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Whether you’re going to nursing school for your bachelor’s or master’s degree, you may have to carry all of your stuff around with you on long commutes. You can bring your essentials in a tote, a mix of bags, or even just in your arms, but you may find that this method gets old fast. And if you have a large variety of items, keeping them all together and not losing them can be challenging without a good backpack.
A backpack can help set you up for success by allowing you to consolidate all your items into one place. But it can’t just be any backpack — choosing a random pack won’t do you any favors unless you luck out. If you accidentally buy a bag that doesn’t suit your frame or has uncomfortable straps, you may find yourself with plenty of neck, shoulder, and back pain.
The best nurse backpack must meet all your needs while still fitting into your budget. It also has to fit all of your essentials while remaining durable and comfortable, especially if you’ll be wearing your backpack frequently.
We put together this handy buying guide to help you choose the right bag for you. On top of that, we also list our top picks for the best backpacks for nursing students in 2022. Ready? Let’s get right to it!
What Do Nursing Students Usually Carry in Their Backpacks?
It makes sense that whatever nursing students have on their desks will also make it into their backpacks. So in the average nursing student’s bag, you’ll probably see supplies like pens, notebooks and notepads, markers, penlights, planners, and so on. However, nursing students may also carry various other items, such as:
A change of clothes or shoes
Blood pressure cuffs
Their clinical bags or kits
Their lunch or snacks
Nursing students may also keep textbooks and other similar resources in their backpacks. It’s also very likely that they’ll have a laptop or, at the very least, a tablet. Having at least one or the other is practically necessary, especially because many course materials, assignments, projects, and the like are all handled over the internet.
Of course, the contents of people’s bags may vary. What someone might keep in theirs could differ wildly from what you need in yours! Either way, the best backpacks for nurses should be able to accommodate everything you need.
Buying Guide: Choose the Best Bags for Nursing Students
With literally thousands of backpacks out in the world today, choosing one you like can be challenging. Decision paralysis is a real thing that can strike you at any moment — especially if you tend to be indecisive in the first place.
So how do you choose a nursing student backpack?
Some may simply look at designs they like, do a quick check of whether their essentials will fit, and make their purchase. And really, you can do the same thing!
But, if you’d like to be a bit more thorough in ensuring that you’ll find a bag that will last you through nursing school and beyond, there are a few factors you can consider. Take a look at some of those factors below:
Price is always a consideration in any purchase decision. The prices of bags for nursing students are no different.
Backpacks can come in a variety of price points. Some are more affordable and may be the best option for students on a budget. However, it’s crucial to ensure that the manufacturer of the bag you are considering does not make any significant compromises to be able to lower its price! Budget options are great as long as you ensure that they are as advertised and are sturdy, comfortable, stable, and durable.
Also, note that an expensive backpack’s price doesn’t guarantee quality. Sometimes, a higher price may be because the bag is from a well-known brand. So before you purchase a pack for its name, check reviews and ensure that it provides value equal to or greater than the price you’ve paid!
The next thing to consider is a backpack’s durability. Let’s face it — in nursing school, there’s a good chance you’ll have to carry a lot of heavy items that can test a bag’s limits. The last thing you want is an embarrassing catastrophe as you walk to your next destination!
Well-built backpacks will use durable materials, from fabric to zipper to thread. Additionally, the bag should be constructed with strong (or reinforced) stitches to ensure they won’t rip at the seams. Too many students have suffered their items crashing to the floor due to ripped stitches or fabric. Choose your backpack well so you don’t join them!
Stability and Weight Distribution
As mentioned, backpacks may often carry heavy loads that can put a strain on your neck, shoulders, and back. Poorly designed bags can be incredibly uncomfortable, causing even more discomfort and pain. Nursing school is hard enough without all of that additional stress, which is why you must choose a well-designed pack with good stability and weight distribution.
The best nursing backpack will have wider, padded straps that will be comfortable on your shoulders. The straps should also be adjustable and thoughtfully designed so that your backpack’s weight is distributed equally over both of your shoulders.
Some backpacks may even have additional straps (such as waist straps) to help give you even more stability. However, you’ll unlikely need one unless you regularly carry heavy textbooks in your bag.
Size and Storage Space
Backpacks come in a vast range of sizes and shapes, which is why it’s so important to ensure that you check a bag’s dimensions and carrying capacity before you hit that buy button. The last thing you need is to buy a bag only to realize later that it doesn’t fit your textbooks or backpack!
Dimensions are one thing, but check how much a bag can carry (usually depicted in Liters). A good rule of thumb is to look at the size of the biggest item you’ll be bringing and choose a bag that can fit that item with more allowance. For school, you’ll probably want a backpack between 20L to 30L.
Organization (Compartments and Pockets)
Many sleek, stylish backpacks look gorgeous on the outside but don’t offer much by way of compartments, pockets, or organization. It’s a good idea to choose a bag with plenty of pockets for organization so you can assign specific compartments for certain items and item groups.
For more advice on organizing your backpack for nursing school, you can check out our handy tips below!
Most college and grad students will have a tablet or a laptop to help them do their schoolwork. Thus, it only makes sense that the best nursing backpacks should offer padded pockets and extra protection for these delicate devices. Make sure that the padding provided is adequate and that the pocket is large enough to hold your device!
Backpack security is an excellent thing to consider, but it’s not something you’ll need to spend much more on. After all, if someone wanted to steal your things, they could take the entire backpack. However, it can be a good idea to look for certain security features such as:
Good quality (or even double) zippers
The ability to use a lock on your zippers when necessary
Thick, durable backpack material to make it more challenging to cut through
RFID blockers to prevent data theft
You can also consider using Apple Airtags or similar devices to help you find your backpack if it goes missing.
Backpacks won’t always fit you. Some may have straps that are too short or far too long for your frame. This is why it’s crucial to choose an adjustable backpack. Ensure the straps are well-designed and well-made to hold in your adjusted position! It’s a good idea to look at reviews to ensure the pack you get has reliable adjustments.
Your backpack should have at least a bit of water resistance, as you never know when you might be walking in the rain. Choose a pack that can keep its contents safe from the elements!
Last, you can also look at a backpack’s style and design. This factor is entirely subjective, and you can always choose function over form if you please!
Uses durable polyester material and sturdy construction to ensure the backpack will last for years
Has two external pockets and a second compartment
Has a key fob hook, interior pockets for your pens, and a mesh pocket with a zipper for all your small items
Uses stable, well-engineered wheels capable of handling different types of terrain
Built-in laptop compartment can fit up to 17” machines
Use as a backpack or as a roller; you can hide straps in the hidden zippered back compartment, and the handle is retractable
If you’re looking for a rolling bag to save yourself from inevitable back pain from toting your heavy textbooks and supplies around, the High Sierra Powerglide is a good option. This bag has an almost 30L capacity so that you can bring all of your supplies with you to school or on trips!
Durable and rugged
Convertible wheeled design means you can reduce your back pain
Laptop compartment up to 17”
Plenty of pockets and compartments for organization
Uses an incredibly durable fabric: 1200D ballistic polyester
Has rugged, oversized zippers that won’t catch or drag
Comes in ten colorways, though most are neutral colors
Has a dedicated tablet compartment, organizer compartments, plenty of pockets, side pockets, and an accordion file holder
Includes a padded pocket for your phone or music player with a port for your headphone wires
Has adjustable side compression straps to help keep your stuff compact
Has a padded laptop compartment fitting up to 17” machines
The Swissgear Travel Gear 1900 is an extra roomy pack designed for travel — but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it for school, too! The fact that this laptop was designed for travel means it was built with comfort in mind, and you’ll see that in the padded, contoured, and adjustable shoulder straps and the padded and ventilated back panel. The bag also has a built-in suspension to help distribute the weight of its contents even better. We’d say that this Swissgear bag is one of the best nursing student backpacks for those who want to minimize back pain!
It’s worth noting that this bag is designed to make it easy to send through the TSA scans when you travel!
Built for comfort and ease
Plenty of pockets and compartments for organization
Has mesh side pockets and a front compartment with organizers
No laptop compartment
Has reflective tape for safe use at night
Designed with a hideaway handle and straps to make converting between the two modes easy and convenient
If the High Sierra convertible backpack piqued your interest, but its lack of color and design options put you off, consider the J World New York Sunrise Rolling Backpack. This convertible bag comes in a wide range of designs and colorways. It’s durable, water-resistant, and has exterior pockets to help you stay organized. However, this bag does not have a laptop compartment. If you intend to bring your laptop, you’ll need to put it in a separate protective sleeve!
Internal 15” laptop compartment is padded and lined with fleece
Front pocket has organizers and a clip for keys
Has an internal pocket with a port for your headphone wires
Also has a fleece-lined compartment for your sunglasses or other items
Supposedly has waterproof zipper detail, but the canvas outer material is not waterproof
The Herschel Pop Quiz Backpack is the best backpack for nurses looking for a simple yet classy design. The Pop Quiz is a no-frills bag with a front pocket and an internal padded laptop compartment capable of fitting up to 15” laptops. The laptop compartment is also lined with fleece to protect your expensive computer from slight bumps and scratches. There are plenty of color and design options, so you can find something you like quickly.
Simple and stylish, with plenty of color and design options available
Has a padded and lined interior laptop compartment that fits up to 15” machines
Has plenty of internal and external compartments and pockets to help you organize
Laptop compartment can accommodate up to 17” machines
Internal organization options let you sort your small items and keep them safe
The Amazon Basics Laptop Backpack fits tablets and computers up to 17” in size. This bag looks basic and feels basic, but don’t be fooled — it’s incredibly functional and has plenty of pockets to keep you organized.
Uses 100% polyester for durable yet lightweight construction
Has a tough bottom that’s abrasion-resistant for more protection
Has a water-repellent front pocket for your valuables, and the bag is water-resistant overall
The soft-lined interior compartment can hold up to 15” laptops
Has a separate expandable compartment on the bottom of the bag for shoes, dirty clothes, or any other items you want to keep separate
Back and straps designed for comfort
Has two open pockets on the sides
If you’re looking for a decently affordable bag with plenty of benefits, consider the Under Armour Hustle 5.0. Although this bag is designed with fitness and the gym in mind, it also works well as an all-around backpack that can take you from school to short travel trips and, of course, the gym. Although this backpack doesn’t have that many interior pockets for organization, it does have other features that make it an excellent choice — like the expandable bottom compartment!
Also, remember that water resistant and repellent don’t mean waterproof! Your bag will survive splashes and spills, but don’t stay out in the rain for hours expecting your valuables to be safe!
Water-resistant and has a water-repellent front pocket for your valuables
Lined interior laptop compartment fits machines up to 15”
Durable and constructed for comfort
Expandable bottom compartment
Some complaints about it feeling a bit “cheap” because it’s made of 100% polyester, YMMV
Large capacity, plenty of compartments and pockets
USB charging port allows you to connect to your power bank with the bag closed
Has some padding, but it isn’t padded on the bottom (careful with your laptop!)
Great for school, traveling, and more
If you constantly run out of juice on your phone without any way to recharge, this backpack is a great option. It’s sleekly designed, has plenty of pockets and compartments, and is incredibly affordable. There are also plenty of color options to choose from.
However, the best part about this backpack is that it has a built-in charging port. You can plug your phone charging cable straight into the port and feed the port’s cable to your powerbank (sold separately), and have quick and easy charging access on the go. Despite its shortcomings, we’d say this is a contender for the title of the best backpack for nursing students, thanks to its many features.
Built-in charging port for easy charging access wherever you need it
Two size options: for 15.6” laptops and 17” laptops
Plenty of compartments and pockets for organization
You need to be careful in the rain because the charging port might get wet
Some complaints about the bag not being super comfortable when walking long distances
No padding on the bottom — you may want to get a shock-resistant case for your phone or tablet
Tips for Organizing Your Backpack for Nursing School
It’s not enough to have a good backpack. It’s also vital to establish good habits when it comes to keeping your bag organized and clean so you can find everything you need without any trouble. We put together a few tips below to help you organize your bag better — check them out below.
Always start with a clean, empty backpack. Doing so will allow you to find the best way to organize your bag since you’ll be able to see all the possible storage configurations for your essentials.
One helpful thing you can do is take all your daily and school essentials and lay them out in front of you. You can group items in different ways, such as by size, purpose, frequency of use, and more. One of the best ways to group your things is to gather your most frequently used items, then organize the rest by their purpose.
Once your items are grouped, you can take stock of the situation and choose which pocket or compartment each group will go to. It’s a good idea to keep the most frequently used items out in the front pockets and compartments to give you fast and easy access when you need them. If you’re worried about security, you can put some items into the backpack’s internal pockets.
If the item needs to be accessible but is too large for small pockets, keep it in the main compartment within easy reach. For example, you can keep your clinical bag or stethoscope in the main compartment but on top of all the other items for easier access.
Take advantage of the backpack’s design and features. If it has plenty of outside pockets, make sure you use them! For example, your pack’s side pockets are perfect for your umbrella or water bottle. Additionally, the bag’s padded compartment is the best place for your laptop or tablet.
Nursing school can mean heavy, bulky items such as laptops and textbooks. It’s best to keep such things closer to your back (and the bag’s straps). By positioning those items that way, the backpack’s straps will have an easier time evenly distributing the weight and bulk.
If you have a lot of small, miscellaneous items, such as pens, markers, post-its, tape, gluesticks, or even lip balm, it might be a good idea to designate a specific pocket for them. Alternatively, you can throw them all into a zippered pouch (or even just a Ziploc bag) to keep them all in one place. Doing this will help you avoid the need to dig through your backpack to find your pen or another small item. Trust us when we say that your backpack can and will feel like a vortex, especially when you’re in a hurry!
Another tip we can give you is always to keep a (recycled) plastic bag or a thicker paper bag in your backpack. These bags can genuinely come in handy if you need to chuck your dirty clothes into your bag. They’re also a great way to keep contaminated items away from the rest of your valuables!
And if all else fails, you can get a handy backpack insert to give you more pockets and organization options.
This backpack insert gives you more pockets inside your bag’s main compartment
You can get these backpack inserts in a variety of colors. Consider a lighter-colored insert if you have trouble finding things in your backpack’s dark interior!
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best backpack for nursing school?
The best backpack for nursing school depends on your needs and how much you intend to bring with you daily. You’ll need to consider a few factors, such as cost, durability, comfort, stability, size, organization, and more. If you care about style and design, you can consider that too! Our buying guide above can help you choose the best backpack for nursing school for your specific situation!
What’s the best material for nursing backpacks?
One of the best backpack materials for nursing backpacks (and just backpacks in general) is water-resistant or waterproof polyester. These materials can help keep your valuables safe from spills and splashes — and even rain, to some degree. Polyester also tends to be quite durable overall, which means with proper care, your backpack can last you a very long time.
What supplies should I have in my nursing school backpack?
Aside from your daily-use personal items, you can also include supplies such as pens, scissors, a penlight, a notepad or notebook, a marker, and your stethoscope. You can also carry your small clinical bag in your backpack. In it, you can keep supplies such as a blood pressure cuff, hemostats, clipboards, and more. Of course, what you need will vary depending on how far into nursing school you are, so exercise your discretion!
Earning your master’s in nursing is challenging enough without you also having to worry about your valuables. A good backpack that you can carry around for long periods without much pain or discomfort is vital to ensuring you’re always ready with what you need at a moment’s notice.
The best backpacks for nursing students will offer a balanced mix of durability, comfort and stability, size, convenience, and style. Just don’t forget to make sure you choose a bag with water-resistant properties if you spend a lot of time outside!
We hope this guide has helped you choose the right backpack for your needs. If you think we missed a bag that should be on this list, let us know in the comments below!