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 we hear the kids like to use every so often, a place for a water bottle (gotta hydrate!) and of course…teen-approved 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 while some teens are fairly digital, others still tote actual books and notebooks to and from school, and it’s good to be sure that their backpack is big enough and sturdy enough for all their needs.
Bonus tip 2: Also take a peek at some of our favorite backpacks for little kids, which includes styles some teens like ironically. I mean, do you ever really outgrow Studio Ghibli?
Updated for 2023
This post contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission from certain purchases to help support our team at no additional cost to you. All picks are selected by our editorial team.
Cool backpacks for teens this year: Our favorite picks
Fjällräven Kånken 15″ Waterproof Laptop Backpack ($120 at Nordstrom)
Fjällräven Kånken Classic Waterproof Backpack ($90 at Nordstrom)
Let’s start with the classic Swedish school bag, which never seems to go out of style. It’s so durable, it’s likely to outlast the laptop inside, and I know this from experience. The 15″ is perfect for kids with lots of gear, electronic or not. Plus, these backpacks for teens come in soooo many colors including some cool two-toned options. My BTDT tip: 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.
“Kånken Me” Custom Color Fjällräven Kånken Backpack ($140, Fjällräven website)
Want to go a little extra? You can upgrade your teen’s backpack style with this new custom color offering from Fjällräven. Just know it will take about 3-4 weeks to ship so order asap.
Herschel Pop Quiz Laptop Backpack ($95, Herschel Supply Co)
Liz’s daughter went three full years of high school 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.
Kipling Seoul 15” laptop backpacks (As low as $79-99 on sale, Amazon)
Don’t let the sleek photo deceive you–this laptop backpack for teens is a full 17.25″ tall and 9″ deep giving your teens plenty of room for tech and other essentials. Kipling backpacks are a top seller among our readers for the past few back-to-school seasons because they really hold up beautifully for years. It’s a smart purchase.
Thule Lithos 20L Backpack ($89.95, Nordstrom)
New for 2023: This backpack from Thule. They don’t just make those indestructible car-top carriers; they also make a sweet, very adult backpack that’s perfect for teens in high school or college. The water-resistant exterior is smart, and as moms, gotta say we appreciate those reflective details that enhance visibility for kids coming home after dark or heading out before dawn. The padded storage can handle up to a 16″ laptop too, so it’s great for budding STEM or design majors.
Adidas Prime Laptop Backpack ($70, Adidas)
This classic sporty backpack for teens is 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, with some cool two-tone color options as well.
Hershel Retreat Backpack ($80 with some colors on sale for $56, Hershel Supply)
This smaller Retreat backpack from Hershel (also in the collage up top) is beautiful and sturdy, with pockets for water bottles and a protective sleeve for a #13-14 laptop. Plus it’s made from recycled fabrics in 18 colors and patterns, like this gorgeous floral — or stick with the classic black with leather straps.
Herschel MLB Cooperstown Heritage Backpacks ($50.99 on sale, Fanatics)
Love the Herschel backpack but want something with more personality than the solids? Grab your own favorite team, including these way cool heritage MLB team backpacks. There are lots of fun options (though we’re still waiting for a WNBA collaboration) and they go fast, so if you see your teen’s dream backpack, grab it.
Rains Mini Waterproof Backpack ($95, Nordstrom; blue still available)
Teens with adult style will love this waterproof backpack for back-to-school that’s big enough to hold a laptop and a few other items — and keep them dry. The kind of investment that helps protect your investment. It’s a great brand and there are some other color options too.
Kane Double-Pocket backpack from 45% Recycled Materials ($125, State Bags)
State’s best-selling Kane backpack for teens is now available in some new colors, from a 45% recycled poly-canvas blend. Great for those eco-conscious Gen-Zers…and the planet.
Vans Old Stool H20 Checkerboard Backpack ($45, Vans)
While there are lots of Vans backpacks for teens that they’ll love, we can’t resist the classic skate culture checkerboard pattern from the 80s. Which are, evidently, back. Great price too.
Jansport Superbreak Plus Backpacks ($45 on sale, Amazon)
Jansport bags last so long, some of us still have our own from high school and college! It’s kind of amazing. The galaxy pattern has been a bestseller for years (space is always cool), and as far as the new Jansport backpacks for teens, love the iridescent “Static Drip.”
Jumpman Air Jordan backpack ($58 on sale, 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 hoops fans. Even if they were never old enough to see Jordan play live.
Mondrian #38 backpack ($73 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, Society 6 backpacks support indecent artists themselves, and get great reviews for quality,
The Away Bags Small Everywhere Backpack ($175, Away Bags)
One more option we recommend if you need a simple, hard-working backpack for older teens: this highly-rated, durable nylon laptop backpack from Away Bags. It’s spendy for sure but by all accounts, you definitely get what you pay for here. We suggest you pick a color backpack your teens won’t outgrow for a long time, and prepare to pass along to younger siblings.
Pink Kawaii Wings Backpack ($39.90, Hot Topic)
IIf you’ve got cosplayers or kawaii fans at home like we do, they might prefer to stash notebooks in a tote and carry a tiny backpack like this one just for the essentials –you know, lip balm, keys, phone, contour makeup, spare pink wig. Hot topic always has a great selection for the tiny backpack aficionados, so look around for other options from some cool licenses.
LL Bean Comfort Carry backpack ($69.95, LL Bean)
If your teen wants a backpack that’s simple, no-fuss, and truly durable, LL Bean backpacks are a perennial winner. And hey, if you want to up the “cool” factor, our kids cover the logos with patches to make it their own.
Adaptive Backpack for Wheelchairs ($39.99, Target)
Finding adaptive backpacks for teens who use wheelchairs for mobility can be tricky — so much so that this style sold out like crazy and Target added lots of new ones. Check out the selection of sharp, affordable adaptive backpack at Target, which are highly functional for kids who need to strap their bags to their chairs instead of their shoulders.