The Most Durable Rolling Backpacks for High School — and Which to Avoid

A few wheeled packs stand out in terms of convenience and construction, while others won't make it through the school year.

We’ve taken a thorough look at the rolling backpack options for teens ages 13 and up (and we have a recommendation for elementary-age kids too).

Our main goal was to find the most durable and practical option to recommend for middle and high school use, as well as for short overnight trips.

We looked at the wheeled backpacks from both well-established and rather unknown brands. The key factor was the ability to withstand the trials and abuse of daily use, year after year, through all kinds of rough, wet, and bumpy environments.

There are many poorly built backpacks on the market, and we wanted to recommend only what would stand up well over time, protect schoolwork and even a laptop, and come with a guarantee from a company with a history of follow-up.

L.L. Bean Rolling Deluxe Book Pack

The best rolling backpack we’ve found for high school students lugging lots of books is the 2019 update to the L.L. Bean Rolling Deluxe Book Pack. It wraps school stuff in the weatherproof, rip-resistant, flexible 420-denier nylon that was originally designed for military parachutes, and the backpack’s stitching, wheels and zippers are similarly built to last — and backed by L.L. Bean’s famously generous guarantee on materials and craftsmanship.

Other main features of note:

  • Laptop sleeve
  • Reflective trim on front and back for safety at night
  • Pull handle that locks into place at two points, making it comfortable for 10-year-olds on up to looming high school kids
  • Backpack straps that tuck away when not in use to avoid snagging when rolling
  • Dual main compartments allowing for the separation of, say, gym socks from textbooks
  • Dual side water-bottle pockets
  • Interior tech pocket with hole for headphone cable or USB-C extra battery cable (for heavy power users on long days)

While we also have a few cheaper recommendations (below), we think the wheeled option from L. L. Bean is well-worth the slightly higher upfront investment due to its likely longevity. Expect it to last through school years and beyond.

Check prices here

Update history of this article

Published March 6, 2018. Thoroughly updated on July 26 and July 29, 2018.

The Benefits of Rolling Backpacks for Young People

With apologies for the obvious pun, teens have a lot on their shoulders. Schools pile on textbooks, workbooks, often a laptop, and take-home projects, and some teens also their share time between different households (with separated parents, grandparents, babysitters, etc.). And there are after-school activities with their accompanying equipment, as well as the fun stuff that kids like to tote with them through the day.

The load can build up —and it’s not healthy. There is excellent research showing that when young people carry heavy backpacks they often develop problems like low back pain, compressed lumbar discs, and asymmetry. Such back problems in youth can then lead to worse issues in adulthood. In addition, heavy backpacks harm joints and contribute to falls — over 6,000 child emergency room visits in 2016 were for backpack injuries. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends rolling backpacks for youth carrying a heavy load.

All that said, rolling backpacks can be a tripping hazard in more-crowded school hallways. Those who use rolling backpacks should understand that there are situations where it’s necessary to use the backpack straps, and take advantage of them.

The Best Rolling Backpack for High School: L.L. Bean Rolling Deluxe Book Pack

We prioritized durability in our considerations, followed by features like reflective trim and organizational pockets. We found that the L.L. Bean Rolling Deluxe Book Pack had just about everything we could ask for.

L.L. Bean’s Lifeproof Construction and Materials

Almost all other backpacks in this class are made from polyester fabric, mainly 600D polyester, which has the advantage of being cheap, light, and easy to dye many colors, but it is not as strong as the 420D nylon used for the body of L.L. Bean’s rolling backpack. (While D or “denier” is a measure of density of the fabric, it is only relevant as a measure of strength among the same types of fabric — and not when comparing different fabrics to each other.) As we mentioned, 420D nylon was originally designed for military parachutes. And the 1680D ballistic nylon that is used for the bag’s base is even tougher — in the pre-kevlar days it’s what soldiers wore to protect themselves from shrapnel. Do your worst — this fabric won’t rip.

All of this wouldn’t mean much if the stitching, zippers, handles, and wheels weren’t similarly built to last for the long haul, but they are. The range of L.L. Bean backpacks have consistently topped durability tests from consumer organizations, reviews, and from customers and outdoorsy vloggers. These have shown for instance that LL Bean zippers have held up over time and the handles didn’t tear in jerk tests.

The LL Bean Rolling Deluxe Book Pack’s fabric is treated to repel moisture, and zippers are protected with flaps, also improving water resistance. In sum, precious assignments and books should survive even when the bag is caught in a downpour or plopped down in a mud puddle.

Features of the L.L. Bean Rolling Deluxe Book Pack

L.L. Bean has covered all of the features that we find most useful:

  • The bag’s 35L capacity is a wee bit larger than other rolling backpacks; it’s fair to assume that anyone wanting wheels may regularly have a bulkier load.
  • There are two separated main compartments with an organizer panel and laptop sleeve.
  • The 3M™ Scotchlite™ reflective trim on the bag’s front and back makes the bag highly visible from any angle at night.
  • The pull handle can be tucked neatly into the unit or locked in place at two different heights, improving comfort.
  • The well-padded backpack straps can be tucked into the back compartment so that they don’t snag when rolling.
  • Two quite large water bottle pockets (also great for carrying a sandwich or fruit, or wet item).

Downsides to the L.L. Bean Rolling Deluxe Book Pack

  • It’s a bit larger than the other options. While most high school kids who want a rolling backpack are by definition carrying a lot of stuff, there are also slightly smaller options below.
  • It’s a bit expensive; for a small step down in price (but also quality and likely durability), check out the Lands’ End option below and for a larger step down see the J World options. We think L.L. Bean’s durability is well worth it, however.

The Rolling Deluxe Book Pack is sold directly from L.L. Bean and is available in black, dark plum, and navy. It measures 19 x 14 x 9.5 inches (48.3 x 35.6 x 24.1 cm), has a 35L / 2,124 cubic-inch capacity, and weighs 5 lbs. 3 oz. (2.35 kg).

Slightly Cheaper, But Not Quite As Durable: Lands’ End Classmate Large Rolling Backpack

Lands’ End also offers a well-built children’s wheeled backpack that is a bit cheaper than L.L. Bean’s and offers mainly the same features: the Lands’ End Classmate Large Rolling Backpack.

The drawback is that we can’t expect it to hold up as well as L.L. Bean’s wheeled backpack discussed above. Reviewers who tested other children’s Lands’ End backpacks found them to be generally well built though with some parts that didn’t hold up as well over the long term (for example with one reporting a life span of two years of daily use — which is still not so bad). Lands’ End uses 600D polyester for the body and 1200D polyester for the base, which have the advantage of being lighter but do not hold up quite as well as the nylon material employed by L.L. Bean.

The Classmate does have a feature that our main recommendation lacks: You can add embroidered emojis, animals, sports equipment and more, as well as monogrammed initials or a short word.

The Lands’ End Classmate Large Wheeled Backpack also has a reflective patch for visibility, two smaller front pockets, and a solid guarantee with a history of good follow-up. It measures 18 x 13 x 9 inches (45.7 x 33 x 22.9 cm) and has a capacity of 27.8L. It does not have a laptop sleeve.

Other Kids Rolling Backpacks

While some of these backpacks are cheaper than our main recommendation at the top, we think their overall cost will be greater for most people as the bags inevitably wear out. But for those teens more likely to lose rather than abuse their backpack, a cheaper option might well be worth considering, as it’s not such a big deal to replace.

Decent, Quite Cheap: JWorld Sundance Laptop / Sunrise Rolling Backpacks

JWorld New York offers two very reasonably priced rolling backpack options that are suitable for high school. They have reflective strips for visibility and are made of the same 600D polyester as the Lands’ End option, offering reasonable water resistance. They’ve garnered a few positive web and Amazon reviews, although some users note problems with durability and the construction quality certainly does not approach that of our main picks above. There are in particular complaints of pieces such as wheels breaking. Backpacks do get heavy daily use in high school, but if you have another main backpack and just use a rolling backpack on occasion, these are cheap options.

The J World New York Sundance Laptop Rolling Backpack is the slightly larger of the two and can old a laptop in its padded sleeve. It measures 20 x 13 x 9 inches (50.8 x 33 x 22.9 cm) with the 38.3L capacity and is also available from eBags.

The J World New York Sunrise Rolling Backpack is just a bit shorter and is cheaper and lacks the laptop sleeve. It measures 18 x 13 x 9 inches (45.7 x 33 x 22.9 cm), and has a 34.5L capacity.

Very Cheap, In Fact Worthless: The Rockland 17″ Roadster Rolling Backpack

The Rockland 17″ Roadster Rolling Backpack was the cheapest option we found, but many of its Amazon reviewers complained of the bag’s wheels and handles giving out after just a few weeks. Given that risk, we might just opt for a non-wheeled backpack at this price point, and save the trouble.

It is available in a huge range of colors and printed designs.

The backpack measures 13 x 10 x 17 inches (33 x 25.4 x 43.2 cm). It’s also available from Target and eBags.

Lightweight, Subdued Design: HollyHOME Wheeled Rolling Backpack

The HollyHOME Wheeled 17″ Rolling Backpack comes in quite relaxing plain colors. Its few Amazon reviews are rather mixed (and likely reliable), with some reports of parts breaking, and there’s a dearth of commentary elsewhere on the brand. The company promises to refund for problems within only 30 days, which is a far cry from the lifetime guarantee of our top pick. The bag measures 17.3 x 8.7 x 11.8 inches (43.9 x 22.1 x 30 cm).

There is also a 19″ version that has a laptop sleeve, although it’s a bit oddly placed on the front flap rather than the back as with most backpacks, and may not offer as much protection. This version is 18.9 x 7.5 x 13.8 inches (48 x 19 x 35.1 cm).

Solidly-Built, Laptop Sleeve Included, but Expensive: JanSport Wheeled Backpacks

JanSport offers two rolling backpacks that are suitable for high schoolers with lots of books who want to roll. Both are solidly built from 600D polyester (though not the tougher 420D nylon employed for our main pick above). This is the top-selling American brand for school bags and its other bags got great (if not top) marks from the French consumer testing organization and reviewers. The JanSport lifetime warranty is excellent.

These bags did not win out over our main pick because they’re nearly the same price and for slightly less durable material, but they really are fantastic and can be expected to hold up quite well over time.

The JanSport Driver 8 Backpack is the slightly larger and more expensive of the two and is the one that includes a padded sleeve for up to 15″ laptops. The handle has two locking stages so it can be comfortable to pull for teens of various heights. The backpack straps tuck away when not in use. There are two large main compartments, a front organizer pocket, and a water bottle pocket.  It measures 21 x 14 x 10 inches (53.3 x 35.6 x 25.4 cm) and has a 36 L capacity. It is also available from JanSport, Zappos and eBags.

The JanSport Superbreak Backpack is a slightly simpler affair with just one big main compartment and one front organizer pocket. The handle locks at three levels. It measures 19 x 13 x 9.5 inches (48.3 x 33 x 24.1 cm) and has a capacity of 33L. It is also available from JanSport, Zappos and eBags.

Some Stylish Patterns and Smaller: The Pottery Barn Kids Mackenzie Rolling Backpacks

Pottery Barn offers smaller rolling backpacks for younger, elementary-school-age children made from 600-denier polyester, available in a huge range of designs. So if your kid wants to go for a specific look, this could be an option.

Reviews from experts and mom blogs have been overall positive in terms of quality and how long they held up, though our main pick above should do better for holding up over the long term. The rolling backpack version of their Mackenzie line is for kids over 48″ tall and it is smaller than most bags here, at just 13 x 7 x 18 inches.

Includes Matching Lunch Bag: Tilami Rolling Backpack

We’re not sure about the construction of this bag but the exposed zippers (no covering flap) don’t suggest that forethought has been given to rain, and you’re not exactly saving money here. There is, however, an included matching lunch bag. The Tilami Rolling Backpack is available in a wide range of wild printed designs. It measures 19.2 x 13.6 x 9.8 inches (48.8 x 34.5 x 24.9 cm).

Wrap-Up: The Best Rolling Backpack for High School

Overall, the best rolling backpack is the incredibly durable L.L. Bean Rolling Deluxe Book Pack. We expect it to hold up throughout high school and beyond. It has thoughtful organizational pockets and a reasonable degree of waterproofing to keep books and a laptop safe.

But there are other options:


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