How Big Should a College Backpack Be? A Guide to Choosing the Right Size 

 July 1, 2023

By  Keith Terrell

Ah, the college backpack. Just saying that phrase seems to conjure up a flood of memories of putting stationery, packing textbooks, and stuffing your pockets with snacks to last the whole day. It's an integral part of the college experience! But what size should you choose? With different sizes categorized by liters, it can be difficult to decide which backpack is the right size for you. 

Ideally, a college backpack should ideally be between 15 and 35 liters and have multiple compartments for organization. To make sure all your textbooks and materials fit inside, bring them with you when you buy a new backpack.

We’ll help you with that: below is a guide to choosing the perfect college backpack size for your needs. We'll talk about the various sizes available and the pros and cons of each one. So sit tight and read on — you're sure to find the perfect college backpack that fits you like a glove. Let's get started!

Types of Backpacks for College Students

There are various types of backpacks and features that can meet different individual needs for school. These types range from simple cloth backpacks to leather, to laptop-specific bags or briefcases.

Basic cloth backpacks are the traditional choice and the most common type of bag in schools. They are often equipped with pockets, straps, and compartments that can hold everything you need. On the one hand, they look rather casual and may not be as spacious as other bags, especially considering they do not have a laptop sleeve. On the other hand, they should have enough space for textbooks and the things you need on campus like notebooks, keys, and so on.

Leather backpacks tend to have a polished and professional look. As a result, they are often considered ideal when students are doing internships or attending important meetings on campus. Even though they lack the compartments of cloth bags, their elegant appearance makes up for it.

Recently, special laptop backpacks have emerged as an option for people who want to take a laptop with them wherever they go. The advantage of these backpacks is that most of the backpack is dedicated to safely transporting the laptop without you having to pack too much or spill out items. If you know that your classes require you to work with the laptop on a daily basis or that you need to take documents to campus often, then this might be the best option.

Briefcase bags are another alternative to backpacks. They look like large bags with two handles, so you can easily carry them on your shoulders instead of just using your hands. The flat top usually has an outside pocket to fit smaller items, while there is also room inside for books and tech accessories. The main problem with this type of bag, however, is that the shape of the handles and the lack of padding on the straps make it uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time.

When choosing the best backpack for university, be sure to consider factors such as durability, weight capacity and space allowance. A bag that is too small can lead to problems filling it, while a bag that is too large can lead to unnecessary empty space or extra weight. These factors can significantly interfere with a student's daily tasks and become burdensome.

Size and Space Requirements

Medium backpacks and large backpacks are common options for college students in terms of size and space. A medium backpack usually has a capacity of 20-29L. These backpacks have enough space for a laptop, textbooks, folders, and often a few small items like a snack or water bottle. Large backpacks have a size of up to 40L and thus offer significantly more space for supplies. Many people are attracted to larger backpacks because they offer more space. However, there is an ongoing debate about whether the extra weight of carrying a larger backpack all day is worth it.

Proponents of larger bags argue that they are better suited to accommodate additional course materials (e.g. laptop + textbooks + folders) and thus provide more storage space. Opponents, on the other hand, claim that medium-sized bags are best and stress the importance of having a lightweight bag that won't exhaust you at the end of the day. As with any decision, it's important to weigh what you need and what works best for you — not everyone requires an encyclopedic number of supplies every day.

Let’s now take a look at some tips to answer the most burning question of them all: how big should a college backpack be?

How Big Should a Backpack Be?

Determining the size of a backpack is an important aspect of choosing the right bag size. Smaller backpacks offer space for a few items and are often more comfortable to carry as they don't put too much strain on the wearer’s body. They are also usually more streamlined, which makes them suitable for sporting activities or other active situations.

Alternatively, a roomier bag provides space for bulky items such as textbooks or laptops. It also offers better organization with a variety of compartments and pockets, making it ideal for longer trips or commutes.

Ultimately, finding the right balance between portability and capacity is a personal choice. It's worth considering different backpack sizes to ensure it fits your lifestyle and meets your space requirements without being overly bulky or uncomfortable.

Now that you have given some thought to choosing the correct backpack size, it’s worth noting that many personal items such as laptops require special attention. If you plan to carry one frequently, it pays to find a backpack that is ergonomically designed to fit your device. Let’s take a look at which backpack size will accommodate your laptop most comfortably.

What Size Backpack Will Accommodate Your Laptop?

Many students pay attention to whether a backpack can accommodate their laptop. The size of the laptop backpack you should purchase depends on several factors, such as the size of your laptop and any additional accessories you carry. 

Some people opt for a traditional type of backpack that is not specifically designed to hold a laptop but is large enough to accommodate one comfortably. On the other hand, there are those who would rather invest in a specific laptop backpack with additional features such as extra padding to keep their computer safe while traveling.

Ultimately, each student must decide for themselves which option best suits their needs. One suggestion would be to take your laptop to a shop and put it in different models to see which one fits best. Regardless of which type of backpack you choose, make sure that no matter how full you pack your bag, nothing ever presses against the outside or inside of your laptop.

No matter how big or small your bag may be, make sure it is comfortable to carry and ask about other factors, such as the allowable dimensions in student dorms.

Additionally Noteworthy Factors

Other aspects to consider depend on the person and lifestyle, but some factors may be more important than others in deciding which backpack size is best.

For example, if the student frequently engages in physical activities such as hiking or field trips, a backpack with more storage compartments may be of great benefit. This allows them to store items such as water bottles, snacks, and personal items while they pursue the activity of their choice. In addition, multiple compartments make it easier for students to stay organized.

Another factor to consider is the weight of the bag. Carrying a heavy bag around can cause back pain and permanent physical damage. For this reason, it is important that you read reviews and look for lightweight backpacks that offer both style and comfort.

Students should also pay attention to the material when buying a college backpack. Polyester or nylon options offer flexibility and durable protection for your belongings. In addition, these materials are available in different colors and offer good weather protection.

Weight and Material of the Bag

The weight of a backpack depends greatly on the material used, ranging from lightweight nylon and polyester to leather, PVC, and other heavier materials.

Choosing a lightweight material for your college backpack can help take the strain off your back, especially when carrying heavier items. However, if you need more protection or durability for certain items, you should opt for a more robust material. If you place more emphasis on comfort and less on durability, a lightweight and breathable material may be a better choice for your needs.

Other Features to Look For

When choosing a college backpack, it is important to consider additional features besides weight and material. Look for padded or extra-wide shoulder straps to distribute the weight evenly and relieve the strain on your back, shoulders, and neck.

For organizing items such as textbooks, laptops, and writing utensils, it is advisable to have a variety of pockets and compartments in your backpack. This ensures easy access and prevents clutter or forgotten items. If you often carry heavy items such as books or laptops, consider a backpack with an external loop or strap to which you can attach a small water bottle for hydration on the go.

Another feature to look out for is padded shoulder straps. They are essential for carrying comfort as they provide padding and prevent you from feeling uncomfortable when carrying heavy loads for long periods of time. Choose a backpack with well-padded straps to avoid irritation and pain.

As for zippers, they should open wide enough to allow easy access to the contents of the backpack. Consider reverse-curved zippers with cover flaps for extra protection from rain and dust. Also look for sturdy zipper designs with multiple teeth for durability. Smooth-running zippers offer a better user experience and prevent chafing on hands or clothing when opening and closing the backpack.

Keeping these factors in mind when choosing a college backpack will ensure comfort, convenience and longevity and save you from having to replace your backpack frequently due to wear and tear.

Frequently Asked Questions

What size should a college backpack be?

A bag that’s too big can make it difficult to navigate an urban campus or fit into smaller spaces, while a bag that’s too small may not have enough room for everything a student needs. For most people, a medium-sized backpack of about 15 inches wide and 20 inches high is recommended. This size is large enough to accommodate textbooks, notes, laptops, chargers, snacks, and water bottles while still being comfortable to carry.

Smaller backpacks can work just as well if you have fewer items to carry or do not need bulky items such as textbooks. In any case, comfort should take precedence over fashion when selecting a college backpack.

What criteria should be used to determine the size of a college backpack?

The right size college backpack must be selected based on the following criteria:

  1. Volume – Choose a bag with enough volume to accommodate textbooks, binders, and other supplies. Look for backpacks that offer many pockets and compartments to store items adequately without taking up too much space.
  2. Comfort – Make sure to get one with adjustable shoulder straps and a padded back panel so you can adjust it to your personal shape and size.
  3. Durability – Choose a backpack made of durable, tear-resistant material like nylon or canvas so it can withstand the daily wear and tear of long university days.
  4. Style – Your personal style preferences are an important factor to consider when choosing the right size college backpack. With so many trendy colors and cool designs to choose from, you can find a backpack that not only meets your functional needs but also reflects your unique sense of style!

What features should I look for when shopping for a college backpack?

  1. It should be  a backpack made of high-quality material like canvas or nylon that can withstand wear and tear. Also, make sure the bag has sturdy straps with sufficient padding for comfort and an adjustable waist strap for extra back support.
  2. The backpack needs to be big enough to hold all your books and school supplies yet small enough to carry comfortably around campus. It should also have plenty of compartments and pockets to put your things in, as well as a secure closure, such as a drawstring or zipper. Finally, choose a bag with rain protection if you live in areas with frequent rainfall.

How much should I pack in my college backpack?

Choosing the right size college backpack depends on a few factors. First, consider the storage space the backpack offers. There are different types of backpacks with different sizes and compartments, so it's important to find out about the dimensions and features before you buy. Next, consider what items you want to take with you on a daily basis, such as textbooks, notebooks, a laptop, food and other essentials. Making a packing list in advance can help you determine the size of backpack you need.

However, remember that bigger is not always better. If you choose a backpack that is too big or bulky for your everyday needs, it can be more of a liability than an advantage. A backpack that is comfortable, fits everything you need, and offers mobility and convenience is better in all aspects. By considering storage space, evaluating your daily items and choosing an appropriate size, you can find a college backpack that meets your needs and enhances your overall experience.

Are there any advantages or disadvantages to a larger or smaller college backpack?

The advantages of a larger backpack include the ability to have more storage space, making it easier to transport and organize classroom materials. Larger backpacks also provide extra padding and support to prevent back pain due to heavy loads. They can make life on campus easier by providing space for supplies and extra snacks or lunch on long days.

However, a smaller college backpack can also offer students some unique benefits. Smaller bags take up less space in cramped quarters like dorm rooms or lecture halls, making it easier to navigate tight spaces. Their size and weight also make them less strenuous to carry, which can reduce the strain on the body over a long period of time. Less space in the bag could encourage students to carry only the essentials, which could help save money in the long run.

In summary, there are both advantages and disadvantages to choosing a larger or smaller college backpack depending on individual needs and preferences. Before buying, it is important for students to consider how much space they need for their belongings on a daily basis, as well as other practical factors such as the convenience of carrying or storing the backpack.

About the author

Keith is a one bag traveler and the owner of Backpacks Global. His go to backpack is the Osprey FarPoint 40.

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