There's no better way to get your kid enthusiastic about school than arming them with essentials that take the daily routine from drab to doable. Their backpack should be comfortable, practical, easy on the eye and affordable for you! But whether you're after a rucksack for primary or preschool or a high school bag for teens, it can be tough to find what you need.
From back support to laptop sleeves and waterproof materials, we've determined what to look out for when shopping in our handy buying guide. We've also reviewed the ten best school backpacks for boys and girls on Amazon, Argos, and John Lewis, including brands like Fjällräven, Nike, Smiggle and Dakine.
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Table of Contents
It's worth breaking down the bullet points of exactly what your child needs from a school bag before you rush out and grab the first one you see. Read on as we share advice on size and capacity, fabric, and, perhaps most importantly, support.
Buying a school backpack for a little'un? They won't need much space other than the essentials, so a bag measuring around 27 cm long should be adequate. The width should also be around the same as the width of their back – after all, you don't want to be putting too much weight or pressure on developing spines.
On the other hand, if your teenager is going to be carrying a laptop, food, and several A4 textbooks to school, it's vital to buy a backpack that will fit everything in, with space to spare for other bits that they no doubt love to hoard, too.
In this case, look out for bags with lengths of 38 cm and upwards. And don't forget to check the dimensions of any laptops they do need to bring along before you buy!
Next on your list of considerations should be the fabric the backpack is constructed from. On the pricier end of the scale are fabrics like cotton canvas and leather – these are durable and usually of visibly higher quality than other fabrics. They can be cleaned with care, though may not always be machine washable.
For a more bargainous backpack, try one fashioned from nylon or polyester. Though these are often easier to keep clean and at least won't be easily damaged by rain, they're not usually as high quality and may rip or fray more quickly, so choose wisely.
If your kids and teens walk to school daily, a waterproof backpack is probably a sensible choice since it will keep books, laptops and stationery safe and dry. Regardless of material, do keep an eye out for bags advertised as waterproof, showerproof, or water-resistant so you know they'll last the years.
When young children whose skeletons are still developing carry heavy book bags to and from school every day, they risk doing damage to their spines. In order to protect your kids from future pain, make sure you seek out a school backpack with adjustable straps that can be made short enough to evenly distribute weight across their back.
Another good idea is to look for school backpacks with broad, padded straps which further help to spread the load and are generally more comfortable to wear. You could also look for a bag specifically designed with back support as its priority. There isn't usually much difference in price either, which is great news!
Take the time to consider whether extra compartments would be useful. Most backpacks come with the standard front pocket which is great for easy access to essentials like phones or gloves, but choosing bags with several more can really keep things tidy and organised while distributing weight more evenly.
There are lots of variants to choose from based on you and your child's needs. For example, some backpacks come complete with a special holder for an umbrella, while others can encourage them to stay hydrated with one or more water bottle holders.
On top of this, some bags are spacious enough for laptops while others come with a specific protective compartment – worth considering if you've spent a fortune on a computer! Such bags may also even come with a charging point so they can boost the battery power of any devices on the way to school or at break time.
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Vintage Laptop Backpack
Smart, Functional and Supportive With Techy Extras
The Best Waterproof Backpack for Heavy Loads
Grom 13 Litre Backpack
A Practical and Safety-Focused Pick That Looks the Part
Deluxe Kids Backpack
Plenty of Space and Pure Magic!
Skip Hop Zoo
Cute, Colourful and Practical for Over 3's
Large Black Backpack
Protect Growing Spines With a Special-Care Backpack
Elemental Backpack and Pencil Case
Sturdy and Sporty With Room for Textbooks and Folders
Get Hyped for Monday With an Affordable Classic
Kånken Classic Backpack
The Coolest Backpack for Teens and Pre-Teens
Parenting a tech-loving child (who isn't?) who's always complaining their phone is low on battery? Consider this vintage-inspired backpack with a built-in power bank and USB charging port. It has several nifty compartments with room for a laptop too and comes in several colourways including all-black and maroon.
This bag isn't only good-looking and device-friendly, though – the padded straps can be adjusted for comfort and there's plenty of space for school books and lunch, plus the nylon fabric is shower-resistant so protects precious belongings from the rain. It definitely ticks all the boxes!
For a larger-sized backpack that'll survive being thrown about more than most and hold up to heavier loads, try Under Armour's Hustle. It's lightweight yet highly durable and functions brilliantly, evenly distributing weight across your growing teen's shoulders.
The shoulder straps are bolstered with soft, spongy padding and include the brand's breathable HeatGear material for better comfort on those long walks to school. Plus, there are multiple pockets along with a laptop sleeve, space for water bottles and a separate section for sports or PE kits. So there's no excuse for losing anything!
If your kid is more into surf and skate culture than the latest brands, a backpack from the Grom range by Dakine is a good pick. It definitely looks cool, but it's also pleasingly practical from a parent's perspective – as well as thick, padded straps, there's an extra sternum strap with a safety whistle and reflective details on the back.
Other notable features include mesh side pockets, a water-resistant rip-stop material, a fleece glasses pocket and a padded base to prevent the bottom from wearing through. It might cost a bit more than some of our picks (especially if you go for a rarer colour), but you definitely won't need to replace it for a good while.
For wannabe-wizards and witches everywhere (of all ages!), this backpack is a superb choice. Not only is it proudly emblazoned with the Hogwarts crest and logo house title, but it is also spacious, budget-friendly, high quality and supportive.
With nicely-padded adjustable straps, this bag cares for developing backs even when it's crammed full. It also has a secure buckled front pocket, a padded laptop sleeve and a longer side pocket – just the right size for a wand, perhaps?
This cheerful dragon-shaped backpack is one of a charming range of animal-themed school bags for primary-aged kids, which also includes other classic kid faves like unicorns, dinosaurs and butterflies. It's comfy to wear with padded straps and should last as it's made from extra-durable polyester.
There's sufficient room inside for a small book, a scarf or similar and a pencil case, plus a front zip for snacks or other extras and a write-on name tag. It has elasticated pockets on either side for a little water bottle or juice cup, too.
The only bag officially endorsed by the Backcare Charity, this is a great shout if you are concerned about your child's posture and spine as they lug unfathomably heavy books and stationery to school day in day out. Its ergonomic design means it works with your child's body to keep them comfortable and features a ventilated back panel and side bracing straps.
There are dozens of organisation pockets too, should your child need a bit of help in the organisation department, and the option of a smaller 17-litre size if you prefer. The smart black and white theme also adheres to almost every school dress code and looks just like a 'normal' backpack. Perfect.
Nike is a world-renowned sports brand with good reason. Over the decades they've produced reliable, practical products beloved by active types of all ages, and this sturdy yet affordable backpack made from water-repellent polyester is no exception.
Reassuringly, this particular backpack from their range has a few more compartments than those designed for sports, including a document holder and space for A4 folders and larger books. Made with school kids in mind, the straps are thick and comfortable and there's even a matching pencil case thrown in for good measure!
This stylish backpack from reliable and on-trend brand Hype is simple yet practical, roomy and comfortable. It's fastened with a large zip covered in rubber, so it's easy to use and keeps the elements out. We also love that it's available in an astonishing range of designs and patterns to suit your kid's unique tastes.
As well as the closure, the fact it's water-resistant is obviously a huge bonus, meaning it can be used in most weathers without books and precious possessions getting too damaged. We would have liked to have seen another pocket or two, in particular, one for a drinks bottle.
Though originally produced for Swedish schoolkids in the 70s, there aren't many other backpacks that will appeal to your pre-teen or teen more than Fjällräven's classic Kånken. It's available in dozens of lovely colours, all made from water-resistant vinylal with the signature reflective fox logo and front pocket.
There are a couple of obvious downsides, the first of which is that the slim straps are not padded (although the back has removable padding), and the second is that a sought-after brand name like this is certainly going to cost you! But it is ever so cool.
Whatever age your young 'uns are, there's always something they want, need, or have grown out of... again. Check out some of our related online buying guides to find your family the savviest school essentials out there.
Well, that's that. Our guide to picking your perfect school backpack ends here. Hopefully, you're well-equipped with the information you need to make a sensible purchase and choose a sturdy, practical and beautiful bag that will make school a more enticing place to be. Is that the bell we can hear ringing? Breaktime!
Author: Annie Hopkins
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