The Best Cheap Backpacks for School, Travel & More

Whether you are looking at cheap backpacks or ones that cost hundreds of dollars, finding the right one can be challenging. There are so many different types of backpacks on the market, it's easy to become confused if not overwhelmed. Before you start your search, you need to carefully consider what you plan to use your new backpack for.

If you buy one that is too small, you might not be able to use it for travel (many larger backpacks won't fit in the overhead bins). If you end up buying one of the cheap backpacks that's too small, you won't be able to carry everything. Choose the wrong material and everything inside will get wet if you're caught out in the rain.

backpack illustration rainbow colors

The Best Cheap Backpacks

While you can easily end up spending hundreds of dollars on a brand name backpack, you are probably spending far more than you need to in your local backpack shop. Unless you plan a hike to the first base camp on Mt. Everest, there isn't a real need to overpay for your backpack. Good, cheap backpacks need to have the following characteristics, if you want one that is going to be durable, last a long time, and keep everything you pack from getting wet.

Here is What to Look For:


Whether you are looking at backpacks for school, long bike rides, to carry things to work or school, or just about any other reason, you need one that is at the very least made from a water-resistant material. Note, this doesn't mean you need one that is 100 percent waterproof. The idea is to find one that will keep things dry in a drizzle or moderate rain. Polyester or nylon backpacks are considered naturally water-resistant by virtue of the way the material is made. Canvas backpacks are typically water-resistant as most manufacturers treat the material or how tight the weave is in the canvas used.

water resistant icon


If you travel frequently with your backpack, look for one that has two zipper sliders (the tab you use to open/close them with) that have holes in the end for a lock. You might not be worried about dirty gym clothes, but if you use yours for school, work, or travel, you need to be able to lock your backpack. In most cases, if you use TSA friendly locks (these are designed with a special release that lets, the TSA agent to open the lock with damaging it), it will be safe from theft.

zippers open zipper closed


Whether you are looking for good backpacks for school, work, or travel, the one you choose needs to have plenty of separate compartments both on the outside and on the inside. This will make it much easier for you to keep everything separated. Multiple compartments make it easy for you to organize things so that you don't have to take everything you've packed to find one thing. If you routinely carry a laptop, be sure you choose one of our cheap backpacks that has a built-in padded sleeve or pocket designed to protect your laptop.

backpack compartments

Shoulder Straps

Look for a backpack that has padded shoulder straps, the padding will make carrying heavier loads more comfortable. Padded straps help to protect your shoulders and distribute the load more evenly. They also help take some of the load off your lower back.  Choose straps with thick single piece padding as this type of padding is less likely to split. Even if you are looking at cheap book bags for your kids to carry their school books in, thicker padding will help lighten the load.

Padded Back

Backpacks with a padded back are a must whether you choose one with a frame or without. The padding helps contour the pack to your spine and distribute the weight more evenly. The padding will also protect your back from the things you have packed inside. Thicker padding is better than thin, but even thin padding is better than nothing at all.

Chest/Sternum Straps

Chest straps are a must if you carry heavy loads. They help distribute the load more evenly and take some of it off your shoulders. These are typically simple nylon straps that have a quick-release buckle that makes them easy to use. You can always roll or fold them up and use a rubber band to keep them out of the way until you need them.

Front-Loading Back Packs

The term front loading is a little misleading, what it really means is the main compartment opens fully. These types of cheap backpacks make it easy for you to load and access the things you need to carry. Those that are top loading only give you access through the small opening at the top of the bag. This can make getting into things difficult, especially anything you have at the bottom of the compartment.

What About Wheels?

For those who have back, neck, or shoulder problems, don't worry, there are backpacks with wheels made for you. These cheap backpacks have wheels on the bottom back side of them and rubber stops on the front side to keep your backpack from rolling away when you set it on the ground. They also have extendable handles that are hidden beneath a flap on the top. To use you simply pull on the handle until it reaches maximum extension and "locks in place." When you need to lower it, simply push the lock release and push it back down into its compartment.

rolling backpack

Even if you don't have a bad back, having wheels can make it much easier to "carry" heavier loads, go up and down sets of stairs, and roll the load over long distances. For example, if you need to go from one end of the airport or train station to another.

Are Drawstring Backpacks Worth Investing In?

String backpacks, also known as drawstring backpacks, are typically made with nylon and have two drawstrings that not only close the top, but also serve as shoulder straps. They can make good boy or girl backpacks for school when the student doesn't have to carry a heavy load.  You can toss your gym clothes, maybe a book and binder along with pens, etc. However, since the "shoulder straps" are nothing more than a string, you'll want to keep the load to a minimum.

drawstring backpack assorted colors

These cute cheap backpacks are frequently used by companies as advertising giveaways. They have their company name and logo screen printed on them in bold colors. They can be ordered in bulk helping to keep costs under control, which makes them the perfect advertising medium. As such, they make an excellent investment for any company no matter how large or small.

What About Size?

Size plays a major role in finding the right backpack. If you plan to travel, size will play a major role in your decision. Providing you choose one that is 22 x 14 x 9 inches (26 x 36 x 23cm) you should have no problem using it as a carry-on bag on airplanes and trains as they will fit in the overhead bins. Anything bigger than this may need to go as checked baggage, which you will probably have to pay for.

From simple, cheap backpacks to handy school book bags, BagzDepot has a great selection to choose from and we offer screen print services for all drawstring bags, and tote bags that let you put your logo where it counts. There has never been a better selection to choose from at affordable prices. Visit BagzDepot today and find the perfect backpack to fit your every need!

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Written by Bagz Depot — October 04, 2019

BagzDepot® Leading Canvas Tote Bags and Wholesale Promotional Bags supplier in the USA!

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