One of the most exciting parts of the back-to-school season is picking out new kids backpacks, but it can be hard to meet the needs of both parents and kids. You need a bag that is spacious enough for all their gear, comfortable enough they can actually carry it, and stylish enough they’ll want to use it. Thankfully, style meets function in these 10 backpacks for kids that are perfect for kids of all ages.
Plus! Check out below for tips on how to ensure you’re picking the right backpack for your child, and that it fits properly.
Best Kids Backpacks for Back to School
Pottery Barn Kids backpacks are available on their own, or in coordinating sets with matching lunch boxes and water bottles. They can hold everything from a change of clothes to notebooks, pencil cases, and more. They’re available in a choice of sizes for kids of all ages, and can be customized with your child’s name. Pockets, straps, and gear loops help to keep everything in place. Shoulder straps are both contoured and padded for added comfort. A fellow parent told me they’ve never had one rip or wear out, and that their son has had the same backpack for years and it still looks perfect.
Another parent told me that they love the Stowaway backpacks from Eddie Bauer. They’re super light weight, while still being impressively well built, and have the EB lifetime warranty on them. They are available in a 20, 25, or 30L size, and come in a variety of colour options. It features a water-resistant finish to help keep their gear dry, and includes two external zip pockets for securing water bottles. The lightly padded adjustable shoulder straps come with breathable mesh lining.
Parkland is owned by backpack giant Herschel so their comfort and design is second to none. The main selling point of these backpacks is that they have an environmentally savvy approach – every bag is made 100 per cent from recycled water bottles. There are lots of cute prints to choose from to satisfy the younger kiddos, while older kids can enjoy the brand’s plainer options. It features enough room for a 15″ laptop, water bottle, and all the day’s essentials, and comes with a lifetime limited manufacturer warranty.
If you’re planning on a little cross-border shopping ahead of the back-to-school season, or don’t mind international shipping, Lands’ End offers some really cute, spacious, and comfortable backpacks for kids. They come in a choice of sizes for learners of all stripes, and all feature side mesh pockets to securely hold water bottles. You can add personalization with monogram or embroidery, and the available matching lunch boxes clip on front leaving more room inside. The adjustable chest strap helps to keep pack weight balanced and shoulders strong. Probably the best feature about these backpacks, however, is that they’re machine washable!
Perfect for all your child’s school essentials, from kindergarten to post-secondary, Herschel backpacks are built with style and functionality top of mind. There are 12 different styles of backpacks to choose from, along with more than 30 (!) different colours, and a variety of sizes. Some features unique to different bags include a shoe compartment, packable design, water resistance, and padded laptop sleeve. We love that they offer free ground shipping, and a limited lifetime warranty.
This backpack has been one of the most popular kids backpacks for both parents and kids since its debut in 1982, and for good reason. It’s been built to the highest standards with strong stitching and weatherproof fabrics designed to stand up to even the most active kids. It features a padded back panel and padded, reinforced shoulder straps for comfortable carrying and easy adjustments. Reflective material on the straps and front offer increased visibility. The Original is suitable for ages 6+, but there’s also a Junior version for the kindergarten set, and a Deluxe version for those 10+. It’s also machine washable for convenient cleaning.
Skip Hop’s backpacks are perfectly sized for the littlest of learners, and while you won’t get more than a couple of years of use out of the Little Kid size, it’s worth the investment to have something specific to your child’s smaller frame. They are available in a choice of 6-12 different cute animal prints, depending on the style you choose, and there’s coordinating lunch bags, too! Padded straps are comfy for tiny shoulders, and there’s a write-on name tag inside.
The Right Pack is the iconic JanSport backpack parents are no doubt familiar with (maybe you had one yourself – they’ve been around since 1967!) It features the brand’s signature suede leather bottom, and is available in colours and prints that suit any vibe. Designed with an internal 15 inch laptop sleeve and front organizer pocket to carry all your child’s stuff. Oh, and did we mention that it’s guaranteed for life?!
For the child that needs to keep their stuff organized, the Swoop SG from High Sierra has a tower of external pockets to give everything the perfect home. The laptop pocket with padded tablet sleeve fits most laptops up to 17 inches, while the padded shoulder straps are adjustable to get just the right fit. It features reflective accents to help wearers be seen, along with a padded back panel with air mesh and foam for all-day comfort.
Wonder Co. by Crocodile Creek says their mission is, “creating thoughtful, beautifully designed, high quality products for the children in our world,” and you can see that in their kids’ backpacks. Whimsical prints with highly durable designs mean these bags will last from pre-school to big kid school. There are adjustable padded straps and a reinforced side water bottle pocket, as well as a generous carrying capacity for all of their essentials. Matching lunch products are available so you can make a complete, stylish set.
Tips for Choosing the Best Backpack for Kids
While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to choosing the best backpack for your child, there are some things to keep in mind when shopping for a backpack to suit your kid’s needs. (Hint, grade and size play a major role).
Always check the listing to ensure a bag is the right size for your child. Listings will often include either recommended age or measurements to help you decide. Some brands have different sizes of the same style. If your child is between sizes, decide if you want to opt for a smaller pack to limit their load, or opt for something larger that they can grow into. One tip is that when your child sits down with their backpack on, it should not extend higher than their shoulders.
Nylon is the strongest material for backpacks, but polyester also holds up well. Look for bags with reinforced bottoms or seams if your child is especially tough on their bag.
Look for shoulder straps that are curved and/or padded for the most comfortable fit, and to reduce stress on their upper body. Straps should be adjusted tight enough that the backpack does not sit below your child’s lower back.
Chest and/or waist strap
Some bags will have both these additional straps, while others will have only one, or none. A chest and waist strap can help take stress off the upper body, so consider a backpack with one or both if your child will be wearing their pack for extended periods of time.
Zippers with attached pulls are easier to open and close – especially for younger kiddos.
Backpacks go through a lot of abuse. If you can find one that is machine washable rather than hand wash or spot treat only, that will save you a lot of hassle in the inevitable event of a mess.
Children should carry less than 10 percent of their body weight in their backpack. For example, a young person weighing 45 kg (about 100 pounds) should not carry more than 4.5 kg (about 10 pounds) in their backpack.