Cookie banner

This site uses cookies. Select "Block all non-essential cookies" to only allow cookies necessary to display content and enable core site features. Select "Accept all cookies" to also personalize your experience on the site with ads and partner content tailored to your interests, and to allow us to measure the effectiveness of our service.

To learn more, review our Cookie Policy, Privacy Notice and Terms of Use.

clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Backpacks! Planners! Back-to-School Shopping, No Enrollment Required

Racked has affiliate partnerships, which do not influence editorial content, though we may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. We also occasionally accept products for research and reviewing purposes. See our ethics policy here.

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

September will forever be tied to back-to-school. Even without a new grade to enter or course list to grid out, the season makes us want to stock up on backpacks, planners, and pencils. Here, we've packed backpacks for five very different students of life: the world traveler, the sleek minimalist, the artist, the stylish gym rat, and the polished prep. Our new fashion assistant Nia Porter — a fresh Loyola New Orleans grad, marking her first ever September without a "back to school" moment — wears them all below.

The World Traveler

Globe-trotting requires a durable rucksack — this leather Madewell backpack will age beautifully as it gets thrown in overhead compartments and back seats. A super slim passport holder from Cuyana and an equally lean Anya Hindmarch card holder keep the essentials at hand without adding bulk. A pair of pouches that snap together (and apart) by Proper Assembly are made of water-repellent materials so precious papers stay dry.

Madewell backpack, $198; Warby Parker glasses, $95; Cuyana passport holder, $85; Proper Assembly double pouch, $50; Marisa Mason keychain, $27; Anya Hindmarch card holder, $225; Shinola notebook, $18

The Minimalist

A "less is more" girl requires sleek, hardworking pieces that do their job without unnecessary bells and whistles (no "luxury knickknacks" needed). Simple leather wallets and card holders are easy to fish out while on the go, and a metal mesh watch keeps her on time. Pack a punch with geometric paperclips and a (relatively) flashy brass pen.

Kara backpack, $485; The Good Flock wallet, $150; Zady x The Good Flock card holder, $69; Kaweco brass pen, $70; Poketo wallet in blush, $68; Areaware paperclips, $12; Public Supply notebook, $12 for three; ASOS watch, $40

The Artist

Right brains can be organized, too! It helps if the pieces are as nimble and creative as our artist girl is. This flexible planner from the incredible LA shop Poketo is a prime example, with open dates so you can start any time of the year, skip a week, and pick back up whenever.

Herschel Supply backpack, $50, and cardholder, $20; Poketo planner, $28; Tom Dixon ruler, $22; Warby Parker glasses, $95; Seltzer Goods pouch, $13

The Gym Rat

For many of us, "class" means cycling, barre, or HIIT. Make it from the studio to whatever's next with the sporty panache of a mesh backpack. Everything's easy to find — and protected from the outside world — in clever pouches like these reflective IMAGO-A wallets.

JanSport backpack, $30; Poketo planner, $28; Adidas by Stella McCartney arm band, $45; Alala sports bra, $75; IMAGO-A wallets, from $115 each; Marc by Marc Jacobs laptop sleeve, $78; FRENDS headphones, $150

The Polished Prep

The modern prep appreciates clean lines and great quality, from her sleek backpack to a precise swipe of lip color. WANT Les Essentiels de la Vie nails the perfect wallet for a polished-but-never-prissy look, with an easy-access zipper pocket on the outside and a surprising number of compartments inside.

Coach backpack, $695; Cuyana pouch, $85; WANT Les Essentiels de la Vie wallet, $265; Surratt Beauty lip crayons, $34 each; Waiting for the Sun sunglasses, $215; Poketo planners, $36 each


Man, It’s a Hard One: Why Can’t I Find a Vintage Santana ‘Smooth’ T-Shirt?


These Beaded Bags Are Fun as Hell


Your New Pet Rock Is This $2 Pumice Stone

View all stories in Shopping