The 18 Best Backpacks for High School Girls and College Women (2023)

Every teen and college woman needs a good school backpack that helps keep her organized. A new backpack can be an essential back-to-school purchase and also makes for a wonderful Christmas or birthday gift.

What we look for in a backpack

First, we looked for sturdy backpacks to hold heavy textbooks. Then, since we truly believe that everyone needs a bag that protects their laptop, we looked for well-cushioned laptop sleeves. And, since you’ll be carrying your laptop everywhere, we wanted to ensure we found styles 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 Grown and Flown community of 275,000 parents what backpacks their teens love and then did our research into their most popular answers. While we focused on styles that teen girls and college women love, many of these 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. The North Face

The North Face Jester 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 — many great color options.

Our readers repeatedly mention North Face, saying it’s practically indestructible and “well worth the price.” It was the top backpack recommended by the parents we surveyed.

2. 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, lasts forever, good price.” And, if they can’t fix it, they’ll replace it. And for that, they get an A+ for customer service.

Find JanSport backpacks at Target, too.

3. Lululemon

There is good news for women who know and love Lululemon apparel: they make just as stylish bags. 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.

4. 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. It holds up very well and holds everything my son needs — through high school and college. And also ages as the kids do (isn’t too young/teenager looking).”

5. Herschel

We’re big fans of Herschel’s backpacks that are stylish and practical. Their signature pack is Little America, and its iconic mountaineering style is 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.

6. 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.”

7. 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.

8. Fjallraven Kanken

The classic Kanken Backpack becomes a computer bag with a 15″ laptop sleeve. Padded pockets will protect computers, 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

9. 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. Eight eye-popping colors are made from 100% polyester, with a tough, abrasion-resistant bottom.

Backpacks for teens and college students

10. 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 to grab your stuff and go to work or school. Smart storage options keep your electronics secure, and the internal padded sleeve protects your laptop. There are front and side accessory pockets to help you stay organized. The padded shoulder straps make it comfortable to wear.

11. 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.

12. 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 has 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.

Vera Bradley backpacks are at Target, too.

13. 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 the critical functions we would expect, like an all-purpose, two-pocket design with an organizer in the front to ensure that your essential items stay neatly arranged. It has an interior laptop sleeve and a side water bottle pocket for easy hydration.

14. 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, 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.

15. 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.

Look for Kipling backpacks when you are shopping at Target.

16. 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 small pockets (including two zippered ones)for chargers, valuables, and a padded sleeve. They are practical, adorable, and affordable.

17. 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. This good-for-the-planet, good-looking pack has unique features like a cell phone holder and two D-rings in the front and back to hold a water bottle or keys.

18. LOVEVOOK Laptop Backpack

This bag (which fits a 17-inch laptop) is excellent for work or travel, with many internal pockets. Made of sturdy nylon, it is terrific 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:

18 Best Winter Boots for Teens and College Women

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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