What Is the Best Backpack for Elementary School? 

 February 16, 2023

By  Diane Wuthrich

Elementary school kids lead extremely busy lives, and have to bring a heavy amount of things to and from school. The right backpack can make all the difference, but how do you find the best one?

Elementary school backpacks should be: from 15 to 20 liters in size, comfortable to carry, fit well, offer proper organization with pockets, durable, and made from quality material. It should also come in patterns or colors that kids love, while offering good value.

When shopping around for a backpack that’s suitable for elementary school, there are different aspects to consider with these features. Read on below to learn more.

What Is the Best Elementary School Backpack?

Elementary school is a busy time for every kid! It’s exciting, but also busy, with all the classes, homework, and school activities.

That’s why it’s crucial for students to have the appropriate backpack. Here’s what you should be looking out for:


The best elementary school backpack should be between 15 to 20 liters in size. This should be appropriate for carrying all their school belongings plus snacks. However, the backpack should always weigh less than 10 to 20% of your kid’s body weight when worn, and with all the belongings packed inside.

Backpacks that are too big will not fit elementary school students, while one that’s too small just won’t work.


There are several aspects to check for to ensure that the backpack is comfortable to wear:

Broad straps: Broad straps, as opposed to narrow ones, offers much more comfort to the wearer. Even better if the straps are padded because padding protects your child’s shoulders and back, while preventing straps from digging into their skin. Just be sure that both straps are worn for better weight distribution.

Adjustable: Being able to adjust backpack straps is helpful. It will ensure a better fit even when the backpack’s weight and contents change. For example, on certain days of the week, elementary school students may need to pack more things such as a change of clothes for extra-curricular activities.

When a backpack weighs more, it’s beneficial to tighten the straps so it has a more snug fit while staying closer to the body. This will also be much kinder to the back, and prevents back injury.

In addition, some school backpacks are equipped with an adjustable hip belt and chest strap. Though they are not necessary features, they will come in handy especially for elementary school kids who struggle with carrying heavy backpacks every day, or those who have existing back problems.

Ergonomic features such as these, as well as a padded back, will all ensure that elementary school kids are comfortable when they wear it.


In order to determine the right fit, it’s time to bust out the measuring tape.

Measure the height of their back from the shoulder line to the waistline – where the belly button is located, and add two inches. The backpack should comfortably sit two inches beneath the shoulders, and a maximum of four inches below the waist. It’s always recommended for backpacks to be sitting in the center of the back, just between the shoulder blades, for efficient weight distribution.

Measure the back width by starting between the ridges of the shoulder blades, and add an inch or two. You’ll need the extra allowance for when they grow.


School backpacks should have enough pockets and dividers to help students stay organized. They also aid in weight distribution. If students need to bring a laptop or tablet to school, the pack should have a padded slot so that these electronics are stashed away safely and protected from hard edges of notebooks or textbooks in the main compartment.

Aside from that, the best backpack for elementary school should have smaller compartments for organizing school supplies and smaller belongings. These include pens and pencils, wallet, snacks, or keys. A water bottle pocket on one or both sides of the pack is also beneficial in ensuring the student is hydrated.


Check the backpack inside and out to identify if it’s made to be durable. Look out for careless stitching patterns, loose and uneven threads because these are signs it could easily come apart. Also, look for frayed fabric edges and zippers that are designed with flaps over them.

It’s always good to go with a reputable backpack brand that offers a warranty. Warranties are a sign that manufacturers stand behind the quality of their product and are willing to replace them if they break.

Quality Material

Quality material used in a backpack is a good indicator of its durability and reliability. The last thing any elementary student needs is for their bag to break down in school, so it’s good to invest in one that’s premium quality with better chances of lasting many years.

Nylon and polyester are two commonly used quality materials for school backpacks, as well as other types of backpacks. Nylon, as well as rip stop nylon, is widely because it’s durable, strong, and resistant to abrasion. Nylon is an umbrella term referring to a group of plastics called Polyamids, which are melted down and woven to create backpacks.

On the other hand, polyester is another type of durable and popular fabric that is derived from plastic. It dries quickly and lasts a long time, while being lightweight and wrinkle-resistant. Some fabrics are made from a combination of the two in varying ratios, and you can’t go wrong with one or both of these fabrics. 

Cordura is a reliable fabric, loved for its ability to resist water and abrasion. Because of these characteristics, cordura is popular among heavy duty and rugged style backpacks. It can still be used in school backpacks especially if the backpack will be subject to the elements or heavy wear and tear.

Other materials include cotton canvas and PVC fabric, though they aren’t as durable for school backpacks.


It’s essential that kids enjoy wearing their backpack not just because they’re comfortable, but because it reflects their personal style. After all, they are going to be using the pack day in and day out for at least a year.

You can choose a backpack with a popular movie or cartoon character on it, as long as it’s made of high-quality. Alternatively, you can opt for a durable, high-quality backpack that may not be as splashy or colorful, but can be customized with key chains, as well as glue and sew on patches of their favorite things or characters.

Value for Money

Good value is subjective; it reflects how much you are personally willing to pay for a good elementary school backpack.

Having said that, there’s no need to shell out hundreds of dollars for to find a good one. There are many excellent school backpacks under $100, which are designed to last a long time.

Best Backpacks for Elementary School

Best Backpacks for Elementary School Boys

Here are some examples of top-rated backpacks for elementary school boys, which are available to compare on our website:

-    JanSport SuperBreak Backpack
-    Adidas Stadium II Backpack

Best Backpacks for Elementary School Girls

Check out these gorgeous and functional backpacks for elementary school girls, which are also available to compare:

-    High Sierra Loop Backpack
-    Herschel Settlement Backpack

Frequently Asked Questions

What to fill an elementary backpack with?

A backpack for elementary school should have enough space for all the essentials. These include:

  • School supplies (notebooks and text books)
  • Change of clothes
  • File folder for loose leaf pages
  • Lunch box and snacks
  • Pencil case
  • Water bottle
  • Phone charger
  • Calculator
  • Hygiene kit (sanitizing wipes, tissue paper, etc.)

Do you need a backpack for elementary school?

Backpacks are the most popular choice of bag for elementary school, and for good reason: a good quality backpack prevents injury, and helps you safely store all your belongings for use in school every day comfortably as well as stylishly.

However, there are other alternatives to backpacks. These include:

  • Messenger bag
  • Duffel bag
  • Sling bag
About the author

Diane is our head writer and researcher for our backpack informational content. Her everyday carry is a Herschel.

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