Nothing says back-to-school more than shopping for a new backpack, but it’s hard to find one that checks off all the boxes for both parents and kids. You’ll need it to be durable so you won’t have to replace it, organized so it can hold all of the schoolwork and supplies, and good-looking so students actually want to wear it.
The GolfHr Institute Textiles Lab tests backpacks for durability features like tear strength, strap strength, and abrasion resistance as well as comfort aspects like the amount of padding in the straps and weight when it's empty. We also look at the overall design and organizational components and make sure that the material is water-resistant. Lastly, we have standard packing loads for different age groups to make sure it’ll hold everything they need.
The picks ahead are winners from our test along with some new styles with unique features and rave reviews. Here are the best kids backpacks for the 2019-2020 school year:
If you're looking to save, this no-frills backpack has over 1,000 five-star reviews from users who say it offers “great bang for the buck.” There’s one roomy main compartment with a small pocket in front and the straps are both padded and adjustable. It also has side pockets to hold water bottles and a loop at the top to hang on hooks. It might not have all the features you’ll get with pricier backpacks, but the under $20 price can’t be beat.
This style from Columbia earned the top spot for 13- to 18-year-olds in our roundup because it had a high score in our Lab’s test and it has features that make it versatile to use from middle school and high school through college and beyond.
It held our packing load with room to spare, uses fabric that’s both durable and water-repellent, and has excellent padding in the straps. Plus, it has lots of compartments to keep students organized, including a padded sleeve for laptops. The only downside is it’s missing extra support straps around the chest and waist.
This backpack wowed our experts in Lab tests: it was the most spacious for its age group, had all of the design features your kid needs (like organizing compartments and a chest strap), and its fabric was both water-repellant and abrasion-resistant.
On top of that, the fabric is made of recycled polyester and each bag saves 18 water bottles from going into a landfill. It also has an extra loop so kids can attach a lunch bag and be hands-free.
Designed for toddlers to kindergarteners, this animal-themed backpack comes in tons of character options like a dragon, dog, and pig. It’s smaller than other backpacks so it’ll fit little bodies, yet still has compartments for snacks and supplies and a loop on top so kids can hang it on their hooks.
Some of our product experts use this one at home with their young children and see just how much the toddlers love showing off the characters at school.
Whether they’re heading to class, traveling on break, or going on job interviews, this versatile backpack has everything a college student needs: tons of pockets to stay organized (including a separate laptop compartment), a built-in USB port to add a battery and charge devices on the go, and lots of padding to make it comfortable.
It also has a zippered pocket against the back for valuables and waterproof materials to help the contents stay safe. It’s an Amazon best-seller with over 4,000 positive reviews from users who swear it’s both useful and professional.
This super popular style from The North Face was a top-performer in our tests over 10 years ago and still continues to impress both our experts and real users. It stood out especially for holding up during our Lab’s abrasion, water-resistance, and durability drop testing. It also has tons of padding for comfort, a separate laptop compartment, and reflective features for safety. Plus, it comes in tons of colors and a version made specifically for female bodies.
A backpack’s load can get heavy enough, so students don’t need the bag itself weighing them down. This one from Lands’ End weighed less than any other in our test, but it still held our entire load for 7 to 12-year-olds with room to spare. It comes in other colors and prints as well as larger sizes and wheeled versions. Plus, you can choose to personalize it for an extra $8.
The fun designs from PBK – from ballerinas to space-themes to Disney prints – let your kid’s personality shine through and make wearing the backpack that much more exciting. It can also be monogramed for $10 to make it extra personal. On top of looking cute, the bags are made to be fully functional thanks to the strong, water-resistant fabric, padded straps and back, and organizing pockets and straps on the outside. Plus, it comes in lots of variations, including other sizes and matching lunch bags.
If you’ve got a kid who loves to stand out, you need to check out this sparkly backpack. It comes in lots of color combos and the sequins are all reversible so kids can create their own designs every day. On top of that, it also has some functional features: the large main compartment has a padded laptop sleeve and there are smaller pockets on the outside. It has a near-perfect rating on Amazon from parents who say their kids are obsessed.