Best Backpacks For Kids: Top 5 Back-To-School Bags Most Recommended By Experts

As summer winds down in the United States, fall is in the air, and back-to-school shopping has started. The backpack is easily the most important student accessory at school and in the classroom. Younger students adorn themselves with popular characters like Elmo from “Sesame Street” or the ever-popular Barbie. As students get older, they might want to graduate from Big Bird and go for a backpack with more functionality, size or perhaps comfort. With so many different knapsacks on the market, we needed our sources to determine the best backpacks for kids.

It is an incredibly common sight in schools worldwide; students rush home or between classes carrying backpacks filled to the brim with textbooks and notebooks. Homework is a big part of most teachers’ lesson plans, meaning students must lug their books home after most school days. Now, a new study has established just how much backpack weight is too much.

Researchers from the University of Granada and Liverpool John Moores University have determined the maximum weight that children, more specifically elementary school students aged between 7-12, should be allowed to carry in their bags: 10% of their body weight when using a traditional backpack, and 20% of their body weight when using a rolling backpack.

Particularly for tweens and middle-schoolers, as well as many of the students who attend schools where uniforms are used, a backpack might be an important expression of individuality.  For those who hated wearing a school uniform growing up, a new study is reinforcing your argument. Researchers from The Ohio State University report requiring students to wear a uniform does not help to encourage better behavior. In fact, study authors note that students wearing a uniform actually report lower levels of “school belonging.” Regardless of the specifics of circumstance, students need their essentials packed away in a bag that is durable and matches their individuality.

Knapsacks for students should be sturdy, functional, and fun. Our sources considered functionality over all other traits, and this can certainly be seen in our list of the top five best backpacks most recommended by experts. Let us know your favorite brands in the comments below!

Little girl and parents back to school shopping
A family shopping for back-to-school supplies (© Drazen –

The List: Best Backpacks for Kids, According to Experts


1. L.L. Bean Original Book Pack

L.L. Bean is easily one of the most established and trusted brands for backpacks in the United States. Our sources have praised many different bags, but the Original Book Pack is heavily favored. Wirecutter writes that, “L.L. Bean’s 16-liter Junior Original and 24-liter Original Book Pack rank among the highest-quality kids backpacks we’ve tested, and they’ve been our top pick for eight years running. The backpacks last for years, are comfortable and appropriately sized for young kids, and are spacious enough to hold plenty of gear without becoming unwieldy.”

L.L.Bean Original Book Pack®, 24L, Print on LL
L.L.Bean Original Book Pack®, 24L, Print on LL

“L.L. Bean’s backpacks are consistently top performers in our tests and stand out in particular for being durable, functional and kid-friendly thanks to the variety of fun prints and solid colors. The fabric holds up to our abrasion and water resistance tests, so you can expect it to last for years. This version in particular is the brand’s most popular (and most basic). While this size is designed for ages 6 and up, there’s a smaller ‘Junior’ size available in prints and solid colors for kids as young as 4,” details Good Housekeeping.

Reviewed adds, “You can’t beat a classic. The L.L. Bean Original is virtually unchanged since it’s 1982 debut, and that consistency is mainly due to the fact that they’ve done a lot of things right. This well-priced bag is sturdy, simple, and comes with a generous one-year warranty.”

2. Pottery Barn Kids Mackenzie Backpack

Pottery Barn Kids offers a wide variety of stylish and functional backpacks that many kids might find “cool.” The online store offers name personalization, solid fabrics, and even character prints like Spider-Man for web-heads. Reviewed offers thoughtful feedback, “We appreciated thoughtful details like the front daisy chain (perfect for fun charms or for hanging hand sanitizer); a small top zippered pocket that’s just the right size for a smartphone; perfectly proportioned organizational pouches for school supplies; an interior label (for when the bag inevitably gets misplaced); and two sturdy pockets that can accommodate drink bottles of all sizes.”

Mackenzie Marvel's Ghost-Spider Glow-in-the-Dark Critter Backpack & Lunch Bundle, Set of 3 on Pottery Barn Kids
Mackenzie Marvel’s Ghost-Spider Glow-in-the-Dark Critter Backpack & Lunch Bundle, Set of 3 on Pottery Barn Kids

“There are personalized backpacks, and then there are Pottery Barn personalized backpacks for kids. I mean, who hasn’t oohed and ahhed over them?? 😍 They have a HUGE assortment of Disney, Marvel, LEGO, and more whimsical prints and the option to add matching accessories. We’re talking lunch boxes, water bottles, food canisters, and so much more,” gushes Hip 2 Save.

Mommy Poppins states that, “For lots of families, the Pottery Barn Kids Mackenzie offerings represent the holy grail of children’s backpack options, with durable book bags featuring exclusive collaborations, prints for every taste, glow-in-the-dark capabilities, and an extensive monogram menu. Pottery Barn also has the most matching companion pieces, from lunch bags and systems to water bottles and thermoses, which can also be personalized. The Mackenzie collection come in four sizes: mini, small, large, and rolling. I’ve never heard parents complain about these bags, myself included.”

3. Skip Hop Spark Style Big Kid Backpack Rocket

Younger students often have backpacks that feature brightly colored designs with famous characters like Baby Yoda [Grogu] or the gang from “My Little Pony.” Sadly, these fun backpacks often only last for one school year before ripping or otherwise breaking down. As an alternative to this, Skip Hop offers whimsical bags that will last. “You don’t need to spend a ton on a kids’ backpack if you find a well-made option that’s more affordable, like the Skin Hop Spark. Best for younger kiddos, like one editor’s 3-and-a-half-year-old son, this backpack easily fits preschool essentials, like a blanket for naptime, an extra set of clothes, and cold weather gear for recess, when necessary. And though our editor’s son doesn’t need to bring lunch to school yet, we think this backpack could fit a lunch box in addition to his other gear,” according to Very Well Family.

Skip Hop Sparks Kid's Backpack, Kindergarten Ages 3-4, Rocket on Amazon
Skip Hop Sparks Kid’s Backpack, Kindergarten Ages 3-4, Rocket

The Spruce also has a rave review: “What really makes this bag pop is the design. We tested the super cool rocket style, but there are five patterns total, including rainbow and soccer themes. We found that even small toddler hands could zip and unzip the backpack easily and it never felt too heavy even when full. While we wish it was more water-resistant, we love just how excited it makes young kids to get ready for school every morning.”

“The rocket ship design of the Skip Hop Spark Style Big Kid Backpack offers a creative backpack that toddlers will surely love. Thanks to the wide opening into the main compartment, it was a breeze to pack toddler travel essentials like a change of clothes, snacks, and a water bottle. The durability of the backpack material made it a winner since all it needs is a quick spot clean to get any dirt or other stains out quickly,” adds Travel + Leisure.

4. JanSport Super Break Backpack

Jansport was first established in 1967 by company owner Jan Lewis and her family. These bags have been part of the student landscape for over 50 years. Country Living writes, “Jansport bags have remained popular since your own school days for good reason, they stand the test of time! These bags can take a beating from books, sports gear, and more.”

JanSport Super Break Backpack
JanSport Super Break Backpack

NBC Select adds, “The JanSport SuperBreak has a large main compartment to store books, tablets, a lunch box and more, and a front zippered pocket to keep smaller items like writing utensils and headphones. The backpack is also designed with a padded back panel, padded adjustable shoulder straps and a water bottle pocket. You can purchase the backpack in over a dozen colors and patterns, like Russet Red, Different Strokes, Blue Dust and more. It has a 4.7-star average rating from 30,208 reviews on Amazon.”

“This backpack is quality from top to bottom. Super strong zippers on all of the pouches are protected with storm flaps, and the well-padded internal laptop sleeve showed no sign of tear, even when we pulled and prodded in our testing. Even though the lifetime warranty is a big bonus when purchasing this workhorse of a backpack, it’s so well-made that we aren’t sure you’ll ever need to actually use it,” praises Reviewed.

5. Lands’ End ClassMate Backpack

Lands’ End was first established in 1963 based out of Dodgeville, Wisconsin. Since that time they have become a global brand and leader in home décor and clothing. “With all of their textbooks, folders, and school supplies, kids’ backpacks get pretty heavy, so choosing one that will support their back is important. The Lands’ End ClassMate has a handy adjustable strap that goes around the chest, evening out the backpack’s weight and keeping it securely in place at the right height. There are also padded shoulder straps to make toting the backpack around more comfortable, and they can be adjusted to fit over a puffy coat or a t-shirt, depending on the weather,” states Very Well Family.

Lands' End Kids' ClassMate Backpack Warm Lavender Galaxy Large on Amazon
Lands’ End Kids’ ClassMate Backpack Warm Lavender Galaxy Large

Travel + Leisure claims, “Lands’ End is known for boasting unique patterns on clothing and accessories, and the Kids ClassMate Small Backpack is no exception. The sparkly green, purple, and blue paint stripe pattern was an instant eye-catcher and there are plenty more unique colors and patterns to choose from. Besides the colorful design, we love the lightweight polyester material of the backpack and our tester was able to wear it without feeling any discomfort.”

“A backpack’s load can get heavy enough, so students don’t need the bag itself weighing them down. This one from Lands’ End was among the lightest in our test, but it still held our entire load for 7- to 12-year-olds with room to spare. It comes in other colors and prints as well as larger sizes. Plus, you can choose to personalize it,” writes Good Housekeeping.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.