Back to school season is a time for comfort. Even though it’s different every year, there are a few things you can count on: things like new textbooks, old friends, and regular schedules. In all of the chaos of life, there is in the repetitive nature of back to school season, and little decisions (like choosing a great backpack) can help get you and your family in the right mindset for your new September schedule.

No matter where you’re going to school or how it’s being delivered, there’s a huge benefit to keeping up a regular schedule for students. The process of cleaning out your backpacks, sorting your folders, and picking out your pens (or fonts) sets you up for success. I remember putting so much thought into which colours would be for which subjects each year in elementary school, because seeing the “right” colours would immediately tune my brain into a subject switch. And, while my folders would change a little every year, my backpacks would last for years. I’d run around with them like little comfort blankets, from home to school or even just from house to house.

What to consider in a school backpack for K-12

school backpackIf your child is still in grade school, there’s a good likelihood that they’ll actually be carrying more than a college student. Without the ability to set their own schedule, they may have more subjects per day, and they’re likely to have more take-home projects to deal with. Add in things like workbooks, dictionaries, and school-issued tablets, and you have one heavy bag!

A really simple school backpack is a great place to start for a younger kid. They come in a variety of sizes and bold prints, which let your kid stick to one model of bag for a long time. It’s easy to buy a new print or size as their needs change (or their bags get worn out) without changing their entire routine.

I love a roomy backpack for grade school things because, for the most part, your kids aren’t going to be carrying a lot of technology to school. Instead, the extra space gets put to good use on a daily basis for lunch bags or snack pouches. (What I wouldn’t give to still have my lunches made for me! Kids have no idea how good they have it.) As your child ages up from notebooks and iPads to laptops and textbooks, you can slowly transition into a larger bag with more dedicated technology pockets.

Pick a school backpack technology that works for you

Backpacks haven’t changed a lot over the last 20 years, but a few of their new technologies have been updated. Many designs offer additional pockets, even for basic laptop backpacks. Look for separate tablet and laptop pockets, along with well-made durability in the form of ripstop nylon or high-denier polyester. Padded and S-curve shoulders traps will offer extra comfort when you or your child needs to carry their backpack for longer (for instance, on the bus or on their way to their grandparents’ house.)

Laptops are beginning to be required for high school students in some school districts, so it’s not a bad idea to invest in a good laptop backpack earlier than you think you need to. These bags tend to be a little larger, with more solid finishes offered than prints. Their extra padding and pockets also tend to make them a little heavier than non-laptop backpacks, but the larger capacity and greater protection are worth the exchange.

For laptops bags that need to carry food in addition to books, look to durable fabrics and washable, soft-foam cushioning. You’ll want to gently wash your bag before each semester, hanging it or laying it flat to dry before use. Not only will regular maintenance help prevent funky smells from taking up residence in your backpack, but it’ll help the bag last longer, especially in climates where your backpack sees a lot of humidity, precipitation, or dust.

Commuter backpacks for back to school

Once your educational twilight years are upon you, it’s likely that you (or your kid) will have to start taking a laptop to school every day. Even more likely is that your high school or university student will be taking said backpack from school to work, so they may be interested in a sleeker, more professional bag such as a commuter bag.

Small backpacks from trendy designers like Herschel are a great option for regular transit users. Larger backpacks are better for long days, and pair well with waist and sternum straps. These extra straps snap securely at the wearer’s chest and hip level, helping to distribute the weight of the bag more evenly. It’s a great option to select for, even if you don’t plan on using it immediately—having the flexibility to strap up in the future is always handy, and can save you money in the future.

(Waist and sternum straps are seen more commonly in hiking-style bags, which work well for both school and travel!)

Double-duty school backpacks for travel

Sports backpackIf you want a backpack that’ll do double-duty in the long term, you’ll want more than merely extra straps. Sports backpacks are designed for rugged use, with school-friendly day packs and hiking-oriented 70L bags. They’re great for people who will eventually need a big bag to get to and from school, but who also want to be able to drive out to the mountains on the weekend and hike.

Hiking backpacks are on the opposite end of the spectrum from things like messenger bags, which are designed for a specific use rather than a general one. Best Buy offers plenty of options for backpack alternatives, many of which are designed for professional use. But, for kids and avid explorers, a larger hiking backpack is often still the best option that pulls double-duty.

Look for a capacity that suits you or your child’s needs, and make sure to double-check the sizing on your bag’s laptop compartment before purchasing. (15″ is a very common size, which may or may not suit your needs!) For extra flexibility, look for features such as water-resistant nylon, side-compression pockets, lash points for attaching extra gear. Internal and external pockets will allow for easier organization in general, while beverage pockets or key fobs can help you ensure that your scatterbrained student is getting enough hydration… And can still get into the house at the end of the day.

School backpacks are a great way to keep your belongings organized, whether or not you’re still in school. A great backpack can take your kid from K-12, and help transition them into university and beyond.

Make sure to read our backpack buying guide to learn more about the best backpacks for back to school. When you’re ready to choose yours, check out school backpacks online at Best Buy to find the perfect one for you.

Rae Chen
Rae Chen covers everything from handbags to speakers here on the Best Buy Plug-in Blog. They can also be found at, where they've been writing about beauty & wellness since 2007.