As ubiquitous as it is useful, the classic school backpack can be seen hanging from the shoulders of second-graders and college sophomores alike.
But it might surprise you to learn that the very first zippered rucksack wasn’t created until 1938 and the first true backpack didn’t come about until the 1960s.
Prior to the invention of both the rucksack and backpack, kids carried their school materials bound in a leather book strap and slung over their shoulders, which, as you can guess, was neither waterproof nor conducive to carrying anything other than books. But we’ve come a long way since then. From moisture-proof, light-weight packs, to updated versions of the classic backpack form, backpacks are here to stay for the foreseeable future.
We’ve rounded up six of the best back to school backpacks for 2017, plus one bonus design, so you don’t have to sift through the zippers, rips, and terrible straps and engineering that define so many packs today.
Filson Roll-Top Backpack, $475
The pinnacle of roll-tops, this Filson backpack is made with saddle-grade Bridle Leather, yet is easy to wipe or brush clean if a tired classmate spills coffee on the exterior. Fully lined with soft cotton to protect your gear, the top snap-closure keeps dust out of your belongings, while the adjustable cinch strap keeps the top locked down no matter how much you’re carrying. And while adjustability and materials are key, it’s also a heck of a handsome bag.
Herschel Barlow Backpack, $119.99
Although Hershel is notorious for their classic backpacks, they took a chance on this rebel, all-black Barlow model that is quiet but does the damn job, and does it well. Larger than your average backpack, the Barlow offers a cross-function appeal that allows its wearer to take it to class, then on a weekend trip to the mountains. Combining off-terrain durability with comfy EVA back panels and a custom rain cover, with distinct urban style, we’re slowly turning to the dark side with this utilitarian pack that defies season or purpose.
Everlane Street Nylon Zip Backpack, $48
Are you crazy? Of course we would include a new style that doesn’t cost over a bill. After all, we know what you’re planning on spending all your college cash on (here’s the best Rye whiskey under $50 and the best tequila under $20. You’re welcome.). This Everlane pack, which normally retails for $105, is a great blend of lightweight with water-resistant and big enough to fit a MacBook in the back sleeve; really the only thing you’ll need for class. The design is clean and the color is rich without being obnoxious, and helps add eye-catching pops to your wardrobe with its earthy Brick red/orange or emerald green.
Alchemy Equipment AEL005 Softshell Daypack, $240
Alchemy Equipment’s 25-litre softshell daypack is nothing short of magic. The shield-esk exterior design is highly modern and looks as though it belongs in both an art museum and weapons armory. The matte finish is lined with subtle reflective trim and stitched with stretch external pockets. On the back, you’ll find an internal laptop sleeve, padded from your spine with an airflow molded EVA panel and silicone gripper on the lumbar for a more stable carry. We’re calling it a back-to-school pack because yes, you can put your books in here, but it’s secretly a top item on our travel-gear wish list, too.
Battenwear Eitherway Bag, $155
Embrace the bold fuchsia and teal of this always-on-the-go pack, which appears seemingly simple but is protected by gnarly ripstop nylon on the top portion, and a Cordura bottom (known around the globe for its resistance to any abrasions, tears, and scuffs). The bunk-bed design allows the top to function as a pack, while the compact bottom serves fanny-pack purposes, like quickly accessing your bus or MTA card rushing to class. Added stars to the vest of this Battenwear pack: it’s Made in the USA.
Taikan Lancer Special Assignment, $100
Minute updates made to the classic backpack silhouette were taken to create the Special Assignment Lancer, i.e. a laptop compartment and subtle dual pocket zip for added storage solutions. If this Taikan pack had a mantra it would be: if it ain’t broke don’t fix it… but make a few tweaks to really make it sing. The heritage Poly Canvas outer is jotted with premium Italian leather zipper tassels and size is a Goldilocks fit. Need we say more?
Bonus: Ghost Backpack, $85
Minimal. High-tech. Ghost is a Kickstarter backpack project that is a shot at revolutionizing the capabilities of a pack. And they’re gaining some solid momentum with just shy of $29,000 in pledged funding with 25 days still to go on the campaign. Ghost melds more than 18 features into one bag (lightweight, unisex design, RFID pockets, cut-proof, shock-proof, etc., etc.), resulting in a backpack that can charge your phone, secure your belongings, and even track the pack if it’s nicked from your chair. In other words, it’s the backpack Liam Neeson would wear, and that’s good enough for us.
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