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Where to Buy Backpacks That Can Go Anywhere With You

Whether it’s work, class, a bike ride, or dinner.

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Photo: State Bags

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We answer a lot of shopping questions at Racked, from where to buy the ideal loafers to where to find “normal” non-denim pants. Recently, someone in our Facebook group for shopping tips asked a question that probably resonates with a lot of people: Where can you buy a quality, low-key backpack that works well for a commute but also has features like a water bottle pocket — without spending a ton of money?

Luckily, there’s a pretty wide overlap between backpacks that won’t look out of place schlepping your lunch and computer to your office, carrying your stuff out on a date, or toting your lunch and a towel for a weekend jaunt to the beach. Plenty of brands are making bags that work for all of these situations — and in a lot of cases, you can satisfy all those needs in the same bag.

Here, I’ve pulled together the brands making the best multi-purpose backpacks in a few different price ranges, but largely for under $100. And all of them make several options, so if you need more room for textbooks or would get more use out of something that looks more like a purse than a book bag or hiking pack, I’ll leave that up to you. (If you’ve got a bigger budget and really specific needs, I suggest heading over to Carryology, a site that’s all about bags that includes some super in-depth reviews of backpacks, organized by different categories like daypacks and camera bags.)


An olive fold-over bag
State Bags Spencer Backpack, $155
A black backpack
State Lorimer Backpack, $85

State Bags

State now makes more than 20 styles of backpacks in all kinds of colors, materials, and sizes, starting at $35 for a very simple drawstring bag (most full-size bags hover around $85–$90). While I’m partial to the Lorimer ($85) in black, which is lightweight and has served me well for the past two years as a commuter bag, State has lots of options in brighter colors and flashy prints, too. But one of the coolest things about the brand is its #GiveBackPack program, which donates a backpack filled with school supplies to an American child in need for every bag sold. For this back-to-school season, State has partnered with Chance the Rapper’s SocialWorks as well as other local organizations to focus on students from under-funded neighborhoods in Chicago.


Everlane

With 12 different options starting at $40 — from mini bags to extra-large commuter packs — Everlane is a solid option for buying a backpack. If you’re looking for something on the smaller side that can still fit a laptop, I’d recommend the Modern Twill Single Snap Backpack in large ($65), which can fit any Macbook in its interior sleeve.


A blue backpack
Timbuk2 Ramble Pack Canvas, $76
A grey twill backpack
Timbuk2 Walker Laptop Backpack, $194

Timbuk2

If you need something that can stand up to heavier wear-and-tear for a bike commute or a hiking trip, check out Timbuk2, which was founded by a San Francisco bike messenger. The website filters bags by activity as well as feature, so it’s pretty easy to find what you’re looking for, whether that’s a wet/dry compartment, reflective safety strips for nighttime biking, something carry-on size, or a water bottle pocket. (There’s also a device fit guide, if you’re planning to cart around a computer.) The brand is a little pricier, with backpacks starting at $79 at full price and $62 on sale, but all bags come with a lifetime warranty.


A drawstring backpack with a grid
Baggu Drawstring Backpack, $42
A blue backpack
Baggu School Backpack, $58

Baggu

The Brooklyn-based brand makes five different styles of backpacks, including a drawstring-top canvas version ($42), a foldable, simple take ($32), and a backpack shape that falls more in the purse category that’s available in leather or suede ($248). All are unisex, fit varying needs, and come in a huge range of colors and patterns. (While you’re at it, it’s worth checking out the rest of the brand’s fall lineup, too.)


a burgundy backpack
Herschel Little America Backpack, $119.00
Herschel Grove Backpack, $54.99

Herschel

You’re probably already familiar with Herschel’s ubiquitous classic backpacks ($44.99), but the fact that the brand makes so many different styles (starting at $19.99 for a mini backpack) makes it worth mentioning here. While you can find a few styles from the brand at Urban Outfitters and in skate shops, there’s a whole lot more variety in size, style, color, material, and price if you purchase directly from its website.