Last week I asked you guys for help picking a backpack color... and while there was a clear winner (gray), there were enough people who said “ehhhh maybe not Herschel” that I went back to square one. And because I hate making decisions on my own, I’m back with some more options for you!

[There’s a side rant here about how if you look for men’s backpacks—or just backpacks in general, because unless you specify it’s assumed you want one for men—you get a bunch of detailed reviews and testing and comparisons, but if you look for women’s backpacks you get a bunch of slideshows of cute backpacks that the person writing the damn article hasn’t even seen in person, much less tested.]

Before we get into the options, a few things. First, I’m getting a backpack. I have enough experiences with messenger bags/satchels/giant purses to know that trying to pile everything into one is going to hurt. Arguments against backpacks will be ignored.

I’ll be carrying this to work and class most days. (I might take a purse on days I don’t have class.) I work at the university, my office is business casual, and about half of our faculty/staff have backpacks (mostly boring black ones). I rarely meet with anyone important but could always bring a purse if I’m expecting to have to. I take the bus/metro to work, which involves about 10 minutes of walking each way.

What I’m looking for:

  • Decent style: I don’t want a hiking/cycling backpack or something with no personality whatsoever.
  • Grown-up-ish: I’m 23, 5'4" in shoes, and petite, so the wrong bag is going to make me look like a teenager
  • Mid-sized: I’ll be carrying a laptop, notebook(s), readings/books, planner, pencil pouch, glasses, lunch and snacks, assorted purse crap (lotion, deodorant, kleenex, etc.), and possibly an umbrella and/or change of shoes. However, a big backpack is going to look HUGE on me (see above, 5'4").
  • Durable: I don’t want to have to replace this every year, and definitely not more often than that

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On to the options!

Everlane Modern Snap

Pros: Good-looking bag, cute but still professional, supposedly very good quality for the price

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Cons: Some people say the color rubs off (which might not be an issue with the gray but is a little scary even so), no warranty, no interior pockets, back is not breathable so it might get sweaty, looks kind of like a face

Jansport (probably Right Pack, pictured, or Reilly)

Pros: Lifetime warranty, including wear and tear—if this bag doesn’t last me forever, they’ll at least keep on replacing it forever (which is a huge plus to me)

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Cons: Looks like the backpack you had in high school, some styles are freaking huge and their selection of professional colors/patterns is fairly small (though both of the options above come in gray)

Herschel Pop Quiz (my original pick)

Pros: Looks good, color is professional, lifetime warranty if there’s a defect, most reviews say they’re durable and comfortable

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Cons: Zippers are apparently crap, they now sell these in the campus bookstore so all of the undergrads are going to have them, some reviews say they’re not durable enough for heavy use (and warranty doesn’t cover wear and tear)

Timbuk2 Sunset

Pros: I think the black and white one is gorgeous (and the vintage metal is also good), Timbuk2's bags are usually pretty reliable

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Cons: There’s no way I can spend $109 on a backpack, who am I even kidding including this here Someone found it cheaper (or I could get the gray) but I just realized the straps aren’t padded, which is definitely a con


So those are my picks—thoughts? Or if you have a bag that you love, I’m more than happy to hear suggestions. Many thanks!