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11 best backpacks for school

Whether you’re buying a bag for a picky reception first-timer, a primary schooler with very definite ideas about what they want or a teenager who needs convincing that they do need a proper bag and not just an array of carriers, we’ve got you covered.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Sep 8, 2021

Backpack at school

For books, lunch boxes, artwork and all the unidentified ephemera that school children seem to need to cart to and from with them, you can’t beat a trusty backpack. As well as having plenty of room to fit in everything they need, and lots of compartments to keep it all organised, they’re also the best choice for kids’ posture (when worn correctly and not slouched over one shoulder).

However, we know that your idea of a suitable school backpack may not necessarily tally with your child’s idea of what’s needed. So that’s why we’ve scoured the Mumsnet Talk boards for recommendations from real parents on bags that kids of all ages were happy to have on their backs and that also passed the ‘parent test’ of being hard-wearing, well designed and fairly priced. 

Here’s our list of the best parent-approved school backpacks on the market.

1. Best overall school backpack: Eastpak Padded Backpack

Eastpak backpack

Price: From £30.40 | Buy now from Amazon

“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 battering - her brother's has done eight years. A4 binder and daily books fit no problem and there are matching pencil cases, tablet sleeves, pump bags etc.” - SgtMajorMummy

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.

They’re known for being seriously robust, standing up to being kicked around the classroom floor with no bother, and they also dry very quickly after inevitable water bottle leaks. 

Reasons to buy

  • Available in a range of colours
  • Carries A4-sized books and folders
  • Sturdy zips
  • Front pocket for smaller items

2. Best budget backpack: Quiksilver Chompine Backpack

Quicksilver backpack

Price: £22.20 | Buy now from Amazon

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

You don’t get much more tried and tested than Quiksilver. This brand knows how to make a solid yet sporty backpack. 

This bag is simple but well-designed and comes at an excellent price. The back has a padded panel to prevent things in the bag poking you in the back and ergonomic straps to make carrying it to and from school more comfortable.

The zip-up fastenings on the main compartment and front pocket are secure but easy to use and the large main compartment has enough space to hold their whole kit and caboodle. 

Made from durable polyester, it wipes clean well and should stay looking good for many years. 

Reasons to buy

  • Great value
  • Padding in back panel
  • Lots of storage space 

3. Best lightweight school backpack: Under Armour Hustle Backpack

Under Armour backpack

Price: £34.99| Buy now from Amazon

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. Because it’s a sports-style bag, it’s very breathable and includes a gusseted pouch at the front to hold shoes or smelly PE t-shirts as well as two side pockets for water bottles. But it also holds a soft-lined laptop sleeve which holds a 15 inch MacBook Pro, or similarly sized laptop. 

Reasons to buy

  • Includes laptop compartment
  • Wear-resistant base
  • Lightweight
  • Gusseted front laundry/shoe pouch
  • Air-mesh back panel

4. Best backpack for practicality: Kipling Seoul Go Backpack

Kipling backpack

Price: £44.99 | Buy now from Amazon

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

For something really practical, particularly for young people who need a little help organising themselves, Kipling is always worth a look. They’re on the more expensive side but Mumsnetters say the quality is all there, with sturdy stitched straps and nice detailing. 

The bag is well-designed for school life with plenty of compartments to keep you organised, including side pockets for a water bottle, a front pocket for smaller items, and it also has laptop protection if they need to take their tech to school. Inside is a zipped pocket, two open pockets, a pen holder and a key clip. They’ve really thought of everything. 

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 is something a little bit different. They’re adult enough to look ‘grown-up’ but also colourful and appealing to kids; something for everyone. There’s even a ‘doodle’ style version for just a little more money that fans of Tom Gates and Wimpy Kid are sure to be drawn to.

Reasons to buy

  • Lots of pockets and compartments
  • Appealing, bright colours and great design
  • Sturdy and long-lasting

5. Best backpack for style-conscious kids: Superdry Holographic Lineman Montana Backpack

Superdry backpack

Price: £31.98 | Buy now from Amazon

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

Superdry is still very much ‘acceptable’ (which is about as big a compliment as you’re going to get from your secondary-schooler) and you’ll see them all over every school bus and school playground. Mumsnetters love them too for not being extortionate for a ‘cool’ brand as well as being really sturdy and well made. 

The main compartment is roomy and the inside is pleasingly wipe-clean in case of any lunchbox spills. There are two smaller zippered pockets on the outside for keys, money for snacks and pencil cases, too.

The bag is available in many different designs but we particularly love this hologram style which is understated enough to be cool but still says ‘SUPERDRY’ loud and clear. 

Reasons to buy

  • Teen-friendly brand
  • Roomy main compartment
  • Wipe clean and well made

6. Best backpack for toddlers: Skip Hop Zoo-let Bee Backpack

Skip Hop backpack

Price: £16 | Buy now from Amazon

“SkipHop does some nice animal themed backpacks. My daughter has the owl and it's a fab bag. Really good quality and looks great even with daily use.” - WallpaperAddict

Ideal for toddlers or babies just starting nursery, these mini versions of the much-loved Skip Hop backpacks are small enough for a toddler to hold themselves, but big enough to fit a few essentials in. The bag has a mesh compartment on the side to hold a water bottle, a name tag inside where you can write their name, and a big enough interior for a change of clothes, a couple of nappies and a favourite Ted. It’s perfect for nursery or for a day out. 

We love the ‘rein’ that attaches to the bottom of the bag so you can keep your child close without them feeling hemmed in. The backpack feels so grown up and allows them to have a feeling of independence, while you’re still in control. 

The Zoo-lets are available in 10 different animal patterns and as they grow you can replace the bag with a full-size Skip Hop Zoo bag. 

Reasons to buy

  • Includes detachable rein for safety
  • Manageable size for toddlers
  • Easy-open zip
  • Encourages independence

7. Best backpack for preschoolers: Smiggle Good Vibes Access School Backpack

Smiggle backpack

Price: £28 | Buy now from Amazon

“My son has one. It's great. Lots of pockets, holders for water bottles and has a chest strap which makes it supportive.” - PlaymobilPirate

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. 

It includes three zip-up compartments: the main space with sturdy double zip, an outer zip compartment, and a zip-up pocket on the front. It also has two water bottle pockets and a laptop compartment to hold a laptop of up to 15 inches. 

We like the chest strap which helps secure it safely on your child and prevents the straps slipping off the shoulders. Pick any one of the cute Smiggle designs and your child will be eager as anything to show them off at the school gate.

Reasons to buy

  • Several patterns/colourways available
  • Chest strap
  • Matching lunchbox, drinks bottle and pencil case available

8. Best backpack for starting school: Cath Kidston Dino Oilcloth Kids’ Backpack

Cath Kidston backpack

Price: £34.92 | Buy now from Amazon

“My daughter has one, she loves it. It fits an A4 folder, lunchbox, water bottle and has room left for toys.” - VerityBrulee

As popular with parents as with kids, Cath Kidston bags look super cute but are incredibly practical too. Made from Cath Kidston’s robust oilcloth, they’re wipe-clean, so it won’t matter if they get kicked around the classroom floor a bit and the inside is lined with wipe-clean polyester, too. 

The backpacks are lightweight and small enough to fit over little shoulders, with adjustable straps for a perfect fit, but there’s enough space inside for lunch, a water bottle, reading book, pencil case and a few more essentials. 

We love this dinosaur print but the backpack is available in many of Kidston’s whimsical designs.

Reasons to buy

  • Adjustable padded back straps
  • Wipe-clean oilcloth exterior
  • Useful front pocket
  • Available in a range of prints 

9. Best backpack for primary school: Dakine Children’s Grom Backpack

Dakine backpack

Price: £37.81 | Buy now from Amazon

“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 one was £30 on Amazon.” - ItTakesTwo

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. There’s an adjustable chest strap to keep the bag nice and secure, and there’s a safety whistle on the chest strap itself as well as reflective details to help keep them safe. It even has a fleece-lined sunglasses pocket

The bag is available in many different colours but we particularly like the cheery aqua and yellow shades, ideal for keeping them visible on the walk home from school on darker evenings. 

Reasons to buy

  • Huge range of styles and colours
  • Lots of safety features
  • Additional bungee storage

10. Best backpack for preteens Fjallraven Kanken Backpack

Fjallraven backpack

Price: From £51.88 | Buy now from Amazon

“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.” - Mrs Pnut

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 more than 28 colours to pick from – and the added benefit of being conveniently book-friendly in size  and shape – these simple, lightweight, and yet hard-wearing backpacks are now a common sight at schools and universities across the country.

Mumsnetters rave about them for their ability to carry books (and more) without crumpling the pages and for their hard-wearing nature. Even after years of use the Vinylon F fabric they are made from still manages to still look good and they retain their shape well.

There’s some clever design here, too. The removable padding inside the bag stops the contents from jabbing into your bag as you walk, but can also be taken out and used as a seat pad. The covetable logo design is also made from a reflective material for road safety. And of course the bag as a whole can be worn as a backpack or taken off and held like a carry-bag on packed buses and tubes to prevent them taking out a person as they board. 

Reasons to buy

  • Great for books
  • Can be carried by hand or on back
  • Many colours available
  • Lightweight but sturdy 

11. Best backpack for teens: Hershcel Supply Co Little America Backpack

Herschel backpack

Price: £62.95 | Buy now from Amazon

“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.” Jazzandh

Classic in design, affordable, and durable to the last, this chic Herschel Supply Co backpack has a preppy look sure to impress teenagers. 

It features Herschel’s famous and rather jolly striped fabric liner as well as a padded and fleece-lined 15-inch laptop sleeve. Despite its traditional looks this bag is made from 100% polyester which wipes clean with now fuss at all. 

It has a front 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.

Reasons to buy

  • Hardwearing and wipe clean
  • Sturdy and safe with drawstring, buckles and magnet snap fastenings
  • Traditional leather straps and buckles
  • Lots of storage space

How heavy should a school backpack be?

Generally, the rule of thumb is that any bag a child is carrying on their back should weigh no more (when fully loaded) than 10% of their body weight. So if your child weighs five stone, their bag, when packed up should weigh no more than around seven pounds. 

Obviously, the weight of the bag will largely depend on what they put in it, but keep in mind that lightweight materials will help, as will keeping size in mind and not buying something so big that when full it’s going to tip them over backwards. 

How to choose a backpack for school 

Your wish list will differ from your child’s so take both into account, but also think carefully about the following:

  • Size - is it going to carry enough ‘stuff’ without it being so big it could be overloaded for them?
  • Organisation - does it have enough pockets, places to store water bottles, keys if needed, etc.? Will it need the capacity to keep a laptop separate from drinks bottle?
  • Weight - look for lightweight materials to keep it easy to carry.
  • Comfort - padded straps, breathable materials and back inserts to stop the contents digging into your spine will make for a comfier ride. A chest strap can also give support for younger children or older ones with a heavy load.
  • Safety - lots of kids’ backpacks have reflective strips and glow in the dark detailing, which helps make them more visible in the dark, and of course brighter colours are part of that too. For very young children, look for backpacks that come with detachable reins, or just a handle on top that you can hang onto to give a little added support as they toddle along. 
  • Style - Last but very much not least in your child’s eyes. Backpacks are one of those really important things at school that kids see as a bit of an extension of themselves (we know, we know, but best not to question it…). While we wouldn’t recommend bending to their will and spending hundreds on a designer label model, finding one that is ‘acceptable’ or at least not going to draw ridicule really is important at school age, so talk to them about what they other kids wear, try and notice what their peers have and generally keep an eye out. Backpacks that are acceptable (as opposed to social death) can vary wildly from school to school, even within the same town, so good research is essential.

What is the best school backpack? 

The best choice for your child will depend very much on their age and what they need the bag for but overall, we think the backpack that stands out from the rest is the Eastpak Padded Backpack for its robustness and huge range of colours and patterns available.

How we chose our recommendations

Real-life recommendations are perhaps the most important factor when it comes to choosing the best backpacks. You can’t really tell how robust and hard-wearing they are until they’ve been worn for a couple of years and kicked around the classroom floor a few times. So we headed straight to the Mumsnet Talk boards to find out what other parents had bought for their children and how those purchases had fared. We were looking for hints about what to avoid as well as for bags that had impressed, and we took into account not only recommendations on comfort, longevity and design, but also on which bags had gone down well with peers, too. 

We also looked at consumer websites and publications that had put the backpacks Mumsnetters were recommending to the test, to make sure they got the professional thumbs up, too.  

Why you should trust us

Mumsnet and its members have been helping parents buy the best for more than two decades. Most of our recommendations come from mums themselves, so we are confident that the products are thoroughly tried and tested by people who know what they’re looking for. 

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.