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The 5 Best Backpacks for Nursing Students, According to Nurses

Gayle Morris, BSN, MSN
Updated March 24, 2023
    Backpacks are essential for nursing students. But the wrong one can cause back and shoulder pain. Consider these backpacks recommended by nurses.
    Credit: ljubaphoto / Getty Images

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    Backpacks are a secure way of carrying supplies for your coursework, a laptop or tablet, snacks, and water to get you through the day. But carrying a poorly constructed backpack can lead to back, neck, and shoulder pain.

    Although they are necessary for nursing students, backpacks can also be used for adventure and freedom. The best backpacks for nursing students are those that can become an indispensable part of everyday life. They should move seamlessly from nursing school to travel, then as you enter the workforce.

    We asked former nursing students and nurses what they thought were the best backpacks for nursing students. Find their answers in this article, along with the pros and cons of each one they recommended.

    The 5 Best Backpacks for Nursing Students

    Here are five nursing backpacks recommended by former students and current nurses, that will help you get through your nursing program and beyond.

    However, like nursing programs, there is no “one-size-fits-all” backpack. Purchasing a high-quality backpack can save you from pain, but it can be a sizable investment. Take the time to read through the descriptions and pros and cons of each backpack before making your decision.

    1. Herschel Thompson Backpacks


    • check-circleDurable and long-lasting
    • check-circleLots of compartments
    • check-circleFlexible shoulder straps
    • check-circleSeveral styles and options


    • x-circleSmaller interior
    • x-circleDifficult to load large, thick books

    Beth Hawkes is a nurse, speaker, and writer. After trying several backpacks as a nursing student, she settled on the Herschel backpack as her favorite. “They have an incredible lifespan. They really last forever and are more premium and stylish than any other brand,” she says.

    Herschel backpacks come in a range of prices to fit nearly every budget, from $32-$450. There is a range of designs in the mid-price range, from $69-$89. The Thompson Backpack costs about $75 and is made of a heavy-weight base fabric and recycled material.

    There is space for a 15-inch laptop, contoured shoulder straps, and zippered lid pocket. An internal key clip can make it easier to find your keys quickly and dual water side pockets ensure you’ll stay hydrated.

    2. Osprey Aether 65 Men’s Backpacks


    • check-circleDistributes the weight evenly
    • check-circleGood for long days/hikes or outdoor adventures
    • check-circleLots of compartments


    • x-circleNot ideal for everyday use
    • x-circleCan get heavy when it’s full
    [These backpacks are] perfect for long hikes and outdoor adventures,” he says.

    Kelly recommends the Aether 65 Men’s Backpack. It sells for between $285-$400, depending on your size preference. Both sizes are designed to hold up to 60 pounds.

    The backpack comes with a rain cover and floating top lid. The fabric is reinforced with upper and lower compression straps and a design to provide close-to-body contact to manage heavier loads. This backpack can easily maneuver your school supplies and a weekend camping trip.

    3. JanSport Backpacks


    • check-circlePerfect for nursing students
    • check-circleBuilt-in rain cover for inclement weather on some styles
    • check-circleComfortable even when it’s full


    • x-circleMay not be water resistant
    • x-circleFabrics inconsistent style to style

    Kelly thinks the JanSport backpacks are perfect for everyday use. JanSport backpacks range in price from $15-$85. The Main Campus FX Backpack was designed with college students in mind and costs between $50-$55.

    It has room for large books and several compartments to organize your supplies. The backpack is available in several colors. It features S-curve shoulder straps, a fully padded back panel, and a laptop compartment with dual side water pockets.

    The square design is perfect to fit books, and the compression straps keep everything in place.

    4. Tumi Backpacks


    • check-circleDurable material
    • check-circleSeveral compartments for easy organizing
    • check-circleMany styles and options to choose from


    • x-circlePriced from $295-$1,100
    • x-circleLittle space for books

    The cost of Tumi backpacks starts at around $300. They have several designs for students—including the Carson Backpack which comes in three colors, has a pocket for your tablet, and zippered compartment for a 15-inch laptop. This backpack is likely for the student who has gone paperless since there is little room for books.

    The Bina Backpack is made of nylon and offers a double-zip entry to the main compartment. The laptop compartment can accommodate a 15-inch computer. There is a quick-access phone pocket and a water-resistant water bottle pocket. And the mouth of the backpack is large enough to accommodate books.

    The Hartford Backpack is sleek and stylish with a separate laptop compartment, quick-access phone pocket, and water bottle pocket you can access from inside or outside the bag.

    5. Matein Travel Laptop Backpacks


    • check-circleLuggage strap for flying
    • check-circleAntitheft pocket on the back
    • check-circleDurable construction
    • check-circleAccommodates a 15.6-inch laptop
    • check-circleTwo sizes can accommodate smaller and larger laptops


    • x-circleNot water resistant
    • x-circleThinly padded laptop compartment

    The Matein Travel Laptop Backpack is less expensive than the other backpacks on this list, costing between $30-$70 depending on the size. There is enough space for books and a laptop. It also features a USB charging cable and back support with a ventilated pad. The adjustable straps reduce the strain on your back.

    The backpack comes in many colors and two sizes. The smaller version accommodates a 15.6-inch laptop and the larger version fits a 17-inch laptop. The design also includes an antitheft back pocket and dual elastic side water bottle pockets.

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    Tips for Buying a Backpack for Nursing Students

    It pays to do your homework when you’re searching for the best nursing backpacks. You may have to compromise on one or two factors as you’re looking for a backpack that can accommodate your needs.

    For example, you might find one that has the size and durability to go the distance, but it may not be as stylish as you hoped. Should you purchase a less expensive backpack that may last two years with daily use or a more expensive one that could last six? Only you can answer these questions.

    As you’re searching for a backpack, consider:

    • Cost
    • Style
    • Durability
    • Size and storage room
    • Padding to protect your laptop
    • Pockets and compartments
    • Accessibility
    • Security
    • Weight distribution
    • Strap adjustability
    • Waterproof

    Backpacks are essential for nursing students who need to carry several items to class. Many of the criteria you evaluate in the backpack you choose are optional. However, remember to choose one that is comfortable to carry and doesn’t add stress or strain to your shoulders and back.

    No matter how good it looks or how much it carries, if it hurts to carry it will likely end up at the back of the closet.

    Meet Our Contributors

    Portrait of Beth Hawkes, MSN, RN-BC (AKA Nurse Beth)

    Beth Hawkes, MSN, RN-BC (AKA Nurse Beth)

    As a speaker and writer, Nurse Beth helps nurses at every step in their careers through her award-winning blog, nursecode.com, freelance writing, and as a career columnist at AllNurses.com. She authored “Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job” to give nurses the ultimate insider guide to landing the job of their dreams.

    Portrait of Tom Kelly

    Tom Kelly

    Tom Kelly was a nursing student, but he found his true passion in helping people prepare for retirement. He started a blog and business called Life Part 2 to help people make the most of their retirement years. He loves sharing his knowledge and helping people enjoy their golden years.