We’re constant users of rolling backpacks in travel, so we wanted to take what we’ve learned from the experience to find the most durable and practical wheeled backpacks for elementary, middle, and high school use.
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 laptops.
This article focuses on all-in-one rolling backpacks for school. If that’s not what you’re looking for, we also have articles focused on:
Large wheeled backpacks (checked luggage)
Rolling carry-on backpacks for travel
Rolling laptop bags
Rolling backpacks for girls
- The Benefits of Rolling Backpacks for Young People
- The Best Wheeled School Backpacks
- Our Favorite Wheeled Pack for Middle School and High School with a Laptop Sleeve: JanSport Wheeled Backpacks
- A Reasonably Priced Option: The High Sierra Freewheel Wheeled Backpack
- More Expensive Rolling Backpacks with Spinner Wheels and Nylon Material: Kipling Rolling Backpacks
- Decent, Quite Cheap: JWorld Sundance Laptop / Sunrise Rolling Backpacks
- A Rolling Backpack for Younger Children: The J World Lollipop
- Very Cheap: The Rockland 17" Roadster Rolling Backpack
- Lightweight, Subdued Design: HollyHOME Wheeled Rolling Backpack
- Includes Matching Lunch Bag: Tilami Rolling Backpack
- Wrap-Up: The Best Rolling Backpack for High School
Update history of this article
The Benefits of Rolling Backpacks for Young People
With apologies for the obvious pun, kids 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 and personal, cosmetic, and leisure materials.
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. A study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests as a guideline carrying no more than 10% of one’s bodyweight in backpacks; rolling backpacks are thus an obvious solution.
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. This is why we recommend backpacks that give students both rolling and comfortable back-carry options.
The Best Wheeled School Backpacks
There are a few good options that are made from durable materials and ready for large laptops or other gear, as well as some decent cheaper options.
For those students who are 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. But for the rest, it’s worth springing for a durable wheeled backpack that stands up to abuse.
Our Favorite Wheeled Pack for Middle School and High School with a Laptop Sleeve: JanSport Wheeled BackpacksJanSport Driver 8 Backpack is a rolling, tech-ready pack that is suitable for high schoolers. It is solidly built from 600D polyester. This is the top-selling American brand for school bags and its other, non-rolling backpacks got great (if not top) marks from the French consumer testing organization and reviewers. The JanSport lifetime warranty is excellent.
The rolling backpack has 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 directly from JanSport.
A Reasonably Priced Option: The High Sierra Freewheel Wheeled BackpackHigh Sierra Freewheel Wheeled Backpack has a large main compartment, a middle pocket, and a sleeve for laptops of up to 15″, making it relatively easy to stay organized with a lot of stuff.
The shoulder straps tuck away when not in use as of course does the slide out handle. There is a side waterbottle pocket and front zippered pocket for small items and pencils, as well as reflective accents.
The packpack uses ripstop polyester with a 600D Duralite coating for water resistance, though we note there are no flaps over the zippers, which are often a key weak point for water to enter. The 34L pack weighs 5.5 pounds (2.5 kg) and has internal dimensions of 19.5 x 13.5 x 8 inches (50 x 34 x 20 cm).
There is also a slightly larger pro version available from High Sierra.
More Expensive Rolling Backpacks with Spinner Wheels and Nylon Material: Kipling Rolling Backpacksrolling school backpacks from Kipling.
Many have spinner wheels, which can be fun and allow you to both push and pull your pack, but they also take up more space and are more likely to break. There are laptop sleeves, organizational pockets, and a variety of both sophisticated and playful design options.
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 600D polyester, offering reasonable water resistance. They’ve garnered a few positive web and Amazon reviews. 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 carry a laptop in its padded sleeve. It measures 20 x 13 x 9 inches (50.8 x 33 x 22.9 cm) and has a 38.3L capacity. It is also available at Walmart.
The J World New York Sunrise Rolling Backpackis 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. It is also available at Walmart.
A Rolling Backpack for Younger Children: The J World LollipopJ World Lollipop Kids Rolling Backpack (also at Walmart). It comes in a variety of vibrant patterns and colors, with wheels that light up when rolling, and includes a lunch bag.
The handle and straps are sized to be suitable for carrying or pulling by kids from 36 to 52 inches / 90 to 130 cm tall. Kids will tend to roll it most of the time, but the backpack straps are easy to access when they meet stairs.
The organizational options are better than often seen on such bags, with a main compartment, two exterior pockets, and two side pockets, as well as pencil slots and a clip for keys.
The 600D polyester is treated to be water resistant and easy to wipe off for cleaning and parents’ reviews report that it holds up relatively well given the inevitable daily abuse by their young kids.
Very Cheap: The Rockland 17″ Roadster Rolling BackpackRockland 17″ Roadster Rolling Backpack was one of the cheapest options we found, but many of its customers 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).
Lightweight, Subdued Design: HollyHOME Wheeled Rolling BackpackHollyHome 19-inch Wheeled Backpack comes in quite relaxing plain colors. There were some reports of parts breaking on a previous smaller version of this bag, but there are good customer reviews on this version. The company promises to refund for problems within only 60 days, which isn’t much. It measures 18.9 x 7.5 x 13.8 inches (48 x 19 x 35.1 cm).
Includes Matching Lunch Bag: Tilami Rolling BackpackTilami 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) and is available at Walmart.
Wrap-Up: The Best Rolling Backpack for High School
What are your favorites? Let us know if we missed anything important in the comments, or have wisdom to share.