Oh hi, it’s me, your handbag-obsessed friend in NYC, now looking for cute backpacks for summer. As I virtually window shop my way across the internet¬†I’m seeing lots of cute, colorful backpacks that are on trend for 2021 and my “add to cart” finger is getting itchy.

I’m not surprised that backpacks are in for summer; these days, we’re all carrying around spare masks, hand wipes, hand sanitizer, a book — basically more than just a single credit card and a phone. So cute summer backpacks happen to be pretty convenient, versus say a cross-body or even a tote.

As I explained last week when I shared my favorite oversized bags, I equate a new handbag with spring and renewal each year. It’s an easy, often affordable way to get your wardrobe up to style and pick up your mood if you’ve been #teamyogapants for a year now. And since I’m not buying “work clothes” besides maybe more of these, accessories it is!

Here are some of the cute summer backpacks I love right now, in lots of different price ranges.

Oh, and hint…Mother’s Day is coming up. Which has a particular relevance to us here at Cool Mom Picks, of course.

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Cute summer backpacks: This Cole Haan woven drawstring backpack is like a Botega designer bag at 1/10th the price (literally)

Cole Haan woven drawstring backpack | $438, Cole Haan

So let me get my #1 wishlist designer backpack out of the way: Cole Haan accessories have never let me down — they’re so well-crafted, and the shapes and styles are increasingly modern. This designer backpack is total ripoff of (I mean uh, inspired by) the classic Botega Veneta weave and OMG it’s gorgeous. Considering¬†Botega backpacks go up to about $4500, I am trying to see this one as a huge bargain. Kinda?

And hey, if you wear black all the time like me, YES, this perfect camel color is, in fact, a COLOR.



Cute summer backpacks: Longchamps Le Pliage Backpack in blue. Ooh!

Longchamps Le Pliage Club Backpack | $140, Nordstrom

Last week I waxed on about the enduring style of Longchamps’ Le Pliage totes, but if you’re thinking backpacks, voila! (Get it, French? Because, Longchamps?) I think this is pretty gorgeous in four different colors, and I love that leather flap over the nylon.

For an alternative that’s a little less money and a little sportier, check out the¬†Longchamp Le Pliage Foldable Backpack¬†for 20% off at Saks off Fifth. That color is like an injection of Vitamin C isn’t it?


Cute summer backpacks: The MZ Wallace quilted convertible backpack is water resistant too

MZ Wallace Water-Resistant Convertible Backpack | $245, Nordstrom

We’ve raved about MZ Wallace bags¬†for years — I even got Kristen a tote for Christmas a couple years back. ¬†So they’re a brand I always check first when I’m looking for cute summer backpacks and handbags of all kinds. This year, I’m seeing this fun backpack in that red dahlia color that converts quickly to a handbag with the straps on top. And water-resistant is always a good call for summer.



Cute summer backpacks: Woven straw summer backpack, great price at Nordstrom

Woven Straw Backpack | $79, Nordstrom

How much do I love this? (I love this!) For me, a go-with-anything woven straw bag is a summer accessory staple, and the fact that it’s now available as a chic summer backpack is amazing. Also, adjustable straps are key, and this bag has them. I wouldn’t overstuff it with stuff — but I’d love it for the basics and a spare cardigan for that surprise Arctic blast of store air conditioning.

PS I really do love this Nic + Zoe cardigan so much — I bought it it three colors a few years back, and wear them all the time.

Related: My absolute favorite summer sandal now offers a waterproof version and here take my money


Cute summer backpacks: Kate Spade's medium backpack in a gorgeous salmon they call peach melba

Kate Spade Medium Day Pack | $298, Kate Spade

Another gorgeous color I’m seeing a lot for summer is this kind of salmony-peachy pink. Or as Kate Spade calls it, “Peach Melba.” I love the not-too-big/not-too-small size of this 13.4″ tall bag — which, by the way, happens to be a “Leslie Odom Jr pick for Mother’s Day” on their site.” I don’t know what that means entirely, except that I love Leslie Odom Jr, he has great taste, and maybe it’s one more reason that someone should get you one for Mother’s Day.


Cute summer backpacks: lime mini pack from Sweaty Betty

Sweaty Betty All-Sport Mini Backpack | $85, Nordstrom

If you prefer a sportier backpack for summer, you are sensible! All that sweaty running around town, all those kids’ water bottles to carry… yeah, I know. but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a cute summer backpack that does all the things you want it to. I spotted this one at Nordstrom and surprised myself at how much I responded to that bright neon green (hey, 80s redux!). It’s also structured to hold quite a bit for a compact size — in fact, I’m surprised the brand calls it “mini.”


Cute summer backpacks: Bali backpack print from Aimee Kestenberg

Aimee Kestenberg Bali Backpack | $225, Nordstrom

Some day my prints will come…¬†okay, apologies. I’m punchy, it’s Monday. If like me, you’ve liked all the lizard and python prints of the past few years, they adapt so easily to summer style in the right shades. I love this softly structured, 10.5″ backpack from the popular Australian-born designer Aimee Kestenberg; it’s compact, but still large enough to BYOWB (bring your own water bottle) everywhere. Plus, all those pockets and flaps make me happy.

Oh and if the print isn’t your thing, check out the gorgeous teal green backpack in the same style on her site. Whoa.


Cute backpacks for summer: The MZ Wallace shibori print city backpack

MZ Wallace Shibori Print City Backpack | $225, MZ Wallace

If you like a more structured, classic schoolbag-style backpack, but with a little more style than the canvas backpacks your teens are wearing, MZ Wallace’s City Backpack style is for you. It comes in black and a stunning navy, but I’m taken with this print based on the Japanese shibori tie-dyeing technique. At 13.4″ tall it’s a smart size too.

Cute summer backpacks: Rains Waterproof Mini Backpack is perfect for a laptop in Pantone's Illuminating Yellow color of 2021

Rains Mini Backpack | $95, Bloomingdales

If like me, you plan on hauling your laptop to the nearest (safe, socially distant) cafe table, park bench, or patch of grass in your own backyard this summer, to force yourself outside a little more, a structured laptop backpack can be a versatile choice — and doesn’t have to look all business-y either. I looked around for a cute summer backpack in Pantone’s 2021 color, Illuminating Yellow, and found this terrific water-resistant option from Rains.

Also, they call it a “rucksack” which lets you say “please to help me with my rucksack” every chance you get, thus either delighting or annoying movie fans of a certain age.


Amazing steal: This canvas and leather backpack, handmade by an LA maker on Etsy

Handmade Canvas and Leather Backpack | $32, Crossed Paths LA

If you do like canvas backpacks? No problem! It still doesn’t have to look like a school bag though, especially if you go with more of a bucket bag shape, like the one shown here. These wildly affordable canvas backpacks with leather straps are handmade by a top SoCal Etsy seller. The three colors are so popular, there’s a waitlist. So, get yourself on it! That way you’ll be stocked up, accessorized, and ready to go by the time actual summer hits.