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There are as many different types of backpacks as there are uses for them. Yet, when it comes to objects that help carry other objects, form so often compromises function. For example, design elements like thin straps may be fashionable but will be uncomfortable sooner or later. If you’ve been meaning to swap out your worn-out knapsack for a new shinier one with more support, the back-to-school season might be the right time.
Whether you’re looking for one for work, school, weekend trips, or a replacement for your side bag, here are a few favorites that we’ve found are both comfortable and stylish.
Best overall: The North Face Vault Backpack
The padded straps and stitched foam back panel give this backpack extra support that’ll make a big difference when it comes to lugging around heavy books and gear. It’s a good choice if comfort is your top priority, but you don’t want a backpack that’s too bulky. The Vault is designed to look compact enough to function as a school or laptop bag, but large enough to bring on daylong or weekend trips. The smaller front compartment comes with plenty of smaller sections for your keys and other small items, and there are two external side water bottle pockets.
Best for the gym-goer: LULULEMON New Crew Backpack
The Lululemon City Adventurer is ideal for active people who need to fit their laptop, everyday work items, and their exercise gear all in one sack. The bottom compartment is specifically designed for your sweaty workout clothes or shoes, which tend to take up a lot of space and generally don’t mix well with papers, notebooks and important documents (even when you tie them in a plastic bag). There’s also a separate compartment for your laptop.
Best for the super-organized: TUMI Alpha Bravo Sheppard Deluxe Backpack
If you’re hyper-organized and you like each item to fit in its place, you’ll love this Tumi backpack. It comes with a section for everything: a padded laptop compartment, a hidden cell phone pocket, and a key leash. It’s also waterproof. Despite all the external pockets, the backpack is still somewhat compact and has a clean, finished, and professional look to it. Keep in mind it does weigh 3 pounds, which is about double the weight of a typical daypack.