Best back-to-school backpacks and bags for 2019


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If you’re stocking up on new tech as you head back to school — headphones, a laptop or chromebook and other dorm essentials — you’ll likely need something to carry all that stuff in. Here are our favorite backpack picks that fit a variety student needs, from small and simple to big with lots of organization. There’s even one that starts off slim and grows for a weekend away from campus.  

Note that these products are independently chosen by our editors. All products have been used hands-on and selected based on our testing. Note also that CNET may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site

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A slim, stylish and lightweight backpack for people who maybe don’t need to carry their life on their back every day, but still have room for all your books and binders. It’s broken into three main compartments plus a zippered front pocket for things like your keys, earbuds and wallet. 

Two stretch side pockets give you a place for a water bottle and umbrella and there’s a luggage handle pass-through on the padded back panel. The rear compartment has a padded sleeve to hold up to a 15.6-inch laptop and another padded pocket in the front compartment can hold a tablet. The center compartment is perfect for a lunch, books and a jacket. 

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The Scope is a top pick for its flexibility. The water-resistant backpack is broken into three main compartments: A small organizational section in front, a side-loading waterproof 15-inch laptop compartment in the back and a spacious storage space in between. But that center section can be expanded by releasing magnetic side compression straps and opening a zippered gusset on top. That means you can use it for all your tech and books during the week and for travel on the weekends. Also, Timbuk2 products have a lifetime warranty for manufacturing defects in materials and workmanship. 

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It doesn’t get much more simple than Ogio’s smallest Alpha Convoy bag. Lightweight, durable and water-resistant, it has just a zippered pocket in front and one large compartment. There is a large laptop pocket inside as well as a single drop pocket and pen holder, but that’s it, leaving you room for your books, lunch and a jacket. However, if you do need more storage there are a couple MOLLE straps on front to attach things to or consider stepping up to the Convoy 320, which gives you a lot more organization inside and out.  

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The Myth swings the other direction from the Ogio when it comes to internal organization. There’s still one big main compartment, but it has several drop-and-slip pockets and a zippered pouch in addition to a fleece-lined suspended 15-inch laptop sleeve (the suspension protects your laptop if the bag’s dropped). 

A grommet and a cable clip lets you run a charging cable from inside the bag to the zippered pocket in front. You can run a cable to the laptop compartment as well. There’s also a fleece-lined pocket at the top front for sunglasses or Airpods. And don’t worry if you fill the inside with stuff: The air channel back-panel-and-yoke system keep the Myth comfortable even when fully loaded. 

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Lightweight and durable, but still stylish, the Skyline is a good pick if you need space for a laptop and tablet and not too many books. One large compartment with several pockets inside help keep you organized, while three pockets on the outside keep things like your phone, keys, sunglasses and earbuds easy to access. 

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Though backpacks are the better way to go for regularly carrying a heavy load, a messenger is great for getting at your stuff fast without taking it off first. The Closer Case keeps things simple, but still has all the storage you need. It uses a coated fabric to help keep the elements out, and there’s a neoprene pocket on one side to hold a water bottle or umbrella. On the back there’s a pass-through for a luggage handle with has a zipper at the bottom, letting you use it as a pocket, too. 

Back-to-School Tech Gift Guide

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Joshua Goldman

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