The Best Backpack for Grad School 2024 [Top 10]

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You’ve carried a backpack through your whole school career thus far.  From the bright colors and characters of elementary school, through the “cool” bags in middle and high school. 

But now? Now it’s time for a serious bag that can help you stay organized and ready for success throughout grad school. 

We’ve searched high and low, asked every student we know (and some we didn’t) for their takes. Here’s the result – our take on the best backpacks for grad school students!

Article: The Best Backpack for Grad School Image: Grads throwing hats in the air

The full reviews are after the tables, but for those who just want to jump right in – here’s the list we’re going to go through:

Booq DP-NVR Daypack Lightweight Everyday Laptop Backpack – Navy
RAINS Backpack for Women and Men - Fits 15" Laptop - Water Resistant Rucksack - (Black, One Size)
Our Choice!
YETI Crossroads Backpack 23
Timbuk2 Division Laptop Backpack, Fog
Samsonite Modern Utility Paracycle Laptop Backpack
Booq Lightweight Everyday Laptop Backpack
Rains Men's Backpack
YETI Crossroads Backpack
TIMBUK2 Division Laptop Backpack
Samsonite Modern Utility Paracycle Laptop Backpack
Surprisingly spacious, with expandable side pockets
Waterproof, stylish faux-leather
Very comfortable, durable materials, convenient compartments with magnetic closures
Multiple organizer sections, mesh back panel
Durable, looks good, bottom is water-resistant
Booq DP-NVR Daypack Lightweight Everyday Laptop Backpack – Navy
Booq Lightweight Everyday Laptop Backpack
Surprisingly spacious, with expandable side pockets
RAINS Backpack for Women and Men - Fits 15" Laptop - Water Resistant Rucksack - (Black, One Size)
Rains Men's Backpack
Waterproof, stylish faux-leather
Our Choice!
YETI Crossroads Backpack 23
YETI Crossroads Backpack
Very comfortable, durable materials, convenient compartments with magnetic closures
Timbuk2 Division Laptop Backpack, Fog
TIMBUK2 Division Laptop Backpack
Multiple organizer sections, mesh back panel
Samsonite Modern Utility Paracycle Laptop Backpack
Samsonite Modern Utility Paracycle Laptop Backpack
Durable, looks good, bottom is water-resistant
Herschel Pop Quiz Backpack, Black/Tan, Classic 22L
Targus Drifter II Laptop Bag — 16 Inch Laptop Backpack, Padded Laptop and Document Compartment, Water Bottle Pockets, Reinforced Handles Laptop Case with Padded Back Panel Black/Gray (TSB238US)
ebags Pro Slim Laptop Backpack - Fits Laptops Up To 17 Inches
LifeProof Squamish 20 Liter Outdoor Backpack for Travel and Hiking in Urban Coast (Grey)
Fjällräven Kanken 17" Black One Size
Herschel Pop Quiz Backpack
Targus Drifter II Backpack for 16-inch Laptop
eBags Pro Slim Laptop Backpack
LifeProof Squamish 20 Liter Outdoor Backpack
Fjallraven Kanken 17" Laptop Backpack
Classic design with padded fleece laptop sleeve
Excellent for tech organization
Slim and Lightweight
Water-repellent fabric, weather-resistant tech pockets
Classic looks in water-resistant, dirt-resistant Vinylon F
Herschel Pop Quiz Backpack, Black/Tan, Classic 22L
Herschel Pop Quiz Backpack
Classic design with padded fleece laptop sleeve
Targus Drifter II Laptop Bag — 16 Inch Laptop Backpack, Padded Laptop and Document Compartment, Water Bottle Pockets, Reinforced Handles Laptop Case with Padded Back Panel Black/Gray (TSB238US)
Targus Drifter II Backpack for 16-inch Laptop
Excellent for tech organization
ebags Pro Slim Laptop Backpack - Fits Laptops Up To 17 Inches
eBags Pro Slim Laptop Backpack
Slim and Lightweight
LifeProof Squamish 20 Liter Outdoor Backpack for Travel and Hiking in Urban Coast (Grey)
LifeProof Squamish 20 Liter Outdoor Backpack
Water-repellent fabric, weather-resistant tech pockets
Fjällräven Kanken 17" Black One Size
Fjallraven Kanken 17" Laptop Backpack
Classic looks in water-resistant, dirt-resistant Vinylon F

Want to see more? Read on for the full list!


Best Backpack for Grad School – The List

Booq Daypack Lightweight Everyday Laptop Backpack

Booq DP-CLC Daypack Lightweight Everyday Laptop Backpack – Clay Canvas

Dimensions: 18.5 x 13 x 6.3 in

Weight: 1.54 lbs

Kicking off our list, this stylish bag is also eco-friendly due to the combination of cotton and recycled PET fibers. 

It has a padded laptop pocket for up to a 15” computer, and interior organization for a tablet and smaller accessories, a mesh “cargo net” in the main pouch, basically a great back for organization. 

There’s a quick-access top pocket that has a scratch-proof lining — perfect for grabbing your phone on the go.  The bag is easy to carry as well, with contoured straps and air mesh back padding. 

This bag will keep you and your supplies organized and ready to go.

Pros: Lots of organization, surprisingly roomy, comfortable to wear

Cons: Some buyers had issues with the zipper on the curved opening. We suspect this is mostly due to pulling the zipper at an angle, not “around” the curve, so be aware of this

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Rains Backpack for Grad School

Rains Men's Backpack, Black, One Size

Dimensions: 11.42 x 3.94 x 17.72 in

Weight: 1.1 lbs

The Rains Backpack is described by the manufacturer as a “minimalistic, yet practical bag”. 

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It’s made of a waterproof faux-leather material to protect your belongings.  There is one main compartment, a 13” laptop pocket, an inside zipped pocket for small items, and an outer phone pocket on the backside so your phone is always in easy reach. 

The bag is small and lightweight, though its a little long (vertically) so it might not be ideally proportioned for people who are not so tall. 

This is a great option if you’re looking for something stylish and city-friendly, but able to handle changeable weather (we’re looking at you, Seattle …). It’s easy to clean by simply wiping it down.

Pros: Waterproof and stylish? Who knew you could do that?

Cons: The straps are not the most comfortable – too thin to bear a lot of weight for long periods

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YETI Crossroads Backpack

YETI Crossroads Backpack 23, Slate Blue

Dimensions: 18 x 12.5 x 7 in

Weight: 3 lbs

Made with 1000D nylon and lined with 420D ripstop nylon, our favorite bag on the list bag is built for durability. 

We love the “Structure Arc” design that means the bag stands upright and unzips almost all the way for quick and easy loading and unloading.  There are separate foam-lined laptop and tablet pockets — this bag holds up to a 15.5” laptop. 

The quick-stash top pocket helps keep necessities (phone, keys, glasses, etc.) in easy reach.  The two exterior bottle pockets have magnets to keep them closed when not in use. 

The thing we like the most though is the comfort factor. The foam shoulder straps and back panel adjust to your shape ensure a surprisingly comfortable carry.

Pros: Very comfortable, durable materials, convenient compartments with magnetic closures

Cons: Minor – the inner “quick access” pockets essentially steal space from the main enclure and can get in the way

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Timbuk2 Division Laptop Backpack

Timbuk2 Division Laptop Backpack, Storm

Dimensions: ‎9.84 x 4.33 x 17.32 in

Weight: 1.9 lbs

This bag has multiple organizational features, including rear access to the 15” laptop compartment to keep the main area clear for books and papers.  There is also an organizer for your phone, pens, pencils, etc. & a water bottle holder.  There are also external compression straps to cinch or expand the pack as needed. 

Similar to the Yeti, this bag is designed to sit upright while you are going through it, and it carries well due to the contoured shoulder straps, tuck-away sternum straps, and air mesh back panel. 

Add in the lifetime warranty and all in all, this is a great, lightweight bag with a lot of “comfortable carry” factors built in.

Pros: Comfort and capacity, we like the breathable rear mesh panel a lot

Cons: Could do with more organization options inside the main section

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Samsonite Modern Utility Laptop Backpack

Samsonite Modern Utility Paracycle Laptop Backpack, Charcoal Heather, One Size

Dimensions: 12 x 8 x 17.75 in

Weight: 2 lbs

Another great option – this bag is made with ripstop polyester material which makes it durable and the bottom part is water-resistant. How many times have you put a bag down on a wet surface and regretted it immediately? I know I have.

The air mesh padding in the back pad and shoulder straps allows you to carry your supplies in comfort, while the various compartments keep you organized.  The laptop pocket holds up to a 15” computer, and there is a dedicated tablet compartment, a zippered front pocket to store small items, and multiple exterior pockets for quick and easy access. 

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We like the style, this is a bag that looks good as well as helping organize everything.

Pros: Looks, organization, waterproof base

Cons: A few buyers expressed concern about the stitching quality. This was not a regular complaint so we would be sure to check carefully on delivery

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Herschel Pop Quiz

Herschel Pop Quiz Backpack, Black/Tan, Classic 22L

Dimensions: 11.75 x 6 x 17.5 in

Weight: 1.76 lbs

OK, we love the look of this bag!

This 100% polyester back pack has a nylon lining and weatherproof zipper to ensure your belongings stay safe and dry.  The spacious main compartment will store all of your books and essentials.  The padded and fleece lined laptop sleeve holds up to a 15” computer.

The front zippered pocket has an internal mesh organizer and key clip, and the small lined pouch on top keeps your phone or glasses in easy reach.  In other words, straightforward organization that comes in a classic style back pack.

Pros: Classic design with padded fleece laptop sleeve

Cons: It’s essentially a book bag, there’s not a lot of other compartments

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Targus Drifter II

Targus Drifter II Laptop Bag — 16 Inch Laptop Backpack, Padded Laptop and Document Compartment, Water Bottle Pockets, Reinforced Handles Laptop Case with Padded Back Panel Black/Gray (TSB238US)

Dimensions: 16 x 21.5 x 5 in

Weight: 2.9 lbs

This bag offers a case full of storage options and protective compartments for important devices.  Focusing on durability, the nylon bag has a weather-resistant bottom and thick industrial zipper pulls.  The two large main compartments provide ample storage, including a padded laptop section that holds up to a 17” device, and an interior divider to keep files and papers organized. 

The front zip compartment has pockets for business cards, a mesh accessory pocket, a key clip, and a soft lined, scratch-resistant pocket for fragile accessories like glasses.  The back panel has extremely thick padding that includes a large hidden zippered compartment strategically placed to provide lumbar support.

Likewise, the shoulder straps are heavily padded for comfort and include a removable mobile phone pocket and an elastic loop specifically designed to hold sunglasses.  This bag keeps everything you need protected and in easy reach.

Pros: Excellent organization and comfort, designed by a company that specializes in mobile computing accessories

Cons: Although the cases appears quite rugged, some buyers report it doesn’t stand up well over the long term to being knocked around

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eBags Professional Slim Laptop Backpack

ebags Pro Slim Laptop Backpack (Solid Black)

Dimensions: 18 × 12.75 × 8.5 inches

Weight: 4 lbs

eBags is an online retailer that sells bags, luggage, backpacks, laptop bags, and travel accessories, both their own brand (like this one) and others.

This bag is comfortable to carry, with contoured shoulder straps and a padded yet breathable back panel. It also includes a removable and adjustable sternum strap.  There are multiple exterior zippered pockets to keep everything you need in easy reach. 

The padded laptop sleeve holds up to a 17” computer, and there is a fleece-lined padded tablet sleeve as well.  The bag also has a side zip water bottle pocket, and the front zip pocket for small items has interior mesh pockets to keep everything in its place. 

The slim design and light weight ensure that the bag looks good and is easy to bring wherever you go.

Pros: Great slim and lightweight option

Cons: This is an excellent bag for people who don’t pack too much – but it gets overloaded easily

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LifeProof Squamish Backpack

LifeProof Squamish 20 Liter Outdoor Backpack for Travel and Hiking in Urban Coast (Grey)

Dimensions: 19.3 x 13 x 2.5 in

Weight: 2 lbs

As the name implies, this bag can handle anything life throws at it!

The bag is made with Cordura water-repellent fabric and features sealed weather-resistant tech pockets.  The padded laptop pocket will hold up to a 15” computer and a tablet and opens from the side for easy access. 

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The large bottom pocket and expandable cinch front pocket ensure you have plenty of room, and the interior storage pockets keep you organized.  With a quilted back, padded shoulder straps, and detachable chest-strap, this bag is comfortable to carry as well.

Pros: Water-repellent fabric, weather-resistant tech pockets

Cons: It’s smaller than it looks

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Fjallraven Kanken 17” Laptop Backpack

Fjallraven, Kanken Laptop 17" Backpack for Everyday, Black

This practical bag is made from a material called Vinylon F, which is water-resistant, dirt-resistant, and wipes clean easily.  The two-way zipper has a rain flap for added protection.  The shoulder straps are padded, adjustable, and ergonomic for carrying with ease. 

The dual top snap handles allow you to quickly grab and carry like a tote for short distances.  The padded laptop compartment holds up to a 17” computer and leaves you with one main compartment and three smaller pockets to hold everything else you may need. 

The back pocket is also padded to ensure it’s comfortable against the back (this backpack design was actually created with schoolchildren carrying tons of textbooks in mind – source). And yes, these backbacks are for both sexes!

Pros: Classic looks in water-resistant, dirt-resistant Vinylon F

Cons: We feel that a 17″ inch laptop fits, but it’s a stretch. A 15″ laptop carries really well

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Best Laptop for Grad School – Buyer’s Guide

There are a lot of options here for great back packs for grad school.  Like having the right supplies, choosing the right bag will help you be prepared and succeed in your classes. Here are a few things to think about when you’re making your decision:

  • Capacity: What’s the maximum you’ll need to carry in the pack? Think about not just your laptop and phone, notebooks and textbooks, but any other accessories, water bottles, etc. Size the bag for the day you’ll have the most to carry
  • Access: Does the pack have a good number of compartments with convenient access? It gets hugely tiresome having to practically empty a pack to get that one thing that’s (inevitably) slipped to the bottom. Make your life easier!
  • Durability: This is going to get daily use, and if you’re going to be exposed to the elements, so will the backpack. If you’re likely to be dodging rain showers, make sure your pack is at least water-resistant to protect your gear

Our choice? It’s really a very personal decision, and what’s right for one person might not be right for you, but for its combination of easy access (standing upright because of its Structure Arc design), its extra storage compartments, and well thought-out extra features make the YETI Crossroads backpack our choice:

YETI Crossroads
  • The demands of the everyday call for a durable pack dedicated to just that. The Crossroads Backpack is 23 liters of thoughtfully designed rugged materials to keep you organized.
  • LAPTOP & TABLET POCKETS - Separate pockets with shock-absorbing foam for protection. Fits a 15.5” laptop. Also has a quick stash top pocket for necessities like your sunglasses.
  • STRUCTURE ARC - Keeps the bag upright and opens wide for easier loading and unloading and the shoulder straps have a custom shape with dual-density foam offering a comfortable carry all day long.
  • RAMBLER READY - Two exterior bottle pockets that collapse – and stay collapsed – with magnets when not in use.
  • Durable, 1000D Nylon material lined with 420D Nylon ripstop ensures you can take on the day.

Before You Go…

Hope you found something you liked, or at least were inspired by our collection! But what if you actually have a backpack already, that needs a little TLC to bring it back to life? We’ve got you covered – check out our next article:

How to clean a backpack that smells a little .. ripe

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