The 17 Best Backpacks for Every Activity and Need

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Prepare to meet your new obsession! These practical, easy-to-wear bags work for any occasion—and are easy on your back.

Forget what you think you know about backpacks. The hands-free hero bag has evolved over the decades to go beyond basic knapsacks for schlepping around school supplies and camping gear. The newest versions are equally functional and fashionable, and they suit just about any event. “The right backpack is the ultimate carrying companion,” notes Aaron Luo, CEO of handbag company Caraa. “It holds all of your personal belongings. It’s organized so you can find what you’re looking for with ease. It should be lightweight yet polished. You shouldn’t have to break your back—figuratively or literally—to get from point A to point B throughout your day.”

In addition to style and specific needs (like if you need a laptop backpack), comfort should be a huge consideration. The best backpacks have lumbar support, padded straps, and even features like wire frames or metal stays for heavier loads. But remember: Just because a backpack can carry a ton, it doesn’t mean it should, especially when it’s a kid doing the carrying. To prevent injury and backaches, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your child’s backpack weigh no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight.

How we picked the best packs

With so many different models to choose from, the first step is to figure out what you’ll be using it for, whether you’re commuting, heading to school, or literally backpacking. “Having the right backpack for your activity will help ensure that you’re equipped with all the features and functionality for optimal comfort,” says Kevin Lau, a retail sales specialist at REI. You’ll also want to make sure it goes with the majority of your wardrobe for maximum versatility.

That’s exactly what we took into consideration when compiling this list—but then we took things a step further. We sorted through expert recommendations, user reviews, and online ratings to find the designs that earn top scores for style and substance. Perhaps our best bit of advice, though? Don’t wait to buy them: Many are massively discounted right now for the best Labor Day and back-to-school sales, and they’re going fast. Once you’ve found your favorite, make sure you also have these dorm room essentials if you have a college student, or simply kick back and enjoy these back-to-school memes after a shopping job well done.

Best backpacks for everyday use

Herschel Backpack Amazonvia amazon.com

Herschel Classic Backpack

This company is so confident in the quality of their bags, they offer a lifetime warranty—which, believe it or not, covers everyday wear and tear. The clean and simple silhouette of Hershel’s Classic backpack, which comes in more than 25 colors and prints, complements any personal style, and its sturdy polyester and nylon fabric makes it suitable for any adventure or activity. Contoured shoulder straps and an air mesh back padding provide a comfortable fit—plus, that type of ventilation, says Lau, is particularly important if you’re looking for a biking backpack.

Need more convincing? More than 3,000 Amazon reviewers gave it five stars, with dozens saying it’s the best backpack they’ve ever had because of its superior quality and comfort. As one devoted fan simply states: “It’s my daily backpack, and it couldn’t be better.”

Highlights:

  • Four sizes
  • More than 25 colors and prints
  • Lightweight
  • Durable

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Fossil Backpack Macysvia macys.com

Fossil Parker Leather Convertible Backpack

A good backpack should keep up with you, Luo notes, which is why he loves convertible styles. “It’s common to be on the move from morning until night,” he says, “and your backpack should be able to easily adjust with you from the office to a workout to a dinner date.” This practical and stylish leather number will do just that. It boasts two adjustable and detachable straps so you can wear this as a backpack or crossbody; a spacious interior with a zipper pocket and two slide compartments; and a zipper closure to keep all your goods contained.

And it will also elevate your style, no matter where you are. As one happy customer notes, “The leather is great quality—it has not scratched easily—and the straps are very comfortable. It’s so versatile that I can shop or play with ease.” Another says it was the perfect gift for her mom: “It fits all of her essentials, including her work laptop. She no longer has to carry two bags!”

Highlights:

  • Convertible style
  • Leather
  • Roomy interior with a zip top

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7am Backpack Via 7amenfantvia 7amenfant.com

7AM BK718 Backpack

This ultra-lightweight, versatile bag just might be your new best friend. The BK718 has adjustable padded shoulder straps for comfort, plus a luggage sleeve for easy travel. And that’s just the beginning: The spacious interior has six elasticized pockets, a laptop compartment, and a zippered wallet slot, and the water-repellent outer shell has another two side pockets (perfect for water bottles or umbrellas!) and a zippered front pocket. But this makes our list of the best backpacks because it doubles as a diaper bag, and even includes a fleece-lined cushioned changing pad and two stroller straps.

Highlights:

  • Doubles as a diaper bag
  • Machine washable
  • Lightweight and spacious

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Best backpacks for commuting

Matein Backpack Via Amazonvia amazon.com

Matein Travel Laptop Backpack

This best-selling backpack has more than 37,000 five-star reviews on Amazon. Here’s why: The storage is exceptional. A front organizer section has spots for stashing keys, a wallet, and your phone. The main compartment is roomy and perfect for daily essentials, and there’s a separate padded space for laptops and other small tech devices. The professional on the go will also enjoy the external USB charging port and built-in charging cable inside. And did we mention you get all of this in a stylish package for under $40?

Verified Amazon reviewer Rose C. writes: “If I could give this backpack 10 stars, I would. It completely exceeded my expectations. Since I’m only 5’2”, most backpacks ride low and make my shoulders slouch forward when they’re heavy, but this backpack sits perfectly on my spine and I don’t slouch. There is so much padding on the straps, back, and inside for the laptop that I feel comfortable and my laptop is properly supported.” For those days when you’d prefer a purse to a backpack—or bring along one that fits into your backpack—check out these classic handbags.

Highlights:

  • Budget-friendly
  • Water-resistant
  • Hidden anti-theft pocket
  • Built-in USB charging port

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Samsonite Backpack Via Macysvia amazon.com

Samsonite Mobile Solution Convertible Backpack

Samsonite, known for its superior luggage line, designed a backpack that is the perfect combination of form and function. Using or removing the adjustable strap, the bag can be carried in five unique ways: as a backpack, crossbody, over-the-shoulder bag, handheld bag, or as an oversized clutch. The multipurpose aspect makes this one of the best backpacks for commuting, allowing you to seamlessly adapt the carrier for any occasion. Made with a sleek and sturdy nylon fabric with vinyl trim, it’s both office-appropriate and chic enough to sport every day. As an added benefit, there’s a retractable “SmartSleeve” located in the exterior back zippered pocket, which fits over luggage handles for easy mobility when traveling.

Highlights:

  • Water-resistant coating
  • Convertible
  • Interior padded tech sleeve

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Haswell Backpack Via Ebagsvia ebags.com

ebags Haswell Laptop Backpack

This refined bag is packed with features to make your commute a breeze. We love the streamlined silhouette—it’s stylish enough to wear to work and into the weekend. But beyond that, there are multiple interior and exterior pockets to keep you organized, including a padded pocket for your laptop. A separate zip compartment on the bottom is perfect for shoes (wear sneakers to commute and change into heels—trust us!), gym clothes, or even a packed lunch. The water-resistant twill poly fabric will weather the elements with ease, and adjustable padded straps are comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. Looking for a new computer? Most of these affordable laptops are under $500!

Highlights:

  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Separate compartment for shoes
  • Pass-through sleeve secures bag to luggage

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Best backpacks for school

Etta Vee Backpack Via Pottery Barnvia pbteen.com

PBTeen EttaVee Gear-Up Brushstrokes Backpack

Kids’ backpacks can get heavy—fast. But there’s a smart solution to counter this problem. “Look for a very padded vented back, padded straps, and a sternum strap for support,” advises Renee Silverman, president of Irv’s Luggage. “Water bottle side pockets are also essential [to help distribute weight].” This stylish number does the trick—and so much more. Available in this funky paint print, it has four roomy exterior compartments, a front zipper pocket with a cell phone holder, two D-rings in the front and back, and a cinch mesh pocket on each side. Tough fabric adjustable shoulder straps and a padded back panel ensure a comfortable fit, and kids will love that they can choose from 24 different fonts and colors to personalize it with their name or initials.

Even better? You’ll feel extra good about this purchase because it’s eco-friendly: The rugged, water-resistant recycled polyester is made from more than 14 plastic bottles. In fact, the brand has kept 66 million plastic bottles out of landfills to date, thanks to their recycled designs. If you love this idea, take a look at these other products made from recycled plastics.

Highlights:

  • Easy to clean
  • Eco-friendly
  • Customization available

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Jansport Backpack Via Amazonvia amazon.com

JanSport SuperBreak One Backpack

Around since 1967, JanSport continues to churn out some of the best backpacks for a reason: The durable construction is meant to last. Their bags come with a lifetime guarantee, so if one breaks, they’ll replace or fix it, no questions asked. The classic design of this quintessential school backpack has spacious storage in the main compartment, a front utility pocket with a built-in organizer, and a side water bottle pocket.

Wondering if it delivers? According to 17,000 glowing reviews on Amazon, the answer is a resounding yes! One happy customer says she was tired of novelty backpacks falling apart and declared “JanSport to the rescue!” As she notes, “Young children always want the thin backpacks with whatever cartoon character is the favorite of the month. [Then] it’s my turn to pick a backpack that will last the rest of the year and then some. I will always choose JanSport. I have a few backpacks over a decade old. This will work fine for all the folders, tablets, headphones, and a water bottle.”

Highlights:

  • Lightweight
  • Water-repellent fabric
  • 15 colors and prints
  • Padded back panel and shoulder straps

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Bluboon Backpack Via Amazonvia amazon.com

Bluboon School Backpack

Tie-dye continues to reign supreme when it comes to trends that kids (and adults) love. Not feeling the groovy print? Choose from eight other patterns like marble, galaxy, and shimmering metallic. The soft canvas construction has double-sewn technology, so it won’t rip or tear when loaded with books and other heavy school gear, and an interior cushioned compartment keeps laptops and other tech safe. Plus, padded and adjustable straps help ease the pressure on shoulders. As an added bonus, get a matching insulated lunch container that will keep food fresh during long school days.

Highlights:

  • Three items for the price of one
  • Lightweight
  • Breathable mesh back

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Camo Backpack Via Amazonvia amazon.com

Fenrici Camo Kids Backpack

Eco-conscious families will love this cute camo number made from recycled fabric. This lightweight backpack also happens to be incredibly durable, with its 900-denier, heavy-duty canvas (compared to the 600-denier used by most national brands). Notable callouts include padded mesh-lined straps for maximum comfort and breathability, and an extra-deep netted water bottle pocket designed to make sure your bottle stays in place. Your purchase also has an even greater impact: For every bag sold, a donation is made to the non-profit organization Global Genes to fund the research and education for rare childhood diseases. Here are more amazing products that give back.

Highlights:

  • Durable
  • Eco-friendly
  • Padded laptop sleeve
  • Charitable donation made with each purchase

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Best backpacks for travel

Backpack Via Caraasportvia caraasport.com

Caraa Studio Bag

Caraa is loved for their chic convertible bags, and this multipurpose pick will be your new favorite travel companion. Available in three sizes and multiple colors, it can transition from a satchel to a backpack to crossbody simply by changing straps. Luxury waterproof nylon and Italian leather accents are made to last, and a secure turn-lock main compartment, padded zippered back pocket, and external easy-to-grab side pocket make packing a piece of cake. Thoughtful details like a clear window jewelry pocket, breathing vents in the main compartment, a waterproof and antimicrobial lining, and moisture-wicking mesh back make this bag worth the splurge. It also comes with a waterproof wet clothes bag and waterproof shoe pouch!

Highlights:

  • Moisture-wicking backpack straps
  • Anti-slip rubberized crossbody strap
  • Fits a 15-inch laptop

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Kipling Backpack Via Targetvia target.com

Kipling Gaze Large Printed Rolling Backpack

For luggage that won’t get lost in a crowd (or on an airport conveyor belt!), this bold printed bag is one of the best backpacks for when you just need to roll with it. A retractable handle lets you wheel it when you want, and the padded straps conveniently stow away. But since it weighs in at just 4.37 pounds (one of the lightest rolling designs we could find), you won’t mind toting it on your back. As for the specifics, four zippered compartments keep all your vacation essentials contained and organized, and two side pockets can hold water bottles, a travel pillow, or other small trinkets.

Highlights:

  • Turns into a wheeled bag
  • Water-resistant
  • Comes in two vibrant prints

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Vx Backpack Via Swissarmyvia swissarmy.com

Victorinox VX Sport EVO 2-in-1 Backpack/Duffel

A trusty duffel bag gets an upgrade with this convertible carryall we’re calling the best backpack for navigating any journey, near or far. Hidden straps convert the duffel to a backpack and allow for hands-free cruising, whether you’re racing for a flight or meandering on an outdoor expedition. Crafted from extra-tough polyester, it will hold up on any adventure. Plus, clever multipurpose pockets offer versatile storage solutions, including compartments for electronics and a separate space for shoes. For the tech-inclined, check out these smart bags you can take on airplanes.

Highlights:

  • Convertible
  • Durable
  • Available in three colors
  • Adjustable padded straps

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Packsafe Backpack Via Reivia rei.com

Pacsafe Venturesafe X30 Travel Pack

Silverman strongly recommends anti-theft backpacks for safer travels. She says “cut-resistant fabrics and straps, as well as interlocking zippers” will help protect your belongings. This Pacsafe pick has all the bells and whistles to keep you secure on your next jet-setting jaunt. A hidden stainless-steel wire inside the straps works to prevent slash-and-run theft. The locking system features a central lockdown point for zippers and cables with interlocking zipper pulls, plus a security-clip buckle to help deter bag snatchers. And for high-tech protection, an RFID-blocking pocket protects your credit cards and passport against unwanted scans.

And let’s not forget about comfort: The stowaway hip belt with breathable perforated EVA foam helps stabilize the pack. And the aluminum support back panel with airflow channels keeps you cool when you’re on the go.

Highlights:

  • Numerous safety features, including an RFID-blocking pocket
  • Ergonomic internal frame
  • External compression straps to reduce bulk

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Best backpacks for college

Hagen Backpack Via Macysvia macys.com

McKlein Hagen Leather Laptop Backpack

If you’re looking to elevate your style, this is the best backpack to give you a sophisticated and professional in college and beyond. Its top-grain leather will only enhance over time. Like a briefcase but better, this hands-free number is packed with features to keep you organized for class and accommodate any future business needs. An easy-access clip allows you to open the bag quickly and keep the flap secure. Inside there’s a tech-device pocket, a small-item space (perfect to store a phone, business cards, keys, and pens), and a padded laptop sleeve. If you’re deciding whether to buy a backpack vs. messenger bag, we’ve got the scoop on which one is safest.

Highlights:

  • High-quality density foam padding on the inside
  • Luxe leather
  • Easy-access clip

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Laptop Backpack Via Amazonvia amazon.com

VSNOON Laptop Backpack

This fun floral print is sure to stand out on campus. For starters, reinforced edges and a steel frame guarantee the bag will always keep the perfect shape. But it’s not just fashionable—it’s also supremely functional. The zippered main compartment has a large opening design and sports multiple interior pockets including a padded laptop section. And with a USB charger on the outside and a built-in charging cable inside, you can conveniently use and charge your phone without ever having to open the bag. Plus, a luggage strap and an RFID protection pocket make it an optimal pick for traveling.

Don’t just take our word for it: It has more than 9,300 rave reviews on Amazon. One shopper proclaimed, “I’m Mary Poppins, y’all! This bag is a magical bag. It holds all the things, and I’m obsessed with it! It’s perfect for traveling, for college, for trips—all of it.” Other reviewers call out its durability and a waterproof finish that prevents water damage, as well as the handy USB port, which ensures that your phone will never be low on battery.

Highlights:

  • Choose from five floral prints
  • Water-resistant fabric
  • Built-in USB charger

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Travelpro Bag Via Bloomingdalesvia Bloomingdales.com

Travelpro x Travel + Leisure Convertible Backpack

Trusted luggage company Travelpro and the industry experts at Travel + Leisure teamed up to create a collection of bags you can count on. The best backpacks fit a variety of needs, and this one seamlessly takes you from class to cocktails to an impromptu weekend getaway. It’s made from a buttery-soft yet resilient fabric that’s treated to resist stains and abrasions. The creamy “white sand” hue is the perfect neutral to match any ensemble, though it also comes in black, navy, and gray. To suit any situation, the bag transforms from an over-the-shoulder carryall to a crossbody bag to a backpack—all using the same elegant webbing strap. Stay effortlessly organized with multiple exterior pockets, dual main compartments, an interior zippered pocket, and a built-in padded laptop sleeve.

Highlights:

  • Manufacturer’s limited lifetime warranty
  • Lightweight
  • Leather trim
  • Rear strap to slip over luggage

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