Grad School Essentials: Five Outstanding Backpacks

Selection of Backpacks for Graduate School

Grad school can be a time of immense learning and growth with (let’s admit it!) lots of stuff to carry around. From textbooks to laptops, research notes, and essential supplies, graduate students need a backpack that can handle the load that comes with all that research, writing, teaching, and study. But given the necessity, it can be hard to select a backpack fit to the needs of grad students. Look no further! Here are a set of backpacks that we at Magoosh pick for being reliable, functional, and well-designed for graduate students. (And no, we are not working with these brands–we just want to provide you with some essential tips!)

  1. The North Face Borealis Backpack
    price range:$95-$105

    The North Face Borealis combines durability, comfort, and style, checking all the boxes for most graduate students. It’s got a huge carrying capacity to go along with a dedicated compartment for your laptop, so it’s a backpack designed to carry everything you’d need for a full day of teaching and research whether you’re going to the laboratory or library. Additionally, the Borealis features several compartments for organized storage, making it an excellent choice for the grad student on the move.

  2. JanSport Big Student Backpack
    price range: $40-$60

    JanSport has been a trustworthy name in school backpacks for years, and their Big Student Backpack continues to uphold that reputation. This bag is the most cost effective on this list, and its utilitarian design is its most compelling feature. Forgoing bells and whistles, this backpack offers Jan Sports’s iconic dual compartment design with a padded zip closure just for your laptop. You can load up without the bulk, and in addition, as a large brand Jansports offers not only robust construction but also multiple design options–from space print to tie dye. You can find a backpack to last your grad school journey that also fits your interests and personality.

  3. Herschel Supply Co. Little America Backpack
    price range: $50-$90* (when on sale)

    The Herschel Supply Co.’s Little America Backpack combines practicality with lots of thoughtful and stylish details that any graduate student will appreciate. This bag’s details include padded, fleece lining for the dedicated laptop sleeve, magnetic strap fasteners with drawcord closure for extra security, a front pocket with a hidden zipper and key clip, as well as comfort features for your shoulders and back. Although up to $120 at full price–expensive for most graduate student budgets–this popular line is frequently on sale, making it a potential great value.

  4. Incase ICON Backpack
    price range: $100-$220

    The Incase ICON Backpack may be expensive, but for tech-savvy and style conscious graduate students it can be a great choice. Easily the most stylish backpack on this list, it also features numerous compartments and pockets to keep your essentials and accessories highly organized–there are pockets large and small for pens, documents, flash-drives, and cords. The ICON’s laptop pocket is large enough for a 16′ screen, and it also boasts dedicated pockets for a tablet and a portable charger, the latter has it’s own built-in cable port. Admittedly, the price tag puts this one out of reach for many graduate students, but there is thriving secondary market for this backpack, so especially if you’re willing to buy used you can luck out.

  5. Timbuk2 Authority Laptop Backpack
    price range: $80-$150

    The Timbuk2 Authority Laptop Backpack is also built for the tech savvy graduate student, but slightly more affordable. For the environmentally conscious, this bag sources its nylon from recycled pre-consumer sources. Additionally, not only does it have the features required of all backpacks on this list–spacious interior, laptop compartment, durable construction–not only those features, but also Timbuk2 levels up the Authority in exciting ways. The laptop sleeve is dual access (and holds up to 17′ screen!); reflective tape on the straps adds a level of safety to the inevitable late night walks after nighttime study sessions; and a luggage pass through makes it easier to travel home or to a research conference with your study essentials.

Choosing the best backpack for grad school depends on your individual needs and preferences. These five backpacks offer a variety of features that cater to the demands of a busy grad school lifestyle, ensuring you can focus on your studies without compromising comfort, and maybe leaving room for a little style. Be sure to check out the most recent product reviews and buyer guides to make an informed decision that suits your grad school journey best. Happy studying!


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