5 Best Herschel Backpacks: Reviewed, Rated & Compared

Herschel Supply Company is a Canadian company that makes a wide variety of fashionable, high-quality bags, including its original product, the backpack.

This article includes reviews of the five most popular Herschel backpack models and will provide supporting information, comparing these models to one another and explaining the function and value of Herschel backpacks in general.

What Makes the Herschel Brand Popular?

The Herschel Supply Company originated in Canada and started by specializing in backpacks, before expanding into the design and manufacture of other bags and accessories. A likeable feature of the Herschel brand is that all of their bags are lined with engineer-inspired striped fabric. This gives them a nostalgic flare, but because it's only on the interior it doesn't give an overly fancy look.

When it comes to their exteriors, Herschel outdoes itself. Most of their backpacks come in at least 20 different color patterns, and there's an option for everyone—men, women, teens, children, students, artists, business people, etc. That said, the Herschel style backpack is always streamlined and refreshingly simple. Some packs have more of a mountaineering look, others more the clean-cut student or casual workplace look.

Herschel backpacks are sold all over the world, mostly in urban areas. The founders aimed to create products with nostalgic appeal but modern relevance and convenience. Consequently, their products have become a fad among students in Europe. That's understandable, considering how stylish these packs are and the consideration the company has given to students' needs (laptop sleeve, smartphone pocket, big compartment for books).

The lack of water bottle holders in most of their products may be a deterrent for Americans. Americans may (somewhat erroneously) view Herschel packs as needlessly pricey or preppy in appearance. Otherwise, it's hard to see why this brand hasn't become more popular in the USA.


Who are Herschel backpacks made for?

Despite being made durable with quality materials, Herschel backpacks aren't famous as being good for hiking or mountaineering. They're a bit more formal. Most are only water resistant, not waterproof. These backpacks are really more for urban or predominantly indoor use. Depending on the model, they can be used for the gym, school, office, freelance work, or day travel. 

While the Herschel website separates them into men’s, women’s, and kids’, most of their backpacks are unisex, come in a variety of colors, and all have adjustable straps. Therefore, depending on how much you want to carry and how big a person you are, almost any of the models are fair game. While Herschel backpacks are stylish, they're still backpacks—not formal briefcases—so they would only work for fairly casual office use.

However, their medium-sized backpacks are suitable as carry-on bags for air travel, so they offer a nice-looking, easy-to-use option for the traveling worker. While the brand is a fad for young people, there's no reason a backpack user of any age couldn't enjoy the comfort, durability, and classic style. Herschel are a well renowned brand all over the world with super model Suki Waterhouse being recently spotted in New York wearing her Supply Co. daypack.


best herschel backpack

What Did We look at?

Materials

The zippers of most Herschel backpacks have full-grain leather pulls, and many models have protective covering flaps over the zippers for added security and water resistance. That said, only some models (the Pop Quiz, on the list below) are truly waterproof. Herschel backpack quality is something you can rely on, as this company has a great reputation.

Straps

All Herschel backpacks reviewed here have adjustable contoured straps. Some even have padded straps. The Retreat has padded and contoured straps, as does the Little America, but in addition, the Little America has mesh back padding, too. Listed below, the Men’s Classic has the simplest, least-padded strap system.

Size

All of the models in the list below are medium-sized; they range from 17L to 22L. In general, the designation Mid-Volume in the name means a smaller version of the named model. For example, the Little America (not the Mid-Volume, which is listed below) is somewhat larger—25L.

Compartments

Herschel backpacks are generally minimalistic with compartments. However, some models have as many as five. Almost all of them have a laptop section and a smartphone pouch with a headphone port. All have some sort of smaller front compartment, but the size and interior may vary with model. None listed below have water bottle compartments, and very few in this company's product line do.

Style Options

All Herschel backpacks bear the company label clearly visible on the front pouch. There are two general builds: zippered or drawstring with a magnetized-buckled cover flap. One thing that Herschel does really well is offering an extensive color selection for every backpack model. There tend to be at least 30 color options (with the exception of the Men’s Classic on the list below).

Warranty

In general, Herschel products are under a lifetime-limited warranty. However, the warranty applies to cases of manufacturing error only. Damage from wear, negligent treatment of product, or accidents are not covered under the warranty.

In the Herschel Little America review, Amazon claims there's only a 1-year warranty. However, this is possibly incorrect, since the Herschel Supply Company website states that all products are indeed under the lifetime-limited warranty.


5 Best Herschel Backpacks Reviewed

1. Herschel Supply Co. Heritage Backpack

Herschel Supply Co. Heritage Backpack

Quick Look - Bag Features

Waterproof

Water resistant

Number of Compartments

4

Laptop Sleeve

Yes

Colors Available

37

Size

21.5L

Warranty

Lifetime-limited (lifetime of the user)

The Herschel Heritage backpack is ideally suited to the student or travelling worker who wants a relatively spacious but simple backpack. The Heritage has the normal Herschel features: zippered front pouch, striped interior, top loop, clean-cut design, plenty of color options. Also, like most Herschel backpacks, this one has a 15’’ laptop sleeve and a small interior pouch for carrying small media devices and a headphone port. In addition, the Heritage front pouch has a key clip.

Most users are pleased with the volume and claim that the backpack can probably handle even a slightly larger laptop. A few users feel that individual items in the pack aren't very well retained or protected, so this is probably not the best pack for people who really need to keep a lot of small items isolated and in place.

While not technically waterproof, users report that the Heritage keeps out water fairly well. While most users claim that it's comfortable to wear, this isn't a heavily padded backpack. Therefore, it's probably not the best pack for people who anticipate long walks in outdoor elements.

2. Herschel Supply Co. Pop Quiz Backpack

Herschel Supply Co. Pop Quiz Backpack

Quick Look - Bag Features

Waterproof

Yes

Number of Compartments

5

Laptop Sleeve

Yes

Colors Available

41

Size

22L

Warranty

Lifetime-limited (lifetime of the user)

The Herschel Pop Quiz is, like all the backpacks in this list, well-suited for the student or traveling worker. However, the Pop Quiz offers more compartments and more internal protective padding. Therefore, it's better suited for the outdoor walker and for the user who wants to keep a number of small items in place and protected within the backpack.

It has a waterproof element over the zipper, padded and fleeced linings for the 13’’ laptop sleeve and the sunglasses compartment. In general, most college or university students would probably prefer the pop quiz to any other backpack.

It also offers organizational divisions within the front pouch and a compartment for media and a headphone port. The Pop Quiz is among the most spacious on this list by .5L, but ultimately it's similar to the Heritage. You can probably fit even a 15’’ laptop into the sleeve.

3. Herschel Supply Co. Retreat Backpack

Herschel Supply Co. Retreat Backpack

Quick Look - Bag Features

Waterproof

Water resistant

Number of Compartments

4

Laptop Sleeve

Yes

Colors Available

30

Size

19.5L

Warranty

Lifetime-limited (lifetime of the user)

The Herschel Retreat is described on Amazon as a “pared down” version of Herschel’s Little America backpack, and with the Retreat’s drawstring closure on the main compartment and its large magnetic strap-bound cover flap, this is an accurate description.

The Herschel Supply Company site describes the Retreat as having a “mountaineering” style, due to the stylishly rugged duffle-like structure. With its very classy mountain pack look, the Retreat is a great look for a casual workplace or a school setting. It has a media pouch with a headphone port, laptop sleeve, and, like all Herschel backpacks, a front pouch.

However, the Retreat’s front pouch is noticeably smaller than that of other Herschel packs. For these reasons, the Retreat might not be quite as good for students—it might be better suited for the day traveller or travelling worker. Furthermore, its contoured, well-padded straps are good for someone who needs to carry the backpack for long periods of time.

Also, the drawstring closure (as opposed to zipper) means that it's easier to fit more into the pack, if you need to.

4. Herschel Supply Co. Little America Mid-Volume Backpack

Herschel Supply Co. Little America Mid-Volume Backpack

Quick Look - Bag Features

Waterproof

Water resistant

Number of Compartments

3

Laptop Sleeve

Yes

Colors Available

31

Size

17L

Warranty

1 year

The Herschel Little America Mid-Volume backpack is a smaller version of the Little America. With the Mid-Volume’s 13’’ laptop sleeve, and relatively small 17L volume, the backpack is ideal for the student or worker who doesn't have a large laptop or too much to carry.

Depending on how much one really needs to carry, the Mid-Volume is a good idea for more petite people, too. That said, it still has a good-sized front compartment, a media pocket with headphone port, and a fleece-padded laptop sleeve.

All the while, the Little America Mid-Volume has the same “mountaineering” look as the Little America and the Retreat (listed above). Like them, it has a drawstring closure covered by a magnetic strap-bound flap.

Straps over the front pocket give security and an added element of style. The drawstring closure generally gives the user more opportunity to fit more into the pack, if needed. An added bonus is that it's the best externally padded backpack on this list (a trait it shares with its normal-volume parent), so it stands to be the most comfortable for long-time wear.

5. Herschel Supply Co. Men's Classic Backpack

Herschel Supply Co. Men's Classic Backpack

Quick Look - Bag Features

Waterproof

No

Number of Compartments

2

Laptop Sleeve

No

Colors Available

5

Size

22L

Warranty

Lifetime-limited (lifetime of user)

The Herschel Men’s Classic backpack offers space with complete simplicity. The only compartment (besides the main one) is the usual front pouch. The Men’s Classic doesn't even have a laptop sleeve.

The zipper pulls are rope, rather than full-grain leather—another example of the understated functionality of this pack. For these reasons, this pack is probably better suited to a traveller than to a student or worker.

However, it's not waterproof, so it wouldn't be so good for long walks outside. Despite the men’s designation, there's no reason a woman couldn't use this pack. Ultimately, the Men’s Classic is a good value for someone who wants a simple backpack with minimal compartmentalization. Altogether, it's an ideal gym bag.


How Do These Models Compare?

Size

The largest of the listed backpacks are the Men’s Classic and the Pop Quiz. The smallest is the Little America Mid-Volume. The small size of the Mid-Volume would make this pack a great bet for airplane carry-on, even though most of these packs would probably go through in most airports.

Price

Relative to some brands, Herschel backpacks might seem expensive; however, for the quality you're getting, it's good value. Also, it's pretty easy to find good deals, especially on Amazon. The Classic, then the Heritage, are the two cheapest on this list. The Little America, then the Retreat, are the two most expensive on this list. The Pop Quiz is very close to the Retreat’s price but generally comes in a little cheaper.

Functionality

Saying which one is the best Herschel backpack for travel is tricky—it really depends on the kind of travel you intend. The Little America comes in mid-volume and normal size. The Little America is the best design-wise for a variety of situations, so a traveller should definitely consider the Little America model.

The Pop Quiz is arguably the best for the student, because it has more pockets and the front pouch has organizational divisions. For the day traveller, the Retreat is ideal with its waterproof exterior. The Heritage is a great option for the casual office worker or freelance worker—the fact that it has a key clip being especially helpful for this demographic.

The Men’s Classic, with its stunning simplicity, would be great gym bag or carry-on bag.


herschel backpack review

Frequently Asked Backpack Questions

Are Herschel backpacks good quality and durable?

Yes. This is something in which the company takes pride—their attention to detail and quality of their products. Most models have full-grain leather zipper pulls or synthetic leather straps.

Are Herschel backpacks good for school?

Yes, that's really their claim to fame. Some students might not like the lack of water bottle holder or even the general lack of compartments. However, the spaciousness and modern technology accommodations should make up for any lacking in these areas.

Also, the Pop Quiz has the most compartments of any backpack on this list, along with maximum volume. Therefore, the Pop Quiz is probably the best bet for the active high school, college, or university student.

I need a large backpack. Will this brand be good for me?

Possibly, but it depends on how large. Generally, Herschel specializes in medium-sized backpacks, with 25L being the largest available. The Amazon listing reports the precise volume (in liters).

If you really need a large backpack, you probably don't want one designated as Mid-Volume, because that's a smaller version of the model.

Generally, Herschel specializes in urban wear, not large hiking packs. Therefore, if you really want a giant pack for hiking or camping, Herschel is probably not the right brand to consider.

Can you take this backpack + a carry-on bag on airplanes?

Generally, yes—for all of the listed backpacks. All of the packs on this list should fit under an airplane seat. If there is a problem with under-the-seat fit, you can always put it in the overhead compartment, but in that case, you might need to be sure your other bag can fit under the seat.

Airlines might vary, though. Some users claim that they did have to have the bag checked, and some very strict airlines might not allow them as carry-on at all.

How do you wash or clean a Herschel backpack?

Generally, you can just wipe the interior and exterior off with a damp cloth or paper towel. If more cleaning is needed, you should first remove any debris by wiping, Q-tip, and/or light vacuuming.

If a truly deep clean is needed, you can use a mild soap (such as Ivory) and running water to wash a backpack inside and out. Generally, you don't need to submerge a backpack. Then, gently shake the excess water off and leave it out to air dry. Don't wring it out.

It's ideal to leave a towel under the area where it's drying (especially if it's inside), because it it's likely to drip.

Where can you buy backpacks at cheap prices?

Amazon is definitely your best bet for the best prices on these backpacks. You can almost always get some sort of reduced price on a Herschel backpack on Amazon, especially if you have Prime—often $10.00 to $20.00 off the original price.

Retailers such as Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters also offer good prices on Herschel backpacks.


Conclusion

With so many options, finding the best Herschel backpack for you or someone you know should be no trouble. A good-quality backpack is the easiest way to carry personal belongings with you, in such a way that you avoid the tedium of multiple little bags and the possible injury from lifting weight unevenly (as you do with a tote or book bag).

Even if you haven't really been a backpack person in the past, consider it. With Herschel backpacks, you'll find you can carry your belongings more easily, while looking and feeling great.

Images via https://herschel.com/

  • Updated March 13, 2019
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