How To Organize Your Backpack: (Smart Tips & Tricks)

As we start to think about heading back to school and traveling again, it’s the perfect time to consider how to do this efficiently. Having a good quality backpack is a start, but if you want to get the most from it, you need to use it correctly.

By organizing your backpack, you can make optimal use of the space and make sure you have everything you need in one place.

Considerations For Good Backpack Organization

Taking the time to organize your backpack effectively is worth it. A well organized backpack helps you keep everything safe and secure. It helps save you time and prevents you from having to dig through your stuff to find what you’re looking for. 

Overall, it just gives you peace of mind and makes traveling just that much easier.

Backpack’s Size

The size of your backpack should be dictated by what you’re using it for. A bag for a day trip will be much smaller than a travel bag, and a school bag should only need to be mid-sized at best. You need to make sure you select a backpack that’s big enough to fit everything in but not too big. Organizing your backpack effectively, you can make better use of the space, so you may need a smaller one than you think.

Pockets and compartments

Pockets and compartments give you lots of options. With different areas in your backpack, you can divide up your contents, making it easier to organize them and keep everything safe and secure. Every backpack will have a different number of pockets and compartments, directly impacting how you manage it.

Special storage

Special storage pockets in your backpack are often useful for key pieces you need to keep handy. This might be your passport, your hall pass, or your keys. Special storage is often more secure and helps you keep track of your vulnerables.

How To Organize Your Backpack

How to Organize A School Backpack: Grade, Middle, High School & College

Organizing your backpack for school is extremely important, but you’ll have to approach it differently depending on what type of school or college you’re in.

Grade school is for kids up to the age of about 11. At this age, many learning materials will be in school, but there may still be some books to take to and from home. It’s more likely that a backpack is needed for a packed lunch, water bottle, or homework.

Middle school is for kids between the age of 11 and 13. At this age, you’ll start having a lot more textbooks or exercise books for each lesson, and you'll need more space in your backpack.

High school is for kids between 14 and 18. This is where you’ll start to carry around more and need a bit more space in your bag. You might have longer days and do more after school, so that would be a consideration too.

After high school kids will go to college. This is completely different, and you'll need a lot more flexibility from your backpack. You’ll have some classes, lots of books, potentially a laptop, and a lot of social stuff going on, which means you'll probably want to compartmentalize your belongings a bit more.

Below is a guide for how to organize your backpack for students:

1. Grade School

In grade school, you’ll likely not have as much stuff, so you should consider a smaller backpack.

Start with an empty backpack and build upwards, putting the items you use less often at the bottom of the bag. You should keep any homework or books flat in your bag against your back and keep your stationery near the top so you can reach it more easily.

You should gather and layout all of the things you need to take the night before. This will help you organize and prioritize as you start to fill your backpack.

How To Organize Your Backpack For 4th Grade

2. Middle/High School

In middle and high school, you'll have a lot more to carry, and the best backpacks for high school will have a lot more capacity. You should make sure you organize all your contents by subject, grouping together the books and notepads for each lesson the night before. Order these to correspond with your timetable so you can take them out easily during the day.

Try and keep your notebook paper in a separate pocket or compartment so you can easily grab it, and consider keeping your lunch and water bottle handy too. Look to keep your schedule, planner, and a school map in the front pocket so you can grab them more easily.

It’s important to recognize that your backpack can start to get heavier as you reach this age because you have more subjects and more books. Make sure you look for sturdy backpacks that are comfortable to carry around for the whole day.

How To Organize Your Backpack For Middle school

3. College

When it comes to college, you need a lot more versatility. Every day will be different, and your organization will help you a great deal. When packing your bag, you should gather everything you need and then divide it up based on activity. 

Separate your books based on subject or class and keep your stationery somewhere you can quickly grab it. Make sure you keep a campus map and a daily schedule in the front pocket so you can grab them. You’ll likely have a laptop in college, so you should consider a backpack that can accommodate it, too.

Depending on what you have on, keep the additional stuff near the top of your bag. This might be a scarf or hat, or something for after class. If you have gym gear, then try to keep it in a separate compartment.

College is all about being ready for anything, so having backpacks with loads of pockets and flexibility makes it easier for you to organize your day.

How to Organize Your Backpack For Travel

Traveling is fantastic, but you need to be organized and have a well-planned out backpack to do it well. There’s a lot to consider when traveling but make sure you have:

  • Passport; vital in basically every country
  • Phone charger; your phone is your map, your contact point, and your planner. Make sure you keep your charger handy and have any adapters you need with you.
  • Money; you need to keep your money handy and ensure it's safe and secure, or you'll end up having to cut the trip short!
  • Water bottle; it’s a great idea to keep a water bottle handy so you can stay hydrated while you’re exploring.
  • Sunscreen; it can get pretty hot when you're traveling. Keep your suncream handy, so you can protect your skin from UV rays.
  • Spare socks; these are essential when you're traveling because you'll likely be walking a lot. These will help protect your feet while you’re exploring.
  • Medicines; it goes without saying that you need to keep any medication you have with you. Make sure you also pack some painkillers just in case.
  • Important paperwork; make sure you have your booking reservations and essential documents you'll need while traveling.
  • Toothbrush; pretty self-explanatory, but traveling is no excuse not to maintain your oral hygiene!

There are many different ways to organize your backpack, which help you travel without any hassle. Often for longer trips, you’ll want to pack mini storage solutions in the backpack so you can unpack more effectively when you arrive. By organizing it all at the start of the trip, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble and time.

Travelers often look at backpacks for hiking because of their size, durability, and how comfortable they are. We have a full guide explaining how to pack a backpack here, but below are some of the key considerations to bear in mind when organizing your backpack:

  • Choose the right backpack
    This is really important and shouldn’t be rushed. There are different types of backpacks depending on where you are going to use it. Carefully consider the size of backpack you need first, this will be influenced by the length of the trip, and then you should consider the other qualities you need. If you’re going to have a really varied trip with lots of things going on, then different compartments will suit you well. If you’re walking a lot, then you need a well-balanced and comfortable backpack. Make sure your backpack will work with what you have planned before buying.
  • Keep travel essentials packed at all times
    You should keep your essential items on you at all times. This is likely your passport, your money, and your documents. Keep these packed, and in a separate compartment so they’re easy to find. Especially when going to your honeymoon, these things are important not to encounter any problems along the way.
  • Roll the items and put them into packing cubes
    Packing cubes are small squares of fabric that you can pack your belongings into. They allow you to separate all your belongings into easy-to-identify groups, making it much more efficient when traveling. It can also allow you to use the space in your backpack more effectively.
  • Pack a health kit/first aid kit
    You never know what’s going to happen, so make sure you pack a first aid kit. Try and keep this in a separate compartment in your backpack, and don’t move it, so you always know where to find it
  • Use a shoe sack for your shoes
    Shoe sacks allow you to keep all your shoes together in one place. It also means that if there’s any dirt on them, it won't impact your other belongings.
  • Start to pack at the bottom
    Always pack from the bottom. This should contain the items you know you won’t need right away, and you can wait until you're settling down before you need to get it out. This might be your wash kit or a portable storage unit you’ll set up once you’re in the hostel or hotel. If you’re camping, it might be your sleeping bag.
  • Pack at the middle
    In the middle of your backpack, you'd typically put your cooking gear, pots, pans, and other accessories. You’ll also be able to slot in your soft clothes around these bulkier items.
  • Pack at the top of the backpack
    Finally, pack the items you need handy at the top. This is likely your money, charger, and passport, but it may also be your itinerary and map. You should also consider keeping your sunscreen and first aid kit near the top of the backpack.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What should I put in my first day of school backpack?

Make sure you include your schedule/day planner, stationery, textbooks, water bottle, and a charger if you need one.

How do you carry your shoes in a backpack?

Always pack your heavier shoes at the bottom of the backpack, so your bag is more balanced. You can use a shoe sack or bag to keep the pairs together. Check out some backpacks with shoe compartments as an alternative option.

How do I maximize my backpack space?

Maximize your backpack space by rolling your clothes, using packing squares, and planning effectively. More tips can be found here:

How do you pack a lot of clothes in a backpack?

Rolling your clothes is the best way to fit a lot of them in your backpack. This is more efficient than folding and will vastly increase the storage capacity.  We have specifically created a guide on how to pack clothes in a backpack as a general reference when going on vacations.

How To Organize Your Backpack For Travel


Backpacks are one of the most useful tools that we use every day, but you need to be organized and plan ahead to get the most of them. Whether you’re going to school, college, or on holiday, use the tips and tricks we’ve shared here to get more from your backpack and keep your belongings safe and secure.

  • Updated November 2, 2021