Every student needs a good backpack. Something that they carry their laptop and notebooks in, but that isn't waaaay too expensive - as most packs today are. Brands like Osprey and North Face make amazing backpacks, but not a lot of students can afford their high price tag. Luckily, there are also brands like JanSport and Herschel, and they make some pretty cool cheap packs.
And here cheap does not mean low quality. You will see that for yourself when we get down to the details. But for now, all you need to know is that we are going to take a look at several packs from both brands - usually their best sellers.
All of the packs come in a bunch of different colors and designs, and I'm sure everyone will be able to find something they like.
If you are interested in getting yourself an affordable and really modern backpack, then you are in the right place. Scroll down to find an awesome pack for yourself, or a gift for a friend - either way, it won't cost you too much money and it will look very cool.
Here's a quick preview of what you'll see in this section of the review:
You love anything at first glance? Scroll down and find the pack you like the most to read about all of its features!
The Digital part of the name is a dead giveaway - yes, this pack is equipped with a removable laptop sleeve that can fit most 15" laptops. And it also has an external pocket that is designed to bit all your cords and chargers, so you don't ever have worry about running out of juice.
There are also side water bottle pockets, which means you don't have to worry about finding space for them inside the pack. But even if you did have to do that, it wouldn't be any trouble, since this backpack has a pretty large capacity - 38 liters. That is more than some travel backpacks, and for me, that makes this a versatile pack.
With travel packs, we mostly look at capacity - the larger it is, the more stuff you can fit in it. But, other organizational features also help, and this JanSport bag doesn't disappoint in that regard either.
You can see just from the photos that there are three zippered front pockets, which is plenty for all of your smaller items. One of those is for your cords, but the other two are for your pens, sunglasses wallet and whatnot. And one of them has an organizational panel, to make things even better.
In terms of your carrying comfort, these packs are pretty good. Let's be real, they aren't nowhere near as comfortable as some high end packs, but for about $50 they are pretty darn good. They have ergonomic S-shaped shoulder straps along with a fully padded back panel, so you can be sure that nothing will poke at your back.
Overall, this is a very good backpack, especially if you are looking for something that you can carry your laptop in, and that will help you stay organized.
The Hatchel backpack is pretty cool because it doesn't look like your traditional backpack. It's more like a knapsack, but with all the functionality of an ultra-modern high end pack. If it fits in your style, you should definitely consider getting it. After all, it's dirt cheap - several designs are under $50.
It has a padded laptop sleeve that can fit most 15" laptops. Don't let its dimensions fool you - the sleeve doesn't close, and the laptop is supposed to stick out just a little bit. Other padded features include the shoulder straps and the back panel, so you can be sure that this pack will be pretty comfortable to wear.
There is also a sleeve for you tablet in the Hatchet, so all of your electronics can be safely tucked away somewhere. As for other organizational features, there is a deluxe organizer panel in the main compartment, as well as a separate zippered front pocket. And one of them also features a key clip, so that your keys can always be safely distanced from your electronics.
This JanSport pocket also has a few features that make it a decent alternative for a hiking pack. I'm talking about the side pockets for your H2O, and the convenient sternum strap. The latter feature helps ensure that one of the shoulder straps doesn't accidently slip off your shoulder, and that they always stay in place. Pretty useful is you ask me, especially with all the electronics pockets.
Overall, it's a great versatile pack, and there are plenty of different colors and designs you can choose from - for both guys and girls.
If you thought that a giant backpack couldn't look sleek and cool, JanSport is here to prove you wrong. The Big Student Backpack is perfect for all high school and college students out there because it has tons of different pockets for your books and notebooks. Yes, it is very bit, bug that just means that you can fit everything you need inside it - even your jacket.
The only thing you won't get with this backpack is a dedicated laptop sleeve. So, if you were looking for a pack without one, this one would be a great choice. It does have a dedicated compartment for pretty much everything else, and you can always just carry the laptop in the main compartment, if you need to.
The back panel is fully padded, and so are the ergonomic S-curve shoulder straps. If you were looking for a comfortable pack, this one does not disappoint.
You will also get a side water bottle pocket, as well as two zippered front pocket, one of which has an organizer panel for all your smaller things. And that is all in addition to the not one, but two large main compartments. Combined, they have a capacity of 34 liters, which means that you can carry pretty much everything you think of inside it. Pretty cool, right?
This is JanSport's most expensive backpack in this review. But it is also the most versatile one. This pack is great for all of you that are looking for a good backpack for school, but also really like to have one for hiking and similar outdoor activities. The Odyssey is built for both those things, and it's like a 2-in-1 pack. Hence, I think the versatility and functionality justify the higher price tag.
It has a laptop sleeve that can fit most 15" laptops, and that also doubles as a hydration sleeve. If you want to use it in the latter capacity, you need to know that it can fit a 3-liter hydration pack inside it. And it also has a dedicated tablet sleeve, in the front compartment.
There are a lot of features on this pack, so I'll just list them - ice axe loops, daisy chain webbing, compression straps, a sternum strap, quick access loft pocket and a utility pocket with an organizer panel.
And all of that is less important than the two main compartments. You can basically carry all your school gear in one, and your hiking gear in the other, and just hit the road as soon as you are done with class. And if you opt to carry your laptop in the padded sleeve, you can still carry your hydration in the side water bottle pockets.
The pack also has a padded back panel, and S-curved shoulder straps. And also a tuck-away hip belt, which will come in handy when you take it out hiking. Overall, it is a very cool and versatile backpack, and if you think about it, it's not that expensive. Instead of buying two separate packs you can get just this one, and even save some money!
First of all, you should be aware that Herschel backpacks are slightly more expensive than JanSport ones. Most are still under $100, but they are also usually over $50 (except the Daypack). If that is still within your budget, great! Check out a preview of the packs you will see in the rest of this section:
If that's over your budget, then I suggest you stick to the JanSport packs. They are very good backpacks as well, and you will get a lot of use out of them. Otherwise, keep reading to find out everything about these cool Herschel bags!
The Daypack is a very basic pack. It doesn't have too many features, but it does have a very attractive price tag - less than $30. That alone can be the reason why you should get it - it's pretty okay for day-to-day use, and you won't find anything cheaper from these two brands.
This Herschel backpack is made of Polyester Ripstop, which is a very durable material. And it's mostly weatherproof, so you know your stuff will always be safe inside the pack.
It features minimalistic design, but there are plenty of colors to choose from. And the coolest thing about this Herschel backpack is that it stores into its own pocket (see the second photo). That makes it very easy to store, or to carry around in your larger backpack. So, say you are going away for a while and you are bringing along your all time favorite travel backpack.
From time to time, you are going to need to have something smaller, if you just want to go for a walk around the town. And the Herschel Daypack is perfect for that. It takes up virtually no space when it's tucked, and it weighs about 6 ounces. Plus, the pack has a capacity of almost 25 liters, which is plenty for a day around the town.
But if you are looking for the best backpack for organization and school, this is not it. It has a main compartment, the pocket that it stuffs into, and a single front zippered pocket. In that respect, this is a pretty basic backpack. But I still have plenty of others to show you, so don't you go anywhere!
At first glance, the Little America backpack looks a little vintage. But don't worry, all of its other features are very modern. Just take a look at that back panel! It is highly padded and ventilated (made of air mesh), and so are the shoulder straps. In that regard, Herschel is a notch above JanSport, because we saw no ventilation in JanSport backpacks.
The main compartment of the back features signature colorful fabric lining. There is padded and fleece lined laptop sleeve inside, which can fit most 15" laptops. And you will find a media pocket inside the Little America backpack with a headphone port. I told you - nothing about the features of this awesome pack is vintage.
The pack features drawstring closure of the main compartment. But, the buckles on the flap have metal pin clips and magnetic closure, which is pretty sleek. And the straps are mostly made of leather - a pretty cool detail.
In terms of organization, there aren't too many other features. There is the small front pocket with a hidden zipper (kind of an anti-theft feature) and a key clip inside. But, I'm missing at least one organizer panel in this pack. Especially if you consider its 25-liter capacity, which is plenty.
But overall, it's a pretty good backpack. I especially like the modern features of the back panel, as they are guaranteed to make you comfortable while you are wearing it. And it comes in a ton of different colors - just know that they are all made of different materials.
The Winlaw pack is made of 100% Cordura fabric, with leather accents on the zipper and shoulder straps. This is one of the most durable materials, and it is even used in military wear, because of its scratch and abrasion resistance. If you need a pack that you can use for several years to come, then this is just the right one for you.
The inside of the pack features Herschel signature striped lining. There is one main compartment in this pack, with a laptop sleeve that can fit most 13" laptops. If you need a backpack with a bigger sleeve, I suggest that you go back to the JanSport section of the review, since you will find more options there.
Again, this pack features Herschel's minimalistic design. There aren't too many features on it, apart from the laptop sleeve. There is the front zippered pocket with a key clip for your smaller accessories, and that's about that.
The back panel and the shoulder straps are padded, so they will feel very soft on your back. But they aren't ventilated, and you might get a little sweaty with this pack, when it's hot outside.
It has a 22-liter capacity, which is just enough for your school necessities. Overall, if you are looking for a minimalistic and incredibly durable pack, then you'll love the Winlaw. As I already said, some people don't like having a hundred different pockets, and just like to stuff everything in the same compartment. And this backpack for made for them.
The Dawson is also a durability champion. It is made of cotton canvas, fabric that is often used to make tents and sails. Now, when you imagine what treatment those items get, and the torture they go through, you can get a basic idea of how durable this pack is going to be. Plus, it's a waterproof material, so you know none of your stuff will get wet in the rain.
Again, the inside of the pack is lined with striped fabric - classic Herschel. And there is a laptop sleeve inside, which is designed to fit 13" laptops. The rest of the main compartment is pretty plain. It is roomy and spacious, and it can fit all of your essentials, but there aren't any other pockets or compartments in it.
There is one zippered pocket on the front of the backpack, just like with all the other Herschel bags. And, just like in the other backpacks, it has a keychain clip so you never have to search for your keys again.
The back panel and the shoulder straps are both padded, and you will stay comfortable with the Lawson on your back. Unfortunately they aren't ventilated, and your back could get a little sweaty in warmer weather.
Overall, the Lawson pack is a classic Herschel. It is very minimalistic, and it has all the basics of a good backpack. And, as with other Herschels, it's all about the design and details. On this pack, we have metal hardware and custom stitch details. Even though Lawson's features are kind of plain, the design is definitely not and because of that it stands out.
What To Look For In Backpacks
Size Of The Laptop Sleeve (If There Is One)
First you need to decide on whether you even want a laptop sleeve in your backpack. Maybe you don't like the idea of carrying your laptop in anything other than the laptop bag you already have, and that's okay. In that case, be on the lookout for packs that don't come with built in laptop sleeves - I usually talk about those things in the very beginning.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a new pack specifically because you just can't carry your laptop around in your hands anymore, then you need to make sure that the sleeve in the pack will actually fit your laptop. Backpacks usually come with 15" sleeves, but I will tell you the exact dimensions of the laptop sleeve in each pack.
After all, if you are using a laptop for school, chances are that it's going to be a 15" one. It's more likely that you went for a MacBook Air precisely because of how easy it is to carry around, and those only come in 11" and 13" variations. And these brands are aware of that, so they also have quite a few packs with a 13" sleeve. Anyway, just be sure to check out the Product Information sections, as you will find all the important (but boring) information there.
And one other thing; it's rare to find a backpack with a 17" sleeve, because that usually requires a pretty large backpack. If you were hoping to find one here, I will have to disappoint you - there aren't any. But I have a separate review dedicated just to packs for 17" laptops, and be sure to check it out.
Organization And Pockets
We all have different preferences when it comes to the organizational features of a backpack. Some of you might prefer to have as many pockets as possible, so that you can organize everything you need to bring along to school. And then others don't like to have 50 different pockets, and prefer to have everything in one compartment.
Anyway, whether you like it or not, organization is a big part of any bag - not just for school, but also for hiking and travel backpacks. I will tell you exactly what you can expect from each backpack, how many different pockets and compartments there are, and be sure to check that out.
After all, it's important to know everything upfront, before you make a purchase. And if you are reading this review, chances are that you are someone who does some research before making such a decision, so kudos on that. I promise to help you decide on which backpack you should purchase, and tell you everything you need to know about every single pack in this review.
Durability Depends On The Materials
In general, the most popular materials for backpacks (and other similar bags) are polyester and nylon. Out of those two, polyester is the cheapest material, and so the backpacks that are made from it will have lower price tags. But, that's not to say that it's not a good material - it is pretty sturdy, just not as sturdy as nylon or canvas.
If you are looking to save some money, I advise you to first check out the JanSport backpacks. They are mostly made of polyester, and so they are almost always cheaper than the Herschel ones. But, they are also made of a pretty durable polyester variant, so don't think that just because they are more affordable that means they'll fall apart in a month. They won't.
With Herschel backpacks, they are usually made of ripstop nylon or cotton canvas. These are undoubtedly materials of higher quality, but they are also the reason for Hershel's higher price tags. So, if you don't mind spending a little bit more money in order to get a backpack that is guaranteed to last you for years, then I advise you to consider getting a Herschel. They are just a little bit more sturdier than the JanSports, and almost all of them are waterproof (at the very least).
Anyway, you will get the information about the materials in the product information section, so be sure to check that out.
JanSport Vs. Herschel: What’s The Right Backpack For You?
You've made it to the end! Now it's time for me to tell you what my favorite packs are, and why I think you would enjoy them. So, let's start with the top JanSport backpacks.
The Digital Student Laptop Backpack is easily my favorite. It is incredibly affordable, and it has everything you need from a good backpack for school or college. The main compartment is huge, and there are several other zippered pockets that allow for easy organization. Plus the laptop sleeve is removable, so you can use that with any other bag you like. This pack comes in about a million different colors, so it will be pretty easy for everyone to find something they like.
- Removable 15" laptop sleeve fits into a dedicated laptop compartment
- Dynamic electronics organizer with stretch-fit pockets
- Dedicated external cord storage pocket
- Two large main compartments for versatile storage
- Ergonomic S-curve shoulder straps
A close second is the Odyssey backpack. Even though it's not as affordable as the other JanSport packs, it is definitely worth the money because of how versatile it is. This pack also has the most features out of all backpacks in this review, which is why I particularly like it. It's great for school and it doubles as an outdoorsy pack for hiking or camping - what more could you need? The two main compartments really are an attractive feature, as is the laptop/hydration sleeve. So, if you are looking to save some money by getting a 2-in-1 pack, this is the perfect one for you.
- THE ODYSSEY BACKPACK: Wherever you're headed, the Odyssey JanSport helps you stay hydrated or connected with a 15" padded sleeve that can hold your laptop or 3L hydration system. The hip belt and sternum strap offer stability and comfort on longer treks.
- HIT THE TRAIL OR THE BOOKS: From hiking to class to the morning commute, JanSport outdoor backpacks are ready for anything. Whether you're looking for a padded waist band, comfortable shoulder straps, or compression straps, there's a JanSport for you.
- JANSPORT BACKPACKS: JanSport backpacks are made with durable fabric, zippers & straps, in colors & designs to reflect your style. We stand by our packs for a lifetime, so carry your JanSport on your adventures, knowing we'll replace or repair any breaks.
- WE'RE ABOUT THE JOURNEY: JanSport is about the discovery of fun, freedom & adventure. From your first school backpack & lunch bag to the messenger bag for your first interview, from running errands to chasing dreams, JanSport gear inspires your journey.
- WE'RE THE ORIGINAL: JanSport began making backpacks in 1967. From lunch bags to fanny packs to laptop bags, JanSport gear is durable and functional. You'll love our simple designs if you've used packs by Nike, Adidas, Herschel, Kippling, & Fjallraven.
And now for the Herschel backpacks. I have to mention the Daypack, because I was kind of impressed by it. I think that it's possibly the most convenient backpack that exists, because you can literally carry it in your pocket. It might not have a thousand different features, but it is incredibly affordable and practical. It's a great choice if you are looking for something in addition to your other, larger packs, or if you just have a very limited budget. Either way, it's Herschel quality, which never disappoints.
The other one I really like was the Herschel Little America. It has a very stylish design that can fit into anyone's closet. And it's the backpack with most features out of all the Herschels, which really is something. The laptop sleeve can fit your average 15" laptop, and the main compartment is roomy enough for anything you might need during the day. Also, this pack has the best back panel out of all the packs in this review, which definitely justifies its higher price tag. If you are looking for a backpack that you can use every single day and always stay comfortable, this is the right one for you. We have also reviewed the Little America completely.
- HERSCHEL COLLECTION: Click on our brand logo at the top of the page to explore the full collection from Herschel Supply.
- DURABLE DESIGN: A timeless silhouette inspired by the classic mountaineering style. Sturdy polyester and nylon fabric, made for all adventures. Signature striped liner, drawcord closure and magnet-fastened straps with metal pin buckles. Finished with Herschel’s classic woven label. Spacious, versatile and tech-friendly, the Herschel Little America is suited for both your everyday commutes and your airplane carry-ons.
- MEN/WOMEN/UNISEX: The Herschel Little America Backpack was made for everyone. Use it for your commute, the school week, a business trip, or a weekend adventure.
- 25L CAPACITY: 19.25” high and 11. 25” wide. From your passport to your heavy textbooks, there’s plenty of space to fit everything you need for school, work or travel.
- COMFORTABLE CARRYING: Padded, contoured shoulder straps and breathable air mesh back padding, designed for a more supportive and comfortable commute to work or school. The Herschel Little America also makes for the perfect airplane carry-on.
Anyway, I hope you saw something you liked. If you did, head over to Amazon. You can check out the prices of each backpack there, and you know you won't find a better deal anywhere else. Otherwise, check out some of the posts below - you might just find the ultimate backpack for you there.