Students walking with backpacks and skateboards.

Back to school season means prepping to get ready with all the essentials a student of any age will need, including a solid backpack. For years, I would get, for lack of a better term, cheap backpacks for my son for school. But as any parent knows, younger kids love to throw their bags around, drag them across the floor (and pavement), yank on the zippers, and fill them with everything from precious rocks they found in the playground to snacks, books, and more. I finally learned by the time my son was in second grade (he’s now off to sixth!) that investing in a good backpack is important. But I learned this for myself, too, when I was going through university (and even now during my working years). It’s something a student will be using every day, and it’s responsible for protecting all their gear, from books to lunch, and likely even a computer as well.

The best backpack for back to school will be made from quality materials. It will be spacious enough to fit everything you need with padding to keep expensive tech separate and protected. It will be comfortable, especially for students who walk to and from school or around campus, offering nice weight distribution, breathability, and padded straps. Here are a few of the best choices this year as you begin your back to school preparations.

For older grade-schoolers: Herschel Pop Quiz Laptop Commuter backpack

Herschel Pop Quiz backpack

Ideal for older students who will be carrying a laptop to school (though even my 11-year-old takes one!) the Herschel Pop Quiz laptop commuter backpack is trendy and functional. It has a large 25L capacity and can accommodate a computer with an up to 16-inch screen in a dedicated, padded slot. The rest of the interior, meanwhile, is big enough to hold a binder, book, lunch bag, and more, all separate from the computer. One thing I always look for in a backpack is a water bottle pocket to make sure my son stays hydrated through the day, and this backpack has one.

The unisex bag comes in navy with tan accents and is made from 100% recycled 600D polyester materials, so you can feel good about the choice. It comes with a lifetime warranty on the parts. Keep in mind that it isn’t waterproof, but for students who are driven to school or take the school bus, it’s the perfect option.

For kids who carry a lot: Herschel Supply Classics XL Laptop Commuter backpack

Herschel Supply Classics backpack

Another option from Herschel, kids who like a lighter, more feminine hue will appreciate the Herschel Supply Classics XL laptop commuter backpack, which comes in ash rose (there are three other colours to choose from as well if this one doesn’t fit the bill, including classic black). It, too, can fit an up to 16-inch laptop and has the same exterior water bottle pocket.

The interior is even larger with an extra litre capacity, great if you have a kid like me who go through growth spurts and need extra snacks from time to time, or for kids who always bring items from home for projects. This is a good bag for students who play sports as well and need to bring along a uniform, extra shoes, and other relevant gear. Like the Pop Quiz, it’s also made from recycled post-consumer water bottles.

For older students: Targus Balance EcoSmart backpack

Targus Balance Ecosmart backpack

Targus is one of my favourite brands for backpacks, and the Targus Balance EcoSmart backpack is perfect for older students. It fits a laptop with an up to 15.6-inch screen in a dedicated padded compartment that has a SafePort Sling Plus that suspends it inside to help protect the computer against drops and falls. The bag is made from PVC-free woven fabric that comes from recycled water bottles, hence the eco designation in the name. Because it’s weather-resistant, kids can safely walk home or from class to class on campus in any type of weather or any season.

The backpack has tons of pockets inside and out to organize smaller items, from pens, pencils, and a stylus to a calculator, notebooks, smartphone, keys, and more. Grab the handle on the side when going through tight doorways or navigating busy hallways. The padded top and side handles allow for carrying it like a briefcase as well.

This Targus backpack has a patented checkpoint friendly design that lies flat to unzip for TSA screening, so they can use it as a carry-on for vacations and school trips. It even has luggage strap attachments. With a water bottle holder on the side (an essential feature in any backpack, in my opinion!), an ergonomic design to reduce back, shoulder, and hip strain, and an air mesh back panel to keep you cool as well, this backpack checks every box.

For younger students, quirky style: High Sierra Outburst laptop backpack

High Sierra Outburst laptop backpack

High Sierra is quickly becoming one of the most popular brands in school backpacks, and the High Sierra outburst laptop backpack doesn’t disappoint. With four super-fun design options, this backpack is ideal for younger grade school kids, or older kids with a more playful style preference. But this isn’t a basic kids backpack: it can hold an up to 15.6-inch laptop in a dedicated compartment as well as a tablet in a separate sleeve. It also has room for school supplies, a lunch bag, and more. The straps and back panel are designed with Airmesh and foam to keep you cool and comfortable while walking, even with a backpack full of heavy tech goodies.

This one has dual water bottle holders for kids who, like mine, complain that the tap water at the school “doesn’t taste good:” they can bring two full bottles to ensure they are fully hydrated throughout the day, or use the second holder slot for another item, like their sunglasses case, juice bottle, or anything else that might securely fit. The 360° reflective design ensures the backpack is visible in low light conditions, useful for kids walking home and across the street on overcast days (or on campus in the dark at night). This bag is built to last, too, made of 600D polyester that’s both strong and durable.

Versatile option: Wenger Laptop Commuter backpack

Wenger laptop commuter backpack

A great all-around backpack for students aged 10 all the way up to adults, the Wenger 17.3-inch laptop commuter backpack will probably be most appreciated by older students who have larger laptops since it can fit one with an up to 17.3-inch screen. This is the type of laptop backpack, in fact, that even I would use for business trips and as carry-on when traveling. It has front and side zippered pockets for carrying essentials, like keys, phone, and ID. It has a massive 34L capacity as well, making it a good backpack to use for sleepovers and school trips, too.

With the water-resistant design, you don’t need to worry about the material being damaged from the rain or water seeping inside. There’s a top carry handle and the shoulder straps are cushioned and adjustable so you won’t put extra strain on your body. Made of lightweight polyester, this is the perfect backpack for high schoolers and college-aged kids, though your older grade schooler, and even mom and dad, might like it, too!

Travel in style: Bugatti Reborn Solid laptop designer bag

Bugatti Reborn backpack

You don’t have to choose function or high fashion: you can have both with the stylish Bugatti Reborn Solid laptop designer bag, which can fit an up to 15.6-inch laptop in its padded compartment, and another dozen compartments inside for organizing all your essentials. One of these is a tablet pocket in case you want to bring your iPad or Android tablet along for the ride, too. Finished in grey or black and made of water-repellent and recycled materials, the RFID protection is a nice touch for kids walking around busy schools or traveling and worried about their personal data being stolen. It has almost like a built-in wallet inside for a debit card, school ID, and more.

There are plenty of exterior pockets, too, including a front compartment with key lash, a hidden back pocket, and an elastic water bottle holder. There’s also a vertical zip wet pocket to keep items dry and safe when you’re trudging through the snow on a cold winter day or running to catch the bus in the rain. Further making this backpack a good one for traveling students is the padded handle and trolley sleeve on the back. It doesn’t have as spacious an interior as the others. But if all you need is a notebook, a laptop, and a few other essentials, it will suit you just fine.

Which backpack is best for you?

With recommendations above for whom would likely appreciate each backpack most, when it comes down to it, the decision is completely up to you. Kids grow at different rates at different ages. If you have an extra-tall or hefty grade six-er, they might want a bigger backpack and one with the best support for their growing bodies; while a smaller child who doesn’t take a laptop to school might suffice with a smaller, simpler backpack.

Check out lots of backpacks to find the right one for you or your student at Best Buy Online, and visit the back to school buying guide for a checklist of all the tech goodies they’ll need to pack in one.  

Christine Persaud
With 20+ years of experience in trade and consumer tech journalism, I have covered the tech space since before social media was a "thing" and the smartphone as we know it was even invented. Writing for various technology, lifestyle, and entertainment sites, I have covered and reviewed hundreds of tech products, from home appliances to wearables, fitness tech to headphones, TV entertainment products and services, and more. I'm also a passionate foodie who loves to cook and bake, a TV show fanatic (happy to give what to watch recommendations!), and proud mother to a 12-year-old son.


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