Best Kids Backpacks: Reviewed, Rated & Compared

Best Rolling Backpack
J World New York Kids Rolling Backpack

​J World NY Lollipop Rolling Backpack

The J world rolling bag comes in a variety of styles and has an added lunch box for school & outings.

Best Backpack With Leash
YISIBO Rocket Toddler Backpack with Harness Leash

YISIBO Rocket Toddler Backpack

The YISIBO is available for in several styles. The leash is great for parents with adventurous children.

Of all the kit that today’s kids are lucky enough to own, we reckon that backpacks are definitely a contender for the title of ‘most abused’!

Casually tossed into a corner of a classroom or under a bench in the schoolyard, stuffed into a small space in a school locker or on the school bus, overloaded with books and folders… Need we say more?

If you want your child’s backpack to last for more than five minutes, you need to find a backpack that will stand up to the ill-treatment and do its job for as long as possible.

But in this style-conscious age, the way a backpack looks is super important, too – whether it’s cute or cool, depending on your kid’s age. We’ve trawled the market for the best kids backpacks which are both stylish, functional and robust.

5 Places Children Need a Backpack

1. School

Is it possible even to imagine kids getting to school without a backpack these days? Nope! It’s an absolutely indispensable item to carry everything from school books to water bottles and laptops to snacks. Stashing these things in a backpack while keeping hands free to do other things (not least interacting on ever-essential social media) is a no-brainer.

2. Sport

The same goes for sport. It may be that your child’s particular sport requires an additional hand-carried holdall, stuffed with larger items of essential kit, like tennis or soccer for example. A capacious backpack will still be needed for all the extras, from mouthguards to the essential towel and shower gel for the after-match clean-up!

3. Day Trips

Our question here is what did people do before there were backpacks? Carrying bags with handles is such a faff and also bad for posture, so a backpack is the ultimate practical solution. Kids have plenty of things they need (or think they need) when they’re on a day trip – not least the current favorite toy! And then there are the snacks and drinks which are essential to keep their sense of humor on a long day out… Our advice is: don’t leave home without one!

4. Sleepovers

Ah yes, sleepovers… Loved by the parents of those who’re going but dreaded by the hosting parents! And the excited guests? How much ‘stuff’ do they need for a one-night sleepover? Apart from the obvious PJs and toothbrush, the possible ‘must-haves’ could be anything from cellphones to candy for the inevitable midnight feasts. That backpack will be crammed with ‘essentials’ for their stay.

5. Holidays​​​​

Undoubtedly, you’ll be loaded down with huge suitcases (hopefully rolling ones) containing every possible holiday essential for yourself and your little ones. Let your kids take some of the strain, though, either with a regular backpack or even one with rollers, which is a neat additional feature of some backpacks.

It’ll give them a sense of responsibility for what they take with them and – who knows – maybe even make them think really carefully about the sense of taking that huge cuddly hippopotamus…

best kids backpacks for school

Common Features of Quality Backpacks

Durable material

Finding a backpack which is well made and robust enough to cope with the rough treatment will ensure that you won’t be buying another one too soon. Both the pack itself and the shoulder straps of the best kids backpacks need to be made from sturdy material. If they’re washable, so much the better. That will extend their useful life considerably.

Long-lasting zippers

How frustrating is it when a bag which is still in great condition becomes useless because the zipper breaks? In the old days of make-do-and-mend, of course, someone would have patiently removed the broken zipper and replaced it but, realistically, in our frenetic 21st-century existence that’s just not going to happen.

It makes sense, then, to check that the zippers in your kid’s backpack are of the highest quality and made to stand up to the rough handling they’re going to get.

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I insist on purchasing high-quality backpacks only. My vision of success is that my child own one backpack forever!


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Padded Back and/or Straps

If your child is going to be carrying any amount of weight in a backpack, then looking out for a cushioned back panel and also nice wide, padded straps makes sense. The straps are really important because the narrower the strap, the more uncomfortable it’s likely to be.

Wide straps spread the load better and, if they’re correctly adjusted, they don’t put unnecessary strain on your child’s growing muscles and joints, which is another important benefit.

Waterproof (or water-resistant)

Whether or not you need to find a waterproof pack will depend on the use you have in mind. Clearly, if a weekend’s hiking is on the agenda, then a waterproof pack or one with a built-in rain cover makes obvious sense to ensure that all that essential kit stays dry.

Most packs aren’t actually waterproof, as such, but many are water-resistant, so they’ll cope with the odd shower but not a downpour.

best kids backpacks

What To Look For In a Good Kids Backpack

Style & Design

There truly are backpacks of every possible style out there and, of course, it’s all down to your child’s unique personal taste. If multi-colored sparkles or favorite Disney characters are what’s called for, then you won’t be short of options. On the other hand, if your child favors more sober and sensible styles, then there’s heaps of choice.

The only proviso we would add to you ‘sensible adults’ (ha!) is to beware of the perennial problem of ‘style over substance’ and so do check that the brilliance of those sparkles doesn’t serve as a mask for a poor quality product. Don’t be blinded by the bling!

Choice of design comes down to the job the backpack has to do and there’s a wide variety of options for all ages and all purposes.

Size & Weight

Do you sometimes see kids making their way to school loaded down with backpacks which are almost as big as they are? That doesn’t seem to us to be a very sensible idea at all and it’s worth looking at the dimensions of a child’s backpack before making your selection.

Apart from looking ridiculous, an over-sized backpack will only encourage over-loading – we all know that it’s an almost universal human trait to fill empty spaces with ‘stuff’ and, before you know it, the thing weighs a ton!

Regarding weight, it’s worth finding out how heavy a backpack is when empty as they do vary quite a bit. No matter that a pack looks super-cool and desirable, if it weighs several pounds when it’s unladen, then it’s a no-brainer that it’ll become too burdensome when it’s been stuffed with books and other essentials.

Eco-Friendly & Safe Materials

You’ve probably heard that PVC isn’t what you’d call eco-friendly. If you’d like to know more, check out this link. While PVC isn’t thought to be actively unsafe to humans, it frequently contains phthalates which are known carcinogens.

It’s better to avoid backpacks containing PVC if possible if you’re eco-conscious. There are some phthalate-free PVCs, though, which are usually flagged up in the product info, and this is at least better than regular PVC.

Bearing the environmental impact of products in mind, choosing a better quality backpack has an advantage in this respect. Since backpacks aren’t generally recyclable, having to replace them regularly because they don’t stand up to the test of time means that they just end up in a hole in the ground with the rest of our unrecyclable goods.

Buying products which are made, at least partially, from natural materials rather than chemical-heavy plastics is another way to reduce the environmental footprint.

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I learned the hard way, as have many parents, that if you buy a cheap backpack for your kid, even your toddler, you will be buying a second (and possibly third) backpack before the school year is through. So now I look for good quality, functionality, and still a cute design.


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Multiple Compartments

We’re all familiar with the frustration of rummaging around in a large bag which is stuffed full of ‘essentials’ and being unable to find what we’re searching for. The answer is, of course, to choose a backpack with plenty of compartments, some zipped and some open.

That way, everything from books to sports gear and cell phones to laptops can be kept secure and organized, and those frustrating searches will be a thing of the past.

Price Vs Quality

This probably doesn’t really need saying since we’ve all learned the hard way that we get what we pay for. As we said right at the start, kids’ backpacks have to put up with the roughest treatment.

Yes, there are plenty of cheap and cheerful options out there but you won’t be smiling when you have to replace the backpack within a matter of months. If it’s cheap there’s a reason, and that’s always down to reduced quality (unless you’re lucky enough to find a premium brand on special).

Warranty

Many backpacks, but not all, are sold with a warranty. If the manufacturer does provide a warranty, it’s worth looking at the length of time it covers and also what’s included. Wear and tear is always excluded, of course, but some warranties are more generous than others.


10 Best Kids Backpacks Reviewed

1. Skip Hop Backpack

Skip Hop Backpack

Quick Look - Bag Features

Good for

Toddlers, preschool

Age Group

3 - 6 years

Number of Compartments

4

Size

11 x 5 x 12 inches

Price Guide

$

Warranty

No

So, this is the place where fun and function happily coexist! Who doesn’t love the whimsical magic of a unicorn and they’re certainly top of the pops right now, so your little one will be super-happy to be the proud owner of this particular piece of cuteness.

And if unicorns just aren’t your thing, then there are cute ladybug and bee options, too. If you’re looking for the best preschool backpack, then look no further!

It’s roomy enough for the bits and bobs that your preschooler needs for a busy day on the go. There’s a useful mesh pocket on the side for a water bottle or sippy cup and a separate front insulated pouch that’s perfect for those essential snacks. 

There’s just one thing to bear in mind, and that is that some reviewers commented that it’s not large enough to hold a standard 8.5” x 11” file. That makes it more suitable for toddlers and preschoolers.

Why kids will love this backpack?

Well, because it’s a unicorn, of course! Did you even need to ask?!


2. J World New York Kids Rolling Backpack

J World New York Kids Rolling Backpack

Quick Look - Bag Features

Good for

Traveling, kindergarten, day trips

Age Group

4 - 8 years

Number of Compartments

1

Size

16 x 12.5 x 6 inches  Lunch Bag: 

10 x 7 x 4 inches

Price Guide

$$$

Warranty

Yes – limited 1-3 yrs

With no less than SEVENTEEN variations, this really could be one of the best rolling backpacks for kids. There really is a pattern and color which will suit the most style-conscious child.

The wide range of choice makes it ideal if you’re buying for boys and girls at the same time. They can be the same but different. Easy (and time-saving) for you and fun for them – and no hint of favoritism!

This fun and stylish kids rolling backpack comes complete with a separate lunch bag so it’s ideal for school but also for traveling. It has one main compartment for all those essentials but also an easy-access front pouch, an organizer pocket and also a mesh pocket for drinks on the side.

The telescoping child-size handle with comfort grip is easy to use. When it’s being used as a backpack, the air-mesh cushioned shoulder straps make it comfortable to wear.

Why kids will love this backpack?

They’ll love pulling their own bag alongside yours so much that they won’t notice how far they have to walk to that departure gate!


3. YISIBO Rocket Toddler Backpack with Harness Leash

YISIBO Rocket Toddler Backpack with Harness Leash

Quick Look - Bag Features

Good for

Toddlers, safety

Age Group

1 - 3 years

Number of Compartments

1

Size

9.4 x 7.5 x 12.8 inches

Price Guide

$$

Warranty

No

This adorable small kids backpack is fun but also packed with useful features, especially the detachable safety leash. Children are naturally curious when they’re out and about discovering the world.

This curiosity can quickly lead to danger and some parents find it less stressful to keep their child in close quarters by using a leash. It’s worth noting that the leash is detachable, so it can be removed when you’re in a safe environment and your child is out of danger.

It’s super-lightweight, weighing in at just 8.8 ounces, and manufactured from neoprene – no PVC. This backpack is ergonomically designed with wide, padded shoulder straps for comfort.

The zipper pulls are rubber-coated so little hands can get a good grip – a very thoughtful design! There’s a roomy main compartment for those special ‘friends’ who just can’t be left at home or any other must-haves.  

If rockets aren’t your child’s thing, there are also super-cute dinosaur and rabbit versions of this small kids backpack.

Why kids will love this backpack?

This astronaut backpack has a unique feature: you can place a photo of your child in the special ‘window’ on the backpack. What toddler wouldn’t love seeing themselves as a ‘rocket man’?


4. Soccer/Basketball/Volleyball Backpack with Ball Holder Compartment

Soccerwave Ball Backpack with Ball Holder Compartment

Quick Look - Bag Features

Good for

Sports, Soccer, Basketball, Volleyball, Cycling

Age Group

10 - 16 years

Number of Compartments

2 internal, 3 external

Size

17 x 12 x 6 Inches

Price Guide

$$

Warranty

Yes: lifetime (limited)

This is the perfect unisex sports backpack for kids who live to play soccer but would also be ideal for keen basketball or volleyball players too.

It’s roomy enough to fit all the necessary kit but its unique feature is the front mesh ball compartment which expands to fit a size 5 ball – or volleyball, basketball or even a bike helmet. It’s so versatile! 

The compartments are all ventilated to keep your kit bacteria and odor free. There’s plenty of space inside for shin guards, accessories and snacks.

There are mesh pockets on the sides which double up as water bottle holders or for sports shoes. The shoulder straps are cushioned and there’s also a padded back panel which conforms to the spine and helps to prevent back strain.

This backpack is designed with durability in mind, manufactured from 600D dual layer heat-stitched polyester and it’s backed with a 30-day money back guarantee making it a worry-free purchase.

Why kids will love this backpack?

If your kid is soccer or basketball crazy, then they’ll absolutely love this specially-designed backpack with its ball holder compartment.


5. Mountaintop Kids Toddler Backpack

Mountaintop Kids Toddler Backpack

Quick Look - Bag Features

Good for

Hiking, Preschool, Kindergarten, Day Trips

Age Group

2 - 5 years

Number of Compartments

2

Size

9.4 x 3.7 x 12.2 inches 

(5 liters)

Price Guide

$

Warranty

Yes – 90 days (limited)

There’s no doubt that the sooner you can get kids out and about to start enjoying the great outdoors, the more of a habit it’ll become. In fact, it could be the start of a lifetime of pleasure.

This great little backpack from Mountaintop is the perfect companion for your little one when they start their outdoor adventures. That said it would also be just perfect for everyday use, for play dates and for preschool, so it’s not all about hiking.

The adjustable shoulder straps are cushioned for comfort and the back panel is padded and mesh-covered to encourage good air circulation on the back to minimize perspiration. There are two main compartments inside which are ideal for keeping wet or smelly clothing separate from other items.

This is a versatile kids backpack which comes in a huge range of colors and patterns, so there’s sure to be something to suit your little one’s personal taste.

There’s one important proviso about this pack, though: it’s not large enough to fit a standard school folder, so it’s not suitable for post-kindie kids if it’s needed for school.

Why kids will love this backpack?

Well, since this backpack looks much like an adult daypack, any child who likes to be a mini-me would be proud to wear it out on the trail with mom or dad and look like a serious hiker!


6. School Backpack for Girls/Teens

School Backpack for Girls & Teens

Quick Look - Bag Features

Good for

Girls, Teens, School, Traveling, Day Pack

Age Group

8 - 14 years

Number of Compartments

6 including 15” laptop sleeve

Size

17.3 x 11.8 x 5.9 inches

Price Guide

$$

Warranty

Yes – 12 months

If you’re searching for the perfect all-round backpack for girls, then you may need to look no further than this. It’s gorgeous to look at – with plenty of variations in style and color to suit everyone – but also super-practical and versatile.

It’s large enough to fit folders and even has a padded 15” laptop sleeve. There are a number of other useful compartments to keep all those essential items organized and easily accessible. Those same compartments would also be ideal for all the necessities for a weekend away or a day trip with the family.

The padded and fully adjustable shoulder straps make it comfortable to wear and the back panel is also padded for extra comfort. It’s made from soft, sturdy polyester and is water resistant.

Better yet, it’s even washable, which will help to extend its life. Is there really any more we need to say to convince you that this might be the one you’ve been looking for?

Oh yes, we didn’t mention that it comes complete with matching insulated lunch pack and purse which can double up as a pencil case, features which only add to its all-round appeal.

Why kids will love this backpack?

Its super-cuteness and vibrant color and will earn them lots of style points in the schoolyard, but it’s also really practical, especially with the added extras of a lunch bag and purse.


7. Jansport Big Student Backpack

Jansport Big Student Backpack

Quick Look - Bag Features

Good for

Boys, Girls, Teens, Traveling, School, Sport

Age Group

10 - 16 years

Number of Compartments

2 main, 4 external

Size

17.5 x 13 x 10 inches

Price Guide

$$$

Warranty

Yes: lifetime

This backpack from Jansport is definitely a contender for the crown of best backpack for boys. There are so many choices of colors and patterns, though, that it’s also in the running for the best backpack for girls!

It really is an everyday, everywhere backpack and it’s made with durable fabric, zippers and straps. The fact that it’s backed by Jansport’s lifetime warranty is a big bonus as they’ll replace or repair any breaks.

There’s plenty of space inside for books, clothes, laptop and sports gear. Outside there’s a water bottle pocket and 3 front zipper pockets for easy access to snacks, electronics and other essentials.

This backpack is quite large, so it’s not really suitable for younger kids but should be ideal for middle or high school students. The only problem with its size is that it’s easy to over-fill it, so we suggest that you keep an eye on what your little treasures are carrying around with them – is it all really that essential? Probably not - some culling may be advisable!

Why kids will love this backpack?

There are so many cool choices in style and color that there’ll be something to match everyone’s personal taste. This backpack is super versatile, so it’ll take them from the school to the sports field and on to the beach.


8. Backpack Set for Kindergarten Kids

Little Boys Backpacks Set for Kindergarten Kids

Quick Look - Bag Features

Good for

Kindergarten, Preschool, Bookbag

Age Group

3 - 6 years

Number of Compartments

3

Size


16 X 10 X 5 inches

Price Guide

$$

Warranty

No

This cute range of backpacks is the perfect stylish choice for any kindergarten kid, boy or girl - there’s something for everyone.

If you’re buying for multiple kids, you’ll be able to find just the right thing for each of them but all in the same place, saving you precious time and keeping things fair at the same time – each one can have the same but suited to their unique style.

There’s plenty of space inside for pretty much everything your little one could need during the school day, and the three separate compartments will help to keep things organized. There’s even a laptop compartment. The pack comes with a separate small zippered pouch which is perfect for pens and pencils and other little things.

The S-shape shoulder straps are adjustable and designed for comfort but there’s a handle on the top, too, which is ideal for hanging on a peg. This backpack is sturdily made from polyester, with high-quality zippers and it’s water-resistant, too, so it’s easy to keep clean.

Why kids will love this backpack?

The bold colors and fun designs in this super-cute range of backpacks from Blue Fairy really stand out from the kindergarten crowd and will be the talk of the playground – everyone will want one!


9. Wildkin 12 inch Backpack

Wildkin 12 inch Backpack

Quick Look - Bag Features

Good for

Preschool, Daycare, Travel, Day Trips

Age Group

3 - 6 years

Number of Compartments

2

Size

12 x 10 x 4.5 inches

Price Guide

$$

Warranty

Yes: 90 days (limited)

Both parents and kids will love this range of cute but functional small kids backpacks from Wildkin. You’ll love it because it’s the perfect size to fit all those daily essentials – not too big and not too small.

Your child will love to show off their cute and colorful backpack to their friends. They’ll be so happy that there’s space inside to fit all those things that they just can’t leave home without – including that cuddly toy. 

There’s a front zippered insulated pocket which is perfect for lunch and for snacks, so your little people won’t be loaded down with a lunch box as well as a backpack.

This pocket is food-safe and if things get a little messy at lunchtime it’s not a problem at all as it can be wiped clean. The side mesh pocket is ideal for quick access to drinks and water bottles.

The shoulder straps are adjustable and also padded for comfort, so there’ll be no complaints, and there’s a useful top handle that’s perfect for hanging on a peg.

Why kids will love this backpack?

The eye-catching patterns and fun styling of these cool kids backpacks will be sure to make your little one the talk of the playground.


10. DB Dinosaur Kids Backpack with Leash

DB Dinosaur Kids Backpack with Leash

Quick Look - Bag Features

Good for

Safety, Toddler, Everyday

Age Group

1 - 3 years

Number of Compartments

1

Size

9.5 x 10.5 x 4.5 inches

Price Guide

$

Warranty

Yes: 1 year

If you’re literally at the end of your tether with trying to keep your endlessly curious and adventurous toddler out of harm’s way, the answer may be found in a backpack with a leash.

This won’t suit everyone – opinions are so divided on this issue – but if it reduces stress for you when you’re out and about and keeps your little one safe, then this cute little backpack with its adorable dinosaur styling could be just what you need.

The leash is an optional feature, so you can detach it completely when you’ve arrived at your destination and you’re in a safe environment.

Although it’s really lightweight, small and neat, this backpack still has enough space for some toys, little books and some snacks to keep your toddler happy. It’s made of durable nylon and polyester, with a high-quality zipper and is easy to keep clean.

Why kids will love this backpack?

They’ll feel so grown-up wearing their own backpack with its adorable dinosaur design that they won’t even notice that you’re in control.


Types of Kids Backpacks

Backpacks with a leash

Some of the best toddler backpacks come with an optional additional leash which means that they can be safely attached to their parent or carer and kept from harm.

The point here is that it is ‘optional’ and so very much up to each parent to decide whether this is a useful feature or not. It can also be detached when it’s not needed and are in a safe environment.

School bookbags

Even in this digital age, it seems that our kids are still burdened with large numbers of school books which they need to lug back and forth to school each day. There are some really neat options out there designed with schoolchildren in mind. Our advice is to check out the width of the straps of bookbags.

The rule is that the wider the strap, the less strain on your child’s shoulders. Since all those books can add up to quite a weight, it’s really worth considering not only comfort but also possible physical damage to your child’s growing frame.

Hiking backpacks

In this sedentary age, it’s great to encourage your kids to get out on the trails and enjoy the big outdoors and the earlier you encourage this behavior the better it will be for your child’s health and wellbeing.

Investing in a cool kids hiking backpack will definitely help in getting your kids off the couch and marching happily into the backwoods with you and the rest of the family.

Rolling bags

What a great idea! We wish we’d thought of inventing these! They look like regular backpacks, and there are some super-cool designs, but they cleverly conceal a pair of rollers. This means that kids don’t get tired so quickly as they can choose whether to carry or to pull.

They’re perfect for weekends away, especially if you’re travelling by plane. They also do a good job if your child has to walk a fair distance to the school bus as they’ll probably find it easier to pull all those books along behind them than carry them on their back.

best sports backpacks for kids

Frequently Asked Backpack Questions

What age can a child start to wear a backpack?

Not surprisingly, there are no hard and fast rules about this and, in theory, any child from toddler up can wear a backpack. The trick is not to overload them.

For example, if your little one is off to kindergarten it’s worth thinking about putting only a limited amount of stuff in their backpack (not forgetting that all-important cuddly companion, of course!).

If they’re taking a packed lunch with them, then that could be carried by hand in a separate bag to spread the load and not overburden their back and shoulders.

How can I determine what size is right for my child?

The really useful sizing guide that you’ll find here will help to ensure that you buy the correct size of backpack for your child.

How long should I expect a backpack to last?

This is the perennial ‘how long is a piece of string’ question as it always depends on the amount of use (or abuse!) that the backpack gets. If you don’t fancy buying a new backpack every time the bell rings, though, our advice is to choose a well-made, durable backpack.

Sometimes, but not always, that means investing a little more at the outset but that could pay off in terms of longevity.

Will these bags hurt my children’s back and shoulders?

The last thing you want is to think that hauling a backpack around day-in, day-out is going to harm your child by causing pain and discomfort. The general rule is that backpacks with wider, padded shoulder straps put less burden in these areas, especially if your child is likely to be carrying heavier loads such as multiple school books.

If you’re particularly concerned about comfort, it’s also worth looking out for backpacks with additional padding in the back area which will help protect your child’s back from any discomfort caused by hard objects inside the pack.

What is the price range of these backpacks?

We’ve covered a broad range of prices in our pick of the 10 best kids backpacks. No matter whether you’re on an economy drive or are in the mood to splash the cash for your dearly-beloved offspring, there’s something to suit all budgets.


Conclusion

Whether you’re in the market for a glitzy ‘fun’ backpack in a vibrant color for your little princess or a roughty-toughty backpack to cope with a real battering on the school bus or out on the trail, there’s no shortage of options out there.

We’ve done the hard yards of research for you to save you time trawling through the endless possibilities and come up with a selection of the best children’s backpacks for all kinds of uses and in all shapes, sizes and colors.

Our top tip above all else, though, is to take a look inside your beloved little ones’ backpacks from time to time and check that they really do need all that ‘stuff’ that they haul about with them every day. If you can lighten their load a little, you’ll be doing them a favor, even if they don’t see it at the time!


  • Updated March 12, 2019
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