best backpacks for university students

The Best Backpacks for University Students 

No matter the program and type of educational institution, students carry a lot of stuff on their shoulders, from laptops and lunch boxes to text- and notebooks. Considering that many university students walk from campus to campus in between classes, backpacks they carry should prevent any spinal health problems instead of contributing to their development. A proper backpack should not be larger than your back and not too heavy to avoid neck or back pain.   

Of course, besides wide straps and convenient, spacious size, the material and design of a backpack also play a key role in how long you would use it. We selected the best backpacks for university students that combine easily adjustable straps, durable materials, and ergonomic designs. Our choice includes high-end and budget-friendly backpacks, as well as small and large backpacks, and the best backpacks for students who travel often.  

Why Trust Us

Combining a few categories of the best backpacks into one buying guide required thorough research. That is why we based our list on a few factors. 

The first one is overall rating and customers’ reviews. The second one is opinion of other buying guides such as Wirecutter, Gear Patrol and others.  

Finally, we created a diverse list that covered major requests students have when choosing a backpack.  

What To Look For


What most students want is a durable backpack that would not lose its shape after the first year of college. Many others also use their backpacks for travelling or hiking. When it comes to long-lasting material you have two primary choices, a genuine leather backpack or a weather-resistant, synthetic material such as recycled polyester or nylon. Both materials would carry your textbooks throughout years of studying, however, leather typically costs more. At the same time if you are planning to take your backpack hiking, synthetic material would be more appropriate—it does not scratch and repels water.   

Available pockets:  

Carrying many items of different weight and size requires clever organization. Look for a backpack that offers a main compartment for your laptop and textbooks, smaller pockets for chargers and pens, and a side pocket for a water bottle.    


Our list contains various backpacks that come at different prices. You might be a fashion enthusiast who does not mind spending a few thousand dollars on a designer backpack. However, most students look for an affordable yet durable carrier to fit their studying essentials. To give you more options in both designs and prices we included backpacks that would suit many budgets. However, keep in mind that comparing a $200 backpack to a $30 bag, the latter one would show much lower quality.   


Overall design also affects the price. The more thoughtful it is the higher the price tag would be. At the same time, consider your university backpack as an investment: you would wear it for a few years in a row, and do not want it to fall apart under the weight of your notebooks. But that is one factor. Another one is for you to stay satisfied with the style of the bag you use daily. Choose neutral tones that will match with your outfits, or your favourite bright colour that makes you feel confident.

The Best Luxury Backpack

Goyard L’Alpin Leather Backpack

You might not have heard the brand name, but most likely saw Goyard’s tote bags and backpacks on celebrities. The reason it is not as advertised, compared to other luxury names, is that the brand wants to stay discreet. It is some sort of an exclusive club you belong to when wearing their bags.    

Goyard is a 200-year-old brand, based in Paris, that does not advertise, use marketing or digital ads. Yet, their iconic backpacks are desired not only by established clientele, but also by a younger generation of fashionistas. While you won’t be able to buy a Goyard backpack from the official website (they do not engage in e-commerce), buying it from a reseller website is fairly easy.   

Surely, the price is high (just like any other luxury bag), however, it is the history of the brand and outstanding quality you are paying for. Overall, this backpack could accompany you long after graduating from university, including interviews, your first job and corporate meetings.   

Read: The Best Luxury Bags Worth The Investment   


  • Height: 39.3″ (100 cm) 
  • Width: approximately 31.4″ (80 cm) 
  • Depth: 3.9″ (10 cm)
  • Long-established brand.  
  • Outstanding quality.  
  • Recognizable print.  
  • Convenient size. 
  • Expensive.   

The Best Middle-Market Designer Backpack

Coach Hitch Backpack With Horse And Carriage Print

If you are looking for a designer, genuine leather backpack, but Goyard’s price is unjustly high, take a look at Coach Hitch printed bag.   

Its attractive design combines iconic print on sturdy coated canvas (Horse and Carriage), polished pebble leather, and multifunction pockets (exterior and interior). The interior is big enough to fit textbooks and a 15” laptop, while exterior side pockets can hold a water bottle and other easy-access essentials.  

“Coach Hitch is like my mini office,” said a satisfied student. He puts everything he needs in it, including a laptop (the backpack has a designated laptop sleeve), folders, binders, pens, and chargers and it does not feel weighed down. The exterior is made of durable pebble leather and will last a long time, he concluded. 


  • Height: 16.2″ (41.1 cm) 
  • Width: 5.4″ (13.7 cm) 
  • Depth: 12.4″ (31.4 cm) 
  • Recognizable printed canvas.  
  • High quality genuine leather.  
  • Long-established brand.  
  • Exterior snap pockets.  
  • Expensive.  

The Best Large Backpack

Cotopaxi Allpa 42L Backpack – Unisex

Sturdy and affordable, the Cotopaxi Allpa backpack is a perfect travelling accessory for students who often take trains, travel in between semesters or simply want a functional bag. A satisfied reviewer noted that after the size of Cotopaxi Allpa is perfect for a weekend or two-week trips. The organization inside the pack was a big selling point, he continued. A spacious interior pocket is designed to fit in your laptop and notebooks while internal mesh compartments allow easy organization of chargers, lipsticks, pens and other small items.   

For this particular bag, Cotopaxi used scrap material from other backpacks, which allowed them to create such a unique colourful design. Pretty much all their backpacks offer unique colour combinations which means you won’t see many of the same bags on the campus.   

Speaking of material, the Allpa backpack is made with PU-coated polyester and nylon. Such a combination promotes durability and moisture repelling.   


  • Width: 13.3″ (34 cm) 
  • Height: 21.6″ (55 cm) 
  • Depth: 8.8″ (22.5 cm) 
  • Spacious.  
  • Recycled material.  
  • Ideal for travelling.  
  • Thoughtful design. 
  • Might be too large for students who only carry laptops and small items.  

The Best Everyday Backpack

Aer Pro Pack 24L Backpack

Aer Pro Pack 24L features sustainable material (840D cordura recycled nylon), and a smart casual style that works with any outfit from a corporate suit to jeans and hoodies.   

Besides, the Aer backpack offers a main compartment for all your essentials and a padded suspended laptop pocket (up to 16”), a front pocket with easy access for personal items and an exterior pocket for your water bottle.   

Despite a large size, this Aer Pro Pack combines a contoured back panel and wide straps for carrying it all day long. A student noted that the material of the backpack is great, the design is sleek, and most of all it does exactly what she wants—from the gym to daily tasks, this bag does it all.  

Finally, for students who travel often, this backpack offers handles on each side for easy and versatile carrying.   


  • Height: 18.5″ (47 cm) 
  • Width: 12.5″ (31.5 cm) 
  • Depth: 7″ (18 cm) 
  • Allows versatile carrying.  
  • Exterior water bottle pockets.  
  • Hidden pocket for valuables.
  • The front pocket opening could be bigger.

The Best Stylish Backpack

Beis Daytripper Backpack

If you are looking for a casual, yet stylish-looking backpack, Daytripper might be right for you. It looks slim but offers a spacious interior for studying essentials or gym clothes. The front pocket is large enough to fit a few small items that you do not want to fish out from the bottom of your backpack every time you need a phone charger or your wallet.   

Satisfied users say that the main compartment fits a lot of stuff. “It has to be the most spacious backpack I’ve ever used,” said one of the students. You have more than enough space to pack for a long weekend, she added. It is easy to keep items separated and makes it easily accessible during travel. Lastly, she continued, you won’t regret buying Beis Daytripper.    


  • Height: 19” (48.2 cm)
  • Width: 13” (33.02 cm)
  • Depth: 5.5” (13.9 cm)
  • Stylish, minimal design.  
  • Water resistant lining.  
  • Trolley passthrough strap.  
  • Might be too small for students who carry several textbooks.  

The Best Casual Backpack

Lululemon Everyday Backpack 2.0

Lululemon is known for its casual, athletic and comfortable clothes. Besides clothes, the brand offers a selection of accessories, backpacks included. For instance, this Everyday Backpack features a sleek, stylish design, high-quality material and affordable price. The only downside you might find in the aesthetic is the shine of nylon fabric (keep that in mind if you prefer matte texture).   

The Lululemon Everyday Backpack combines the versatility of a padded pocket for your laptop, an exterior compartment for other studying essentials and a side pocket for a water bottle.   

Satisfied users of the backpack say that the backpack is amazing for not only travel (coming with a suitcase strap) but also for the gym.   

Another student who wanted a more compact backpack with a specific compartment for her laptop and tablet found Lululemon Everyday backpack perfect because it offered lots of spacious pockets. She noted that she can even fit a sweatshirt or a set of clean clothes in the main compartment along with her notebooks.  


  • Height: 16.5” (42 cm) 
  • Width: 11.4” (29 cm)  
  • Depth: 5.9” (15 cm)  
  • Trolley-compatible sleeve. 
  • Versatile size pockets.  
  • Water-repellent material.  
  • Exterior water bottle pocket.
  • Straps do not stay tightened when carrying a lot of heavy stuff.

The Best Durable Backpack

The Brevitē Backpack

Similar in style to the previously mentioned Lululemon Everyday Backpack, The Brevitē Backpack is designed to last a lifetime. The brand does not only have students in mind when designing backpacks, but also adventurers and travelers. They focus on durability foremost, suggesting you buy once but use longer.   

Speaking of durable material, Brevite backpacks are made of recycled polyester material that is lasting and sturdy whatever you decide to carry in it. Several students noted that they had to walk in the rain (with Brevite backpacks on their backs) and everything inside stayed dry.  

This backpack will fit your laptop, textbooks and other studying essentials; however, it is still compact and lightweight to use every day. It contains a main compartment, a laptop pocket, a passport pocket and a hidden pocket for valuables.   

Read more: The Best Laptop Bags in Canada


  • Height: 16.5” (42 cm) 
  • Width: 5.5” (13 cm)  
  • Depth: 11” (28 cm) 
  • Luggape pass-through strap.  
  • Hidden pocket for valuables.  
  • Machine washable.   
  • Available in 11 colours.  
  • None. 

The Best Budget-Friendly Backpack

Converse GO 2 Backpack

One of the most affordable backpacks on our list, which is perfect for students who prefer a new bag every year, is Converse Go 2. Surely, the Converse GO 2 backpack is not the most durable bag, but it will get the job done carrying your laptop, a water bottle and other essentials you need on campus.   

A reviewer noted that he was satisfied with Converse GO 2. It has many pockets, some being the side pockets for drinks and a large laptop pocket inside, he added. He used it every day for school and found it extremely sturdy.  

Another student noted that cushioned straps make carrying heavy textbooks more comfortable, and if you want to take the backpack off your back, there is a top handle you could use.  


  • Height: 12” (30.4 cm) 
  • Width: 5” (12.7 cm)  
  • Depth: 18” (45.7 cm) 
  • Water bottle side pockets.  
  • Versatile carrying.  
  • Budget-friendly.
  • Not the most durable backpack.  

The Best Backpack for a Smaller Person

Herschel Supply Co. Unisex-Adult Classic

Herschel Classic backpack is for young adults, students including, those who prefer the classic aesthetic and functional design. Besides attractive price and recognizable style, the Herschel Classic backpack combines comfortable shoulder straps, air mesh padding and enough space to accommodate your laptop and textbooks.  

A reviewer noted that while Herschel Classic is a nice-looking bag for a good value, it is designed for a smaller person. If you’re not a small person this probably won’t fit properly on your back and will look kind of strange, she concluded.  

This backpack is available in twelve colours so you can either pick a bright standing out option (red, yellow) or a neutral tone that could be easily combined with any outfit.   


  • Height: 16.5” (41.9 cm) 
  • Width: 12” (30.4 cm)  
  • Depth: 5.5” (13.9 cm)
  • Budget-friendly.  
  • Durable polyester material.  
  • Available in 12 colours.  
  • The design is too simple (lacks small pockets.)  

The Best Backpack for Female Students

Northface Women’s Isabella 3.0 Backpack

The Women’s Isabella 3.0 Pack by Northface is designed for all-day comfort carrying whether you are hiking, travelling or walking around a university campus. Its minimal, sporty aesthetic works anywhere from city streets and to the top of the mountain.   

A satisfied student noted that his favourite features are the front pocket, zippered section with a slip pocket and a secured compartment. The main section is spacious with a padded laptop sleeve.  The bottom of the bag has a nice bottom that you can easily wipe clean. But the most attractive feature for her is how the Isabella 3.0 Pack fitted specifically for a female’s frame. “It’s so much more comfortable than any other backpack I’ve ever owned. This one is a keeper!” 

Unlike Herschel or Converse backpacks, Isabella 3.0 Pack is a much larger bag. However, it includes a padded back panel and wide shoulder straps for comfortable carrying.   

Moreover, the Northface backpack offers a padded laptop sleeve, an external secured pocket for quick access, water bottle pockets and internal organization for notepads, gym clothes and more.   


  • Height: 20” (50.8 cm) 
  • Width: 11.5” (29.2 cm)  
  • Depth: 7” (17.8 cm) 
  • Spacious interior.  
  • Designed for a woman’s frame.  
  • Water bottle pockets.   
  • Top handle.  
  • Might be too spacious if you are not planning to carry many textbooks.  

The Best Classic Backpack

Fjallraven Kanken Classic Backpack for Everyday

Created in 1978, Kånken Fjallraven had in mind to improve health of Swedish students. A few decades later many students keep choosing the Classic Kanken backpack because of its beneficial ergonomic design and classy aesthetic.   

It is made of hard-woven Vinylon F fabric which is durable and easily withstands dirt and wetness. Hence, you can be sure to use it throughout your university years. A student noted that he had this bag since the start of secondary school and continued using it in high school. “It still looks amazing with little to no damage,” he added. He recommends this bag to everyone who is looking for a stylish and practical backpack.  

Besides durability, Kånken Fjallraven classic backpack offers a spacious main compartment, two flat side pockets and a zipped pocket on the front. The back foam cushion makes carrying heavy textbooks comfortable. Meanwhile, the top handle gives you more options for carrying the bag, especially in public places like the metro, bus or airport where you would want to prevent any pocket picketing from front compartments.   


  • Height: 38” (96.5 cm) 
  • Width: 27” (68.5 cm)  
  • Depth: 13” (33.02 cm) 
  • Sustainably produced, durable fabric.  
  • Available in 73 colours.  
  • Spacious interior.  
  • Long-established brand.  
  • Not as structured as other backpacks.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to wash a backpack?

If you have a leather backpack you can simply wipe the exterior with a microfiber cloth, and then polish it with a specialized leather treatment. However, if you have a fabric backpack, avoid putting it in a washing machine. Instead, use warm water and a soft sponge to remove any stains and dirt. Do not rub the surface too hard: fabric backpacks typically have protective coating and intensive rubbing can remove it.   

How to pack a backpack for university?

First of all, pack only essentials. You do not want to bend under the weight of your backpack while running between classes and university campuses. Pack a laptop in a padded sleeve. Keep textbooks and notebooks packed in a compartment close to your back. The rest, such as a laptop charger, headphones, snacks and pens, put in smaller pockets.   

What size backpack do I need for university?

The ultimate size of a backpack for university is 20-26 liters, depending on how much stuff you are planning to carry. It might be that your school allows digital textbooks, hence you would not need to pack as many textbooks as if you were attending some other college. Besides, this medium-size backpack is convenient for travelling, taking on an airplane or using for weekend getaways.   

Read more

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Updated date

May 22nd, 2023

About the author

Maria Kossman

Maria Kossman is an essayist, and content specialist at Her writing appeared in a variety of fashion magazines. When she is not focused on reviewing and writing, she spends time exploring coffee shops, English literature and antique malls.
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