AHEAD OF THE PACK
Whether your child is scampering off to preschool or schlepping between classes in high school or college, a backpack is a back-to-school must. And while most kids want something that will reflect their personality, factors like comfort, durability, and practicality should guide buying decisions, too. We've scoured reviews to find the best cheap backpacks that still make the grade. Here are 20 great picks, all $60 and under, for kids of all ages.
(Note: Prices and availability may be subject to change.)
SKIP HOP ZOO INSULATED TODDLER BACKPACK
Price: $15.49 | Buy it at Amazon
The Skip Hop Zoo is an adorable choice for toddlers or preschoolers who need only enough room for a snack, a water bottle, and the occasional art project. Parents love the whimsical design, with choices including a bee, panda, or unicorn, and they say it's plenty durable. The insulated front snack pocket is a nice bonus. Standard-size folders and notebooks won't fit well, however.
JANSPORT SUPERBREAK BACKPACK
Price: $36 | Buy it at eBags
The JanSport Superbreak is the little black dress of backpacks — it just never seems to go out of style. Reviewers say it's a great size for middle- and high-schoolers, especially kids who like the simplicity of using one big compartment instead of fussing with lots of smaller pockets. It also gets great marks for durability: Some owners say their Superbreaks have held up for years.
HIGH SIERRA LOOP BACKPACK
Price: $35 | Buy it at Amazon
A great choice for high-schoolers or college students who need some extra room without paying a mint, the High Sierra Loop comes in 30 colors and patterns and has plenty of features. Those include a tablet sleeve, front organizer pocket with a key hook, water bottle pocket, and padded shoulder straps with a shock-absorbing suspension system.
POTTERY BARN KIDS MACKENZIE BACKPACK
Price: Starting at $27 | Buy it at Pottery Barn Kids
Mackenzie backpacks are a popular choice among parents who swear by Pottery Barn Kids' customizable, durable options. All can be personalized with names or initials, and colors, and patterns range from pink and glittery to camo and dinosaurs. There are three sizes to grow with your child, though the traditional designs may lose their appeal by the end of grade school. Got a kid with a really heavy load? There's a rolling backpack, too.
UNDER ARMOUR SCRIMMAGE BACKPACK
Price: $45 | Buy it at Dick's Sporting Goods
Ideal for brand-conscious kids, this sleek, water-repellant Under Armour backpack comes in an array of bright colors and patterns suitable for both boys and girls. Features include a lined laptop sleeve, mesh water bottle pockets, and a padded back panel. Reviewers say it's a great size for elementary and middle-schoolers.
DAKINE CAMPUS BACKPACK
Price: $55 | Buy it at eBags
A favorite among college kids, the Dakine Campus backpack has a sleek, understated design and comes in nearly a dozen muted colors and patterns. Roomy enough for thick textbooks, it also has a padded laptop sleeve, an insulated cooler pocket for lunches, a lined sunglasses pocket, and side pockets suitable for even large water bottles, reviewers say. A chest strap helps keep weight evenly distributed.
AMAZONBASICS CLASSIC BACKPACK
Price: $14.52 | Buy it at Amazon
The AmazonBasics Classic is a lightweight, mid-size backpack for anyone who's prioritizing budget over bells and whistles. Happy reviewers say it's plenty durable, with more pockets than you might expect for the price. A few owners warn the padding might be a bit thin for anyone who wants to tote a laptop without its own padded sleeve.
WILDKIN OLIVE KIDS SIDEKICK BACKPACK
Price: $20 | Buy it at Amazon
Ideal for preschoolers, kindergarteners, or younger grade-schoolers who don't need to carry a ton, the Wildkin Olive Kids Sidekick comes in dozens of cute patterns that coordinate with the company's lunch boxes. Unlike the Skip Hop Zoo, this bag is big enough to accommodate standard-size notebooks and folders, and a moisture-resistant interior lining helps make cleaning easy.
KAUKKO OUTDOOR BACKPACK
Price: $40 | Buy it at Amazon
Backpacks with vintage flair and leather accents like the Herschel Little America are all the rage, but if your kid isn't label-conscious, this Kaukko delivers the same style for half the price. Available in more than a dozen colors, it's made of water-repellant polyester and has a thickly padded back and shoulder straps. There's also a laptop compartment, easy-to-use drawstring closure, and two roomy water bottle pockets.
JWORLD NEW YORK SUNRISE ROLLING BACKPACK
Price: $45 | Buy it at Amazon
Rolling backpacks often come in staid, sensible neutrals, but not this mid-sized option from JWorld. Available in tons of colors and patterns, it's a solid pick for older kids who want to spare their backs from heavy loads. Features include a retractable handle, reflective accents, a padded back, and padded shoulder straps. The shoulder straps need be tucked in before rolling the bag, owners advise — otherwise they can drag on the ground and wear out.
K-CLIFFS CLEAR BACKPACK
Price: $25 | Buy it at Amazon
More schools are requiring students to carry see-through bags, but many of them are poorly constructed, parents say. Reviewers say that's not the case with this K-Cliffs backpack, which is made with thicker PVC than its competitors. Available with black, orange, purple or red trim, it has a mesh organizer in the front pocket and mesh water bottle pockets on both sides.
L.L.BEAN DISCOVERY GLOW BACKPACK
Price: $40 | Buy it at L.L.Bean
Legendary for their durability, L.L.Bean backpacks are always a popular buy among parents who want something that will last longer than one school year. The Discovery Glow backpack is among the outfitter's less expensive options, and the glow-in-the-dark designs have ample grade-school appeal. The waterproof fabric also has reflective accents, perfect for dark mornings at the bus stop.
BONDKA JUMPSTREET BACKPACK
Price: $36 | Buy it at Target
A sleek, unisex backpack best for high-school or college students, the Bondka Jumpstreet has a place for everything. There's a padded laptop compartment, three exterior zipper compartments, two main compartments, and even a zipper on one of the straps for stashing keys or ID cards. Owners say the padded back and straps keep things comfortable around campus, too.
MINECRAFT GREEN SWORD KIDS' BACKPACK
Price: $27 | Buy it at Target
Got a Minecraft fanatic on your hands? This sword backpack is sure to please. It includes a padded laptop sleeve — rare for backpacks aimed at younger kids — as well as plenty of compartments and exterior gear clips. The padded back even has pixelated stitching. Best of all, parents say the bag is sturdy enough for daily abuse.
KENOX VINTAGE FAUX LEATHER BACKPACK
Price: $27 | Buy it at Amazon
Real leather backpacks are a pretty penny, and many are too small to be practical for school. This faux leather bag has that luxe look for less, and enough room for textbooks and other necessary gear. There's a padded laptop sleeve inside, though some reviewers caution that only smaller laptops will fit. Other features include a padded back and stretchy mesh side pockets for water bottles and other small items.
EVEREST DELUXE WHEELED BACKPACK
Price: $45 | Buy it at eBags
This inexpensive rolling backpack outperforms its relatively low price tag, reviewers say. Available mostly in solid colors, it has plenty of pockets, a telescoping handle, padded straps, and a chest strap for extra support when rolling isn't an option. Owners say it rolls smoothly and doesn't tip over when it's full like many competing bags, but a few wish there was a padded laptop compartment.
ROXY SHADOW SWELL BACKPACK
Price: $45 | Buy it at Amazon
Girls who want to stand out will find plenty to love with the Roxy Shadow Swell, available in vibrant, colorful patterns that will appeal to a wide age range. Features include a padded laptop sleeve, neoprene tablet sleeve, and fleece-lined top pocket great for phones and sunglasses. Owners say there's plenty of room for heavy textbooks, too.
SWISS GEAR 1900 SCANSMART BACKPACK
Price: $60 | Buy it at Amazon
Teens or college kids who want to baby their technology will appreciate this roomy, feature-packed Swiss Gear backpack. It has a padded laptop compartment and tablet sleeve, cell phone pocket with a headphone port, and mesh pockets perfect for chargers. Other bells and whistles include a carabiner, accordion file holder, and thickly padded mesh back.
OBERSEE ALL-IN-ONE PRESCHOOL BACKPACK
Price: $30 | Buy it at Amazon
A lunch box is just one more thing for your tot to lose. This Obersee, available in a ton of whimsical colors and patterns, features an integrated cooler pocket that can keep lunch or snacks nice and cool. The main compartment is just big enough for standard folders, and the padded back and chest strap will keep little backs from straining.
HOTSTYLE TRENDYMAX BACKPACK
Price: $25 | Buy it at Amazon
From pandas to pixelated aliens, this basic backpack offers plenty of bold patterns that grade-schoolers will adore. It's made of water-resistant polyester, and parents say it's a great size for elementary school, when kids may need to carry lunch and folders or workbooks, but nothing too heavy. A couple of "secret" pockets add to the appeal for kids.