What Is the Best Backpack for Middle School? 

 August 18, 2023

By  Diane Wuthrich

With all the things students need to bring with them to middle school daily, the right backpack is essential. However, there are so many backpacks out there that it can get confusing to find one that’s suitable for middle school.

A backpack that’s best for middle school has several compartments in varying sizes. The ideal capacity is from 21 to 30 liters without being bigger than your back. It should be comfortable, of good quality, and ergonomic.

There are other factors to consider to help you determine the best backpack for use during middle school. Read on below to learn more.

What Is the Best Type of Backpack for Middle School?

Backpacks are one of the most important items for any middle school student.

It’s where they store all of their essentials for school, so a quality, comfortable pack is necessary to stay organized before, during, and after class. Backpacks are widely accepted as the most comfortable and efficient way to carry school belongings. This is especially true when compared to other bag styles such as the haversack, satchel, fanny pack, or a bumbag.

Backpacks allow you to carry more items in your bag, while the presence of two shoulder straps contribute to comfort and better weight distribution. Thes days, school backpacks come in a range of styles and colors, even including characters that are popular with kids.

But how do you find the most appropriate middle school backpack?

Here’s a guide on how to find one that suits the needs of your child:


A backpack that can accommodate 21 to 30 liters is the ideal size for middle school. This is also the most common capacity for many school backpacks, providing students with ample space without being too bulky or too small. When students enter middle school, they have to carry significantly larger and heavier books as well as other learning tools, so ample space is necessary.

In addition, the backpack shouldn’t be larger than your child’s back. A bag that is too big or too heavy can cause back pain and discomfort. Ideally, the pack is centered between shoulder blades when worn with all the school gear. 


The best backpacks for middle school have adequate compartments in different sizes. This feature makes it easy for students to locate what they need quickly within the pack, without having to spend time unnecessarily searching for items.

Many school backpacks are already equipped with pockets, but it’s best to choose one that has the pockets for precisely what you need. For example, a padded laptop or tablet compartment, a smaller exterior compartment, a water bottle holder, or smaller pockets for pens, keys, USB drives, and other small items. A pouch specifically for snacks and lunch is a great feature too, though it can be purchased separately. 

The main compartment of the backpack should be roomy enough to carry textbooks and notebooks. Secret RFID pockets are an optional feature that can be beneficial for the prevention of theft and pickpocketing.


Strong, long-lasting materials will increase the lifespan of a backpack. Look for packs made from nylon, polyester, or a blend of these materials. Canvas backpacks are also another popular material known for their strength. 

Waterproof or water-resistant material is optional, though it’s helpful for extra protection.


A school bag must always be comfortable to wear. There are some features to look out for that can help ensure comfort while reducing the risk of pain or injury. These include:

Wide, padded shoulder straps: Good backpacks will have broad padded shoulder straps which make carrying even heavier weights more bearable. Meanwhile, poor-quality backpacks lack padding on the shoulder straps; they tend to be narrow, causing the straps to dig into the skin and are extremely uncomfortable to wear.

Adjustable shoulder straps: Being able to adjust shoulder straps is beneficial for proper weight distribution. For example, there are days when a middle school student may have to pack extra clothes for physical education classes a few times a week and thus, will have to carry more weight compared to other days. 

In these situations, they would benefit from quickly and easily adjusting the strap length as needed.

Hip and/or chest belts: The use of an adjustable hip belt or sternum strap is a great feature that reduces discomfort and pressure from carrying the backpack on your shoulders. These also assist in improving overall balance.

Additionally, look for bags made with an ergonomic design for better comfort. Some ergonomic features include curved shoulder straps, air mesh back panels, and strategic pockets for efficient weight distribution.

Good Quality

Inexpensive school backpacks will not last a long time. They can cause problems for kids in the long run, such as the bottom fabric tearing out from the heavy weight of textbooks while in school. Avoid these problems by going for good-quality backpacks for middle school.  

These days, buying a quality backpack doesn't have to be expensive. There are many tough yet stylish bags out there that kids and teens enjoy using for school - and they don't have to break the bank. 

Additional Considerations When Choosing the Best Middle School Backpacks

Below, you'll find a list of additional features you may want to consider when shopping around for the best backpacks for middle school. While they are not as essential as those listed above, they may come in handy for you:


Quality zippers don’t get tangled in fabrics easily, are made with metal, and run smoothly. YKK is a renowned zipper brand and is widely used by trusted backpack manufacturers. You can't go wrong buying a backpack that uses YKK zippers.


Backpacks are made by stitching fabrics together, and how well stitching is done will tell you a lot about the quality (or lack thereof) of a backpack. The stitching should be precise, clean, and not have any messy overlaps. Many quality backpacks use high-density stitches to strengthen several areas of the pack, ensuring that they don’t break easily even when they are subject to heavy weight.

Avoid backpacks that have loose or uneven stitches and frayed fabric edges.


When a backpack comes with a warranty from its manufacturer, it’s their way of telling you that they are confident in the durability of their product. Research on bag warranty before you purchase it so that if you discover manufacturer defects, you can return it. Generally speaking, the longer warranties are, the better for you – and there are many backpack brands that come with a lifetime warranty.


Rolling backpacks, or backpacks that can be converted into strollers or backpacks, are a great choice for middle school students. Shifting from backpack to stroller is beneficial for days when children need to pack heavier items (such as for extracurricular activities or sports), without being forced to carry them on their backs.

Reflective tape

Reflective tape is a security feature that ensures you can be seen by cars when walking to and from school. This can also be helpful during the winter months when daylight hours are shorter.

Personal Style

Last but not least, a good backpack for middle school should match your child’s personal style. Given the availability of many stylish school bags out there, you can easily find one that meets your child’s needs as well as their style, all while being within your budget.

Recommendations For The Best Backpack for Middle School

There are lots of excellent backpacks that are perfect for middle school students. Check out these popular models in various categories, but be sure to read the reviews to learn about the pros and cons of each. You may even be able to score deals when these products go on sale

Best Laptop Backpack For Middle School

Lovevook Laptop Backpack For Women: Lovevook has a great selection of affordable yet functional and stylish backpacks. This laptop backpack is perfect for fashion-conscious middle school students, for whom performance is just as important.

It can fit a 15.6-inch laptop inside the padded laptop sleeve. Thanks to ample padding and cushioning, you can have peace of mind that your electronic investments are always thoroughly protected. Alternatively, if you use a tablet or ipad, the padded compartment has a front sleeve that can accommodate it as well.

The Lovevook Laptop Backpack measures 12 x 16 x 7.5 inches, and it weighs just 1.83 lbs. This meets the average size for many middle school backpacks: it can fit A4 folders and many more school supplies. The spacious interior compartment is roomy enough for a water bottle, change of clothes, and other essentials. 

Students can rely on excellent organization at all times since this schoolbag comes with 19 pockets. The wide zippered access to the main compartment makes it even easier to find everything you need, without having to rummage through – which really comes in handy when you’re sprinting off from one class to another.

Based on our research, every single one of these pockets has been thoughtfully designed. The front exterior pockets are the ideal place to store items you need quick access to, with pockets that can fit your mobile phone, wallet, pens, and small school accessories. As a bonus, this middle school backpack also comes with a USB charging port so that you can charge your devices on the go. 

The Lovevook Laptop Backpack is also very comfortable to wear. Padded and adjustable shoulder straps allow you to fine-tune the pack’s fit within seconds. This stylish knapsack also comes in a variety of patterns and colors.

It would have been convenient if this backpack came with interior pockets for even better organization. Perhaps the manufacturer can take this into consideration for future designs. Just be sure to take good care of this bag, and avoid overpacking it with too many heavy textbooks, which can cause breakage early on.

Patagonia Refugio Backpack: Patagonia is synonymous with high-end, top-quality hiking and outdoor gear. Their backpacks are no different; they’re made to last decades given the unparalleled quality of fabrics and craftsmanship that go into each of their products.

Middle school students who are looking for a reliable and multifunctional laptop backpack will appreciate the durability of the Patagonia Refugio. With a 26L volume and removable padded laptop sleeve, this is the perfect companion for students on the go. On weekends, simply detach the laptop sleeve and use the bag for your adventures.

The Patagonia Refugio was made to be comfortable too. The breathable back panel is effective at wicking away sweat. It also comes with a bike-light clip, located at the base of the backpack, for students who bike to and from school. 

When we tested this pack, we were pleased to discover that it felt like almost nothing when worn. It weighs a mere 735 grams, and the superior fabrics felt great on the skin. The shoulder straps have adequate padding, plus the sternum strap does a great job of stabilizing the load. 

Staying organized is easy with this backpack, too! Students will appreciate the dedicated zippered pocket for tech items such as cables and cords, for a seamless transition to desk work. Furthermore, the front panel organizer allows you to grab your most-used items with ease. 

The Refugio is available in beautiful solid colors, and the price is reasonable given the attributes of this pack. Students who need more storage can also check out the 30L version. We did notice that Patagonia missed an opportunity by foregoing a smaller accessories pocket, which would have been more convenient for students. 

It would have been nice to keep keys or other small items well-organized.

Regardless, the Patagonia Refugio Backpack is a great all-around laptop backpack choice for middle school students. 

Best Book Bag For Middle School

JanSport SuperBreak Backpack: JanSport is an American backpack brand that was established in 1967. Not long after, the brand became ubiquitous on campuses all around the country. It’s easy to see why: JanSport seems to have perfectly merged all the necessary details and features in the ideal school backpack.

The JanSport SuperBreak comes in a timeless yet iconic backpack silhouette that can be used by kids of all ages. When you consider how durable these packs are, you may even be able to use them from high school through college! Weighing just 0.35 kg, this is one of the lightest middle school backpack choices on this list.

The backpack measures 16.5 x 12.5 x 5.5 inches, and it’s constructed from 100% recycled 600D polyester fabric. The 26L volume is just the right size for middle school students. When we tested the JanSport SuperBreak, we immediately understood why this bookbag has been so popular with children through the decades. 

For one, the main compartment is extremely roomy, with ample space for books and notebooks. It already comes with a built-in organizer located in the front pocket, allowing kids to locate school supplies with ease. Another great aspect of this backpack is that its design is simple yet highly functional. 

There are no fancy details; just useful features all around. Aside from the front organizer compartment, a water bottle pocket is found on each side.

Earlier models of JanSport backpacks lacked ample padding. However, they have adapted to consumer needs and responded with thick padding in all the right places. 

Cushioning in the middle of the back panel, as well as padded shoulder straps, greatly add to overall comfort which we have found to be effective when carrying several pounds of textbooks using the SuperBreak.

This bookbag doesn’t have a laptop compartment, but if this is what’s important to you, the SuperBreak Plus Laptop Backpack may be a better choice. Alternatively, you can purchase your own laptop sleeve to use in the main compartment. 

This pack can last you for many years. However, there have been cases of the zipper not functioning properly – so be sure to test it upon purchase. JanSport offers a limited lifetime warranty for their bags, in case of any defects. 

Best Classic Backpack For Middle School

Herschel Little America Backpack: Who doesn’t love Herschel backpacks? These stylish school backpacks have always been a staple for students. The timeless shape and reliable durability are a must-have for middle school students.

The current Little America backpack has been a favorite of students since it was launched. But this current model has been upgraded; it’s now made with recycled EcoSystem 600D fabric and has 30L of storage, whereas the previous models had 25L. Even the liner has been manufactured out of old water bottles. 

The Little America backpack is loaded with student-friendly features, starting from the U-pull drawstring opening under the buckled top flap. This provides both extra protection for your belongings and an easy-access way to reach for your school supplies. 

Struggle with getting your laptop out of your loaded backpack? Don’t worry: this pack comes with a back entry zipper, so you can quickly reach for things even when your backpack is full to the brim.

The pack’s dimensions are 19 x 11.25 x 7 inches. It’s one of the bigger backpack options for middle school students on this list, yet it’s perfect for those who want to keep a few liters of space. After all, some school days are busier than others and you’ll need extra storage.

When testing the Little America backpack, we were delighted to discover how comfortable and functional this pack is. The shoulder straps are designed with soft EVA foam, and the adjustable buckles are easy to use. Keep your smaller essentials organized in the top lid pocket, and in the zippered front pocket.

The Herschel Little America backpack may be slightly pricey for some, but the brand is known for superior quality construction and long-lasting backpacks. 

Best Sporty Backpack For Middle School

Adidas Prime 6 Backpack: Athletic and sporty students need a backpack that can keep up with them. Look no further: the Adidas Prime 6 is built for the job, and it’s got extra features that will come in handy for the classroom, too.

This unisex backpack can be appreciated by both boys and girls. It’s available in an array of colors that can suit your personal preferences. This rucksack packs a punch in terms of details: heavy-duty construction with a premium recycled polyester blend, extra-spacious interiors, tons of pockets, and LoadSpring shoulder straps to reduce pressure on the shoulders.

The Adidas Prime 6 backpack is a powerhouse of a backpack for active middle school students. The fabric is extremely easy to clean; simply wipe it down to spot clean, using soap and water when needed. This is truly convenient because frequently placing your knapsack down on gym floors and soccer fields can quickly dirty it up.

Take this backpack anywhere and everywhere: it's built to last! Extra protection is provided thanks to the reinforced bottom. Inside, a padded laptop compartment will keep laptops up to 15 inches secure and safe. 

The dimensions are 20.25 x 12.5 x 11 inches, and its empty weight is 1.2 lbs. Other heavy-duty, tough backpacks weigh more, yet Adidas has managed to design a lightweight school and sports backpack that feels light on the shoulders. It’s big on organization, too: the Prime 6 features 5 exterior zippered pockets, plus another organizational compartment inside. 

When we took the Adidas Prime 6 for a spin, we found that it had plenty of room to neatly segregate everything a sporty student needs. From textbooks and notebooks to a change of clothes, pens, calculators, and snacks, staying organized on the go was so easy! The LoadSpring shoulder straps also did make a difference in comfort. 

In some cases, the zippers could end up getting stuck. Perhaps Adidas could improve the quality of their zippers for future models. That said, the Prime 6 is an excellent backpack for active middle schoolers.

Best Versatile Backpack For Middle School

The North Face Vault Everyday Backpack: While The North Face is best known for its top-quality elite outdoor gear and bags, they also do have a great selection of lifestyle products. The Vault Everyday Backpack is one of their most popular everyday packs, particularly among students with active lifestyles.

The Vault has been an in-demand school pack since it launched a few years back. 

The North Face recently introduced upgrades that students will find useful, such as the addition of double webbed top handles for easier access and improved grip. Other great improvements include better stability and a slimmer profile, which is beneficial for commuting. 

This ultra-durable middle school backpack is constructed with tough materials. The recycled 600D polyester fabric is water-repellent and can withstand the wear and tear that comes with daily use. Students who enjoy short hikes after school, or those who have extra-curricular activities to do, will find that the 26L capacity offers ample storage for everything you need. 

The pack can comfortably fit computers up to 15 inches in the padded laptop compartment. It can also double as a tablet sleeve for your iPad. Meanwhile, the front flap organizer compartment helps you neatly store pens, a calculator, notebooks, and much more with mesh pockets for better visibility.  

The two side pockets allow you to easily grab your water bottle and sip water whenever you need. Upon testing the Vault, we found that this backpack truly offers great value given the high quality of materials and all the fantastic details. It even has reflective details on the pack exterior, helping you stay visible when walking at night or in low-light conditions. 

We discovered that the molded padding in the shoulder straps made it truly comfortable to wear as well, even when walking for over an hour. 

Adidas' FlexVent suspension system greatly added to overall comfort, and the breathable lumbar back panel provided effective cushioning. Students who need to carry heavy school supplies will definitely be able to minimize back and shoulder pain. 

It’s also good to know that this backpack is recommended by the American Chiropractic Association, so you can have confidence in the ergonomic features of the Vault Everyday Backpack.

That said, The North Face could make a few improvements for future iterations. The laptop compartment may actually be tight for some 15-inch laptops. The backpack also does not stand on its own, which can be a nuisance more than a deal breaker for some students.

Despite a few minor design flaws, the Vault is a wonderful all-around daypack that can also be used for travel and the outdoors. 

Fjallraven High Coast Totepack: If you’re looking for a versatile carry-all that’s less sporty and more practical, you can’t go wrong with the Fjallraven High Coast Totepack. The Swedish brand has been specializing in its signature outdoor bags since 1960, but they double as fantastic school backpacks too.

The High Coast Totepack is different from many of the other bags on this list. Not only can it be used as a tote bag, but also as a backpack. These lightweight backpacks are available in beautiful muted colors, for both boys and girls in school.

The pack's waterproof material is constructed from 400D Bergshell polyamide. It has a total storage capacity of 23L, and it only weighs 400 grams! That’s impressive considering how strong this convertible backpack is. 

When we tested the High Coast Totepack, we found that it stayed true to the design principles of Fjallraven: simple, never too fussy, and practical. Any spills could easily be wiped off, too!

There are 5 pockets spread out across the interior and exterior, though you can easily create more storage by using organizers and pouches. The front zippered front pocket is handy for items you need to reach quickly, and there are side water bottle pockets too. 

Students who commute or bicycle to and from school will also find the attachment points useful. It can be used to attach the bag to a bike lock or add light to stay safe during walks home. On the weekends, take this multipurpose bag with you on trips, hikes, or just about anywhere! You can even use it as a crossbody bag for the ultimate in versatility. 

However, the side pockets were too small for most medium-sized water bottles. Some may also find that the number of pockets on this model is too few, though that’s a bonus for students who want to keep it simple.

Overall, the Fjallraven High Coast Totepack is a durable choice for middle school students. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need a backpack for middle school?

Backpacks are the most popular choice of bag for all school levels.

However, there are many other styles that may suit students depending on their lifestyle and school needs. Other options include messenger bag, stroller, a duffel bag, a laptop bag, or a valise to name a few. 

What to keep in your backpack for middle school?

Having everything you need in your backpack helps you stay prepared for school. Here's what you should put in your backpack for middle school:

  • Calculator
  • Notebooks, planners
  • Writing tools (pens, pencils, sharpener, highlighter)
  • Binder
  • Laptop/tablet
  • USB flash drive
  • Combination lock
  • Lunch box and snacks


Finding the best backpacks for middle school doesn't have to be challenging. Simply follow this guide to narrow down your choices, and locate the best possible bag in the market for your needs. 

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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