Guys, you asked so we delivered. We’ve got the 7 backpacks for university and/or college. Maybe you’re a high schooler about to make an epic journey to the land of college. Or, maybe you’re a parent and you want to gift your soon-to-be college graduate a badass backpack, right? To carry them on their journey. Whatever your needs, these are the best college backpacks. And obviously, we’re not just reading these packs off the list. We have tried, tested, and reviewed every single pack that we’re about to talk.
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And now, time for backpack theory: What makes a great college/university backpack? So, we actually asked some of our interns who are in college right now – what they think is crucial for a college backpack? And they gave us some really good feedback. They said it needs to be: Compact, Lightweight, it has a good Laptop compartment and some smaller pockets for organization, and got to be Stylish. Now, it’s worth noting that these backpacks are a little bit more on the expensive side. And for college/uni you can get by with just a JanSport, you don’t need to splurge on these premium sorts of backpack but, if you got a bit of a budget and you want the pack to last for all 4, 6, 8 years of university, these are the best options.
BELLROY CLASSIC BACKPACK PLUS
First up on the list is the BELLROY CLASSIC BACKPACK PLUS. And I think it is obvious why this is number 1 on the list of best college backpacks because it got that “70’s university, I’m smart and I’m here to get even smarter” type of look and aesthetic feel to it. The gist of this pack is simplicity and a decent amount of organization. One thing I love is the side pocket and front access – just swing it around, unzip, grab whatever you need especially your keys, very nice to have. The laptop compartment is protected with the PU coated YKK zipper, it’s a half access. There’s a nice tasteful of the tabs, go ahead and then kaboom, nice space for your laptop, which can fit up to a 16-inch laptop. Main compartment has a decent organization. No water bottle holder on the outside, you got in on the inside. Got a mesh compartment on the top. I love the feel of this mesh, super silky and elastic, that’s it.
Some quick pros and cons:
- Pro #1, it’s just super stylish. It got that really-smart-I’m-going-to-university look, perfect fit for college.
- Pro #2, really compact especially that main compartment. It’s going to hold all your college essentials.
- And Pro #3 is going to be the quick access while you are wearing the pack, the front compartment.
- But there are definitely some cons with the Bellroy Classic Backpack Plus, here’s my cons.
- Con #1 is while I’ll say the back padding is comfortable, it’s definitely not the most ventilated back panel out of all the college backpacks out there.
- Con #2 is while the lip is great for weather resistance, keeping rain out of your main zip, it might wear out and you can definitely sometimes get snagged with the zipper when you’re opening and closing it.
NOMATIC NAVIGATOR 6L SLING
Okay, next up on the list is the NOMATIC NAVIGATOR 6L SLING, or otherwise known as our top choice for a sling for college university. This sling is small, it’s not going to fit a laptop. But if you are only using a smaller tablet, like 11-inches, this is a great option for university. It’s a hard-shell sling with amazing accessibility. I just slung it around the shoulder and everything is accessible. Need to grab your pen, and/or notebook? All right there, ultimate accessibility. All the pockets are organized sideways so you can access them when you’re wearing it, when you sling it around front. We got a Junior Ballistic Nylon on the exterior, nice tarpaulin, smooth material. The zips do intertwine, giving you some anti-theft mechanism. And if you bring a water bottle with you, you can store it in the main compartment or you can use the nifty external storage.
Some quick pros and some cons:
- Pro #1 are going to be that ultimate accessibility as you are wearing the sling.
- Pro #2 for a sling, it got a really dope look to it.
- Pro #3 is your tech will be protected on rainy days with the PU coated, weather-resistant zippers.
- But there are cons.
- Con #1 it got a little extra fabric on the strap, which when you are wearing the sling it’s a little more puck out than usual, it kind of presses against your sternum.
- And Con #2 is it’s a little small. That’s not the sling’s fault, it’s meant to be small; but if you carry a laptop, it’s not going to fit in here but, if you carry a laptop and you are totally into the sling look, check out the AER TECH SLING 2 as our other top sling for college/university. It can fit up to a13-inch MacBook Pro.
ABLE CARRY THIRTEEN
Next up on our list is the ABLE CARRY THIRTEEN backpack aka our choice for someone who wants a college/university bag for the weekdays, but can double as an outdoor adventure backpack on the weekends. The main compartment, tidy and compact. A bit of organization tab, maybe some documents or papers. And a laptop compartment that has a really soft material. And then a hidden, safe compartment in the back panel. Water bottle pocket in the front, cool little angled-pocket in the front. The main external material is called X-Pac and it’s the same material you used on the sail cloth of sail boats. Sail cloth on sail boats is highly durable and highly weather resistant. It’s 13-Liters which is definitely on the smaller side, so if you carry a lot more gear on your day-to-day while you’re at college, this is going to be too small for you. But if you are looking for something small and compact and super durable that’s also great for outdoors, that’s what this guy is for.
Let’s talk about some pros and cons.
- Pro #1, super comfortable, and well-ventilated sort of straps.
- Pro #2, a very well-padded and super soft laptop compartment.
- And Pro #3, it’s weather-proof, great for college and/or outdoor activities.
- But, cons. Con #1, The X-Pac material on this bag, while super durable, that crinkliness can irk some.
- Con #2, it would have been nice to have a bit more ventilation on the back panel.
Next up is the WANDRD DUO aka our other choice for the best college backpack on weekdays/outdoor backpack on weekends, but the bigger version. For reference, 20-liters is more typical of an everyday carry size. 20L is big enough to carry all your college gear, without being too bulky. This is Poly-u Coated Ballistic Nylon, which means it’s highly water resistant. But it also got a good look to it, it wouldn’t be out of place in a college campus environment. The inside is fantastic for organizing all of your college tech-gear. It got a well-padded laptop sleeve, a bunch of side pockets for extra organizations, a collapsible cube which is made for photographers but you can also put other things like pack your lunch in there. One of my favorite things are the padded lens sleeves, they are for photographers. But it’s also great for just tech-gears, portable batteries, and my favorite – your Bluetooth mouse goes in there, it’s padded, highly secured, I love these pockets.
Let’s talk about the pros and some of the cons.
- Pro #1, a small thing that goes a long way, I love the functionality of the zipper poles.
- Pro #2, I love the throw all, expandable, silky, elastic compartment.
- And Pro #3, as you might have guessed, those “lens” pockets, they rock.
- Con #1, I don’t think it’s the most comfortable pack in the world, both the shoulder straps and the back padding are a little on the hard/stern side.
- And Con #2 is this black color, and the YKK PU coated zips, that makes it light airtight in this bag. If you leave it out in the sun, it kind of turns into an oven. If you’re cooking a pork roast, that’s a good thing. But if you got a laptop in there, it could be a bad thing. Something to keep in mind.
AER SLIM PACK
Next up, the AER SLIM PACK aka our pick for the “sexy, urban” backpack for university. While they called it the slim pack? This is a great backpack for university because it is compact, looks fantastic, and can safely hold all your tech-gear. It’s only 8-liters which is super small, but if you are only carrying laptop, charger, Bluetooth mouse, some papers, a hoodie, and that’s about it? You can definitely get away with this guy. It’s a super comfortable backpack, but can also double as a briefcase. I love the material the Aer uses in this pack, it is an 840 D nylon with a PU coating, so it means it is really weather-resistant. Back material is also nylon, but it is 1680 D from a company called Cordura. Cordura makes the best ballistic nylon in the game. We got some decent organization, quick access, sunglasses pockets on the top. And as for the main compartment, 5 pockets on one side. The laptop sleeves in itself are well-padded, has a microfiber material which is scratch-resistant, and it can fit up to a 15-inch laptop.
Let us discuss the pros and the cons, shall we?
- Pro #1, really great aesthetic.
- Pro #2, premium materials.
- And Pro #3, really great organization without an overkill.
- But even though I am an Aer fanboy, I can pick this thing apart with some cons.
- Con #1 is that briefcase mode just looks a little bit meh on the back side, I would’ve preferred a cleaner, stow-away system. A lot of you would be saying, “Oh it’s not a stow-away strap, it’s a luggage pass-through holder”, It’s both, okay bro?
- And Con #2, I would have like to have seen a little back padding to add a little bit extra ventilation.
DAY OWL BACKPACK
Next up on the list is the DAY OWL BACKPACK aka our pick for the “sexiest, retro” college backpack. The exterior materials are 100% recycled, and has a denim-y feel. But just because the materials are recycled, doesn’t mean they compromise their durability, and I love how this material accents the leather tabs. First you carry it not only as a backpack, but as a tote, because the handle is super comfortable, super maneuverable and balanced. And, you can also double up the luggage pass-through holder as a shoulder strap stow-away mechanism. We got decent amount of organization, pocket on the fronts, pocket on the top. The main compartment is super minimalist, two pockets inside, couple of cord holders or pen holders on the side. We got a big water bottle holder on the side, which is actually big enough to hold a bottle of wine which we tested and it’s true. ‘Coz be honest, if you are in Uni you might need to transport a bottle of wine or couple of tall boys a beer, and this will get the job done.
Let’s talk about some quick pros and cons with our Day Owl backpack.
- Pro #1, I love being able to carry this thing both in backpack mode and tote mode.
- Pro #2 is you really got a well-padded and large laptop compartment that can fit up to a 16-inch laptop.
- And Pro #3 is I love the metal hardware, not for just the weight and the feel – like a nice, premium feel, but also for the way that it looks.
- Con #1, the lack of back-padding, on hot summer days, this might get a little plastered to your back.
- And Con #2 is you have little lip which helps keep rain out, but lips like this can have a tendency to get frayed over time, or sometimes you just snag the zipper on it when you try to open and close the main compartment.
Next up is the BELLROY MELBOURNE backpack, or our pick for the best college backpack for creatives and designers. Why? It says “I’m an aspiring graphic designer” or “I’m a student of Architecture”. Whatever it is, this is the backpack that just give those vibes. It’s a top-loader which opens and closes with 2 very strong magnets. The materials are quite unique and it almost seems like they infused denim and plastic together. Love Bellroy’s branding with the leather tab, as well as the yellow accents on the straps, it’s a really nice-looking bag. We also get some great functionality, quick access side pockets, great for your sunglasses or wallet. Water bottle holder on the side, and when you get into the main compartment, you can access things from the top. But if you want to really get inside there is a zipper which really opens the bag up. You got two pockets, a tablet area, and this laptop holder holds up to a 13-inch laptop.
Pros and cons:
- Pro #1 are the design is on point with this pack.
- Pro #2, I love that Bellroy added a little leather tab so every time you open and closes laptop compartment, your finger just strokes ever so gently against it, and it’s really a nice touch.
- And Pro #3, I love the interior colors, not only are they fun, that yellow is a blast, but the lightness of the color helps to create a highlight effect inside the bag, which makes it easier to find your stuff.
- Two cons though, Con #1 the straps get a little thin down which can be uncomfortable, especially when you got a ton of gear in the pack.
- And Con #2 is this is not the most theft-resistant backpack in the world, it’s good if you’re in a safe college environment but if you’re in a city it might be a little more notorious for theft, you might want to look elsewhere.