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13 best back-to-school backpacks for kids in 2021

Part of back-to-school shopping is finding the best backpack for your child — we’ve rounded up highly rated options for all of their needs and supplies.
Father and son with backpack walking in schoolyard
The best backpacks for kids include ones from L.L.Bean, JanSport, North Face and more.VioletaStoimenova / Getty Images

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As back-to-school season quickly approaches, many parents and students are preparing to shift from remote learning and return to in-person learning. Part of this process is stocking up on school supplies and essentials — several back-to-school sales have already started and are expected to rev up in late July and throughout August, according to shopping comparison site DealNews. Of course, backpacks are a school staple no matter the age — not only can they help easily transport all of your child’s supplies, but for many kids, a new backpack can also be a stylish accessory and a yearly motivator to start the school year fresh.

Whether you’re looking for practicality, durability or style (or a combination of the three), there are a variety of kids backpacks on the market to fit your child’s needs. To narrow down your search, we’ve rounded up some highly rated backpacks from popular brands like JanSport, L.L. Bean and The North Face.

Top-rated backpacks for kids in 2021

Best overall kids backpack: L.L.Bean

L.L.Bean Deluxe Book Pack

This backpack from L.L.Bean combines most of the features both parents and kids look for: It has a durable, weatherproof construction thanks to its ripstop nylon fabric and storm flap, a padded back panel with lumbar support and multiple pockets for organization. Its ergonomic design equips padded, adjustable and curved straps, along with a waist belt that tucks away when it’s not in use. The backpack also has a dual main compartments with an organizer panel, making it easier for kids to separate their belongings based on classes, homework or after-school activities. Available in nine colors, this backpack currently has a 4.6-star average rating from over 200 reviews on L.L.Bean.

Best durable kids backpack: The North Face

The North Face Youth Recon Squash Backpack

Designed for kids ages 6 to 10, this durable backpack is made of polyester with a durable water-repellent finish. It has a 17-liter capacity and features a comfortable stitched-foam back panel for daily use, mesh water bottle pockets and an internal name label to keep track of belongings. This backpack has a 4.9-star average rating from over 170 reviews at The North Face.

Best stylish kids backpack: Fjallraven

Fjallraven Kanken Classic Backpack

A stylish backpack option to start your child’s school year is the classic Kanken by Fjallraven. They can stash away their school supplies in the main zippered compartment and store smaller items in the front zippered pockets and two open side compartments. It’s made from the brand’s proprietary Vinylon F material, which the brand claims is dirt- and water-resistant and easily wipes clean. It also includes a two-way zipper with a rain flap for weather protection, long adjustable shoulder straps and dual top snap handles for carrying. It currently has a 4.6-star average rating from over 2,000 Amazon shoppers.

Best affordable kids backpack: Everest

Everest Basic Backpack

An option worth considering for everyday use, this mid-sized kids backpack from Everest features a roomy main compartment and a zippered front pocket. It’s available in more than 20 bright, kid-friendly colors, including Turquoise and Hot Pink. The backpack is made from durable polyester and has a 14-liter capacity to hold your child’s books, papers and other school supplies.

Best classic kids backpack: JanSport

JanSport SuperBreak

The JanSport SuperBreak’s classic silhouette is free of the bells and whistles commonly found on many other kids backpacks. Available in more than 30 colors, this backpack has one main compartment, a front utility pocket and a side water bottle pocket. It’s also a bestseller, boasting a 4.7-star average rating from over 20,000 reviewers on Amazon.

Best backpack with wheels: J World

J World New York Sunrise Rolling Backpack

If your child prefers to both wear their backpack and roll it to give their back a break, this one from J World — which has a 4.5-star average rating from over 5,500 Amazon shoppers — has a durable rubber bottom that’ll withstand being dragged on hard floors and pavement. To add to its durability, it’s made from ​​ripstop polyester fabric with a metal frame and reinforced edges. It also includes two mesh side pockets for water bottles and its front pocket organizer has a key clip, pen holders, card slots and an internal zip pocket to keep small items safe and organized.

Best backpack for preschoolers: Pottery Barn Kids

Pottery Barn Kids Fire Truck Little Critters Backpack

Toddler-friendly patterns and prints are great options for a preschooler’s backpack. The Little Critters backpacks from Pottery Barn Kids come in various designs, from fire trucks and construction vehicles to flowers and ladybugs. And to keep track of its whereabouts, you can personalize this backpack with your child’s name for an additional charge. According to the brand, it fits children who are 36 inches to 43 inches tall and you can pair each design with a matching, personalized lunch box.

Best backpack for elementary schoolers: Herschel

Herschel Heritage Backpack

Sized for children ages 3 to 7, this classic backpack comes in 18 designs and features a front storage pocket, a removable sternum support strap and a woven internal label for your child’s name. It has a 4.4-star average rating from over 100 Herschel shoppers, and you can purchase this more sophisticated style for kids ages 8 to 12 years old.

Best backpack for middle and high schoolers: Pottery Barn Teen

Pottery Barn Kids Gear-Up Quarry Recycled Backpacks

For older kids who may be carrying around more supplies, this backpack has four large exterior pockets and one interior pocket to store multiple items at once. It also features a cellphone holder and two D-rings in the front and the back to hold keys, water bottles or a lunch box. As a bonus, it’s also sustainably made from over 14 recycled water bottles, according to the brand. The Gear-Up backpack is available as a Large, Extra-Large or rolling backpack, the last of which features a laptop compartment.

Best water-resistant kids backpack: Mountaintop

Mountaintop Kids Backpack

Mountaintop’s kids backpack is made of a water-resistant polyester material that can withstand unexpected rain showers (although the brand notes it won’t 100 percent protect your child’s supplies in very heavy rain). Ideal for kids ages 3 to 6, it has a main compartment to hold books, folders and other school essentials and an elastic mesh pocket in the front for additional storage. Lightweight and affordable, this backpack also boasts a 4.7-star average rating from more than 600 Amazon reviewers.

Best tech-friendly kids backpack: The North Face

The North Face Jester Backpack

If your child carries a laptop or tablet to school, the Jester backpack from The North Face features a padded laptop sleeve that can protect their tech from falls, bumps and other gear inside the main compartment. The brand also boasts a padded back panel and breathable lumbar panel certified by the American Chiropractic Association. It comes in 16 colors and has a 4.8-star average rating from over 600 reviews on The North Face.

Best sustainable kids backpack: Terra Thread

Terra Thread Zem Mini Backpack

Sustainability can still be part of your child’s school supplies — this option from Terra Thread is certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard and is made from heavy-duty 14-ounce organic cotton canvas. It’s available in 14 colors and patterns and you can machine wash it in cold water for peace of mind.

Best lightweight kids backpack: Lands’ End

Lands' End Kids' ClassMate Medium

Weighing just over 12 ounces, this lightweight backpack is made from durable polyester and features a zippered main compartment, an interior folder pocket and a zippered front pocket for extra storage. To keep weight off of your child’s back, the backpack offers an adjustable chest strap, padded straps and a padded back panel. Additional features include mesh water bottle pockets, a reflective trim to keep your child visible at night and a lunch box clip on the front.

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