The best back-to-school backpacks of 2017

Ah, late summer—the time of year when parents start counting down the days until school starts, and students avoid looking at calendars altogether in denial.

One of the most essential (and often overlooked) parts of back-to-school shopping is the humble backpack. There are so many brands, styles, and price points; what’s a parent to do? To try to make your shopping easier, we tested 11 backpacks to see which ones we liked best in terms of comfort, looks, and storage.

Our favorite backpack is the L. L. Bean Quad Pack (available at L.L. Bean for $79.95) , which combines rugged durability, plenty of storage options, and a cushy carrying experience with a reasonable price.

Updated August 04, 2017

Best Overall

Credit: / Jackson Ruckar

Best for Electronics

Credit: / Jackson Ruckar

Best for Casual Use

Credit: Jackson Ruckar


What better way to test backpacks than to actually use them? We packed each backpack full of a wide variety of differently sized items—a laptop, a laptop charger, an umbrella, a wrist brace, granola bars, a pack of tissues, a water bottle, pens, USB drives, a phone, keys, and some spare change, to name a few.

Credit: / Jackson Ruckar

After packing up the bag, our tester walked for 45-50 minutes (about three miles) in bright sunlight in the peak of a New England summer.

Credit: / Jackson Ruckar

At the end of the walk, the tester answered questions like this:

Comfort: How comfortable was the backpack initially? How comfortable was it at the end of the walk? How sweaty were you at the end of the journey?

Storage: Could you fit everything in the bag? How useful was each compartment? How did the build quality of the backpack affect its storage?

Looks: Do you like how it looks?

Other guinea pigs (AKA staffers) also tested each backpack on a more casual basis, and reported their likes and dislikes about each bag.

Other backpacks we tested

Things to consider

Before you go to buy a backpack for the school year, consider the following:

• How the bag will be used (Day trips? Business…

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