The best backpack for college students

Sian Babish

Make a list of all the items you expect to keep in your backpack on a daily basis. This will help you determine exactly how large your backpack needs to be.

It's one thing to hit the books, but it's something else to carry them around campus all day. Since there's already plenty of responsibility on your shoulders as a college student, make sure you choose the best backpack to suit your needs.

Backpacks for college students are designed to optimize space for all your textbooks, electronics, and accessories. They should also optimize your time, so that means plenty of well-placed compartments and unique features to accommodate headphones and USB charging ports. Most of all, backpacks for college students are ergonomically designed to make carrying them fully loaded across campus as comfortable as can be.

To find the best backpack for your needs, read our buying guide. We're including our favorite one, Mancro Laptop Backpack, which offers waterproof storage and comes with a series of anti-theft features.

Considerations when choosing backpacks for college students


In the digital age, it's no surprise backpacks are often classified by what size laptop they accommodate. Determine your laptop's exact specifications to find the right backpack size. These dimensions not only help you select the proper size, they also ensure the laptop is secure in its dedicated compartment.


Ever wonder how much stuff fits in a backpack? If you'd like a formal measure, take a look at the liters (L) listed in its description. For something more relatable, have a list of the items you regularly carry and think of how they might fit inside. If it looks like it will take quite a bit of maneuvering to fit them all in the backpack, consider a larger size.



Backpacks have a wide variety of pockets and compartments. External compartments are convenient for items you need to access quickly, such as pens or water bottles. Internal compartments usually offer a higher level of organization and subdivide into pen holders, media pockets, accessory compartments, and padded laptop sleeves.


Straps are every bit as important as other backpack features. For comfortable straps that won't hurt your back, look for styles with adequate padding and adjustability features. Wide straps are better, as they evenly distribute the backpack's weight.

Hip and chest straps also help distribute weight, mostly in the way of sending some of the load to your hips instead of keeping it centered on your back. Compression straps prevent your backpack from moving too much while you walk, which helps limit the strain of uncomfortable positioning. 

Water resistance

At some point during the semester, you may be caught in the rain or a snowstorm, so a backpack with water-resistant features is essential. These backpacks are typically made with materials that repel water, such as nylon and polyester. Keep in mind that water-resistant isn't the same as waterproof -- try and limit your exposure to the elements to prevent the backpack from becoming saturated.

Popular materials

Backpacks are usually made from durable blends of nylon and polyester designed to hold up against tough college kid use. There are also bags made of cotton and wool, though they absorb moisture and aren't well suited to wet weather. Rubber and leather details are popular for reinforcements and embellishments.

High-tech features

Backpacks of the twenty-first century are designed with features for tech-savvy students. Some styles feature headphone holes and USB charging ports which turn your backpack into a media center. Certain backpacks feature high-tech anti-theft technology with locking mechanisms as well as RFID protection.


Basic backpacks with limited compartments cost $25 and below. If you want a better quality backpack with improved protection as well as media pockets, expect to spend closer to $40. If you're a total techie and need a host of features and a high level of organization, you can spend between $50 and $75.


Q. Are there any backpacks with refrigerated compartments for snacks and drinks?

A. Only a few premium styles have this feature, and even then, these compartments tend to be on the smaller side. Your best bet is to invest in a compact insulated lunch bag or a reusable water bottle with a freezer stick.

Q. How do I get odors out of my backpack?

A. Remove the contents and let it air out in a ventilated area for several hours. If that doesn't work, you can spray it with fabric refresher spray. Some sprays are effective at deodorizing, while others help mask the smells while they dissipate.

Backpacks for college students we recommend

Best of the best: Mancro's Laptop Backpack

Our take: High marks for convenient compartments and anti-theft features. Available in eight colors.

What we like: Accommodates 17-inch laptop and comes with a USB charging port. Water-resistant bag made from eco-friendly materials.

What we dislike: Some difficulty closing the bag if you're filling it to capacity.

Best bang for your buck: Vancropack's Travel Laptop Backpack

Our take: Budget-friendly backpack with tech-savvy features including earphone hole and USB charging port.

What we like: Fits laptops up to 15.6 inches and has well-placed pockets and compartments inside the bag.

What we dislike: Not as padded at the bottom as it could be, especially to protect the laptop.

Choice 3: Yorepek's Extra-Large Backpack

Our take: Great for the student who needs a lot of storage and a high level of organization.

What we like: Accommodates laptops up to 17 inches. Front pocket opens 180° for easy viewing. Bag has a series of tech-conscious features.

What we dislike: When filled, it feels very bulky and could be a bit heavy for all-day carrying around campus.

Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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