43 Best Cute Backpacks for College Students [Our Picks for 2022]

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cute backpacks for college students

We teach college students, so we’re always watching and listening for their favorite products. The ones that get rave reviews. Cute backpacks for college students are a must-have, but there are lots of different features to consider.  The best college backpacks out there offer a wide range of options.

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Every student needs to cart around school supplies, but what they carry depends on their daily schedule and ability to stop home during the day. As students move from high school to college, or even as they move through college and have different needs, there are times that call for a new good backpack.

Consider What the College Students Will Carry

Cute backpacks for college students still should start with functionality. Ask key questions like:

  • Will you be carrying a laptop? If so, what size (typically 15-inch vs 17-inch)?
  • How many books and notebooks need to fit in the backpack before you can come home and reload?
  • Do you have lots of small items to store?
  • Is the backpack primarily for school or also for hiking or travel?

Some backpacks can crossover from lugging textbooks on campus to a weekend hike, but a classic backpacks and a travel backpack can vary a lot in terms of features. Understand the primary purpose of the backpack as you review features of the different bags below.

Best Backpacks for Comfort

Collegiate women may want to look for backpacks that are smaller or have adjustable straps or more comfortable straps if they’ll be carrying them for longer days.

Adjustable shoulder straps or even a top carry handle can reduce the strain on the back of carrying heavy textbooks around campus. The American Chiropractic Association recommends that backpacks fit closely to the back to prevent injury. Backpacks with multiple pockets to distribute the weight of items can also help minimize the negative impact of daily use. Cute backpacks for college students should still come with comfort.

Cute Backpacks Still Need to Get the Job Done

Most backpacks include at least one large compartment along with side pockets (or side water bottle pockets) or a front pocket.

Some backpacks provide an external USB port or headphone jack. Others are made out of water resistant fabric or even waterproof material to protect electronics. Cute backpacks for college students can still be super functional.

Stylish Backpacks Do Exist

When you’re looking for cute backpacks for college student, it really does come down to what your college student **thinks** looks cute. Does she like sporty? Floral? Color block? A certain color? A backpack that looks more like a suped-up purse? A great backpack that is also a stylish backpack is a win-win.

Brands Matter to College Students

College girls often like certain brands because they’re trendy or known for high quality. Other brands catch their eye because they have a give-back mission. For example, the Ivory Ella backpack below helps protect elephants, and the Day Owl backpacks were created from recycled landfill-bound materials. Today’s Gen Z college students care about brands and what they stand for.

Backpacks make great gifts for high school and college students. We consider ourselves experts on gifts for older kids, so jump over to our list of the best gifts for tween & teen girls if you’re looking for other ideas.

The North Face Borealis

North Face is a staple when is comes to cute backpacks for college students. The Borealis is a top pick. It has a spacious large main pocket and mesh water bottle pockets. It’s also created to be a laptop bag, with a padded laptop compartment. It also comes in different colors.

Key Features

  • 20+ colors
  • Separate and protected laptop compartment
  • Extra padded tablet sleeve in the front compartment
  • External fleece-lined pocket for small items or electronics
  • Top handle and removable waist belt for a custom fit

The North Face Women’s Vault

The Women’s Vault is also a laptop bag, but comes with added design specifically for comfort. The flexible shoulder straps and lumbar panel earn this bag an endorsement from the American Chiropractic Association. Many college students would point to North Face as the best choice in backpacks.

Key Features

  • Water-repellent finish
  • Endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association.
  • Flexible shoulder straps, padded mesh back panel and breathable lumbar panel for comfortable, ventilated support.
  • Large main compartment and padded laptop sleeve.

The North Face Surge

Don’t let the sleek design fool you, the Surge has plenty of room for a day’s worth of campus supplies. It’s also endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association for its FlexVent suspension system to protect students’ backs and shoulders when they’re carrying a heavy load.

Key Features

  • Endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association
  • Large main compartment and padded laptop sleeve
  • Stand-up design and external secure-zip pockets keep cell phone and other items securely inside
  • Top handle for easy grabbing and removable waist belt for a custom fit
  • Sternum strap with whistle buckle for extra support and safety

The North Face Women’s Pivoter

This laptop backpack has a large main compartment plus a padded laptop sleeve. It’s also engineered to fit women

Key Features

  • Endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association
  • Large main compartment and padded laptop sleeve
  • Simplified organization and women-specific fit
  • Can stand completely unsupported
  • Front external stash pocket provides quick access and holds a jacket.

The North Face Jester

The classic Jester pack was updated with a padded laptop sleeve and a tablet sleeve in the front compartment. It has the ability to stand up unsupported, and the best part might be that it carries an American Chiropractic Association endorsement.

Key Features

  • Endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association
  • Large main compartment and padded laptop sleeve
  • Can stand up completely unsupported
  • Flexible shoulder straps, padded mesh back panel and a breathable lumbar panel for comfortable, ventilated support
  • Padded laptop sleeve and front compartment with tablet sleeve.
  • Front bungee system for additional storage
  • Top handles allow for easy grabbing and sternum strap for extra support

JanSport SuperBreak One

The JanSport backpack has been around for years and still carries a lifetime warranty. This is their classic, durable bookbag with a large main compartment and front utility pocket with built-in organizer that provides small pockets. I still have my JanSport backpack from college — so I can vouch that they last a long time.

Key Features

  • Straight-cut padded shoulder straps and padded back panel and a top haul handle
  • Large main compartment
  • Lifetime warranty

JanSport Big Student Backpack

This JanSport backpack has two large compartments with a double zipper and a 15-inch laptop sleeve for even more storage. As a big backpack, it has enough room for anything a college student needs to tote.

Key Features

  • Separate padded 15″ laptop compartment
  • Made in part with recycled materials
  • Ergonomic shoulder straps, padded back panel and top handle
  • Lifetime warranty

JanSport Mono SuperBreak Backpack

This monochrome bag looks a bit more urban and edgy, but still carries the JanSport lifetime warranty.

Key Features

  • Spacious main compartment
  • 15″ internal laptop sleeve
  • Mesh padded shoulder straps
  • Lifetime warranty

JanSport Cortlandt

The functionality of a traditional backpack with a few additional style elements, like vegan leather trim. JanSport backpacks are a staple on any college campus, and the accessory pocket on the front flap of this bag is a nice added feature.

Key Features

  • Large main compartment
  • Padded 15″ laptop sleeve
  • Flap pocket with organizer for storing cables, cords and accessories
  • Premium vegan leather on bottom base and trims
  • Lifetime warranty

Fjallraven Women’s Kanken Backpack

The iconic Fjallraven design has lots of storage, and the high quality materials and other features are unique from other traditional backpacks. The water-resistant fabric makes it perfect for rainy days.

Key Features

  • Comes in 12 colors
  • Fabric is dirt-resistant, water-resistant and wipes clean
  • Ergonomic shoulder straps and dual top snap handles
  • Sitting pad for impromptu seating

Fjallraven Kanken Laptop Backpack for Everyday

The classic style of the Fjallraven Kanken backpack with an added padded compartment for a laptop. It has offers three extra pockets to hold the various items needed for busy college days.

Key Features

  • Comes in 15″ and 17″ laptop sizes
  • Main compartment, padded laptop compartment and three extra pockets
  • Fabric is dirt-resistant, water-resistant and wipes clean
  • Ergonomic shoulder straps and dual top snap handles

Fjallraven Re-Kanken Recycled and Recyclable Kanken Backpack for Everyday

This version of the iconic Kanken backpack is made from polyester recycled from 11 plastic water bottles. That’s a pretty good reason to choose this great college backpack.

Key Features

  • Made from polyester recycled from 11 plastic water bottles
  • Adjustable shoulder straps and dual top snap handles for easy carry
  • Main zippered compartment, front zippered pocket and two open side pockets

Day Owl The Backpack

Day Owl is all about sustainability. When you’re ready for a new bag, send your current bag back and the company will find a way to give it new life. This bag has a lot of storage. Day Owl also offers this in a slim version for students who need less space.

Key Features

  • Padded laptop pocket fits up to a 16″ laptop
  • Spill-resistant bottle pocket is lined with water-repellent neoprene to hold water bottles or wet umbrellas
  • Floating top pocket for glasses or small items
  • Waxed canvas made from 100% recycled post-consumer plastic bottles and 100% recycled polyester lining and trim

Day Owl Slim Backpack

Smaller than the original Day Owl backpack, the slim backpack still offers a padded laptop pocket that fits up to a 14″ laptop. And college students will love that the brand is “100% circular,” meaning that nothing goes to a landfill and the company takes back used backpacks.

Key Features

  • Comes in 6 colors
  • Padded laptop pocket fits up to a 14″ laptop
  • Spill-resistant bottle pocket is lined with water-repellent neoprene
  • Floating top pocket for glasses or small items
  • Waxed canvas made from 100% recycled post-consumer plastic bottles and 100% recycled polyester lining and trim

Matein Travel Laptop Backpack

This backpack is great for students who also want to use backpacks for travel. Several features make it great for overnight travel or flights.

Key Features

  • Large main compartment
  • Comes in two sizes to fit either a 15.6″ or 17″ laptop in separate compartment
  • Padded back design and padded top handle
  • Luggage strap to slide over luggage upright handle
  • Built-in USB charger outside and charging cable inside give easy access to a charger to make charging while walking easy

Osprey Fairview 40 Travel Pack

For college students with plans to travel, this Osprey backpack will double as a school backpack and a weekend travel pack. We also like that it’s designed specifically for women.

Key Features

  • Women-specific design makes it a more comfortable backpack
  • Can be carried as a backpack, messenger bag or duffel with padded shoulder strap
  • Padded laptop compartment that fits up to 15″ laptop
  • Separate tablet sleeve
  • Lockable sliders on main compartment and laptop/tablet sleeves (locks sold separately)

Herschel Retreat Backpack

This popular Herschel backpack comes in several size options, but the standard fits up to a 15″ laptop. It’s fashionable and functional.

Key Features

  • 28 color options
  • Padded and fleece lined 15″ laptop sleeve
  • Contoured shoulder straps
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Free ground shiping

Venture Pal

This backpack is more equipped for hiking and overnight trips and can easily store a change of clothes. It offers multiple compartments, including a waterproof pocket.

Key Features

  • Tear and water-resistant nylon fabric
  • Padded shoulder straps and chest clip
  • Waterproof wet pocket with zipper for wet or sweaty clothes or umbrellas

Patagonia Black Hole Travel Pack

This bag works for school or sport, with an internal padded sleeve that protects a laptop or a hydration reservoir. It’s also made from recycled material.

Key Features

  • Large main compartment
  • Padded sleeve for 15″ laptop or hydration reservoir
  • Padded should straps
  • Body and lining fabrics are recycled material
  • Durable water repellent finish

Patagonia Atom Tote Pack

This pack fits a little smaller, which can be great for collegiate women. It also has removable tech storage with a padded laptop sleeve that comes out.

Key Features

  • Smaller fit is ideal for women
  • Pack straps plus tote straps with snap for carrying options
  • Removable padded laptop sleeve fits up to 13″ laptop
  • All fabrics are recycled
  • Water repellant coating that sheds moisture and resists stains

Lululemon City Adventurer

Lululemon is a top brand with college students, and they’ll love this sleek backpack to tote anything from books to sweaty workout gear.

Key Features

  • Durable and water repellant fabric
  • Padded laptop sleeve fits up to a 15″ laptop
  • Quick access phone pocket
  • Built-in expandable pocket for sweaty gear

Himawari

This bag comes in tons of colors and opens up like a doctor’s bag to give great access to everything inside. It’s also the only waterproof backpack on the list (though many are water resistant).

Key Features

  • More than 30 color options
  • Fits up to a 15″ laptop
  • Eco-friendly waterproof canvas
  • Padded back panel and adjustable shoulder straps
  • Built-in detachable USB cable that can connect to your own power bank

Herschel Little America Laptop Backpack

This signature backpack comes in 24 colors, including some fun Andy Warhol inspired designs like this one with Warhol’s famous Banana (this also became Velvet Undergound’s debut album cover).

Key Features

  • 24 colors
  • Comes in two size options with padded laptop sleeves for either a 13″ or a 15″ laptop
  • Contoured, padded backstraps
  • Free ground shipping

Herschel Heritage

The Heritage comes in 23 color options and fits a larger laptop, all with a sleek and minimal design. A modern take on a classic backpack style.

Key Features

  • Weather-resistant canvas
  • 15″ laptop sleeve
  • Air mesh back padding
  • Front pocket to keep small items separate
  • Free ground shipping

Herschel Settlement

The Settlement offers the signature Herschel style with the added benefit of the laptop sleeve.

Key Features

  • 17 color options
  • 15″ laptop sleeve
  • Air mesh back padding
  • Front pocket to keep small items separate
  • Free ground shipping

Herschel Classic

The Herschel Classic comes in 8 colors and four sizes. Simple design and classic style.

Key Features

  • 8 color options
  • Signature striped liner
  • Front pocket to keep small items separate
  • Free ground shipping

Vera Bradley

Made of colorful, lightweight cotton, this backpack is styligsh and machine washable.

Key Features

  • Lightweight
  • Two interior mesh pockets for laptops or tablets
  • Machine washable recycled cotton fabric

Adidas Foundation Backpack

A good looking backpack at a good price. This comes in multiple colors and carries a lifetime warranty.

Key Features

  • Padded shoulder straps and back panel
  • Interior laptop sleeve
  • Lifetime warranty

The North Face Women’s Recon Backpack

This is an update of an iconic North Face design, now with women-specific suspension and lots of organization options.

Key Features

  • Large main compartment
  • Padded laptop sleeve and tablet sleeve
  • Removable waist belt for a custom fit and sternum strap for extra support
  • Endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association

Kenneth Cole “Chelsea” Quilted Chevron Backpack

This stylish Kenneth Cole backpack transitions from campus to work to weekend bag, so it’s a great option for older college students and a solid option for the list of cute backpacks for college students.

Key Features

  • Water-resistant exterior
  • Padded laptop pocket fits up to 15″ laptop
  • Padded tablet pocket in main compartment
  • Breathable and adjustable shoulder straps

Bostanten Leather Laptop Backpack

This leather backpack makes it perfect for students heading to internships after class or preparing for post-grad jobs. We wanted to make sure our list of cute backpacks for college students included some professional options.

Key Features

  • 9 colors
  • Leather exterior and polyester lining
  • Laptop pocket for 15″ laptop

Lekesky Laptop Backpack

Water-repellent backpack with stylish top handles and front patterned pocket detail that gives it a chic design. The large opening at the top makes it easier to store and grab folders and textbooks.

Key Features

  • Large main compartment with top opening
  • Sleeve for a 15″ laptop
  • Water resistant fabric

Cluci Women’s Backpack

This backpack purse has a detachable shoulder strap, giving it three different ways to be carried. A search for cute backpacks for college students won’t turn up many others with this feature.

Key Features

  • Back straps and detachable long shoulder strap for three different ways to carry
  • 16 colors
  • Water-resistant soft leather
  • Roomy. main compartment with interior zipper pocket

Dagne Dover

This smaller backpack fits all of the essentials, including a tablet. The neoprene fabric and monochromatic design give it a unique and modern look, so we had to include it on our list of cute backpacks for college students.

Key Features

  • Neoprene fabric is water resistant
  • Air mesh tablet sleeve
  • Water resistant
  • 100% vegan

Adidas Women’s VFA Backpack

This backpack is sized specifically for women and comes in four colors. It’s a popular backpack because it’s still large enough for a smaller laptop and other gear needed for busy college life.

Key Features

  • Padded laptop sleeve for a 13″ laptop
  • Premium airmesh material
  • Dual water bottle pockets

Adidas 3 Stripes Backpack

The iconic 3-stripe Adidas is a spacious backpack has ample room for school work or travel.

Key Features

  • 8 colors
  • Large main compartment
  • Padded laptop sleeve
  • Padded back panel and shoulder straps

Adidas Striker 2 Backpack

This durable and larger backpack is ready to take on larger loads of books, sports practice or weekend travel.

Key Features

  • 8 colors
  • 3 zippered main compartments
  • Padded shoulder straps and back panel
  • Internal laptop sleeve fits up to a 16″ computer

Ivory Ella Backpack

Ivory Ella is a give-back brand college women will love. Up to 50% of profits are donated to Save the Elephants and other charitable causes.

Key Features

  • Interior pockets and laptop sleeve
  • Adjustable straps
  • Up to 50% of profits donated to Save the Elephants and other charitable causes

Pura Vida Sunset Backpack

College women will love the look of the Pura Vida bags. They’ll also love that the company stands for something.

Key Features

  • Large main compartment
  • Side water bottle holder
  • Custom Pura Video patch
  • Pura Vida Bracelets brand provides sustainable jobs to artisans worldwide

Pura Vida Color Block Backpack

A retro look from a give-back brand is a win-win when it comes to a cute backpack for college students.

Key Features

  • Large main compartment
  • Side water bottle holder
  • Custom Pura Video patch
  • Pura Vida Bracelets brand provides sustainable jobs to artisans worldwide

Lovevook Laptop Backpack

This bag has both a padded laptop compartment and a separate padded pocket for a tablet. There are also two size options depending whether you want to fit a 15-inch laptop or a 17-inch laptop. The quilted detail on the front pocket adds a fun style element.

Key Features

  • 15 color options
  • Size options for a 15″ or 17″ laptop
  • Padded separate laptop compartment
  • Antitheft pocket near a USB charging port to let phones charge while walking

If you have a high schooler and stress about the college admissions process, we can help! We work at a major university, and Kristie is married to a former admissions counselor. Check out our expert advice on the college admissions process.

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