowla Travel Laptop Backpack 

Tzowla Travel Laptop Backpack Amazon

This one’s ideal for an athlete, a student who dashes from classes to work, a traveller and anyone else who wants a sturdy, budget-friendly backpack made from waterproof polyester that can handle planes, trains and automobiles. Yes to all the must-haves, like room for all your gear, including a computer, multiple pockets to keep essentials well-organized, an anti-theft RFID blocking pocket to protect credit cards and I.D., a charger port and a built-in lock to deter pickpockets. This popular bag has nearly 20,000 ratings on Amazon and an overall 4.7 out of 5 star rating and is so affordable you can get two for less than $50. 

Featured review: “Perfect bag for travel, work, or school with great security features! It was the perfect size to fit a few days worth of clothes, my laptop and a few other essentials. The small inside pocket is perfect for keeping small items (coins, business cards, phone, etc.) and the inside sleeve is great fit for a passport even inside a sizable wallet or just keep multiple there. I would 100% recommend this bag.” 

Dimensions: 13.3″ W X 6.7″ D x 22″ H 

Price: $21.65 at Amazon 

Street Level Reversible Faux Leather Tote & Wristlet 

Reversible Faux Leather Tote & Wristlet Nordstrom

For those who prefer a different shape, this faux-leather reversible tote bag is stylish and roomy as can be. It looks great with every outfit and even comes with a cute matching wristlet. Shown here is the black and cognac color combo. You can also pick the black and leopard style, or a gorgeous taupe and ivory bag instead. 

Featured review:  “New favorite bag! I’ve been looking for a neutral toned bag for the longest time, especially one that I could fit all my stuff into (laptop, jacket, wallet, etc). Other bags that I considered were cute, but WAY past my budget! This bag is a great deal for the price. The material of the bag is a nice quality, and it’s super easy to turn inside-out to the other color. Seriously, a bag that can change to either black or cognac (two staple neutral tones) is like a dream come true for me. It’s like having two bags for the price of one.” 

Dimensions: 15.5″W x 13″H x 5″D. (Interior capacity: large.)

Price: $49 at Nordstrom 

For more ways college students can save, check out our roundup of student discounts.

The post The 15 Best Backpacks for Back-to-School appeared first on The Real Deal by RetailMeNot.

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