What's the Best Herschel Backpack for School:

A Complete Guide

by Daniel | Last Updated December 30th, 2019

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Who doesn't love a backpack? A backpack is one of the most comfortable and accommodating ways to transport whatever you will need during your day or days.

And with all the stuff we take to work or school these days, we all need something sturdy yet easy to carry. Something that has the right amount and types of interior space and a protective covering.

In this article, we'll discuss school backpacks specifically, as well as more general features. Our focus will be the popular and expansive line of Herschel backpacks. Let's begin with just a little background.

Choosing the Best School Backpack

One college professor who studies kids' use of backpacks said, "Backpacks become a 'portable life support system' filled with supplies and goodies students probably won't need that day but feel they must carry anyway."

Indeed, backpacks have been a standard part of attending school--from kindergarten through graduate school--for many decades.

Backpacks truly are essential to students' lives. There are few better or more practical ways to carry all the stuff they take to and from school.

As luck would have it, Herschel has a backpack for just about everyone--at least one and probably more. Their collection of backpacks is quite extensive and varied.

A Little About the Herschel Supply Co.

The Herschel Supply Co., based in Vancouver, British Columbia, is celebrating its first full decade in business this year. In that relatively short time, they've developed backpacks, plus accessories and other items, to suit just about any need.

The company is named after the tiny community of Herschel, Sask. This is where Herschel Supply's founders' (two brothers) great-grandparents settled in 1906, even though they themselves grew up in Alberta.

So, there's some interesting history behind the company, and we believe that nostalgia value adds just a tiny little bit to the company's success and popularity.

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The Backpacks

Now, let's talk about backpacks for school (and related uses). We'll look at six Herschel backpacks, beginning with one of the most fundamental types of backpack, the kind a lot of today's grown-ups would remember using for school.

1. Herschel Classic X-large Backpack

  • Size - 15" Laptop sleeve

 

  • Item Weight - 1.44 Pounds
     

  • Product Dimensions - 6 x 12.5 x 17.5 inches
     

  • Volume 30L

A Fundamental Backpack for School and Other Pursuits

There is no question that what we're talking about here is Herschel's Classic Backpack. And "classic" is exactly what this pack is. It's the 21st-century version of the ones people had years ago.

Its size, at about 16" x 12," and it's rounded top make this the ideal daypack for any younger students' school-related needs. It has room (though no protective sleeve) for a laptop and an umbrella, and it still holds a water bottle and all sorts of other things.

The Classic is made from 100% synthetic material and is very reasonably priced.

  • Good quality

  • Strength and durability

  • Compact size

  • Affordable

  • Overall appealing appearance

  • Available in 26 vibrant colors, patterns, and designs

  • Too small to carry much, especially for students

  • No protective sleeve for a laptop, just a mesh pocket

2. Herschel Heritage Mid-Volume Backpack

  • Size - 15" Laptop sleeve

  • Item Weight - 1.06 pounds
     

  • Product Dimensions - 5.5 x 12 x 18
    inches

     

  • Volume - 14.5L

A Variation on the Classic

Next, we'll discuss Herschel's Heritage Backpack. At 18" high x 12" wide, this pack is the perfect size for younger schoolchildren. It has a 13" laptop sleeve, which would accommodate a smaller computer, plus several other objects.

It's made of lightweight and durable ripstop nylon and has artificial, "faux" leather on the base and top handle. This adds a little strength to both parts, and it's easy to clean and protects the rest of the bag.

The fabric manages to conceal small holes and tears due to its "self-healing" property. This means that, after a tear, the fabric threads will, in effect, pull themselves back together, hiding the damage.

Heritage is available in various sizes, including a youth size and a larger-capacity adult size. Also, while the version referred to here comes in a type of nylon, the bag is also made in a cotton canvas version, which gives it a very different look.

  • Large front pocket

  • Durable, with "self-healing" material

  • Good for travel

  • A bit too small for adults and older children

  • Stiff fabric

3. Herschel Supply Co. Pop Quiz Backpack

Another Backpack That Is Great for School

  • Size - 15" Laptop sleeve

 

  • Item Weight - 1.9 pounds
     

  • Product Dimensions - 6 x 11.8 x 17.5 inches
     

  • Volume - 22L 

The Pop Quiz Backpack, which is presented on Amazon as being around 16" high x 13" wide, is made of 100% polyester, both the exterior shell and the interior lining. It has an artificial leather trim.

Pop Quiz is still on the smaller size, although not quite as small as the previous two backpacks discussed here.

This one has some nice features, such as a padded and fleece-lined 15" laptop sleeve, a fleece-lined sunglasses compartment, and an internal media port.

We should point out that the Chicago Tribune chose the Pop Quiz as its favorite among all the Herschel backpacks.

  • Overall good look

  • Durable

  • Too small

  • Some defects, such as faulty zippers and loose threads

4. Herschel Supply Co. Little America Backpack

  • Size - 15" Laptop sleeve

 

  • Item Weight - 2 pounds
     

  • Product Dimensions - 6.5 x 12 x 20 inches
     

  • Volume - 25L 

And Now for Something Completely Different

All the backpacks discussed so far have had fundamentally the same shape and configuration. When it comes to packs, Herschel offers more than this, though.

Let's take a look at Little America, which is the first of three with similar configurations--that nonetheless are quite different from those of the Classic, Heritage, and Pop Quiz backpacks.

Little America is 20" high x 12" wide, clearly a larger size than those discussed above. And look at how it's configured!

Probably the first things you will notice about Little America are the magnetic strap closures with metal pin clips--easy to fasten, yet secure.

Next is the drawstring closure to the inside of the pack. It sits under the flap for extra security. This backpack has a padded, fleece-lined laptop sleeve, a zip pocket, and a key clip inside the outer front pocket.

And it has mesh pads at touch points on the back. Plus... Little America comes in 40 colors, patterns, and designs.

We'd say Little America is ideal for either school or travel use, whether that means a daily commute through city streets, a summer road trip, or hiking around South America during a semester abroad trip.

  • High popular appeal, a favorite among Herschel packs

  • Convenient magnetic snap closures

  • Drawstring closure makes for flexible interior space

  • Defective packs received by some people

5. Herschel Supply Co. Retreat Backpack

  • Size - 15" Laptop sleeve

 

  • Item Weight - 1.8 pounds
     

  • Product Dimensions - 5.75 x 12 x 17 inches
     

  • Volume - 19.5L 

Similar but Different

The Retreat Backpack is 18" high x 12" wide, so just a little smaller than Little America.

Like Little America, though, it has a padded and fleece-lined 13" laptop sleeve, an adjustable drawcord closure, and magnetic "faux leather" straps with metal pin clips. Like Little America, the Retreat Backpack comes in 40 colors or patterns.

While the plain look of this pack might not be for everyone, a lot of people are sure to appreciate its clean lines.

  • High-quality craftsmanship

  • A distinctive silhouette

  • Good value

  • No outside pockets, other than a small, flat storage sleeve on the front

  • Needs more pockets overall

5. Herschel Supply Co. Retreat Backpack

  • Size - 15" Laptop sleeve

 

  • Item Weight - 1.875 pounds
     

  • Product Dimensions - 8 x 12.2 x 18.5 inches
     

  • Volume - 33L 

A Giant Among Backpacks

The Buckingham is a large backpack. Here are the dimensions:

  • Bottom Width: 12.2 in

  • Depth: 8 in

  • Height: 18.5 in
     

Its features include a 15" laptop sleeve and a zippered lid pocket for additional storage. There are two front pockets to provide easier access to smaller items. And there are two water bottle pockets--which, for some, make a huge difference.

Its size and pocket configuration distinguish The Buckingham somewhat from the Retreat and Little America backpacks. It certainly has room for all the pockets! In fact, there could be even more on the inside for toiletries, etc.

  • Durable and well-made

  • A large amount of space

  • Good bag for school holds a lot of stuff

  • Too big

  • Needs more inside pockets

We've now explored representative backpacks from two distinct styles, one with zipper closures and the other with a drawstring and magnetic strap closures. The zipper-closure configuration is the more prominent among backpacks we haven't covered.

Variations on the Backpack Themes

There is one thing you should know about Herschel backpacks generally: there are a lot of them to choose from. And we mean a lot! As you can tell already, there are quite a few different styles available.

But each of these styles comes in different sizes and fabrics as well--essentially adding a lot more styles or at least different uses for the styles. There are variations on size, color/pattern, and materials--almost making different bags altogether.

And there are many Herschel backpacks we haven't covered here--though hope to in the future. There are some impressive ones!

Let's talk about some of these variations

Size

We've noted that Herschel backpacks come in mini, small, mid-volume, large, and extra-large sizes.

We're sure Herschel's mini backpacks are popular since small backpacks have at least two different targets: women who use them as purses and small children--especially when the packs are versions of what parents and older siblings use.

Looking at the other end of the size spectrum we find Herschel's Travel Backpack (not discussed in this article), which is 18.5"(H) x 12.5"(W) x 7"(D).

We believe any large or extra-large versions of their other backpacks could function as carry-on bags. Take, for example, the large-size Barlow (also not discussed in this article), which measures 19"(H) x 11"(W) x 7"(D).

With its many features and ability to withstand the elements, you might consider The Barlow more than just a backpack or carry-on, but perhaps a traveling system.

Material

Herschel doesn't give much information about the materials used in their backpacks--which is disappointing. However, many Herschel bags seem to be made of ripstop nylon, a durable, tightly woven polymer fabric.

One of their bags is made from Cordura, a popular abrasion-resistant and self-healing material. Other Herschel backpacks are made out of polyester, a nylon-polyester blend or a cotton canvas material.

Some other very unique materials are used in a few Herschel backpacks as well, including sherpa fleece, clear plastic (yes, really), corduroy, and flight satin. Many of their backpacks come in lightweight synthetic fabric versions.

Unique Backpacks

"Sprout" refers to backpacks in Herschel's collection that come with baby changing mats. Currently, these are available with the Nova and Settlement Backpacks.

There are also themed backpacks, such as Major League Baseball and Peanuts, and ones that pay tribute to the late artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The more popular Herschel becomes, the more innovative new backpacks and related products we're likely to see. Herschel products are sold far and wide and have been for some time now!

Carry On

So, have we chosen the best Herschel backpack for school? No? Then, now is the time!

The best backpack for children attending school is one that's durable and lightweight. The material should not add extra weight, nor should there be enough capacity in the bag for children to carry more than their bodies can safely support.

The Heritage Backpack would be good for most kids. It has good features, including a laptop sleeve (unlike The Classic). It is a slightly larger bag, though, so some versions might be too big for some kids.

Adults (and older kids) who are students might like this bag as well. For adults, we'd also recommend The Pop Quiz Backpack, which is about the same size. We like the Little America Backpack too, though. So many choices!

The saying goes that "you get what you pay for." Herschel pleases its consumers by offering good-value backpacks. It also is adept at cultivating good buzz.

And even if its craftsmanship isn't of the highest possible quality, their pseudo-vintage products are adored and recall a good founding story. It's what Slate magazine calls "a carefully constructed nostalgia." How apt!

There's no doubt Herschel backpacks have caught on--and will carry on for a good while to come.

You know, we have a good travel site. In addition to the blog, we have a lot of other information for travelers. Check out our whole site--you'll find it very helpful!

ABOUT DANIEL

Welcome to LuggageGuru!
My name is Daniel and I am a full-time world traveler and constantly on the move.

My goal with luggageguru.com is to provide helpful information about travel-related products and accessories and also useful travel tips to make your vacation or trip more enjoyable!
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