20 best school bags

Make sure they're top of the class with a cool yet functional carrier

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The Independent Online

New school year, new school bag. Getting a new carrier for all their school bits and bobs is, in fact, one of the most pleasing things about going back to school in September. Read on to find out our best picks for this season – for all ages and all budgets.

1. MadPax SpiketPlus Rex Backpack: £45, Cuckooland


The new range from MadPax, which also includes bubble and space themes, is the most fun we’ve seen. On this one, the soft spikes will make them stand out, without compromising on practicality, thanks to the roomy main compartment, two side zip pockets, padded laptop sleeve and interior zip pocket. There’s good load distribution to protect young backs and it’s water resistant. Available in two sizes and colours.

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2. Jack Wolfskin Little Joe: £14, Jack Wolfskin


This compact, durable bag has been designed to sit comfortably and securely on the backs of children as young as three. Available in a whole range of colours, there is a main compartment, front pocket and two mesh side pouches, meaning they can fit in everything from their books to coats to snacks. It boasts reflective detailing, a transparent sleeve for name card and a key clip.

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3. Smiggle Premium Pocket Backpack: £45, Smiggle


Most kids make a beeline for any Smiggle shop, wearing a big grin as they enter. No wonder, as it wares are practical, quirky and fun. This school bag, which is available in black or purple, is all of these things and has loads of pockets and compartments (including ones for laptop and drink) and is ergonomic, roomy and hardwearing too.

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4. Boden Printed Rucksack: £30, Boden


This is great for younger children, fitting well across the back and including enough pouches and compartments to include everything they’ll need for school, including lunch. The fabric is robust, yet lightweight, and the night-themed design will appeal to youngsters. There’s a matching drawstring bag available too – perfect for a sports or swim bag.

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5. Nike Anthracite Bag: £13.49, Argos


Many kids love nothing more than a sports brand plastered across their school bag, but it can be a terrifying request for parents when they see the price tags involved. Not so with this great-value Nike bag, which has plenty of space and padded straps that keep it ergonomic even when it’s full to the brim with folders, computers and lunch. It’s durable and has reliable zips and pockets.

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6. Natural History Museum Cream Butterflies Satchel: £20, Natural History Museum Shop


Satchels are all the rage and this one, with pretty colourful butterflies on a pastel pink backdrop and two handy front pockets, is a stunner. It’s big enough for all the essentials, without being so enormous that it weighs kids down or leaves them begging you to carry it on the school run. And for how long it lasts, it’s great value.

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7. Re-Kånken Mini: £60, Fjällräven


The original Kånken was designed in 1978 to prevent back problems among Swedish school children. This version is smaller, but just as practical, and it is available in loads of colours. Made from lightweight, water- and dirt-resistant material, it is accompanied by a pull-out sitting pad and is also the most sustainable Kånken yet – with each one made from 11 recycled bottles. Available in August.

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8. Concentrate Chairpadbag: £19.99, Concentrate


Most of us can remember how uncomfortable school chairs used to be – and in many schools, this still remains the case. This provides an innovative solution. Not only is it a spacious schoolbag, but it’s designed to hook over the back of a chair to make even the hardest seat comfy and thus bring an end to numb bums. It comes complete with name tag and ergonomic strap design.

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9. Herschel Supply Co Parker Backpack: £39, Fat Buddha Store


Rucksacks can be bulky and cumbersome, but this neat-looking one has a slimmer silhouette so they won’t knock out their school mates while turning a corner. That said, it still has enough space for essentials and includes a 15-inch laptop sleeve pocket and an internal media pocket.

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10. Accessorize Joni Whipstitch Tassel Tote Bag: £37, Accessorize


Girls reach a certain age when rucksacks just don’t cut the mustard. This glitzy – but not too glitzy – tote bag is just the ticket for these older girls, who want a simple statement bag that is sturdy enough to hold all their heavy files, computer and bits and pieces. There’s a popper fastening and zipped compartment. 

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11. Joules Zippy Rucksack: £32.95, Joules


Your little one will be bound to get some friendly laughs from their school friends with this amusing and spacious, blue and orange, octopus-themed bag which has a 3D tentacle print on the front. It’s got the usual water bottle holder to the side and the front compartment is easy to access and do up. 

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12. Zoocchini Sherman The Shark Kids Backpack: £19.50, Dotty Hippo


You’ll have no trouble getting your little cherub to pack their school bag with this shark-themed bag, aimed at children aged three and above. Others in the range include Allie the unicorn, Devin the dinosaur and Olive the owl. With 3D features including shark fins, they’re fun and include a mesh bottle holder, mesh pockets, stationary holder, adjustable straps, zip pullers and name tag.

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13. Fred Perry Classic Shoulder Bag: £50, Debenhams


Almost too cool for school, this bag is both robust and functional. Featuring Fred Perry’s trademark twin tipping detail on the front pocket, it’s spacious and the adjustable shoulder strap means it’s comfy even if it’s heavy and full. Parents will love the fact that it’s wipe clean and older boys will love the style.

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14. Phase Eight Reversible Weave Tote Bag: £59, Phase Eight


Available in pink or grey, this reversible bag is great for carrying heavy loads that you need instant access to, without having to dig about at the bottom. It has an internal pouch for the likes of keys and phone and as it is reversible, you could argue you get two bags for the price of one. A good one for older girls.

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15. George Butterfly Pint Rucksack: £8, Asda


This is fantastic value for a pretty and expansive bag that’s made from denim-look material. The padded back and straps have been made to feel comfortable on small backs, with no digging into shoulders, and the side pockets give easy access for shoes or drinks. 

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16. The Cambridge Satchel Company 14-inch Satchel: £140, The Cambridge Satchel Company  


This company has brought satchels to the forefront of fashion. Among its wide range of leather options is this large one with straps that can be easily adjusted – this means it grows with your child, going some way to justifying the price tag. The magnetic closures make it easy to get items in and out at school. Available in six colours. 

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17. George Book Bag: £4, Asda


Available in red, green or black, this no-frills book bag is a cheap and cheerful option for younger children who don’t take all their worldly possessions to school. Most schools sell their own versions of these, complete with school logo, but this one comes in at a fraction of the cost.

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18. Accessorize New York Graffiti Dome Backpack: £32, Accessorize     


Our young female testers loved this bag as soon as they saw it, with the colourful New York-themed design catching their eyes immediately. We were impressed with the quality of the fabric and the amount of space for school supplies. There are different compartments, adjustable straps and a carry handle. 

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19. Trunki Star Boostapak: £44.99, Trunki


The BoostApak is a spacious, hand-luggage approved rucksack which doubles up as an approved booster seat for four- to 12-year-olds. It won’t protect your child from side impact crashes, so you won’t want to use it daily, but for occasional use in other people’s cars, it’s brilliant. Nifty features include fold-out seat-belt guide, removable and washable cover, ergonomic design, reflective trim, ID tag and adjustable strap height.

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20. Converse Pink Colourblock Backpack: £20, Next


Converse is one of those brands that remains highly popular among youngsters year after year, but without costing a fortune. We love its new bags for this season, which come in a blue and red combo or pink and black. It’s not huge, but a good medium-sized option.

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Our favourite this year is the MadPax SpiketPlus Rex Backpack – it makes a real statement, as well as being quirky and practical. For innovation, our votes goes to Concentrate Chairpadbag. And for something more conservative, Jack Wolfskin Little Joe is a fantastic little bag for tiny tots upwards.

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