On top of feeling the pressure to pack in as much fun as I can with my kids before September and back to work/school hits, I’m also feeling the pressure to prep for back to school. This year I’m trying my best to do some shopping before all the great deals are gone, and the perfect backpack is top priority in my house. My youngest son is headed to grade 12 and he seems to need a bigger backpack each year to fit all his needs.

Finding the best backpack or laptop bag for school to meet your student needs and fit all their day-to-day essentials will ensure they’re prepared for a successful school day. You’ll also want to take comfort, safety and any other needs you might want into consideration when shopping for new backpacks. Here’s a look at some important features to look for when shopping for a new back to school backpack.

Best backpacks for school K-5

Star Wars kids backpack
Star Wars’ The Mandalorian Grogu Baby Yoda backpack lunch set.

In elementary, middle and high school it’s less about if your essentials can fit in your bag and more about what the current trend is or what kind of backpacks your group of friends have. Luckily there are some school bags out there that take functionality and comfort into consideration on top of being stylish and on trend.

As someone who works in an elementary school, I know that not all school backpacks are made alike. When kids are younger, they really only need to fit their lunch kit, a book bag and water bottle. It’s also more important to the child to have something fun on their backpack like their favourite TV or video game character. It’s up to the parents to find that perfect blend of fun and functionality.

Parkland Kingston backpack
Parkland Kingston 15″ school backpack.

Most backpacks in general have some padding on the shoulder straps which is important for comfort and it’s especially handy to have designated water bottle holders on the sides of their backpack as well. With younger kids it’s nice for them to be able to get out their basics like their lunch kit and water bottle independently and with ease.

Other important features I think are musts for younger kids is an easy to use and sturdy zipper and pull as well as a fabric and liner that is somewhat water resistant.

Backpacks perfect for middle and high school

Targus backpack
Targus CityLite Pro 15.6″ laptop day backpack.

Over the last few years, I have noticed that many students in middle and high school are not only using more tech at school but are also able to transport their tech between home and school. With the option to use a tablet or laptop for their schoolwork, it’s beneficial to have a laptop backpack with a designated sleeve or insert for tech. These sleeves are typically a lined and padded pocket or removeable sleeve to protect your tech screens as well as being extra protection from any possible water damage. They may not be waterproof but will just provide an extra barrier.

Herschel backpack
Herschel Supply Co. 15″ laptop travel backpack.

In my experience, teenagers can be quite specific in their likes and dislikes and style choices. Your child may prefer a bag that’s not the standard backpack but the messenger or suitcase style with wheels and handle may be their preferred choice. We also look for extra pockets in a variety of sizes for things like house keys, a cell phone, a USB, a water bottle, a gym strip and whatever else finds its home in their backpacks.

I found that both of my sons went through a backpack each year and each year we were looking for one with bigger pockets and comfortable straps as well as extra padding in the back. With the size of binders these days and the number of textbooks needed, comfort and durability are important for growing bodies.

Best backpacks for college/university

Solo Duane 15.6″ laptop briefcase.

My oldest son finished his Digital Design program and while he didn’t require a large bag, he did need space for tablets, external hard drives, USB sticks and of course lots of snacks and water. He also often spent hours in transit or walking which meant he needed a comfortable and durable bag. Safety features were a top priority as well.

A laptop briefcase or backpack with a sturdy top handle for easy pick up was his bag choice. The features that sold him on his backpack were a padded back with adjustable straps so he could get the perfect fit and avoid any back strain. As a more mature student he was gentler on his bag, and it will last for years to come. As an added bonus, many bags are TSA checkpoint friendly which makes them great to transition into adulthood and for any world travelling that may be in their future.

Kenneth Cole wheeled backpack
Kenneth Cole 17″ wheeled laptop backpack.

I’ve been noticing at work that wheeled backpacks are becoming more popular and they are probably useful among older students too as they are not only easy to use but also lessen back pain and strain. They also seem to be quite sturdy and may be a good option for anyone travelling or carrying fragile items. The only downfall I foresee is that they most likely won’t fit in a standard middle or high school locker. This may not be a deal breaker if your student isn’t interested in using a locker. Both of my sons never used one, they seemed to cause them more stress and anxiety than anything else so a wheeled backpack would be just fine.

Finding the best backpack for your student needs is key to getting through your school days with all your essentials on hand. The most important features being the right size with a variety of pockets, comfort, great back support, durability  and of course style must be taken into consideration when searching for a new backpack.

You can find a great selection of backpacks for school at Best Buy online. Check out all of the backpacks & laptop bags and find the perfect bag for back to school.

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