The 21 Best Backpacks for High School Girls and College Women (2023)

Every teen or young woman needs a good school backpack that helps keep her organized. A new backpack can be an essential back-to-school purchase, but it also makes for a wonderful birthday or holiday gift.

What we look for in a backpack

First, we looked for backpacks that were sturdy enough to hold heavy textbooks. Then, since we truly believe that everyone needs a bag that keeps their laptop protected, we looked for well-cushioned laptop sleeves. And, since you’ll be carrying your laptop everywhere we wanted to make sure we found styles that are designed for comfortable wearing. Finally, even though your backpack is an everyday essential, there is no reason it has to be ordinary.

We asked our community of two hundred sixty five thousand parents what backpacks their kids love and then did our own research into their most popular answers. While we focused on styles that might be popular with teen girls and young women, many of these brands are top backpack brands for everyone.

Best backpacks for high school and college girls

Note: We are a readers-supported site and receive compensation from purchases made through the links in this post. 

1. Herschel

We’re big fans of the stylish and practical variety of Herschel’s backpacks. Their signature pack is Little America, with its iconic mountaineering style made modern for everyday use. Classic features include the striped liner, a padded and fleece-lined laptop sleeve, drawcord closure, and internal pockets. Available in 31 color combinations.

2. The North Face

The North Face Pivoter will have her covered whether she is only hitting the books or maybe the trails or gym afterward. This latest version of this updated back-to-campus pack was designed with the help of students to give it a fresh aesthetic. Look for molded shoulder straps, a padded laptop sleeve, a huge main dedicated compartment that holds all the notebooks and binders needed for a day, plus two external pockets for water bottles. Lots of great color options. Our readers mention North Face over and over, saying that it’s practically indestructible and “well worth the price.” Uniformly recommended by the parents we surveyed.

North face backpack

3. JanSport

You know they never wear out if your teen (or you!) has ever owned a JanSport backpack. They’ve been making their classic backpack since 1967, and the JanSport Right Backpack is the classic with its recognizable suede bottom.

The model has improved over the decades and is now available in more than 20 attractive colors. The best part? The warranty. If her pack breaks, you can return it to their Warranty center. One of our readers says of this backpack, “Nothing fancy, utilitarian, easy to clean, last forever, good price.” And, if they can’t fix it, they’ll replace it. And for that, they get an A+ for customer service.

4. Lululemon

There is good news for women who know and love Lululemon apparel: they make bags that are just as stylish. Their aptly named City Adventurer Backpack is perfect for life on the go, from the gym to the classroom and everywhere. With plenty of pockets, including an exterior one for a 16″ laptop, and inside ones for the rest, this smart-looking bag comes in silver, caramel and black.

5. Osprey

Lots of our parents say that their kids love their Osprey backpacks. The Osprey Nebula 32 Laptop has a laptop sleeve that will fit a 17 inch laptop. The main compartment is large with internal organization for smaller items. And a zip pocket for glasses or small electronics. One mom told us “Another vote for Osprey!! Lifetime warranty. If anything breaks on it – they’ll replace it for free. Holds up very well, holds everything my son needs – through high school and now college. And also ages as the kids does (isn’t too young/teenager looking).”

6. Victorinox Altmont Original Vertical Zip Laptop Backpack

Store, carry and protect your everyday essentials. This water-resistant shoulder straps are adjustable with a grab handle at top. Multi-purpose interior has a zippered mesh pocket for smaller items. The padded rear laptop pocket holds up to a 15.6 inch computer.

7. L.L. Bean

L.L. Bean backpacks are versatile, ultratough, perfect for school but also great for the outdoors and travel. The Super Deluxe Backpack has earned hundreds of 5-star customer reviews, and with plenty of room, this is the ideal size for high school and college women who need just a little more space and are in the market for a larger backpack. All of the bags are made with adjustable straps and weatherproof nylon. These packs are durable, easy to clean and have great capacity. One of our readers says, “LL Bean. The BEST! Has storage for everything. My kids’ bags are from high school and still going strong.”

8. Patagonia

Patagonia is known for giving back to the planet and its high-quality gear. And their backpacks are no exception. The Arbor is a perfect choice for the young woman on the go, whether on campus or in the great outdoors. There is a roomy main compartment, a laptop compartment, and an easy-access stash compartment for sunglasses or headphones. Two bonus side pockets and an elastic cord for a sweatshirt or yoga mat make this an all-around workhorse.

9. Fjallraven Kanken

The classic Kanken Backpack becomes a computer bag with a 15″ laptop sleeve. Padded pockets will keep computers protected, and the padded shoulder straps and top handle make this a convenient carry-all. With many eye-catching colors to choose from in the Fjallraven selection of backpacks, this is an unmistakable brand with a one-of-a-kind look thanks to its distinct boxy style and reflective logo patch.

Fjallraven backpack

10. Amazon Basics

If you are looking for a sporty, affordable bag, the Amazon Basics Backpack will carry her load and is anything but basic. This stylish go-to features a main pocket with a soft-lined laptop sleeve, a small padded pocket for school essentials, and a small front pocket to separate items. There are eight eye-popping colors, all made from 100% polyester, with a tough, abrasion-resistant bottom.

Backpacks for teens and college students

11. Nike Backpack

Count on Nike to up the backpack game and live up to its brand reputation with the Sportswear Heritage Backpack. There is an easy carry haul loop so you can grab your stuff and go to work or school. Smart storage options keep your electronics stored securely and the internal padded sleeve protects your laptop. There are front and side accessories pockets to help you stay organized. The padded shoulder straps make it comfortable to wear.

12. Adidas

We include the Squad Backpack from Adidas on our cute school supplies list. The light blue version caught our eye along with these unique features: the bags are made from 100% recycled polyester, are wipeable for easy spot cleaning, and come with a removable pencil case and lifetime warranty. This backpack features a 16 inch interior laptop sleeve. All the extra details give it extra points on our list of teen backpacks.

13. Vera Bradley

Vera Bradley’s motto is to make being busy beautiful and their backpacks certainly live up to that motto. The XL Campus Backpack been redesigned with even more padding in the back and straps and a new shape specially designed to accommodate a woman’s shape. Made from recycled cotton, the pack is large, your laptop will fit securely in the padded laptop compartment. Besides the basics, we appreciate the pass-through sleeve that makes it easy to attach to a roller suitcase, a large slip pocket (perfect for a tablet), and a front pocket with dedicated compartments for pens and an ID window. And it’s endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association.

14. Vans

Vans has been making sneakers and trendy products since 1966. They’ve expanded their surf and skate gear to include backpacks. The Old Skool H2O Backpack covers all of the critical functions that we would expect, like an all-purpose, two-pocket design with an organizer in the front to ensure that your important items stay neatly arranged. It also has an interior laptop sleeve and a side water bottle pocket for easy hydration.

15. Everlane

The Renew 15 Inch Transit has a sleek, minimalist vibe that looks cool even in August’s hot, early campus days. It has a 15 inch exterior laptop pocket and two water bottle holders, a handy magnetic closure, and a pass-through strap that attaches to rolling luggage. With covered zippers, subtle colors, and all the necessary compartments, the sophisticated styling makes this an upgrade from any bag she might have carried in middle school. Made from 100% recycled polyester.

16. Kipling

Backpacks aren’t just for hauling books. Enter the City Pack Mini from Kipling. This lightweight bag (less than a pound) is perfect for life outside the classroom when she needs to tote a handful of essentials.

17. Society6

Browsing Society6 makes for happy shopping. With hundreds of patterns to choose from, each bag features a unique design made by their artist community in the United States and worldwide. Made from a durable canvas-like fabric and comes with two pockets. An interior pocket fits up to a 15 inch laptop and the smaller front pocket is great for school supplies and other essentials. So, so, so many fabulous designs to choose from.

18. State Bags 

The Kane Double Pocket Large is simple and cool, with all the features she will need and nothing extra. With six muted colors to choose from and water-resistant fabric, this is an elegant bag that makes a fashionable statement.

19. himawari

We love himawari, and we’re not the only ones. Several color combinations of the Laptop Backpack are sold out, but they are so cute that it’s worth the hunt. Made from high-quality, scratch-resistant nylon, these backpacks have four inside small pockets (including two zippered ones)for chargers and valuables and a padded sleeve. They are practical, adorable, and affordable.

20. Pottery Barn Teen

Your teen can gear up for adventures of all kinds with the aptly named Gear Up from Pottery Barn. Honoring the company’s commitment to sustainability, the bag is made from 100% recycled water-resistant polyester. These good-for-the-planet, good-looking packs have unique features like a cell phone holder and two D-rings in the front and back to hold a water bottle or keys.

21. LOVEVOOK Laptop Backpack

This laptop bag (fits a 17 inch laptop) is great for work or travel, with many internal pockets. Made of sturdy nylon it is great in any weather. It has a USB port for charging your electronics. This is a perfect backpack for high school and college students at a reasonable price. Twenty-one color combinations.

More Great Reading:

17 Items to Cross Off Your List Before Your Teen Leaves for College — Here are important things to take care of while your teen is still at home.

About Melissa Milsten

Melissa Milsten lives in Westchester, New York with her husband, their four teenagers and Ruby the dog (who is sometimes the best behaved member of the family). Her background is in publishing and marketing. When she isn’t working or parenting, you might spot her on a yoga mat or lacing up a pair of sneakers. You can read more about her here

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