Best school bags for secondary school

07 January 2021

best school backpacks for secondary school

Trying to find a secondary school bag for your child is a minefield. Suddenly, they need actual space in their backpack, and that llama/unicorn/duck design? Way too babyish. They need something cool, something stylish, but - from your perspective - something that's not going to fall apart within the first two weeks. Well, fret not: Mumsnet users have found the best bags for secondary school - bags that meet the style requirements along with the practical ones, too.

1. Eastpak Padded Backpack

1. Eastpak Padded Backpack

Great for: sturdiness, organisation

Perfectly practical in every way, this bag comes complete with padded shoulder straps, a roomy interior, and a spacious front pocket. Made of 100% nylon, it's extremely sturdy (and vegan to boot). A great option if you're looking for a simple black bag for secondary school, it's also available in a whole host of designs.

“These really do take a battering. My sons have had theirs for eight years.”

2. FJÄLLRÄVEN Kanken Backpack

2. FJÄLLRÄVEN Kanken Backpack

Great for: style points and the lightweight, durable fabric

Chances are, you've seen this rucksack before – be that on the school drop off or your morning commute. It's homogeneous for a reason – combining stylish design with handy, practical features.

There are two flat pockets on the side as well as an additional one on the front; the straps are adjustable; the vinyl fabric is lightweight and durable, and the foam seat in the inner back pocket makes it comfortable to carry. Style over substance? Not here.

“Gosh, we see these absolutely everywhere now. They're a rectangular shape so hold books well, and have enough room inside for a PE kit, too.”

“Kanken bags all the way. They're made well and don't crumple books up.”

3. Superdry Rucksacks

3. Superdry Rucksacks

Great for: roominess, shoulder support

For a rucksack that really lasts, Superdry is a safe bet. Available in so many sporty designs, they typically boast a padded back and shoulder straps, lots of room inside, handy zip fastenings, and multiple pockets.

“Superdry strikes a good balance between trendy and sensible.”

“My daughter got a Superdry backpack at the beginning of secondary school and it still looks brand new. The straps are thick with good shoulder support.”

“We bought our daughter a Superdry rucksack last year in their sale, so it wasn't too expensive. I've been really impressed with it – it's lasted really well and still looks good. It's well-made and has enough space for all of her books and pencil cases.”

4. Herschel Retreat Backpack

4. Herschel Retreat Backpack

Great for: the long-term; sturdiness

With a slick, professional appearance, this is a backpack that your child can carry from school to university, and maybe even to work after that. Fully padded and fleece-lined, it comes with a 15" laptop sleeve pocket.

“Herschel backpacks are great – especially the ones with a padded laptop area. My son keeps his workbooks etc in there, safely removed from his water bottle and nicely compartmentalised. It's more expensive than other rucksacks but the straps are super padded and strong.”

“Yes to Herschel bag with laptop section. They're really sturdy.”

“Herschel, 100%. I bought my son's in Year 10 and he’s used it right through to sixth form and uni. I can see him taking it to work next year, too.”

5. Jansport Backpack

5. Jansport Backpack

Great for: organisation, all the pockets

Sporty with a touch of elegance, this backpack has a front stash pocket as well as a front utility pocket and organiser – so your child has no excuse to lose their homework. The soft, suede leather bottom is a nice feature, as is the 15" laptop sleeve.

“Jansport is a great make (they last decades!)”

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6. Hype Backpacks

6. Hype Backpacks

Great for: style points, a bag with personality

The name is apt. An extremely popular choice, Hype rucksacks are available in just about every design under the sun. Beyond the funky designs, they also come complete with an external front zip pocket, padded, adjustable shoulder straps, and a convenient grab handle.

“Hype rucksacks are really popular with ours.”

“You can't go wrong with Hype, and there are loads of designs to choose from.”

“My daughter is on her second Hype – she used the first one every day for year 7. She wanted a different design for year 8 and it’s great – really roomy, waterproof and still going strong.”

7. Adidas Print Backpack

7. Adidas Print Backpack

Great for: style points, roominess

Combining a pretty floral print with Adidas' classically sporty aesthetic, this is one stylish rucksack. Practical, too – with generous space inside and adjustable shoulder straps.

“Where I live, the girls seem to favour the floral/patterned Adidas backpacks.”

“Flowery Adidas bags are very popular with older girls this year.”

“Can a woman in her late 30s get a floral Adidas bag? I want one.”

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8. North Face Backpacks

8. North Face Backpacks

Great for: durability, organisation, shoulder support

Truly excellent quality, North Face backpacks come with a whole host of useful features. Be that water bottle pockets, a winged hip belt, a laptop sleeve or a reflective bike-light loop, your child will be prepared with a capital P. They also come with plenty of room inside for books and binders.

“Look at North Face bags – they meet every possible requirement. They're a bit pricey, but my son had the same one for years.”

“My son has a North Face one which he's using for the third year running, and it looks brand new. Well worth the expense.”

9. Backcare Backpack

9. Backcare Backpack

Great for: roominess, back/shoulder support

If the thought of a heavy rucksack makes you grimace, this might be the school bag for you. The only bag officially endorsed by the Backcare Charity, it features a curved underside to help your child carry the load, and side-bracing straps to allow them to pull it closer to the body. Honestly, it's an ergonomic dream.

And, as a bonus, for every bag sold a donation is made to Backcare.

“Mine have Backcare backpacks. A wee bit pricey but really well designed and comfortable to carry all the crap they need.”

10. KALIDI Backpacks

10. KALIDI Backpacks

Great for: style points and the lightweight, waterproof material

Let's address the elephant in the room: do these designs look a little, er, familiar? Yes. But these bags are very aesthetically pleasing for a fraction of the price, which might come in handy when: “NO ONE'S wearing that brand to school anymore, mum.” On top of that, they have a whole host of genuinely fantastic features. Composed of a lightweight, water-resistant fabric, these backpacks carry a large capacity and come with soft, adjustable shoulder straps.

“We like the KALIDI ones on amazon. They look like similar brands that retail at around £80, but are much less expensive.”

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11. Nike Backpacks

11. Nike Backpacks

Great for: style points, durability

With a reputation like Nike's, you know you're getting a sturdy, comfortable rucksack. You get a lot of bang for your buck, too – with multiple pockets, a spacious interior, and – in the case of many models – adjustable, padded shoulder straps and a back panel.

“I use the Nike one for shopping and it's sturdy, roomy, comfortable and things feel light in it. I'm not suggesting your daughter should emulate a middle-aged woman's shopping bag, but I've seen a boy at school with the same one – just saying.”

12. Dakine 365 Backpack

12. Dakine 365 Backpack

Great for: organisation, the insulated cool bag

With endless pockets and storage space for a laptop and tablet, this backpack makes organisation easy. There's even a fleece-lined compartment for your child's sunglasses and an insulated cool bag for their lunch box. Just lovely.

“Look at Dakine backpacks. Mine is easily the most practical and durable thing I've ever owned.”

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13. Accessorize Vegan Tote Bag

13. Accessorize Vegan Tote Bag

If your child favours a shoulder bag over a rucksack, this 100% vegan tote is a classy option. With sturdy rolled handles and a detachable strap, it's full of handy compartments. Ever so elegant, it'll also make them feel very grown up.

“At my daughter's school, most girls favour leather-look tote bags over their shoulder.”

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Why you should trust us

In order to find the best products out there (be that school bags, vegan makeup or steam cleaners), we spend hours scanning the Mumsnet forums for what parents really rate.

We write about products that we feel offer the best value to most parents – the ones that our users would recommend to their own friends and family.

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