Backpacks for teens by High Sierra

Back to school season is a little bit different every year. From current events to classroom change-ups, students have a new set of challenges to tackle each fall. As parents, the best that you can do is try to send them back with all the tools they’ll need to conquer the day and trust that they’ll come out alright each time!

The right back to school backpack will vary depending on your teen’s specific needs. Every kid has their own unique sense of style, but school requirements come into play too. Some districts use laptops in class; others, tablets, or even just pen and paper. Making sure your teen or young adult has room to carry their books along with their tech tools is an important part of setting them up for success.

Best laptop backpacks for back to school

Targus Voyager 17.3" Laptop Day Backpack - BlackOne decision that you’ll need to make when purchasing the right backpack for your teen is the type. Some will need a regular backpack; others, a laptop backpack. When in doubt, I like to suggest the latter. A regular backpack is great for general use, but laptop backpacks provide functionality that your teen can choose to use or not use. (It’s often handy to have the option, even if you aren’t planning on using it!) Their built-in padding and sleeve functionality give you and your student somewhere safe to slide a laptop in, so it’s protected from minor falls and scratches.

Make sure to select a laptop backpack that fits the size of your student’s laptop. Other handy features include separate pockets and zippered sections for things like books, water bottles, and power cords. I like having a separate section for a wallet, as well, which is especially helpful if your teen takes public transit to school—it makes finding their bus pass easier than ever.

What should you look for in a laptop case or tablet sleeve?

Herschel Supply Co. Heritage 15.6" Laptop Sleeve - Raven CrosshatchIf there’s a stylish backpack that’s caught your eye but it doesn’t have the kind of laptop pocket you want, it’s not the end of the world! Try adding a padded laptop sleeve after the fact. Sleeves aren’t worked in to the bag itself, so they’ll offer slightly less drop protection. However, they still do a fantastic job of providing protection from drops and scratches overall.

As a separate accessory, a laptop sleeve gives you or your teen the option to safely transport a laptop on its own—for instance, in a weekend tote bag.

Non-laptop backpacks often have 1-2 large, unstructured compartments. This can be a great thing, creating a more casual structure and making the bag itself lighter. But with everything jumbled together, your teen’s more fragile items can be scratched or damaged.

That’s where a laptop case or tablet sleeve comes into play. I’m partial to ones with a soft, inner felt or microfibre lining, like this collection from Herschel that I’ve reviewed before. The soft lining helps prevent scratches on the surface of your more fragile electronic devices, and it works with an outer layer (usually something like neoprene) to deliver shock-absorbent drop protection.

Look for a case in the right size for the device, with a secure closure or tight fit. Then, pick a design that your teen loves—there are tons to choose from!

The best messenger bags to take your teen back to school

Kenneth Cole 15" Laptop Messenger Bag - BlackAnother great option for back to school is the classic messenger bag. Messenger bags are (please excuse the pun) a mixed bag: they’re stylish and convenient, but don’t distribute their weight as evenly as a traditional backpack. While a typical two-strap backpack or laptop bag spreads the weight of your bag across your shoulders and back, a messenger bag rests only on one shoulder. Over time, if your bag is too heavy, this can create back pain or slouching.

Despite knowing this… I still love a messenger bag. They’re stylish and sleek, and are often office-ready for students who are headed to college or university soon. I carried a messenger bag back in my teens, and think of it fondly still. It was a lovely green denim, with a padded strap and a cute leather flap to keep it shut.

While it was heavy, the uneven weight dispersal of a messenger bag made it the right back to school backpack for me. I take public transit almost everywhere, and in the winter, it’s simply too inconvenient to hoist a backpack over my puffy jacket and underneath my hood—especially without tangling my hair up in it at the same time! A messenger bag made it easy to access my transit pass and tech pockets, while also giving me the flexibility to swing the bag onto my lap on a crowded train or over my shoulder on a busy street.

Since then, I’ve switched to a briefcase-styled purse with room for my laptop. It has that handy, messenger-style strap for distance carrying, as well as top handles for quick portability. I like it for trips to meetings and coffee shops, but it would be great for trips from English class to History, too!

Backpacks for university 

Herschel Supply Co. 13" 18L Laptop Commuter Backpack - Ash Rose TonalIf your teen will be graduating this year, looking at what they’ll need next year is worth the extra time and effort. High-quality backpacks made from outdoor-grade materials cost a little extra, but should last for years—giving your kid a stylish piece that they can depend on for some years to come. Having the ability to take a bag from school to a professional environment will pay off quickly, and it’ll help you create less consumer waste overall too.

Professional backpack styles can accompany your teen to their future first day of work or college. I really like sleek laptop bags and messenger bags as an option for older students: they’re cool enough to go to high school, but are also professional enough to take to a summer internship. Herschel Supply Co. laptop bags are a particular favourite of mine, with a lovely silhouette and colour options ranging from serious greys to whimsical roses.

Backpacks and laptop bags for travel

Targus Balance EcoSmart 15.6" Laptop Day BackpackAs a deviation from sleek lines, sporty day backpacks are a small, lightweight way to carry many items with great weight dispersal. When I moved on from my first messenger bag, I didn’t give it up for another messenger bag—I gave it up to switch to a day pack. My backpack had gotten too heavy with all of my school notes, textbooks, and extra curricular paperwork, and I knew I wanted something styled like a small sports backpack.

Day backpacks can give your teen the option of multiple pockets made from ripstop materials, with padded shoulder straps and hip strap weight dispersal. They’re an excellent choice for smaller kids who struggle to take all of their books to school, and they’ll really last—which is perfect for future day hikes and family beach days.

For school use, look for day packs that have a smaller pocket for things like lunch and their keys, as well as a laptop pocket or built-in sleeve for note-taking and study sessions. Your teen’s bag will help set them up for each day, so get them involved with choosing a style that will work for their needs!

Show your teen it’s time to get inspired with new backpacks for back to school.

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