The 12 Best Travel Backpacks for Kids in 2021 [Toddlers to Teens]

Osprey Daylite Kids Backpack Colorado

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Let your young adventurer enjoy their own independence on the road with their very own child-size backpack. Made from strong and durable materials, these travel bags may be smaller in size, but they offer all the convenience and practicality of your favorite full-size adult version.

Packed full of useful pockets and compartments, your child will love having their very own backpack for school, sleepovers, and trips away.

Things To Consider With Travel Backpacks for Kids

There are lots of great travel backpacks for kids out there, but consider some of these factors before you buy:

Size and Capacity

Depending on the age of your child, the size of the backpack they need will vary. In order to be comfortable and prevent pressure on the shoulders, any backpack should be proportionate to the size of the child.

The height should extend from around 2 inches below the shoulder blades, and the bottom of the backpack should sit nicely just above the waist. It goes without saying that the smaller the child, the more compact the backpack should be, and under no circumstances should a toddler be hauling around an adult-size backpack on their travels.

The capacity will also vary, with younger children not be expected to carry as much stuff as older children. Whatever the age and size of your child, it is important to remember that the backpack you choose will need to be fit for purpose.

For older children, look for backpacks that can comfortably carry folders with additional space for textbooks, note pads, and even extra clothing. For younger children, smaller compartments for drinks and snacks are a must!

Weight

Little people won’t want to be weighed down with heavy backpacks. If you want to avoid your preschooler tipping backward with a super-heavy hiking pack, look for the lightest backpacks you can buy.

Lightweight doesn’t need to mean flimsy, though, and modern-day backpacks are made from durable materials with feature-reinforced seams to ensure that they can withstand regular use without falling apart.

Most backpacks designed for use at school or for travel tend to weigh around 6 to 12 pounds when empty, and even less for those designed for children under 4. While doctors and physical therapists recommend that kids carry no more than 10% to 15% of their body weight on their backs, heavy bags can sometimes not be avoided.

Bottom Line: As a general rule, look for the most durable but lightweight backpack you can find to ensure that your child doesn’t suffer back or shoulder pain.

Carry Options

Kids love backpacks, and parents love them, too. One of the biggest benefits of using a backpack is the ability to wear it over the shoulders to help distribute the weight evenly across the body. Backpacks also allow for hands-free travel, making it easy for your child to hold your hand, ride their bike, or generally just enjoy a higher level of dexterity as they go about their day.

Shoulder straps should be adjustable and padded to ensure that they fit well and don’t dig in, and while a backpack wouldn’t be a backpack without them, there are others carry options available, too.

You might notice that your kid’s backpack comes with a grab handle on the top. While probably not suitable for 1-handed carrying over longer periods of time, these are useful for grabbing the pack from the trunk of your car and can be used to hang it on a peg or in a locker.

For larger backpacks that might be used for sporting events, sleepovers, or on vacation, you could consider one that offers the addition of smooth-rolling wheels and a retractable handle. Easy to maneuver, these may not be what your child wants to pull along the school hallways, but they are a practical alternative for oversize bags and heavier loads when traveling.

Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant

Lots of kid’s backpacks describe themselves as being waterproof and weatherproof, but exactly how much protection do they really offer?

The answer is pretty simple — waterproof bags can withstand being fully submerged in the water without getting the contents wet, while water-resistant bags are usually coated to allow light rain, drizzle, and moisture to run off of the bag and away from your belongings.

That said, “water-resistant” can be a fairly broad term, with some makes and models offering far higher levels of protection than others. The zippers on the backpack also play an important part in keeping your gear nice and dry. Zippers are full of holes that can easily allow the driving rain to seep in by their very nature.

Hot Tip: Look for backpacks that come with coated or covered zippers to improve the amount of protection they offer against rain.

Material and Durability

Your child’s backpack should be able to withstand the rigors of daily use. Being thrown around by older children is par for the course, and younger children probably won’t treat it with too much care either.

Durable materials such as polyester or nylon will help extend the bag’s life span, and reinforced seams can cope better with heavy loads. Over time, rips, tears, and broken zippers can make any backpack unusable, so for regular use or frequent travel, opt for a backpack that is more about function than fashion.

Easy to clean materials are also a must. While some can be wiped down with a damp cloth, others can simply be chucked in the washing machine to remove any evidence of unwanted stains or spillages.

Comfort

Your child’s backpack needs to be comfortable to carry even when full. A comfortable backpack is one that sits comfortably against the curve of their back and hangs nicely from the shoulders, but other factors will enhance the comfort levels significantly.

The straps should be easy to adjust to ensure that they can be made to fit. They should also be padded to prevent them from digging into the shoulders as your child walks. Larger backpacks often come with additional chest straps that help distribute the weight more evenly and are also useful if your child is planning to undertake outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, or running.

Some backpacks come with mesh material on the straps and the back panel. The nature of the fabric helps to hold the backpack away from your shoulders and back to allow air to pass through to keep that cool feeling.

Hot Tip: If your child’s backpack seems to be causing them discomfort, it could simply be that it is too full, badly loaded, or just not the right size or fit for them.

Color and Design

Children of different ages will be naturally drawn to different colors and designs. Younger children love carrying their favorite cartoon character or toy on their back, and with so many to choose from, they shouldn’t be disappointed. On the other hand, older children often prefer more fashionable designs that help them stand out from the crowd.

Plain-colored backpacks are practical and easy to keep clean, and some children may find that their school insists on a certain color as part of their uniform.

On the other hand, character backpacks or those that are designed to look like your little one’s favorite animal or toy will be much more visually attractive to younger children, and they will love to show off their new best bag friend to everyone they meet.

Whatever color or design your child goes for, remember that it needs to be practical enough to withstand the dirt and dust of regular usage.

The Best Travel Backpacks for Toddlers and Preschoolers

For Kids Who Like To Coordinate

Wildkin 15 Inch Kids Backpack

Available in a wide choice of colorful designs, this brilliant backpack will ensure that your child stands out from the crowd on the playground. Made from super-durable 600D polyester fabric, this backpack measures a roomy 15 x 11 x 7 inches and offers plenty of space for school books, snacks, and toys.

The large main compartment is easily accessed using the strong and durable kid-friendly zipper, and with 2 further storage compartments and an interior utility pocket, your school-age child will easily be able to carry all of their favorite belongings with them. The moisture-resistant interior is easy to keep clean and resistant to leaks and spills, and the external fabric can be spot cleaned between uses.

With a built-in top handle, this backpack can quickly and easily be hung up on pegs and in lockers, and the padded, adjustable shoulder straps ensure a super-comfortable carry, even when it is full. With a wide choice of patterns and designs available, this backpack is perfect for younger children, and if you want to keep them coordinated, matching lunch packs, bottles, and other accessories are available.

What We Like

  • The spacious main compartment and organizer

What We Don’t Like

  • Backpack will not stand up on its own unless it’s pretty full

Robot Friend With Plenty of Storage Space

CHERUBIC Kids Robot Backpack

Perfect for trips to the park, days spent at kindergarten, sleepovers, vacations, and so much more, this supercute little toddler backpack has been designed to look just like your child’s favorite robot toy.

Measuring a compact yet practical 10.6 x 7.8 x 5.9 inches, this whimsical robot character bag will ensure that your little one absolutely loves carrying their belongings all on their own.

Made from tough and durable oxford polyester material, this cute little backpack is easy to keep clean, and the spacious design offers plenty of room for all of their most important belongings.

With 2 zipper pockets on the outside, they can enjoy easy access to snacks, coloring pencils, and toys, and available in a choice of different styles, all models offer a spacious main compartment that comes with easy-to-use zipper pulls that are just right for tiny hands.

Perfect for younger children, this backpack comes with padded adjustable straps that can be made to perfectly fit your child’s size, and the brightly colored robot design is suitable for both girls and boys.

What We Like

  • The unusual character design

What We Don’t Like

  • This backpack is not large enough to fit big books or folders

Little Backpack That Your Preschooler Will Adore

Orezi Vintage Dinosaur Backpack

Measuring in at 10 x 4 x 12 inches, this brilliant little backpack comes with a supercute dinosaur design, with further designs and patterns to choose from across the range. Made from durable, water-resistant materials, it is lightweight and incredibly easy to clean, making light work of cleaning up leaks and spills in the washing machine.

With a spacious main compartment, your little one can carry all of their favorite snacks, books, and toys, and it is just the right size for folders. With 2 handy side pockets, your child can enjoy super-quick access to their drink bottle and other small items, and the child-friendly zippers make it easy to open and close.

The adjustable padded shoulder straps help to stabilize the load for your little one, even when full, and the lightweight yet spacious design is perfect for use at preschool, kindergarten, or even elementary school, as well as on the road.

What We Like

  • The colorful patterns and designs

What We Don’t Like

  • A little bit on the small side

For Disney-Loving Toddlers

Voikukka Girls Mini Mouse Backpack

Super cute and incredibly trendy, this cartoon character backpack features a beautiful Minnie Mouse color block design. With adorable backpack ears and a big bow-tie on the front, this backpack will ensure that your little one stands out from the crowd.

Made from soft and durable waterproof PU leather material, this bag is designed to withstand the rigors of everyday use, and the polyester lining is easy to keep clean in between uses.

Measuring a compact but practical 10 x 8 x 4 inches, it features 1 larger main compartment for keeping everyday essentials, including your child’s iPad, neatly organized, as well a 2 side pockets for keeping water bottles and snacks close at hand.

Perfect for days trips, playdates, and of course, your next trip to Disney, this gorgeous little backpack comes with adjustable straps that ensure a comfortable carry, even when full, and the top grab handle is convenient for picking it up and sitting it back down.

What We Like

  • The cute character design with built-in mouse ears

What We Don’t Like

  • The straps are quite short

Little Bag for Your Littlest Explorer

Skip Hop Toddler Dog Backpack

This brilliant toddler-size backpack is the perfect choice for kids who like to do more. Made from highly durable and easy-to-clean fabrics, it is just the right size for toddlers to wear to daycare, playdates, and even trips away from home. The supercute doggy design will quickly become your little one’s new best friend, and the child-friendly design makes it easy for them to carry.

The main compartment is large enough to carry toys, pencils, books, and other much-loved items, and the front zipper pouch is just right for keeping snacks close at hand throughout the day. With a mesh side pocket that has been designed to comfortably house a juice box, sippy cup, or water bottle, your toddler can enjoy their newfound independence.

With padded shoulder straps that are easy to adjust, you can find the perfect fit for your child, and with an easy-to-clean lining, you can quickly wipe away leaks and spillages.

The addition of a useful write-on tag on the inside means this backpack will always be returned to its rightful little owner, and the compact 11 x 5 x 12 inch dimensions are just right for children between 2 and 4 years of age.

What We Like

  • The dog design is a big hit with kids

What We Don’t Like

  • It is very cute, but also quite small

The Best Travel Backpacks for 5- to 12-Year-Olds

Everyday Travel Backpack for Kids

Binheiyi Unisex Fashion Backpack

With its unique good looks and spacious interior, this space-age backpack is made from high-quality, waterproof material, making it perfect for use all year round. Available in a choice of bold colors, it measures an impressive 17 x 14 x 6.3 inches and is a great choice for school, playdates, sleepovers, and vacations.

The large main compartment can comfortably house school books, a change of clothes, pens, notebooks, and even a laptop, and the external zipper pocket offers easy access to your child’s most-used items. Smaller in stature to most adult-sized backpacks, this is a lightweight and practical alternative for kids who like to carry their own gear on vacation.

The reinforced adjustable shoulder straps have been designed to feel extremely comfortable on the shoulder, even for longer periods of time, and are easy to adjust so that you can ensure that it sits nicely against the back. For added comfort and convenience, this brilliant backpack also comes with a breathable back panel that has been designed to avoid a build-up of sweat.

What We Like

  • High-quality and lightweight design

What We Don’t Like

  • The main compartment has no padding or additional compartments

Perfect for Vacation and School

Nike Kids Elemental Graphic Backpack

Offering supercool good looks and the iconic Nike Swoosh logo, this simple but highly practical sports backpack is a great choice for practice, overnight stays, and longer trips away. Made from super-tough and durable polyester material, it has reinforced seams for extra durability, and the classic design ensures that it will never look out of place on even the most fashion-conscious young travelers.

Available in a choice of 4 different colors, this backpack can comfortably hold books, folders, and other essentials, and with a detachable pencil case included, it is as practical for use in the classroom and on the school field as it is on the airplane.

The main zippered compartment is spacious and easy to access, and the further front pocket and mesh side pocket make it a breeze to grab a drink bottle or reach in for their most-used items. With a sturdy design and high-quality construction, this backpack promises to remain strong no matter how full you pack it.

For increased comfort, this model comes with padded and adjustable shoulder pads designed to provide a snug and comfortable fit, and with a grab handle on the top, your child can haul their gear easily from one place to another.

What We Like

  • The attractive and sporty design

What We Don’t Like

  • This backpack would benefit from some additional pockets or interior dividers

Adult-Style Hydration Backpack for Your Mini-Me

Osprey Daylite Kid’s Backpack

Perfectly adapted to suit the smaller frame, this brilliant little backpack is the perfect choice for older children. Based on the ever-popular Daylite adult backpack from Osprey, this model may come with more compact dimensions, but the high quality of design and incredible levels of practicality remain the same.

Made from durable and water-resistant polyester material, this backpack comes with a panel-loading main compartment, making it easy for your child to access their favorite items on the go. Suitable for use on outdoor adventures, this backpack comes with an internal hydration sleeve included that can accommodate a 1.5-liter hydration bladder.

With dual side mesh water bottle pockets, a front sip pocket, and a generous main compartment, this backpack offers plenty of room for a change of clothes, snacks, books, and other essentials, and with an internal name tag, it won’t get lost in transit. The ventilated back panel ensures enhanced comfort, even in warmer weather, and the adjustable and breathable straps make it a breeze to carry even when full.

What We Like

  • The superior quality and functionality

What We Don’t Like

  • Sadly not quite large enough to fit big books

Offers Practicality and Space by the Bucket Load

Everest Junior Backpack

Perfect for older children, this school bag offers plenty of space for all of their essentials. Weighing in at just 8 ounces, it is incredibly lightweight and comfortable to carry, even when full, and the durable and water-resistant 600D polyester materials ensure that it remains tough and durable in all weather conditions.

With a large main compartment, your child will easily be able to fit their school books, pens, and other items in with ease, and the slimline design ensures that it offers practical storage space without feeling bulky or heavy.

Available in a wide choice of colors, it features an easy-access front pocket with a hidden zipper closure for extra security, and the large main opening makes it easy to access their belongings in an instant.

The adjustable and padded shoulder straps can be altered to perfectly fit the size and height of your child, and with an additional grab handle, this is a great choice for use at school, at the park, at sleepovers, or even on long trips away.

What We Like

  • The simple and straightforward design

What We Don’t Like

  • The straps are a little short for older children and adults

Hot Tip: If you’re looking to maximize your carry-on allowance and want to pair your child’s backpack with a kid-friendly rolling bag, check out our guide to the best carry-on luggage for kids.

The Best Travel Backpacks for Teenagers

For Tech-Loving Older Children

Lmeison Anime Cartoon Luminous Backpack

This brilliant backpack comes with a USB charging port to keep your preteen well-connected. Made from waterproof materials, this stylish backpack comes with awesome light-absorbing properties, and the glow in the dark design offers up to 6 hours of fluorescent glow after just 20 minutes of exposure to the daylight.

With a padded laptop compartment that is large enough to house devices measuring up to 15.6 inches, front and back zipper pockets, and further side mesh pockets, it has plenty of space for a wide range of belongings.

The anti-theft design makes this an excellent choice for both the daily commute and travel, and with a theft-proof combination lock and a dual-access zipper, your teen’s gear will stay nice and safe. For even more convenience, this backpack comes with a USB cable included, meaning that your child only needs to supply their own choice of power pack.

With breathable and adjustable shoulder straps, this backpack is comfortable to carry. The S-shaped design will help relieve shoulder pressure, making it suitable for carrying all day long.

What We Like

  • The glow-in-the-dark design

What We Don’t Like

  • You need to buy a charging bank separately

Hot Tip: If your teen is tasked with traveling with their laptop, consider our guide to the best laptop backpacks to buy for travel.

Excellent Backpack on Wheels

Tilami Rolling Backpack

This awesome backpack can be carried on the shoulder or pulled along on smooth-rolling wheels, making it an excellent choice for school trips, vacations, and sleepovers. Strong enough to hold up to 30 pounds worth of belongings, this brilliant backpack has been designed with a high-strength alloy rod support and an armored bottom protection system for increased durability.

Offering plenty of well-thought-out storage spaces, this backpack on wheels has a multi-compartment design with plenty of room for clothes, books, files, and so much more. The additional front and side storage pockets allow for easy access to your child’s most needed items.

Available in a choice of 4 beautiful bright designs, this backpack has a waterproof coating to keep your teen’s belongings safe and dry in all weather.

Your child can choose to extend the handle and pull the backpack along behind them or use the S-shaped mesh panel shoulder straps that come with a discreet storage pocket and a breathable design. With smooth-rolling wheels, this case offers quiet operation, and when it’s time to stand still, it can support its own weight using durable feet.

What We Like

  • The multi-function design

What We Don’t Like

  • This backpack can feel heavy on the shoulders when full

Packable Backpack for Outdoor Adventures

Venture Pal Venture Pal Ultralight Lightweight Foldable Backpack

Made from high-quality, tear- and water-resistant material, this awesome backpack comes in a wide range of bright colors and can be folded away when not in use. Designed to be incredibly durable, it features a double-layer bottom to offer extra support, and with up to 35 liters of storage space, it is a brilliant option for kids who want to stay active on vacation.

With plenty of compartments to choose from, this backpack has a large main compartment with superstrong, dual SBS metal zippers, as well as 2 zipped front pockets and 2 further side pockets. Perfect for packing away on school trips and family vacations, it folds up small enough to fit into its own little pouch, making it an excellent choice for sporting events and other adventures.

The 2 breathable shoulder straps come with sponge padding to ensure increased comfort while being carried, and the length of the shoulder straps can be adjusted to suit your child’s size. There is also a chest strap with a whistle buckle to ensure that the backpack remains securely in place while they walk.

A true space-saver, this awesome little hiking backpack can easily hold a spare sweater, water bottles, guide books, snacks, cell phones, and even an umbrella to ensure that your child has everything they need close at hand.

What We Like

  • The versatile foldable design

What We Don’t Like

  • Despite claiming to be water-resistant, it won’t stand up to heavy rain

Final Thoughts

Letting your kids carry their own items while traveling helps increase their independence while freeing up some of their own time. Accessing their books, toys, electronic media, drinks, and snacks will help them feel more involved, and your little ones will love having their favorite character traveling with them.

Suitable for use while away from home, as well as back at school or kindergarten, these are an awesome collection of kids’ backpacks that parents will love just as much as they do.


Frequently asked questions

What size is a toddler backpack?

A toddler backpack should be in the range of 10 to 15 inches. Size isn’t the only factor, though, and it should have a padded back panel and shoulder straps.

Can a 2-year-old wear a backpack?

Generally, a 2-year-old can wear a backpack safely. If they can comfortably walk carrying a toy while holding their balance, they are old enough to wear a backpack.

What weight can kids carry?

A backpack that is too heavy for a child is a safety concern for many adults. Ideally, your kid’s backpack should not weigh more than 10% to 15% of their body weight.

Where should a backpack sit on your back?

A backpack should sit roughly 2 inches below your shoulders and 2 inches above your hips.

Amar Hussain

About Amar Hussain

Amar was born and raised in England, UK, embarked on an 11 country round the world gap year after graduation and then became well and truly hooked. The first gap year inspired a second which ended up being a 23 country down-the-world trip from Canada to Antarctica. Since then Amar has endeavored to turn his gap year into a ‘gap life’ and has spent the last 10 years traveling the 7 continents.

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