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Function meets fashion: The best backpacks for teens

Every teen needs a functional backpack that still looks on trend. Our fashion gurus are here to help with this guide to the best backpacks for teens.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — We're getting closer to the back-to-school date for Wake County public schools, and that means one thing for parents and students: back-to-school shopping.

Each year, students are sent lists of supplies that they'll need to get through a successful school year. In addition to pens, pencils, note cards, and tissues, a lot of students are going to need a new backpack.

We're here to clue Raleigh families into the best backpacks for teens in a variety of price ranges. If you've been tracking our consumer reports, you know that we're looking at high inflation rates and savvy shopping is a must.

Read on for our guide to shopping for backpacks for teens and how to find the best ones in your price range.

How to choose a backpack for teens

First, let's talk about what to look for in a backpack for teens. They might be thinking purely about fashion, but you know that there are other considerations to be made. Ultimately, the backpack is no good if it isn't the right size, doesn't have the right compartments, or isn't built to last.

Think about what they need

What will your teen carry to and from school every day? Back when we were students, backpacks needed to carry a few textbooks and notebooks and maybe a pencil pouch or accordion folder. Now, many students are required to bring all of that and a laptop or tablet.

They may also need to pack away a bagged lunch, a water bottle, and supplies for extracurricular activities. Before you start shopping, make a list of how much needs to fit in a single bag.

Look for sturdy and adjustable straps

If your teen is lugging around a heavy backpack all day, you'll want to make sure that it's as comfortable as possible. That means avoiding things like drawstring straps, which will cut into their shoulders, or flimsy straps, which may break after a few uses. It's also ideal to find a backpack with adjustable straps so that the backpack is not too low or high on their backs.

The best backpack straps are easy to adjust and have ample padding. Companies like JanSport and L.L. Bean have been some of the leaders in comfortable, usable straps.

Consider your school supply budget

Parents all over the nation have reported a big increase in the cost of sending their kids to school. District budget shortages and an increase in extracurricular activities both contribute to a heavier burden on parents. Basing your purchases around a budget isn't always fun, but it's often necessary, and it may be time for your teens to learn that lesson.
Bonus tip: if you're buying a backpack on a tight budget, ask your teen about a few different acceptable color options. Even low-cost backpacks tend to come in a variety of colors, which means that you and your teen can consider fashion in addition to function.

Best backpacks for teens: Buying on a budget

If you're looking for a backpack that costs $50 or less, we've got a few tips. One of them is to keep an eye on sales hosted by name brands like JanSport, Nike, and Eastpak, all high-quality companies that tend to fall into the moderate price range. When you're looking at brands like Herschel Supply Company, make sure that you're double-checking dimensions; HSC sells a ton of mini backpacks for under $50, but these mini backpacks are truly mini.

If you're looking for high quality at a low price, our favorite is the Matein Travel Laptop Backpack. It comes equipped with a laptop sleeve and a USB charging port, plus water-resistant fabric to keep your teen's school supplies safe. The color options are lacking, but you can choose from red, black, and a few shades of grey.

If fashion is a must, the stylish but affordable Modoker Vintage Laptop Backpack also comes with a laptop sleeve, USB charging port, and plenty of pockets for pens, pencils, and other small supplies. The faux leather buckles across the front are more for show than practicality, but they sure look good.

Best backpacks for teens: More expensive (but still reasonable) options

Paying more for a backpack doesn't just open up your options to different brands and designs. It also tends to mean that your teen's backpack is going to last longer. So long as they're willing to use it again next year, you can consider a higher-priced backpack an investment.

You're going to find a ton of great options by all of the brands we've already mentioned. From the Herschel Classic XL to the JanSport Main Campus, these brands really know what they're doing when it comes to backpacks.

What if you're looking for something outside of the box?

If there's one moderately priced backpack that never seems to go out of style, it's the Fjällräven Kånken Water Resistant Backpack. Find it online to access all 40 colors or at Nordstrom. Your teen will love the minimalist, Scandinavian look and you'll love how well the water-resistant material protects a 13" laptop and plenty of other school supplies.

Another option is the Gootium Canvas Backpack, perfect for teens who have a more rugged, outdoorsy vibe. This backpack (which is more like a rucksack) has one big pocket perfect for books and electronics and three outer pockets for smaller items. The best part is that this backpack seems to go on sale often, which means that if you find it at the right time, it could even fit a tight budget.


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