The Best School Backpacks For Children

A decent school backpack for kids should be able to hold everything they need for the day at school. It should also be proportioned adequately for tiny bodies and pleasant to carry. And, because children will be carrying a backpack every day for the whole of the school year (or longer), it should be sturdy and come in a variety of colors and designs that allow them to exhibit their individuality.

Since 2015, we’ve evaluated almost 30 popular children’s backpacks, sometimes taking them to school with our own children year after year. The backpacks we propose are appropriate for a variety of ages (preschool through middle school), have been extensively tested for comfort and durability, and offer clever organization and high-quality construction. Whether you’re looking for an affordable classic that will last for years, a fun backpack that comes in a variety of sizes and designs (including a rolling option), a larger backpack with laptop storage for older students, or an artsy, super-organized backpack for all ages, these packs receive high marks from both kids and parents.

backpacks

The investigation

  1. Why should you believe us?
  2. Who is this for?
  3. L.L.Bean Original Book Pack is the greatest basic backpack for primary school pupils.
  4. Additional patterns, characters, and sizes: Mackenzie from Pottery Barn Kids
  5. Middle-school kids’ favorite backpack: The Pottery Barn Backpack for Teen Gear-Up
  6. A fashionable, elegant backpack: Bags for the State Kane Children
  7. Other excellent school backpacks for children
  8. How we chose and tested
  9. The contestant

1. Why should you believe us?

Our recommendation is based on the combined expertise of our parent staffers and contributors, six rounds of testing (dating back to 2015), research into the ideal kids backpack, and years of sending our top selections to school with our own kids for hands-on, real-world verification.

I’m the mother of three children (aged five, eleven, and thirteen), and I’ve previously written Wirecutter’s guides to the best kids water bottles and our top diaper bags. Wirecutter writer Sonjia Hyon, former senior editor Dan Frakes, and former executive editor Michael Berk contributed to this guide.

2. Who is this for?

This list includes backpacks for school-age children ranging from preschool to middle school. We concentrated on backpacks built for usage during a regular school day, with enough room and organization for school supplies, books, food, a water bottle, and other small items (including, in some cases, a laptop, smartphone, or other tech). The selections in this guide should be able to withstand the demands of a complete school year of everyday wear and tear. In many circumstances, they should last for several years or be able to be passed down. The patterns and styles will most likely appeal to children aged 14 and under. Check out our preferred laptop bags for older youngsters or those ready for bigger, more grown-up models. Check out our list to the finest camping and hiking backpacks for kids if you’re seeking for kids backpacks for hiking, camping, and vacation.

3. L.L.Bean Original Book Pack is the greatest basic backpack for primary school pupils

Who it’s for: The Junior Original Book Pack is appropriate for children aged 4 to 7, while the Original Book Pack is appropriate for children aged 8 to 12.

Why it’s fantastic: L.L.Bean’s 16-liter Junior Original and 24-liter Original Book Pack are among the best kids backpacks we’ve tested, and they’ve been our top selection for the past six years. The backpacks last for years, are comfortable and correctly suited for small children, and are large enough to contain a lot of things without overburdening the youngsters.

In 1982, L.L.Bean debuted the now-iconic Book Pack. The Book Packs, which are virtually identical today, have a nostalgic, hipster appeal (they’re also popular in Japan). The design of the Junior and Original packs is identical; the only major variation between them is size. Both have water-bottle pockets made of the same tough nylon as the bag; years of research have proved that this sort of water-bottle pocket outlasts mesh pockets significantly better (since those often rip). A wide band of elastic at the top of the L.L.Bean backpacks’ water-bottle compartments secures your child’s water bottle. Both the Original and Junior Book Packs’ bottle pouches easily carry a 12- to 14-ounce kid-size water bottle.

Both sizes have high-quality finishing including durable zipper pulls, a storm flap to protect the zipper, and a thick 3M Scotchlite luminous strip on the front of the backpack (a safety plus for kids who walk or bike to school). Aside from the anticipated dirt and a few scratches on the luminous strip, our testers said the bag still looked and functioned well after a year of usage. Our Junior Original test bag’s generously cushioned shoulder straps showed no symptoms of breaking down or compressing.

Overall, the L.L.Bean packs provide outstanding value: they are among the least priced of the kids backpacks we examined, and they are the only packs in our top selections that give a hefty, one-year satisfaction guarantee. Despite the fact that L.L.Bean’s new warranty policy no longer provides a lifetime guarantee, our experience with the firm has been that it fulfills warranties swiftly and efficiently, with few or no questions asked.

Pockets and organization: There is a large main compartment, a medium zipped compartment, and one exterior water-bottle pocket in this bag. The midsize zipped compartment, which also includes a zippered pocket sewed into the front, can fit a pencil case or a hardcover book. An organizer panel with two open pockets, a zippered mesh pouch for money, two pencil/pen slots, and a lanyard with a clasp for keys or trinkets are also included in the midsize compartment.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Unlike our other selections, the L.L.Bean packs lack a sternum strap to prevent the shoulder straps from slipping back and off the child’s shoulders. As a result, rather than a larger backpack to “grow into,” make sure you obtain the proper size for your youngster. Though the back is cushioned, the L.L.Bean backpacks do not include mesh back panels like some of our other options; the mesh fabric is intended to promote airflow and keep your child’s back from becoming overly sweaty (though its effectiveness is debatable). The Junior Original and Original packs do not come with a laptop sleeve; if your kid needs to carry a laptop or tablet to school, you will need to purchase an additional laptop sleeve.

Specifications

  • Weatherproof 600-denier nylon is used.
  • One water-bottle holder
  • No laptop sleeve
  • A one-year satisfaction guarantee is provided.
  • Colors and patterns: the Junior Original comes in four colors and five prints, while the Original comes in six colors and nine prints.

4. Additional patterns, characters, and sizes: Mackenzie from Pottery Barn Kids

Who it’s for: The 12-liter small backpack is suitable for children aged 4 to 6 (or 43 to 49 inches tall); the 20-liter big and 18-liter rolling versions are suitable for children aged 7 to 12. (or more than 48 inches tall). Toddlers can use the 5-liter tiny option, which is available in various designs.

Why it’s great: Pottery Barn Kids Mackenzie backpacks are the greatest alternative for kids who want to pick out the right design or who want a certain character on their bag. The well-made packets are available in a variety of patterns, including glow-in-the-dark dinosaurs, a sparkly rainbow ombre, and camouflage, as well as Star Wars, Disney princesses, and Paw Patrol.

The Mackenzie pack comes in four sizes, and it is the only one of our recommendations that includes a rolling bag (in specific patterns) that is appropriate for younger, elementary-school children. (L.L.Bean also manufactures a rolling backpack for kids, but at 35 liters, it’s too big for most primary and middle school students.)

The Pottery Barn Kids bags are spacious and well-made, with useful organizational compartments. They also have a height-adjustable sternum strap, a laptop sleeve with Velcro closure for the small and big backpacks (albeit it isn’t cushioned), mesh lining on the padded back, contoured shoulder straps, a clip for attaching a lunchbox, and a daisy chain for attaching knickknacks (a feature kids ask for).

According to one parent, the top handle on low-quality backpacks is always the first to break. The handle of the Pottery Barn Kids bags is reinforced with double stitching and is the only one among our options that is cushioned for comfort (together with the Pottery Barn Teen Gear-Up backpack).

Because of its useful design and overall quality, the L.L.Bean packs have a devoted following; parents who’d used both the Pottery Barn packs and the L.L.Bean packs told us that the L.L.Bean packs’ design and quality were superior to the Pottery Barn packs. However, the same parents said that their children preferred the designs on the Pottery Barn Kids packs. And, while Pottery Barn Kids packs are normally more expensive than L.L.Bean packs, with a back-to-school or other sale, the Pottery Barn packs can be just as inexpensive.

Pockets and organization: The small, big, and rolling bags all include a large main compartment with a non-padded laptop sleeve, a midsize zipped compartment, a tiny zippered compartment near the handle, and two exterior water-bottle pockets. The zipped midsize compartment has an organizer panel with three open pockets, four pencil/pen slots, and a lanyard with a clasp for keys or trinkets. The little top pocket near the handle is intended for storing a phone or small electrical item and has a headphone connection.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: According to parents on our staff, these packs often last at least two school years (which is not as long as L.L.Bean packs generally last). The Pottery Barn Mackenzie designs are best for elementary-schoolers; older elementary-school and middle-school children may find them childish. (As an example, the youngsters in our family outgrew their preferred designs before the backpacks wore out.) The two exterior bottle compartments have a combination of mesh, woven nylon, and elastic caps, depending on the design. Because of the weaker mesh, the pockets are prone to snagging on something and tearing; while our water-bottle pockets did not rip after more than a year of usage, other parents have complained about this. Furthermore, the laptop sleeve (with a small Velcro fastening) is fragile, so if your youngster has to carry a laptop, you’ll probably want to invest in additional protection. Pottery Barn’s backpacks do not come with a guarantee.

Specifications

  • Water-resistant, 600-denier polyester is used.
  • Two water-bottle holders.
  • Yes, unpadded laptop sleeve; fits up to a 13-inch laptop for the small and a 15-inch laptop for the big (no laptop sleeve on the mini and rolling packs)
  • There is no warranty.
  • Colors and patterns: there are over 70 prints and designs to choose from.

5. Middle-school kids’ favorite backpack: The Pottery Barn Backpack for Teen Gear-Up

It is intended for children aged 12 and up.

Why it’s great: Pottery Barn Teen’s Gear-Up Backpack (28 liters for the large and rolling sizes, and 30 liters for the extra-large sizes) has many of the same features as Pottery Barn Kids’ smaller, Mackenzie series. This range, on the other hand, has more appealing designs for tweens and adolescents, as well as more methods to carry and organize all of the things that older kids must bring.

The Gear-Up backpacks, which are available in 28- or 30-liter capacities and include a rolling option, are roomy and robust, with a cushioned back with mesh lining and padded contoured shoulder straps. The top handle of this pack (like with the Pottery Barn Kids Mackenzie packs) is reinforced with double stitching and cushioned for comfort (which is handy, considering the heavier loads older students have to carry).

Though there are a few characters in the Gear-Up collection, such as Harry Potter and Black Panther, the designs typically lean toward more grown-up-but-still-whimsical aesthetics, such as brilliant swirls of color, neon patterns, and geometric prints. Our sixth-grade tester’s lunch, three notebooks, and school-issued, 11.6-inch Chromebook fit well in the 28-liter backpack. The 30-liter capacity is ideal for children who need to transport several textbooks, sports equipment, or other items.

The Gear-Up bag, with three cascading layers of compartments, allows kids to conveniently store and organize their possessions. We were able to entirely fit a 13.3-inch MacBook into the main compartment’s cushioned sleeve (it can carry up to a 15-inch laptop), and an open pocket within the tiny zipped compartment can contain a smartphone. Two metal D-rings and a cinching bungee rope (not present on the Mackenzie backpacks) may store additional stuff, such as a hoodie.

Pockets and organization: The Gear-Up has a large main compartment with cushioned laptop sleeve, a midsize zipped compartment, a small zippered compartment, and two exterior bottle pockets. A tiny zipped compartment houses an organizer panel with three open pouches, three pencil/pen slots, and a lanyard with a clip for keys or trinkets. A D-ring on the exterior of the midsize compartment and another on the shoulder strap provide places to fasten items, while a cinching bungee cord on the front of the tiny compartment may carry coats or shoes. Some Gear-Up backpacks also contain a tiny zipped compartment near the top handle for storing a smartphone.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: The all-mesh exterior water-bottle compartments have huge holes and are subject to snagging on anything and ripping, or simply tearing from the sheer weight of the bottle, despite being reinforced at the bottom. In addition, unlike the Mackenzie packs, the Gear-Up backpacks lack a sternum strap, which seems inconvenient considering that they carry a bigger burden. Pottery Barn does not provide a guarantee on their backpacks, and monogrammed bags are not returnable.

Specifications

  • Materials: 600-denier water-resistant polyester
  • Two water-bottle holders
  • Yes, cushioned laptop sleeve; fits up to a 15-inch laptop.
  • There is no warranty.
  • More than 80 prints in a variety of colors and styles

6. A fashionable, elegant backpack: Bags for the State Kane Children

Who it’s for: State Bags’ 12-liter Kane Kids pack is suitable for children aged 5 to 9, the 23-liter Kane Kids Large is suitable for children aged 10 to 14, and the 6-liter Mini Kane is suitable for children aged 3 to 4.

Why it’s fantastic: State Bags’ 12-liter Kane Youngsters and 23-liter Kane Kids Large backpacks are sleek and modern, with artistic, eye-catching designs, durability and high-quality finishes, and several compartments that allow kids to organize and store their possessions.

State Bags’ patterns and designs feel more modern and sophisticated than those found on traditional kids’ backpacks, ranging from a silver metallic bag with enormous, multicolored particles of confetti imbedded in the fabric to a basic yet unusual strawberry-and-mint colorblock pack. The Kane backpacks are the priciest of our selections. However, with unusual colors and patterns like indigo tie-dye, details like bubble-like sequins and embroidery, and unique finishes like tassels on the zipper pulls, the packs have an out-of-the-ordinary look and feel that will likely appeal to kids and parents looking for a special backpack to start a new school year.

Kane packs feature an outer composed of sturdy canvas, coated cotton, or polyester, depending on the design. The inner is lined with a sleek, finely woven polyester that was the simplest to clean of our options. The zippers on the Kane packs, like the zippers on the L.L.Bean packs, are covered by a storm flap. The Kanes also include high-quality details, like reinforced stitching around the top of the padded laptop sleeve (in the Kane Kids Large), which we didn’t see in the Pottery Barn backpacks. The Kane packs include a more extensive organizer panel than the Pottery Barn Kids Mackenzie and L.L.Bean packs, with a mix of open sleeves (for slipping in loose pieces of paper), a zipped pocket, and a mesh pocket to hold other small objects.

The Kane packs’ external bottle pockets, like the L.L.Bean packs’, are composed of the same robust material as the rest of the backpack—through the Kane Kids’ water-bottle pockets lack the same elastic strip at the top to firmly keeping a bottle in.

Kane Kids backpacks features cushioned shoulder straps and daisy chains from top to bottom for attaching ornamental charms or trinkets. The rear of the backpack is also cushioned and soft, however it lacks the breathable mesh lining seen in Pottery Barn backpacks. The Kane Kids Large pack includes an open panel on the rear that allows you to fit it over a baggage handle. State Bags provides a one-year warranty on its children’s backpacks against manufacturing problems.

Pockets and organization: Depending on the size of the pack, these bags include one or two main compartments, a tiny zipped compartment, and two exterior water-bottle pockets. The main compartment on all of the bags features an organizer panel with two big open sleeves, a broad zippered pocket, two smaller open pockets (one made of mesh) that can carry a smartphone, four pencil/pen slots, and a lanyard with a key clip. The Kane Kids Large’s main compartment is separated into two pieces. One part has a padded laptop case and space for one or two notebooks. The second section, which is designed to carry the majority of a student’s binders, books, and lunch, has the same organizer panel as the smaller Kane Kids backpacks.

Flaws but not game changers: If your child is carrying a full lunchbox, notes, and folders, the smaller, 14-liter Kane Kids backpack may feel too tiny. Even while it features a large open sleeve in the organizer panel that can hold a 1212-inch laptop, it isn’t designed to be a dedicated laptop sleeve, so you can’t rely on it to offer appropriate cushioning and protection. The main compartment of the Kane Kids backpack can hold up to a 13-inch laptop, but there is no additional padding. State Bags’ backpacks are the most expensive of our choices, and monogrammed backpacks cannot be returned. Despite its low price, the backpack does not include a sternum strap; you must purchase the company’s removable chest strap separately ($15 as of this writing). Our backpack’s interior lining also has repeating rows of the “State” trademark, as well as the slogan “This lining used to be plastic bottles,” which one of our tween testers deemed arrogant.

Specifications

  • Coated cotton, canvas, and water-repellent 600-denier polyester are the materials used.
  • Two water-bottle holders
  • Yes (for the Kane Kids Large pack alone); cushioned, accommodates up to a 15-inch laptop.
  • Warranty: One-year warranty against manufacturing flaws.
  • Colors and patterns: 27 prints for the Mini Kane, over 40 prints for the Kane Kids, and six colors and patterns for the Kane Kids Large.

7. Other excellent school backpacks for children

Backpack requirements might be as diverse as children themselves. If our top choices don’t meet your child’s requirements, here are some more high-performing solutions we’ve tested—and in some instances recommended over the last six years.

Primary and secondary school

The TwelveLittle’s Adventure Backpack is a robust bag that is suitable for children aged 4 to 7. (preschool and early elementary school). The main compartment, which is lined with a variety of cute patterns, including the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, has a (non-padded) mesh pocket that can hold a 13-inch laptop, as well as two elastic interior pockets, and it’s large enough to fit a lunch bag, standard school folders, and a sweatshirt. The exterior mesh water-bottle pocket is reinforced with additional lining, making it less prone to snag or rip, and the padded shoulder straps have a chest clip. However, while the backpack is available in a variety of interesting patterns, including a space-themed design with flippy sequins, TwelveLittle does not have as many alternatives as Pottery Barn Kids or State Bags.

We previously recommended the Lands’ End ClassMate Small Backpack (16-liter) and the 21-liter Medium because they have plenty of room for essentials, an adjustable sternum strap, daisy chains for attaching trinkets, and, in the Medium, a (unpadded, non-elastic) interior sleeve that fits a 14-inch laptop. However, as compared to our current favorites, these packs offer less cushioned backs, less useable inside organization, and flimsier material. Furthermore, we discovered that their all-mesh water-bottle compartments are prone to tearing during the first year of usage. We believe that the similarly priced and more durable L.L.Bean backpacks are a better deal, but if you find it on sale, the Lands’ End bag is worth considering.

For our guide to the finest hiking and camping backpacks for kids, we put the 18-liter Deuter Junior to the test. Although we didn’t believe it was the most useful hiking bag, Wirecutter senior editor Kalee Thompson’s 10-year-old son has worn it for three school years and summer camp stints. It has withstood everyday assault well. This backpack was also comfortable for his regular half-mile trips to his after-school program, with well cushioned shoulder straps, an ergonomically padded back, and an adjustable sternum strap. However, the Deuter’s main compartment has a drawstring opening rather than a zipper, making it inconvenient for accessing school supplies during the day. The Deuter Kikki 8-liter, which we previously tried, is adorable and well-made. However, it is just appropriate for preschoolers and can only hold lunch.

Secondary school

The Burton 20-liter Kids’ Day Hiker Backpack has an adjustable sternum strap as well as a hip belt, making it comfortable and durable while a child is carrying even the heaviest cargo (the bag’s beautifully cushioned back with ventilation ridges also helps). The spacious backpack offers two zipped compartments and several pockets, including a cushioned sleeve for a 13-inch laptop, as well as organizational elements such as a key clip. Bonus: The backpack has two buckled straps on the front allowing youngsters to carry their skateboards. In addition, the Burton Day Hiker is the only backpack we examined that comes with a lifetime warranty. It only comes in four designs, and we believe most students will choose one of our top school options. However, if your child requires a robust, ergonomic backpack for both school and outdoor activities, this bag is worth considering.

The 28-liter North Face Borealis is a robust and multifunctional backpack that we recently begun testing for tweens and teenagers who are close to adult size and searching for a more grown-up backpack. The material (a blend of ripstop nylon, 600-denier polyester, and 500-denier nylon) feels sturdy and long-lasting, and we enjoy the overall workmanship, which includes reinforced stitching, a reflective strip on the shoulder straps, and convenient zipper pulls. The backpack’s back is cushioned, ergonomically curved, and mesh-lined. A chest strap and a hip belt not only assist to spread the weight of the backpack, but they also make it more pleasant to wear. (An unexpected bonus: the sternum strap buckle has a whistle.) It’s the heaviest and largest bag we suggest, beginning at around 2 pounds and measuring two inches longer than our next-largest selection, the Pottery Barn Teen Gear-Up Backpack. This size fits most people but may be visibly too big or heavy for a tween or adolescent who is still growing. We have not tested a women’s version of the Borealis, which is 27 liters (vs 28 liters) and about one inch shorter than the original Borealis, and available in a variety of colors and designs.

School Backpacks

8. How we chose and tested

After testing almost 30 backpacks over the course of six years, we’ve found that a decent kids bag should include the following features:

Be constructed of long-lasting, easy-to-clean materials: The material should be water-resistant, able to survive the rigors of regular usage, and simple to clean.
Be easy to wear and carry: Padded shoulder straps and backs might aid with big weights. Adjustable shoulder straps are also necessary to ensure that the backpack does not fall more than four inches below the waistline, which might add weight to the child’s shoulders. A sternum clasp prevents straps from sliding, although it isn’t required if the backpack fits well (or the load is fairly light). A sternum strap may also be purchased for less than $15.

Be properly proportioned for children: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a backpack “should never weigh more than 10 to 20% of your child’s body weight.” A backpack that is too big will simply not fit a younger child properly. We’ve discovered that 15 liters is a decent size for second-graders and lower, while 20 to 25 liters is a good amount for older children and tweens.
It should feature basic organizing and compartments, as well as a laptop sleeve for older pupils, to assist youngsters keep track of their stuff.

Come in fun colors and designs that kids will love: We sought for backpacks with a range of colors, designs, and trendy embellishments because backpacks are personal for children and may be used to express themselves.

Offer good value: We sought for backpacks that were not only reasonable, but also would endure at least a few school years (until a child outgrew the design or grew tired of it), and could even be passed down to a younger brother.

Come from a reputable manufacturer and/or provide a warranty: We emphasized organizations with a track record of providing high-quality construction and excellent customer service.

We’ve evaluated roughly 30 backpacks for kids over the last six years, in some cases for numerous school years, to see how they hold up over time. Several Wirecutter workers took the backpacks to school with their children, and they expressed their children’s likes and dislikes, which we compiled and included into this guide.

In 2020, I evaluated 11 backpacks with my kids (ages 4, 10, and 12), contrasting our prior top recommendations against five new backpacks: State Bags’ Kane Kids Large, Kids’ Burton Day Hiker Backpack, Jansport Super Lite (no longer available), Pottery Barn Teen Gear-Up, and Parkland Bayside. I thoroughly checked each backpack (zipping and unzipping the bags, evaluating the seams, and comparing the texture and feel of the material), then filled it with various combinations of children’s items. In 2021, my family examined five more packs, including the Light+Nine Student Foldable Backpack, TwelveLittle’s Adventure Backpack, L.L. Bean’s Super Deluxe Book Pack, Columbia’s Mazama 26L Backpack, and the North Face Borealis, and compared them to our existing favorites.

Elementary-school backpacks should be large enough to include a typical two-pocket folder, a book, lunch, and a sweatshirt. Older elementary and middle school pupils will very certainly require a binder, notes, and, increasingly, a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. My children also packed their own items in the luggage (down to their favorite pens and pencils in the pen holders). They pulled, hauled, and carelessly flung around the fully filled backpacks for many weeks, rating them for comfort and convenience of use. They also ranked their favorite designs, indicating which ones they would most likely wear to school.

9.​ The contestant

The Light+Nine Student Foldable Backpack is a unique bag that children may personalize with charms (similar to adding shoe charms on your Crocs, but easier). Instead of monogramming, you may attach (and detach) the letters of your child’s name as well as their favorite items, which range from dinosaurs to unicorns. However, while we were interested by the fact that the backpack unzips fully to lie flat, we found it to be boxy and unwieldy, and we did not find the design practical for school. (Because of the angle of the zipper, it’s difficult to swiftly and efficiently zip and unzip the backpack.) The back is cushioned, but the shoulder straps are not.

The L.L.Bean Super Deluxe Book Pack is a 40-liter backpack for adolescents that features a padded laptop sleeve, a padded back, and several organized compartments. It’s composed of heavy-duty 420-denier ripstop nylon, much like the Original Book Pack. When loaded, however, the bag’s three cascading compartments extend outward, making it appear big and imbalanced. In addition, there is no chest clip or hip belt to assist disperse the weight.

Columbia’s Mazama 26L Backpack is a sturdy, low-cost backpack that has many of the important features of our favorites, including a cushioned back, padded shoulder straps (with a chest clasp), and a padded, felt-lined laptop compartment. However, as compared to our top recommendations, it features fewer and less practical organizational pockets. Though it stood up well in our early tests, we were concerned about the backpack’s top handle, which looks to be poorly strengthened. Furthermore, the bag is only available in two colors (black and grey), which seemed uninspired.

The 20L Parkland Bayside is available in over 50 different designs, including rainbow, cactus, and outer-space varieties. It comes with a laptop sleeve and a water bottle compartment, and it comes with a limited lifetime guarantee. However, we found the Parkland bag’s cushioned back to be thinner and less supportive than those on our top selections, making it less comfortable to carry. And there wasn’t much internal organization.

The 12-inch Wildkin backpack for preschoolers and the 15-inch Wildkin bag for kindergartners to second-graders are also available in a variety of popular designs. However, the mesh water-bottle pocket ripped after only a few months of usage, and Wildkin only provides a 90-day guarantee.

The Fjällräven Knken Mini is both strong and attractive. However, at 7 liters, it is too little for anything other than preschool usage, and it is too pricey (about $85 as of this writing) for most people to contemplate.

The original Fjällräven Knken, at 16 liters, is better ideal for smaller children, but we rejected it before testing since the shoulder straps are merely webbing and unsupportive. The changeable seat pad is a good feature, but the convertible strap system was more complicated and difficult to adjust for the youngsters we spoke with.

According to a third- and fifth-grade student at two separate schools, the Herschel Heritage XL Youth is a popular bag due to its brand appeal and appearance. One parent, on the other hand, described Herschel backpacks as “nice designs, terrible quality.” The REI Workload Mini (now discontinued) was likewise more comfortable than the Herschel, according to the third-grader.

The North Face Berkeley (25 liters) and Berkeley Mini (19 liters) are well-made, but their single exterior pocket is large and broad with no organizational panel. Furthermore, these backpacks lack a water-bottle compartment, which many parents and children believe to be an essential feature.

Jansport backpacks have a lifetime warranty, but the 10.2-liter Jansport Half Pint is too tiny for school-age children and better suited to toddlers. The Jansport Right Pack, with a capacity of 31 liters, is too big for elementary-school-aged children. The Jansport Superbreak (25 liters) is lightweight and sized suitably for older kids, but it lacks the cushioning and comfort of our top selections. The now-discontinued 26-liter Jansport Super Lite felt sturdy and (as promised) lightweight, and it came in a variety of bright, attractive colors. Despite having a laptop sleeve, it lacked a water-bottle compartment, which many parents and children consider a must-have feature.

The AmazonBasics Classic Backpack is a great buy at $18, but it’s a little too basic—even for youngsters. There are only two zipped pockets and no organizing features. This may be enough for smaller children, but it is only available in a 21-liter size. Our options are more expensive, but they are far more functional. Note: As of this writing, this bag was no longer available on Amazon, and we don’t know if it will be replaced.

The Garnet Hill Eco Kids backpacks are no longer in stock. It seemed well-built and long-lasting, with high-end features including a cushioned top handle, water-bottle compartments made of the same tough nylon fabric as the backpack, and an adjustable sternum strap. However, the bag was only available in patterns, rather than usual solid colors, which we found unpleasant.

The Osprey Pogo is no longer in production. It featured the finest interior organization of any pack we examined and was well-made, with mesh backing, compression straps, and sternum straps, as well as tight-knit mesh water-bottle compartments. Although we consider Osprey packs to be among the finest hiking daypacks for kids and the best travel packs for adults, we were disappointed that this more general bag was only available in blue or black.

The REI Workload Mini Pack, which is no longer available, was previously recommended. We found it to be a well-made, robust, and comfortable backpack after testing it for a whole school year. With thicker padded straps and back padding, as well as a supporting sternum strap, it was a wonderful choice for a youngster who walks or rides his or her bike to school and wants a better-fitting and more comfortable backpack. The 20-liter backpack was designed for pupils in kindergarten through third grade and includes a sleeve with an elastic band at the top to carry a 13-inch laptop. REI, like L.L.Bean, provides a one-year satisfaction guarantee. However, the bag was only available in two nature-themed designs and pure black, giving youngsters little variety.

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