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The best backpacks for school

Buying for a tiny preschooler, picky primary schooler or an exasperated teen? With help from our Mumsnet army, we've rounded up the best school backpacks for kids of all ages.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Jul 16, 2021

There's no better schoolbag than the trusty backpack. We know this, you know this, and deep down your kids know it too. However, that doesn't stop them trying to carry all their school gear in a glorified carrier bag. 

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Hopefully, one of these bags should help you strike a suitable compromise with your preschooler, primary schooler or teen. Take a look at our pick of the best backpacks to buy for the new school year.

1. Best overall: Eastpak Padded Backpack

“My daughter is moving to secondary in September and she'll be getting an Eastpak backpack of her choice. They really do stand up to a battering – her brothers’ have done for eight years.”

Eastpak backpacks are a household name – and rightly so. They've been around for 40 years and the classic style now comes in more than 2,000 different colours, prints and fabrics – so there's no way your children will be short on choice.

2. Best for durability: Under Armour Hustle Backpack

Even if your kids really put their school bags through the wringer, this highly durable backpack stands a good chance of survival. Under Armour's Storm Technology means that this bag is water-resistant, yet still breathable, and the bottom of the bag – the part that sees the most wear and tear – is reinforced with an abrasion-resistant panel.

3. Best for preschoolers: Smiggle Hooray Junior Backpack

“My boys are all about Smiggle.”

“My son got his bag from Smiggle when he started juniors and it’s lasted two years so far. He’s going into year five in September with the same bag and it is still in great condition. My younger son is starting year three in September and I’ll be going back to Smiggle. Most kids in their school have Smiggle too.”

Cute, colourful and playground-appropriate, Smiggle are the go-to backpacks for juniors. This smaller-sized rucksack is made for your younger ones to carry themselves, giving you one or two fewer things to worry about. Pick any one of the five cute Smiggle designs and your child will be eager as anything to show them off at the school gate.

4. Best for primary school: Dakine Children's Grom Backpack

“I recommend Dakine. They are sturdy and lightweight and include things like padded computer pockets, special pockets for phones or money, and you can get them with insulated lunch pockets too. Amazon and surf stores sell them – my son's 22L was £30 on Amazon.”

“Another shout for Dakine – really well made with a good range of sizes and colours.”

Send your child to school looking fresh with a cooler than cool backpack from Dakine. Originally a surf brand, these school bags are made to stand up to anything and, as you would expect, come fully loaded with features. This style has an external bungee strap which can hold additional layers, while the mesh side pockets are perfect for storing water bottles.

5. Best for pre-teens: Fjallraven Kanken Backpack

“Our daughter got a Kanken last year and we have noticed them everywhere now. They are a rectangular shape so hold books better and she can also fit her PE kit in it.”

“Definitely Kanken bags. They’re really well made and don’t crumple books up.”

Launched in 1978, the Fjallraven Kanken backpack has become a staple among teens thanks to its stylish rectangular design, originally created to ease back strain. With over 28 colours to pick from – and the added benefit of being conveniently book-friendly in size – these simple, lightweight, and yet hard-wearing backpacks are now a common sight at schools and universities across the country.

6. Best for teens: Herschel Supply Co Kids Backpack

“I got a Herschel backpack online at Amazon for my son. He wasn't at all fussy, but it is well made and carries an absolute tonne of stuff around quite easily. It is also well balanced on the back.”

Classic in design, very affordable, and durable to the last, this this chic Herschel Supply Co backpack features a front zipped pocket for extra storage and adjustable straps to ensure even weight distribution. In the last five years, this brand has really taken off, and Mumsnetters haven’t failed to notice that Herschel is a fail-safe brand capable of pleasing any teen, at any age.

7. Best for active kids: Quiksilver School Backpack

“Quiksilver backpacks have proven to be really good quality in our house. They have lasted and washed really well.”

You don’t get much more tried and tested than Quiksilver. This brand knows how to make a solid yet sporty backpack. Ideal for teens who care about brands but also enjoy being physically active, this new-season style is functional and effortlessly up-to-the-minute. The main zip compartment comfortably fits A4 folders while the second one is ideal for stationery ... and all those other bits and bobs teens seem to collect.

8. Best for practicality: Kipling Seoul Go Children's Backpack

“My daughter has used a Kipling large backpack for the last two years. It's still in good condition.”

If your kid needs something more practical – and isn’t really fussed about making a huge fashion statement, give these ones from Kipling a go. They’re on the more expensive side but Mumsnetters say the quality is all there. Available in 14 colours and patterns, there is still plenty of choice to suit all tastes, while the rounded shape and style of the backpack make it look smart.

9. Best for style: Superdry Print Edition Montana Backpack

“In the school I work in all the girls in the lower years have Superdry rucksacks.”

This Print Edition Montana backpack from Superdry features twin side pockets, a zippered main compartment and a top grab handle. You’ll see them on buses, spot them in school yards and notice them flung over the shoulders of teenagers all over the UK. Superdry is having a major rebirth among trend conscious secondary schoolers – is yours going to be one of them?

How we chose our recommendations

Most of our recommendations for backpacks came from families themselves. We searched the Mumsnet forums for posts about which backpacks Mumsnetters and their kids really loved. We also researched various review sites to find the best-rated backpacks.

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Why you should trust us

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.