When we look for cool backpacks for teens, it’s not enough for them to just be, you know, cool. As kids head to middle school or high school— especially after a whole year at home more or less (sigh) — they need bigger, sturdier backpacks, better shoulder straps, and more pockets and features than their grade school backpacks offered.
We also think about laptop and tablet protection, pockets for those essential smartphones phones we hear the kids like, and of course…totally cool exteriors.
Tall order? Perhaps. But we love so many of the backpacks for teens that we’re seeing this year, which reflect every kind of taste, from sporty to sophisticated, silly to chic, and everything in between. Some are a little more expensive, but they’re also designed to protect some really expensive gear inside.
Bonus tip: Be sure to double check the sizes! We didn’t include toddler sizes in our list, but some teens are toting more actual books to and from school than others, and you ensure that their backpack is big enough for all their needs.
Bonus tip 2: Also take a peek at some of our favorite backpacks for little kids, which may include some styles teens like ironically. I mean, do you ever really outgrow Studio Ghibli?
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Cool backpacks for teens this year: Our favorite picks
Fjällräven Kånken 15″ Laptop Backpack or Fjällräven 13″ Kånken Laptop Backpack ($120, $80 at Nordstrom)
Let’s start with the classic Swedish school bag, which never seems to go out of style. It’s so durable, it will probably outlast the laptop inside. The 15″ is perfect for kids with lots of gear (electronic or not), or size down a bit for great savings.
Plus, these backpacks for teens come in soooo many color s including some cool two-toned options.
Our tip though: Go with the darker colors. Even if they fall in love with the sky blue or pale yellow, the darker colors look fresher a whole lot longer.
Herschel Pop Quiz Laptop Backpack ($79.99, Herschel Supply Co)
Liz’s daughter is going on her third year with this backpack and that’s saying something! It holds up so well, the size is great (with a padded sleeve for a 15″ laptop or tablet), and that faux leather bottom not only looks smart, but it helps protect whatever is extra-precious inside.
Adidas Trefoil Backpack ($50, Journeys)
This classic sporty backpack for teens is so huge again, proving that athletic kids have style too. It offers plenty of room for books, tech, water bottles, and a uniform for practice after school. Comes in this bold red, plus pink and black.
Herschel 15″ NBA Settlement Laptop Backpack ($51.99 on sale, Herschel Supply Co)
Love the Herschel backpack but want something with more personality than the solids? Grab your own favorite NBA team — there are 11 options. (Sorry WNBA fans…maybe soon for us?)
Rains Faux Leather Backpack ($115, Nordstrom)
Teens with subtle style will love this faux leather backpack in khaki and black. Especially because it’s waterproof, and will really protect all those headphones, tablets, phones, and other gadgets that may be inside. The kind of investment that helps protect your investment.
Basketball Kane Kids backpack ($85, State Bags)
Want to share your love for hoops without committing to a team? Love this brand new backpack from State that’s shipping this week.
OBEY Takeover Camo Backpack ($54.97, Tilly’s)
Camo is big this year as you can tell, and one more cool camo backpack for teens we love features the Andre the Giant OBEY patch — or as we think of it, the street meme from before people called them memes.
Star Wars Classic XL Backpack ($80, Herschel Supply Co at Nordstrom)
Where are our Star Wars fans?! If binging on The Mandalorian got them through quarantine, this cool Boba Flett inspired backpack from Herschel is the one you’ve been looking for. (Ha.) Such a subtly cool print that doesn’t scream STAR WARS FAN, HERE.
Vans “Off the Wall” Checkerboard backpack ($36, Journeys)
The classic skate culture checkerboard pattern, only with a cool rainbow update. Our teens are obsessed with this one!
Blended Designs backpacks 1954 Collection ($30+, Blended Designs)
Named for the year that Brown v. Board of Education was decided, these dozen or so backpack designs are all beautifully illustrated, featuring kids in whole range of brown and black skin tones.
Galaxy Print Superbreak Plus Backpack and Pastel Ombre Superbreak Plus Backpack ($40, Journey’s)
Jansport bags last so long, some of us still have our own from high school and college! They last for years, they’re great for hand-me-downs, and both of these patterns are so on trend. Plus, hard to beat this price for the quality.
Kipling 15” Seoul Go laptop backpack ($89.99 on sale, Kipling)
Don’t let the sleek photo be deceptive — this laptop backpack for teens (on huuuuge sale now!) is a full 17.25″ tall and 9″ deep giving them plenty of room for tech and other essentials. We love the contrast of this rainbow logo over the minimalist black and white, though there are plenty of solid colors too. These bags really hold up beautifully for years. It’s a smart choice.
Mondrian #38 backpack ($47,99 on sale, Rockett Graphics shop at Society 6)
By Rockett Graphics, this 17.5″ tall option is the perfect backpack for any teen pursuing fine art. Plus, Societ 6 backpacks support indecent artists themselves, and get great reviews for quality,
Deadpool Built-Up Backpack ($60, Hot Topic)
If they’re old enough to watch it, we say they’re old enough for the backpack. Fits many chimichangas, by the way.
Kane Kids Large Backpack ($100, State Bags)
State’s hugely popular, durable bag is now out in a larger size, with a padded laptop sleeve. It can even be personalized with a name, initials, a patch, or one of 20 icons. (We like the one that says “VOTE.”)
Eco-conscious teens should check out the selection of recycled poly-canvas backpacks from State, with 90% made from recycled materials.
Jumpman Air Jordan backpack (39, Amazon)
Since teens are raiding their Gen X parents’ closets these days, we think this retro 90s Jumpman Logo bag will be a hit with sports fans.
The Backpack ($165, Away Bags)
One more option we love for a simple, hard-working backpack for older teens is this highly-rated, durable nylon laptop backpack from Away Bags. You get what you pay for her, though it’s definitely spendy so pick a color they won’t outgrow for a long time.
LL Bean Comfort Carry backpack ($69.95, Nordstrom)
If your teen wants a backpack that’s simple, no-fuss, and really durable, LL Bean backpacks are a winner. And hey, if you want to up the “cool” factor, ours cover logos with patches to make it their own.
Naruto Shippuden Kakashi sling bag ($39, Hot Topic)
This unusual sling style bag is big enough for your manga fan’s notebooks and an iPad. So if your teen travels light it’s a good fit. But they’ll have to make do with last year’s bag for a little while, because this one is on preorder until October.
Adaptive Backpack for Wheelchairs ($39, Target)
Finding adaptive backpacks for teens who use wheelchairs for mobility can be tricky — so much so that this style is already selling out. Sign up for a restock notice on this sharp, affordable adaptive backpack at Target, which is highly functional for kids who need to strap their bags to their chairs instead of their shoulders.