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Quick look at the best backpacks for kids

From carrying coats and school supplies to shuttling clothes and toys to Nana’s for an overnight, backpacks are an essential part of childhood.

Selecting and buying a backpack is a rite of passage. It’s a ritual. It’s also a necessity. But finding the right backpack can be hard. After all, bags need to be sturdy and durable.

A good kids backpack is lightweight, comfortable, and affordable. They are also colorful. Kids want bags that reflect their personalities and make a statement.

But what bag is best for you and your child? Here are our favorite kids backpacks, for 2021 and beyond.

When it came time to select our favorite backpacks, our criteria was simple. We looked for bags that are spacious and dependable. Padding is important, as were features like water repellence and tear resistance. And stability was essential. Pun intended, backpacks shoulder a lot of responsibility — and carry a lot of weight.

As for how we chose said bags, we asked fellow parents for their suggestions. We also read dozens of reviews.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $25
  • $$ = $25–$50
  • $$$ = over $50

Best backpack for toddlers

Skip Hop Zoo Little Kid Backpack

Price: $

If you are looking for a cute, colorful, pint-sized bag for your preschool aged child, look no further than Skip Hop. With padded straps, a small size, snack compartments, and animal themes, this Skip Hop bag is a great little tote for young children.

Best backpack for elementary kids

L.L.Bean Discovery Backpack

Price: $$

Durable, comfortable, rugged, and sturdy, L.L.Bean’s Discovery bag is perfect for elementary school aged children. Why? Because it is tear resistant and water repellent. In other words, this bag can withstand the wear and tear your little one is sure to put on it. It also comes in several cute designs and colors.

Best backpack for middle school kids

State Kane Kids Backpack

Price: $$$

With bold patterns, metallic materials, several storage compartments, and a laptop sleeve, State’s Kane bag is great for your middle-schooler. They are modern, sleek, and sophisticated statement pieces. Plus, State bags give back. For every purchase, State will make a donation to families in need.

Best backpack for high school kids

JanSport Big Student Backpack

Price: $$

Perhaps the most well-known and well-regarded backpack brand, JanSport has withstood the test of time — and for good reason. Their bags are lightweight, affordable, and durable, and they come with a lifetime warranty.

They’re also water repellent and tear resistant, and with a variety of colors, there is a JanSport backpack to suit every teen’s style. The Big Student Backpack is roomy enough for several binders and books, has a laptop pocket, and features contoured straps to make it easier to haul from class to class.

Best backpack for computers

Herschel Supply Co. Settlement Backpack

Price: $$$

Carrying around a laptop can be a (literal and proverbial) pain, especially if high school students also carrying around textbooks and school supplies. But it doesn’t have to be — especially with the Settlement Backpack.

With a media port, multiple compartments, a laptop sleeve, and padded straps, the Herschel Settlement backpack is a good choice for high school aged kids (or adults!) for carrying their tech.

Best backpack designs for kids

Pottery Barn Kids Mackenzie Backpack

Price: $$–$$$

With designs ranging from cars, trucks, and dinosaurs, to Disney princesses and the solar system, Pottery Barn’s Mackenzie backpack is great for kids looking to make a statement. You can even personalize them, if that’s your thing. Bonus: Parents say these bags are surprisingly big and can hold quite a lot — fun meets function.

One note: The Mackenzie comes in various sizes, which is great for different ages. Just know that the price will increase the bigger you go.

Best kids backpack for hiking

L.L.Bean Explorer Backpack

Price: $$

Lightweight, versatile, rugged, and durable, this go-anywhere backpack from L.L.Bean will ready your child for school and beyond. Ideal for both textbooks and trail mix!

Best kids backpack with hydration pack

CamelBak Mini M.U.L.E. Hydration Pack

Price: $$

A trusted name in hydration, CamelBak did all parents a favor with the Mini M.U.L.E. It’s breathable, lightweight, and comfortable for bike rides or hikes, or even just running around the neighborhood on a hot day.

It’s sturdy, and the padded straps on the M.U.L.E. are specifically designed to fit little arms. There are also several pockets on the CamelBak, perfect for carrying snacks, rain gear, and other kid-friendly supplies.

Best rolling backpack for kids

High Sierra Freewheel Wheeled Backpack

Price: $$$

With mounted wheels, telescoping handle, laptop sleeve, and numerous compartments, the High Sierra Freewheel wheeled backpack is perfect for high schoolers, college aged students, and anyone transporting lots of heavy books, materials, or supplies.

Oh, and bonus: This backpack is made of a ripstop material that protects against rain, snow, or other inclement weather. That makes this choice a real win-win for traversing around big campuses.

Best travel backpack for kids

The North Face Recon Backpack

Price: $$$

The North Face, a leading manufacturer of outdoor gear, offers the Recon Backpack, which is ideal for hiking, biking, and travel. Why? Because it repels water, is made of rip-proof nylon, and has a large carrying capacity (30 liters!). It comes in several colors and patterns. Plus, there’s a youth version of the Recon available.

Best budget backpack for kids

Amazon Basics Classic School Backpack

Price: $$

With more than 12,000 reviews — and a $20 price point — the Amazon Basics Classic School Backpack is one of the most popular budget backpacks out there. Period.