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Best backpacks for college 2021 — Nike, The North Face and more

Best backpacks for college
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The best backpacks for college are light enough to carry all day, yet big enough to stash everything from your laptop to gym clothes. As students across the country enjoy their summer vacation, retailers are launching back to school sales with discounts on all types of backpacks for college.

Unlike children's backpacks, the best backpacks for college are made of sturdy material for durability. They should also have laptop sleeves to keep your notebook or tablet protected. Some of the best backpacks may even include multiple compartments designed specifically for certain devices. 

As we enter prime back to school season, we're rounding up the best backpacks for college you can buy right now. (Make sure to check out our ultimate back to school guide for more back to school essentials).

Best backpacks for college 

Under $50

Trail Maker Backpack

Trail Maker Backpack: $9 @ Amazon
Need a backpack for college, but don't want to invest too much? The Trail Maker Backpack is just what you're looking for. Priced under $10, it's inexpensive yet features everything you could want in a budget backpack like a roomy main compartment, double zippers, and an outer front pocket. 

Vans Long Haul Backpack

Vans Long Haul Backpack: was $48 now $32 @ Zappos
The Vans Long Haul Backpack has everything you need from a back to school backpack. It features two front zip compartments, adjustable padded shoulder straps, and an interior compartment for your laptop. (It fits up to15 -inch laptops). It's one of the best backpacks for college we've seen at this price. 

Eastsport Valedictorian Backpack

Eastsport Valedictorian Backpack: $19 @ Walmart
The Eastsport Valedictorian Backpack has room for all of your college gear. Its built-in laptop sleeve can house a 15-inch laptop, whereas its exterior side pockets are perfect for storing anything from water bottles to small umbrellas. Meanwhile, its inexpensive price makes it one of the best backpacks for college students on a budget. 

Nike Youth Gymsack

Nike Youth Gymsack: $21 @ Amazon
Small and light, the Nike Gymsack is ideal for those times you need to carry clothes or wide objects. There are no special compartments or zippers. Instead, the backpack features a drawcord for easy access to your items. 

Adidas 3-Stripes Backpack

Adidas 3-Stripes Backpack: $45 now $32 @ adidas
This everyday backpack is designed for all your tech needs. It has a laptop sleeve, media compartment, and side pockets for storing things like backup batteries and cables. 

Osprey UL Stuff Duffel

Osprey UL Stuff Duffel: was $39 now $33 @ Amazon
The Osprey UL Stuff Duffel is the type of bag that's small when collapsed, but huge when fully open/expanded. It features a padded shoulder strap, 30L capacity, and can be stuffed into its own built-in storage pocket. 

Targus Octave backpack

Targus Octave Backpack: $34 @ Best Buy
This Targus Octave backpack for 15.6" laptops is sturdy and offers everything you need. Features include padded shoulder straps, two mesh water bottle holders, and a front stash pocket. 

Women's Jester Backpack

Women's Jester Backpack: was $64 now $40 @ Moosejaw
This streamlined North Face Jester Women's backpack features a 28 liter capacity, a padded 15-inch laptop sleeve, a front organization pocket, and mesh water bottle holders. 

Nike USA Women's Backpack

Nike USA Women's Backpack: was $50 now $44 @ Amazon
Show your support for the women's national soccer team with the Nike USA Women's Backpack. It features a laptop sleeve, main compartment, and padded straps, making it one of the best backpacks for college. 

Amazon Basics Backpack

Amazon Basics Backpack: $46 @ Amazon
The Amazon Basics Backpack is made of durable polyester and features an internal, zippered laptop sleeve. It also had padded shoulder straps, waist belt, and easy to access front/top pockets. It's one of the best backpacks for college you'll find at this price point. 

Tibuk2 bags

Tibuk2 bags: 70% off select bags @ REI
For a limited time, REI is taking 70% off select Tibuk2 bags. After discount, deals start as low as $43. The sale includes some of the best backpacks for college we've seen from Tibuk2, including totes, packs, messenger bags, briefcases, and more. 

Nike Tanjun Backpack

Nike Tanjun Backpack: $49 @ Amazon
The Tanjun line takes its name from the Japanese word for simplicity. The stylish backpack features multiple handles for different carrying options. It's one of the best backpacks for college if you prefer small, simple bags. 

The North Face Jester Backpack

The North Face Jester Backpack: now $56 @ Amazon
The North Face Jester backpack is the ideal campus backpack. It has a 30 liter capacity, a padded 15-inch laptop sleeve, and a front organization pocket with mesh water bottle holders. 

$50 to $100

Adidas Women's VFA Premium Backpack

Adidas Women's VFA Premium Backpack: $53 @ Amazon
Perfect for just about any scenario, this backpack has a padded laptop sleeve, exterior mesh compartment, and dual water bottle pockets. It's one of the best backpacks for school if you're a fan of adidas. 

Adidas Utility Team Backpack

Adidas Utility Team Backpack: $56 @ Amazon
From game day to the classroom, the adidas Utility Team Backpack is perfect for students who practice sports. The large backpack provides tons of space for books, clothes, and more.

Nike Vapor Power

Nike Vapor Power: $58 @ Amazon
The Vapor Power backpack features a double exterior to help safeguard your items from the elements. It has a padded laptop sleeve and a show compartment for additional items. 

Pro Slim Laptop Backpack

Pro Slim Laptop Backpack: was $140 now $69 @ eBags
For a limited time, eBags is taking a whopping 50% off the Pro Slim Laptop Backpack. The backpack offers excellent organization with a diagonal stash pocket inside the middle compartment, a padded laptop sleeve that fits up to a 17-inch laptop, and a front organizational panel with internal pockets. 

The North Face Pivoter Backpack

The North Face Pivoter Backpack: $78 @ Amazon
The 27-liter North Face Pivoter Backpack features a roomy main compartment with a padded laptop sleep. The front compartment has a padded tablet sleeve along with additional organizational pockets. It's available in various colors at Amazon.

The North Face Isabella Backpack

The North Face Isabella Backpack: $85 @ Nordstrom
The North Face Women's Isabella backpack is a streamlined 21-liter capacity women's backpack. It offers a zippered front panel and a dedicated 12-inch tablet/laptop sleeve in the main compartment. 

The North Face Borealis Backpack

The North Face Borealis Backpack: $88 @ Amazon
The classic 28-liter North Face Borealis backpack features an updated suspension system. There's also a padded main compartment, a tablet sleeve, and a dedicated 17-inch laptop sleeve to protect your gear. It's now 40% off. 

Lululemon Crew Backpack 22L

Lululemon Crew Backpack 22L: $98 @ Lululemon
Available in four colors, the Lululemon Crew Backpack 22L is as stylish as backpacks get. It's made with water-repellent fabric and has compartments for your laptop, workout gear, water bottle, and more. It's not cheap at $98, but it's one of the best backpacks for college we've seen. 

Recon Backpack

Recon Backpack: $98 @ Zappos
The 30-liter North Face Recon backpack is ultra-durable and boasts improved suspension for all-day comfort. It features plenty of compartments and pockets to stash away your gear. Mesh water bottle pockets help you stay hydrated while you're on the go. Large, but comfy, it's one of the best backpacks for college. 

Brenthaven Prostyle Laptop Backpack

Brenthaven Prostyle Laptop Backpack: $99 @ Amazon
They may be pricier than most backpacks, but Brenthaven bags are made to last. The Prostyle Laptop Backpack can fit any laptop up to 17 inches in size. It's made of a ballistic nylon exterior and features ergonomic padded pack straps and back panel that distribute weight comfortably. This is one of the best backpacks for college students who are always on the go. 

The North Face Kaban Backpack

The North Face Kaban Backpack: $149 @ The North Face
Made of ultra-durable, water resistant 900D polyester, the North Face Kaban backpack is virtually indestructible. It features a 26-liter capacity and has a dedicated sleeve to protect laptops up to 15 inches. 

Louis Ramirez

As deals editor at Tom’s Guide, Louis is constantly looking for ways to avoid paying full price for the latest gadgets. With over 10 years of deals-hunting experience, Louis price checks against multiple retailers and searches high and low for the best deals to bring readers. A born-and-bred New Yorker, Louis is also an avid swimmer and marathoner. His work has appeared on Gizmodo, CNET, and Time Out New York.