Best Kids’ Backpacks – Lightweight Yet Durable Models of 2017

Did you know that the improper choice of backpacks among school-age children can increase the risks for back pain, even permanent injury, among children and teenagers?

The improper weight distribution on the shoulders, waist and hips increases the muscle strain, even bone stress, on these areas. The straps can also dig into the shoulders that can, in turn, while the uneven load can encourage stooping (i.e., bad posture).

But is isn’t just the improper choice that contributes to these health issues. The improper use of backpacks among kids and teenagers is also to blame! The improper use include slinging the backpack over one shoulder and failing to adjust the backpack depending on the load carried. Indeed, proper choice and use in kids’ backpacks are a must in ensuring that the children and teens maximize their use!

My Selection of the Top Kids' Backpacks that You Can Buy

With that said, here are our choices in the top 10 best kids’ backpacks. We will also provide tips in making your choice and making children wear their backpacks properly.

1. Wildkin Pack ‘n Snack

Suitable for: 3 to 6 years old

Kids like their backpacks to reflect their growing interest in vehicles on land, air and sea. This olive-colored Pack ‘n Snack backpack is then a great choice for a kids’ backpack, especially for preschoolers. The color means that it can appeal to both boys and girls since it’s neither too girly nor too boyish.

The backpack has two primary compartments and a side pocket. The central compartment can accommodate larger and heavier items like books and notebooks. The front compartment, which has thermal insulation, can accommodate your child’s snacks for school, such as sandwich and fruits. The side pocket is a great place to store a bottle of drink or an umbrella, perhaps even a small toy.

What's Great About It: Not all kids’ backpacks are made of kid-friendly, non-toxic materials but the Pack ‘n Snack is one such backpack. You will like that it has a simple yet sturdy design that can withstand the use, even the abuse, of little hands.

2. Amazon FreeTime Backpack for Kids

Suitable for: 3 years old and up

Aside from their usual books, notebooks and pencil cases, modern kids also have their electronic gadgets like smartphone, tablets, and MP3 players with headphones thrown in. But not all kids’ backpacks have a separate compartment for these devices so the FreeTime Backpack stands out.

Your child can place his electronic gadget in a special compartment designed for it. Your worries about it being scratched or squished by his other things can be reduced, too, thanks to the thick padding. You can store his water bottle, umbrella and favorite small toy in the mesh pockets while the rest of his things are in the larger compartment.

What's Great About It: This is available in two gender-friendly colors, pink and blue. You will definitely like the stylish and functional design suitable for the modern kid, as well as the thick shoulder straps and carrying handle. Your kid will just like that it can store his things so well.

3. Skip Hop Zoo Pack Little Kid and Toddler Backpack

Suitable for: 3 years old and up

Even toddlers can recognize several animals so they will love the Zoo Pack backpack collection. If you want, you can collect all 20 patterns including Blossom Butterfly, Cheddar Cow, and Marshal Monkey. Your kid will definitely find two or more animal patterns that will appeal to his/her style.

Each backpack features a spacious front pouch with thermal insulation to keep your child’s snack as warm as possible. The larger central compartment provide generous space for storing his/her essentials including diapers, clothes, face towels, and wet wipes. The adjustable mesh pocket can be used for storing a milk or drink bottle.

What's Great About It: Aside from the adorable animal patterns, the Zoo Pack backpack is made from phthalate- and BPA-free materials. The bag is small enough for a toddler to carry yet roomy enough to place a few of his/her things in it. Your toddler will even see himself/herself as more grown up because he/she now carries his/her own bag.

​4. Amazon Basics Classic Backpack

Suitable for: 12 years old and up

Simplicity and functionality are the keys behind the popularity of the Classic Backpack by one of the world’s largest online commerce portal. This comes in seven colors so pre-teens and teens of all gender will have at least one choice, be it pink for girls or blue for boys.

While it’s dubbed as a classic, it’s a backpack designed for contemporary use by teens who live such busy lives in and out of school. Your teen will find its roomy compartments so practical in their daily life, particularly as a school bag.

The 21-liter capacity backpack has several compartments. The main compartment is designed for carrying books, notebooks and other supplies while its secret zippered compartment can accommodate valuable items. The separate compartment has thick padded walls for protecting mobile gadgets, such as a laptop, smartphone, and tablet. The front compartment is best for storing smaller items like pens while the side pockets can be used for other things like a water bottle.

What's Great About It: We like its affordable price coupled with its stylish design and functional compartments. Parents apparently like the combination, too.

​5. JanSport T501 SuperBreak Backpack

Suitable for: 12 years old and up

JanSport, a 30-year old brand, is known for its simple yet durable, practical and stylish backpacks suitable for pre-teens and teens. The T501 is among its latest offerings that even adults are finding as great all-purpose backpacks.

The key to T501’s popularity is its 600-denier polyester fabric, known for its superior strength and sturdiness over other backpack materials. But it’s the strong and sturdy construction that separates JanSport backpacks, which can be used for more than a few years.

The T501 also has a simple yet practical design. The single primary compartment provides sufficient space for a teenager’s school items like books and notebooks. The simple design, however, means that there’s neither an inner padded compartment for mobile devices nor an inner zippered compartment for valuable items.

The front pocket makes up for it with an easy-zip closure and an interior open pocket. The back also features a padded design as a cushion for the lower back.

What's Great About It: The T501 is available in 34 designs ranging from solid colors to printed patterns, a wide range of choice that parents and teens like. We recommend it, too, for its no-fuss yet functional design that can be used for several purposes, such as for school or for casual occasions.

​6. Coolwoo Kid Backpack

Suitable for: 2 to 7 years old

Even among young kids, the term “cool” connotes two things – first, it refers to something trendy and, second, it means comfortable temperature. Your kids will then like the Coolwoo backpack for these reasons, too.

It’s available in two cool animal-inspired designs – a tiger and a dog – complete with the adorable details including facial expressions. It has cool compartments, too, including a spacious main compartment, a front compartment for small things, and a side pocket for a bottle.

But parents appreciate its materials and construction that contribute to a cooling effect when worn by their kids. The back material is a highly breathable, high-quality and ultra-soft mesh material that allows better air circulation. The entire backpack is also made of water-resistant, lightweight neoprene material.

What's Great About It: We like the adorable animal-inspired design, as did the kids apparently. You, as the parent, will love the breathable netting, sturdy construction, and relatively spacious compartments for a toddler backpack.

7. Yodo Kids Insulated Toddler Backpack

Suitable for: 3 to 6 years old

Parents like buying kids’ things that serve several purposes. If you’re one of them, then you will like this Yodo backpack because it’s a 3-in-1 item. Your kid can use it as a toddler backpack with roomy compartments and a lunch bag. You can also use it as a safety harness with a 50-inch detachable tether, which will keep your child within your radius whenever you’re both out and about.

The adorable animal-inspired designs are a bonus to such a multifunctional toddler’s backpack. The designs are a blue cow, a navy shark, a green dinosaur, and a brown dog. Both boys and girls will find a design that will suit their preferences in animals and colors.

What's Great About It: We like that the toddler backpack grows, so to speak, with the child. While young, the backpack can be a safety tether and, afterwards, as a fully functional backpack for nursery classes.

​8. Ropper Lightweight Canvas Kids School Backpack

Suitable for: 12 years old and up

Many, if not most, teenagers like to be part of the crowd yet still stand out in a positive manner. If your teenager fits the bill, then this Ropper backpack is a great gift.

This is still your standard backpack but there are a few notable differences. Your teen can choose from several interesting designs not usually found in other backpacks. You will also like that the backpacks are made of canvas instead of the usual polyester material in most backpacks.

Plus, the backpacks are lightweight yet durable in their construction and comfortable to use, thanks to the thickly padded straps. There are two main compartments and a front pocket with zipper.

What's Great About It: We like the canvas material and interesting designs available. Even the patterns are cute and cool, which will appeal to both younger and older teens.

​9. Mattel Hot Wheels Backpack

Suitable for: 4 years old and up

Hot Wheels is a brand by Mattel, which is also the owner of the Barbie franchise. Think of the Hot Wheels backpack as a great alternative for the boys and boyish at heart in your family.

The backpack has compact dimensions – 16x12x5 inches – so it’s the right size for a preschooler to use. But it’s still large enough to accommodate most of his/her personal belongings, such as drawing materials and toys. The main compartment is complemented by two side pockets and a zippered front pocket.

What's Great About It: We like that each bag already has a Hot Wheels mini-car so your kid can immediately enjoy both the bag and the toy.

​10. Leaper Casual Lightweight Canvas Backpack

Suitable for: 12 years old and up

Teens like to mix and match their stuff, too, including their bags. This Leaper bag set should provide your own teenager with the opportunity to go matchy-matchy with his/her bags.

The bag set consists of three bags – a canvas laptop bag, a pencil case, and a shoulder bag, all of which are characterized by a Bohemian design via embroidery at the bottom part. The canvas backpack provides plenty of space, thanks to the roomy main compartment and several pockets. The shoulder bag and pencil case may be smaller but these are still roomy enough.

What's Great About It: We like the extra storage options, such as the eyeglass holder placed on the shoulder straps and the metal ring on the front panel. Your teen will surely love the fashionable, if Bohemian, design as well as the padding all around the backpack.

Our Considerations in Choosing the Top Backpacks

We have to admit that choosing our top 10 backpacks for kids wasn’t an easy matter considering the sheer number of choices, the changing preferences of children as they grow older, and the budget of parents. But we kept in mind that we were doing parents a notable service so we plowed on.

We considered several factors in separating the best from the bad in kids’ backpacks including the following aspects.

Quality of the materials used

We chose these backpacks according to the strength and sturdiness of the materials used since these are the foundation of their overall quality. We read the reviews pertaining to the durability of these materials, especially in terms of their longevity under normal use. We included, for example, the JanSport T501 because many parents attested to its long-term use, many lasting for as long as 5 years with proper care.

Overall quality of the construction

We also considered the overall quality of the construction because even the strongest, sturdiest, and thickest materials will be useless when the construction isn’t up to par. We visually inspected the top backpacks to check the quality of the seams, attachments between separate parts (e.g., strap and main compartment), and hardware (e.g., zipper and rings). We also read the reviews of parents about these matters to make our shortlist.

In considering both the quality of the materials and their construction, we also factored in the reputation of the manufacturer. We strongly believe that manufacturers of backpacks with a good reputation, preferably one built over decades of being in the business, will only offer the best products. When you’re at the top of the game, after all, you’re less likely to risk it by offering your target customers with mediocre products.

Functionality of the backpacks

We like cool designs that fit the age group for which the bags were designed for, such as animal-inspired prints for the toddlers and solid colors with Bohemian touches for the teens. But cool designs are useless when the backpacks aren’t as practical in their features as expected.

When we speak of functionality, we’re usually referring to the number of compartments and pockets in each backpack. The compartments must be roomy enough to accommodate several items, such as books, notebooks and a few mobile electronic gadgets, perhaps even a change of clothes, for teens. The pockets should also be accessible for the wearer of the backpack, said pockets of which can be inside the main compartment, the front pocket, and the sides, even on the shoulder straps.

Many of the backpacks mentioned here have simple compartments, such as the JanSport T501, but these are included for several reasons. You will find that these backpacks will fit in a day’s worth of items for teens, thus, their inclusion in the list.

We also think of functionality in terms of the hardware and carrying handles, among others. The zippers, buckles and straps should be sturdy, as well as function as well as expected so that these contribute to the backpacks’ optimum use.

Of course, we considered the style including the color combinations, prints, and patterns of the backpacks. We chose the products that will appeal to the age group for which these were made.

Our Tips for Choosing the Best Backpacks for Your Kids

You should obviously choose your child’s backpack depending on his age, personal style, and needs in it, such as whether it’s for school or for camping. For a younger child, you can decide based on what you already know will make him/her happy. For an older child, like a pre-teen or teen, you’re well-advised to let him/her choose but set a budget.

Whatever the age, keep these general tips in mind so that you can make a smarter choice.

  • Check that the materials are kid-friendly. This means that these shouldn’t contain harmful chemicals, such as formaldehyde, BPA, PVC, phthalate, and lead, among others.
  • Look for features which offer maximum function and comfort for the user. These features include padded straps and back support, waist or hip straps, adjustable shoulder straps, and multipurpose compartments and pockets.
  • Inspect the backpacks, if possible, from the carrying handle to the bottom part. The seams and the fabric (e.g., canvas or polyester) should hold even when the backpack is filled to full capacity. The zippers should slide smoothly while the Velcro strap should stick well.

You will be unable to check the overall quality of a kids’ backpack when you’re buying online. You can instead read the manufacturer’s description and the consumer reviews, even ask questions in forums, as a substitute.

Our Tips for Encouraging Kids to Wear Their Backpacks Properly

But making the right choice in a backpack is just half of the battle. Did you know that as much as 48% of children aged 15 years and up experienced chronic back pain due to the inappropriate use of their backpacks? You shouldn’t dismiss it either as it increases the risks for health issues including permanent injury.

There are many possible issues that can occur when children including pre-teens and teens wear their backpacks including:

  • The shoulder and hips straps aren’t properly tightened. Your child’s upper body and shoulders are then pulled backward resulting in bad posture. You will observe him/her arching their backs or leaning forward to compensate for the imbalance.
  • The process of walking up and down stairs and ramps can cause twisting and jerking motions. Your child is at high risk for lower back damage because of these sudden movements.
  • The backpacks is placed too far away from the child’s back. Your child will also experience lower back pain because any pivoting motions from the backpack will have an impact there.
  • The strap is worn on only one shoulder. Your child is also under strain because he/she is forced to bear the brunt of uneven distribution of the weight.

    With this in mind, you can guide your child in the proper way of wearing his/her backpack and, thus, reduce his risks for injuries.
  • Reduce the load of the backpack if your child appears to be struggling while putting it on and removing it from his/her shoulders.
  • Adjust the shoulder and hip straps according to your child’s size and strength. The adjustments should ideally be done every time things are added or subtracted from the backpack. This will ensure even weight distribution over the shoulders, back and hips.
  • Pack the things inside the backpack to optimize even weight distribution, too. Basically, heavier and larger things should be at the center and towards the bottom part of the backpack.
  • Teach your child the proper way to wear a loaded backpack. Bend at the knees, which will minimize the twisting motion involved.
  • Teach your child to carry his/her backpack over both of his/her shoulders.

Better yet, you should become a role model in the proper use of backpacks. Your child is more likely to follow your example than just your words.


Think of your kid’s backpack as an extension of his/her clothes so these should fit him/her well in terms of size and style. Plus, backpacks are designed to be practical containers for their school things, mobile devices, and valuable items so functional compartments, straps and hardware are a must.

With our top 10 picks for backpacks, you should have an easier time making your own choice for your child!

    Sandra Cobain

    Mum of two. Child psychologist. Ardent admirer of art, crafts and cooking. She is the head of content for BestForTheKids. When she's not busy crafting posts & researching about compelling content ideas, she can be spotted playing outdoors with her two adorable children.

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