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Best College Backpacks for Any Budget

What is the number one college essential you need for the coming school year? A book bag. Seriously the best college backpacks are essential for having a successful year at school. With no backpack, it’ll be hard to carry your things around.

Another school year is coming close, and some of us headed to college—either for the first time or to work towards completing our studies—will even be attending a classroom.

Even if you’re not at college on a full-time basis, heading to the library to do some research or meeting for a group project is going to be something you’ll want to so. And you’ll want to do it in style.

So, here at Real Adulting, we’ve combed through all of our sources and pulled our favourite backpacks out just for you. Bags that will fit your laptop, textbooks and face mask—everything you’ll need.

We’ve got something for every budget—so whether you have to keep it tight or you’ve got a little extra cash, here are the best college backpacks for you:

Editor’s Pick Best College Backpack: Herschel Retreat Backpack

This is the backpack that I got myself during my Master’s degree. It was a lifesaver. I had an e-reader, a few paper texts a 15-inch MacBook and a all of the cords, pens and pencils you could ask for and the Retreat Backpack treated me well.

Now, I got my backpack a while ago, so this version is the new-and-improved model. But it’s built with quality (seriously, mine is still going strong), looks sleek (mine doesn’t look like it’s been through a graduate degree) and has ample space.

I love the small front pocket, which is where I dropped my phone during class or stored a pair of headphones until I needed them. The inside pocket has a drawstring closure and there are two magnetic buttons to keep it all secure. Plus, inside the main compartment is ample space to keep all of your things. And I know the padded sleeve says its built for a 13-inch laptop but mine said that too and yet my 15-inch fits perfectly.

You’ll feel stylish and sleek in this bad boy and I’ll let you know that I have the old Hibiscus model and it’s even made its way to a few business meetings with me.

Best Traditional College Backpacks for Ladies

To start off our list of cute college backpacks, let’s look at traditional styles. I specifically culled through models that could carry up to 15-inch laptops, so those of us that need the extra room have it.

While there are a ton of fashionable college backpacks, these are my top picks: 

Herschel Nova Backpack

Another one of my favourite Herschel bags, the Nova Backpack has their signature inner liner which is great for keeping your things safe and looking super cute.

Perfect for school, it can hold your 13-inch laptop no problem and has a front handle that makes it easy to access. And the front storage packages is great for putting your keys, phone or wallet in for early access.

There are dual water bottle pockets on the side and slim shoulder straps with light padding so your wear is uber comfortable. Plus it comes in an array of totally fashionable colours that you’ll love.

Kinmac Comfort Backpack

The Kinmac is a perfect choice for a budget backpack. As promised it has the capacity for a 15-inch laptop in the main compartment, along with pretty much whatever you need to bring to class.

This bag is built for comfort with padded adjustable straps. It also features a USB port so you can charge on the go using your own power bank.

If you’re looking for cheap cute backpacks, then this might be your top pick. I love the unique patterns and design, perfect for showing your own unique style in university!

Feskin Slim Backpack

I love the Feskin slim backpack, it has a compact design, cute colours and boasts a massive seven pockets for optimal organization!

It fits your 15-inch laptop and costs less than $45, making it a fairly budget-friendly choice. It has a flap that covers the zippers for both of the pockets. The larger main one is where you store your electronics and books, where the smaller one can handle your wallet, phone and other goods.

It has a durable, tear-resistant design with comfortable, breathable straps to carry it. This might be one of the best backpacks for college students with laptops!

Vancropak Water-Resistant Bookbag

The Vancropak is probably the most traditional model on this list but it’s still one of the best college backpacks. This model might be the best choice for you if you’re looking for a minimalist book bag.

As promised, it has room for a 15-inch laptop along with notebooks and texts making it the perfect lecture sidekick. It has a USB charging port and earphone port. Plus it’s made with lightweight but high-quality canvas. 

It has a front pocket, main zip pocket, two side pockets and a few non-zippered pockets. You can get yourself one of these bags for under $70.

Kingslong Cute College Backpacks

The Kinglsong is my favourite design when it comes to the best college backpacks. I particularly like the button design that reminds me of a stylish petticoat. If you’re looking for fashion in a traditional bag, this is my recommendation.

This bag has optimal organization with three different standing zip-pockets, perfect for your laptop, books and other daily classroom essentials. Not to mention, the bag is also made with scratch and water-resistant material.

This bag has a $95 price tag, but if you’re looking for college backpacks for ladies it has style and support. It’s the perfect sidekick for your back to school look.

Himawari Laptop Backpack

The Himawari is one of the best college backpacks if you’re looking for chic fashion and style. It has a more traditional backpack design with a high-fashion look but can also be carried as a handbag. This has generous space and can fit a 15-inch laptop.

It has ample organization space with two large zippered pockets, two smaller inside pockets and two side pockets. It has a traditional doctor’s bag open to make it easy for you to pack all of your belongings.

And for technology-forward students, it has a USB port so you can charge with ease using your power bank. It’s a little on the expensive side with a $104 price tag, but its design could make it worth it.

College Convertible Backpack Purse

Backpacks can have a pretty bland look, even the cute ones. Luckily some brilliant designer came up with the convertible backpack purse for all of those backpack-adverse college students. 

CLUCI Fashionable Backpack Purse

Both of the bags that I’ve included in the convertible backpack purse category are Cluci, and that’s because Cluci makes some of the best college backpacks if you’re looking for a convertible purse.

This womens backpack purse has a front pocket to put easy-to-access items, two side pockets and the main compartment where your store your tablet and other items. What I love about this design is that the main compartment is only accessible via a back panel, keeping your things safe.

It has a true backpack purse design with both traditional book bag straps along with a sleek shoulder bag strap option.  

While it has the traditional book bag straps, it also has a shoulderbag strap option. You can get it for under $55. And it comes in 12 stylish colours, so you can be sure it matches your college image!

CLUCI Leather Convertible Backpack

The Cluci leather convertible backpack has a second more traditional purse design. Its main compartment has a top-zip and inside has an interior zip pocket, cellphone pocket and a second slot. 

It has both the traditional backpack straps and a separate shoulder strap. It’s made of PU leather, has metal zippers and buckles, and a durable interior liner. 

This bag has room for your tablet or small laptop, plus it can hold all of your classroom essentials. Plus it’s easy to carry, lightweight and for under $55.

Small Backpacks

Small backpacks for college are best for students who are planning on travelling light. If your lecture packing list includes a tablet and e-pen, then these bags will be plenty big (and adorable).

Emperia Vegan Leather Daypack

If you’re looking for stylish backpacks for college, the Emperia vegan leather bag is adorable. It’s a great choice if you’re travelling to school with only a small tablet as its roomy main compartment can fit an iPad mini.

The Emperia is the best choice for cute cheap backpacks on this list at under $30. Plus, it’s a PETA approved bag (according to its product description) and is made from high-grade, easy-to-clean material.

In addition to the main compartment, it has a front zippered pocket and a top handle so you can cart it around with ease.

Bestie Cute Mini Backpack

The Bestie mini is one of the best backpacks for college girls who are taking a tablet or small laptop to class. It has room for a 10-inch piece of technology and has a whopping 10 pockets for organization!

The Bestie is also a convertible bag, you can carry it as a handbag or backpack. It’s lightweight, water-resistant and durable. You can pick up this bag for around $60. Plus it comes in adorable colours!

Travelon Anti-Theft Slim Backpack

The Travelon Slim is a chic choice for stylish backpacks for college if you’re looking for a small bag with high-security features.

Anti-theft features can be a great asset for a bag to have on a busy college campus, especially if you’re doing an exchange where there is a higher rate of pickpocketing. It has slash-proof construction, RFIID card blocking and passport slots and locking compartments. 

This bag is on the smaller size, making it perfect for college students going electronic this semester with an iPad! You can pick it up for under $65.

Nevenka Small Leather Backpack

The Nevenka is the perfect choice if you’re aiming for fashionable college backpacks. It’s a small, compact design built with PU leather and made in 11 fashion-forward colours (including a light blue, sleek grey and a fun pink). 

While this cute college bag is on the pricier side (around $90), the fact that it’s so stylish and sleek is perfect for student fashionistas. While you can’t fit a huge laptop in it, it works great for tablets. 

It’s slim but roomy and could be the best choice for carting your daily essentials to and from class.

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What is the number one college essential you need for the coming school year? A book bag. Seriously the best college backpacks are essential for having a successful year at school. With no backpack, it’ll be hard to carry your things around.

Looking for more college insights?

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Tae H.

Tae H.

Tae loves all things Disney, pugs and entrepreneurship. She is a finance and travel writer and the founder of The Single Girl's Guide to Real Adulting. Naturally, she is single for life. She loves to write about anything that she thinks might help people live their best life on a reasonable budget. You can also catch her weekly on The Lady Dicks Podcast.

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