group of kids walking wearing colorful backpacks
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10 Smell-Proof Backpacks For Back To School

They’re honestly little miracle workers.

Originally Published: 

If you’ve ever dropped a tween off for basketball then offered to carry their backpack postgame to the car, you know eau de puberty is more powerful than the bonds of most canvas and industrial zipper technology. Sneakers, soggy sandwiches, day old science projects... all of the above can make your child’s backpack a petri dish of freaky fragrances.

Fortunately, smart engineers and designers have heard parents cry for better backpack sniff protection and developed all kinds of smell-proof backpack elements. Yes, these products promise to diminish the aromas that might emit from the folds of your kid’s satchel and even if they’re not entirely smell-proof, they will curb unwelcome scents. Available in a host of shapes and sizes, even the most critical eye can find a smell-reducing option. And, with the help of things like smell-proof snack bags, odor-buster balls, and water-resistant materials, parents will love them even more for containing whatever that appalling odor is that suddenly invades the house each time your child returns home from school. Dear god, what is that?!

Yes, you might have to pay a little more for the privilege of breathing fresh non-contaminated air with these smell-proofing backpacks, but it’s worth it, right? While you work on teaching your child better hygiene, you can spare them side-eyes and pinched noses from other classmates and teachers and help them clean up their act, so to speak.

We only include products that have been independently selected by Romper's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.

1. A Colorful Water-Resistant Backpack

Polyblends might not be the best for pants or shirts because they’re so thick and unbreathable, but the material is a star in the backpack vertical. The water-resistant fabric makes this Bloomstar backpack easy to clean while protecting the contents inside. That means papers have better protection and tablets aren’t at risk for water damage. Plus, the durable material, according to one Amazon reviewer, means that you won’t have to buy a new backpack a year after purchasing this one. The reviewer writes of her daughter, “She picked this one out and quality is better than I expected. Still going strong and with her in 5th grade.” Another feature that will help prevent smells? The backpack has an airflow padded back panel designed to wick away moisture. That means no overheating on a hot walk home from school, i.e. less sweat and the inevitable fragrances that accompany it. With the front zip pocket, kids can also store snacks in a smell-proof Stasher bag, rather than stuffing a treat into one of the many interior pockets where food could get scrunched and escape a container, keeping any suspicious scents far from the interior of the bag where it could permeate books and other school supplies. And the final boon? At $29.99, this is one of the most affordable options when it comes to odor-resistant backpacks.

2. Smell-Proof H20 Guard Backpack

Water may seem harmless, but get a backpack damp enough and odors will arise. But not with this Wanderlust backpack designed with an H2O-Guard Zipper for Smell-Proof 100 Protection™. Think of the zipper like a Ziploc bag. The seal prevents liquids seeping through. In addition, an activated carbon lining ensures any freaky smells will be absorbed to avoid off odors. What is activated carbon? According to Charcoal House, activated carbon is a technology originally invented by the British Ministry of Defense as an armour against chemical warfare. Today, it’s found a new role in the fight against odors. The material helps absorb and purify vapors and solvents. The Abscent brand stands by its odor-reducing methods with a note that says: “Strategic stitching and carbon-packed seams offer an ideal odor-absorbing composition.” This bag allegedly is also tough on humidity, a win for those in damp Southern regions of the country. But this smell-proof backpack isn’t just a great tool, it’s an attractive and efficient option for students. It comes with a padded laptop compartment to keep your child’s electronics protected. And it’s designed to double as a travel bag with cushioned back support and shoulder straps in addition to lockable zippers on the front and back to keep your kid’s valuables safe.

3. Antimicrobial Backpack

Dare to Roam brand bills itself as an antimicrobial backpack line and what that means is that the backpack can withstand any weather (which let’s be honest, some backpacks have their own microclimates), and the side effects that come with it, i.e. odd fragrances. In fact, founder and pop star Ciara says that the antimicrobial technology “has been shown to suppress and virtually eliminate the growth of mold, mildew, fungi and bacteria on the product.” And if you’ve ever seen a child’s backpack that’s been lost in their room after a few months with an old lunch in it, you understand the need to prevent mold, mildew, and fungi. Available in eight solid colors, this backpack was made for kids and adults alike. In fact, it looks like pretty much any traditional backpack complete with side drink compartments, a hidden tech compartment for laptops up to 15-inches long, and a hanging pouch to store small items like keys or cash. But the real selling point is the aforementioned antimicrobial promise. “There aren’t enough good things to say about the Prodigy Backpack, but my favorite is how well it stays clean between washes and eases my mind post-COVID!” one reviewer wrote, a testament to how much pandemic piece of mind the bag provides.

4. Shoe Compartment Backpack

Sports sneakers are one of the biggest culprits in producing backpack odors. But who wants to carry them in a plastic baggy after each practice? Sure, they’re toxic, but kids have to pack them somewhere. Fortunately, brands like Starter have come up with a solution: a shoe pocket. And unlike bigger name sports brands charging $50-plus for similar backpack models, Starter brand is incredibly affordable at less than $30. For any sporty student, this is the ultimate solution to packing for practice and school. By placing the stinky sneaks in a separate pocket, you can reduce odors and protect other items kids might be toting. And, since the pocket is separated from the rest of the bag, you can increase odor resistance by popping some odor buster balls in there with the shoes. Reviewers generally love this smell-proof backpack overall. It’s noted for its sleek design with comfortable padded straps that don’t dig into shoulders, a real benefit if your baller likes to stuff their basketball in their bag, something this Starter model can also easily accommodate. The under pocket, a zippered pouch at the base, is also noted by many reviewers as a great spot to store jackets or even a snack. If there’s a downside it’s that critics say the bag isn’t very waterproof. However, if keeping sports gear separated to mitigate nasty smells is your main concern, this is a very good buy.

5. Two-in-One Lunchbox/Backpack

Lunches and their leaky contents can often cause backpack smell disasters. To avoid this, Bentgo has designed a two-in-one backpack/lunchbox. Basically the lunchbox container unzips at the bottom of the bag, keeping things safe and secure below important books and papers. Plus, the pocket is insulated to keep things fresh further avoiding smell build-up. Now, if you really want to optimize the bag’s smell-reducing properties, it’s probably wise to purchase Bentgo’s lunchbox as well. Made to fit the lunch compartment, the lunchbox features a leak-proof seal diminishing the chance of foods and liquids escaping and causing mold and mildew. However, if you don’t want to invest that much, the lunch compartment is relatively roomie enough to fit other lunch containers at 2.5” x 11” x 7”. And parents approve with an 88%, 5-star rating on Amazon. If you need more convincing, consider that Bentgo’s bag comes in 10 kid-friendly prints featuring designs like sharks and sports equipment. Another selling point is that the bag has two large zip compartments, one for things like books and binders, and another at the front for smaller items like house keys, pens, and chargers. Cushioned 13-inch straps ensure that even the heaviest loads won’t totally weigh down your kid while an adjustable chest strap is included to offset the weight. The backpack also has a side mesh drink compartment, again, allowing any spills to easily dry off, reducing smell build up. The drink container can hold a standard size water ball.

6. Machine Washable Backpack

You might be surprised to discover that many kid backpacks can only be spot cleaned or gently wiped down with a sponge. Not so with this State kids backpack that’s machine washable so you can avoid weird smells before they even start to grow. Just pop it in the gentle cycle on cold then hang it to dry afterward. Better still? Even with frequent washes, reviewers say this backpack’s durability is second to none. “This beautiful backpack is not only cute and stylish but also easy to clean and great quality! My kids love using it!” writes one reviewer. Unlike some kids’ backpacks, this one offers two side pockets for double the hydration, or a spot of extra storage, say easy access to masks or hand sanitizers. It’s made of a durable polyester, but reviewers say the fabric doesn’t weigh it down, making it a nice lightweight option for kids. Smell reduction continues on the interior which is entirely lined in polyester so spills will just bead or pour off rather than soak in as they can on canvas bags. It can also fit a tablet, although a laptop might not be an option given the 13-inch space. A locker hook makes it easy to store in a cubby as well.

7. Backpack with a Waterproof Liner

Having a waterproof shell is great and all, but let’s be real, how many times have you seen a kid running to the bus with their backpack half unzipped? It happens all the time and in inclement weather (or in the case of a stray open juice box) this can lead to liquid spills. But the Wildkin Pack-it-All Kids Backpack has a waterproof liner made of moisture-resistant nylon to avoid wet messes on the interior as well as the exterior. And even if a spill does happen it will, the company recommends spot-cleaning the interior then leaving the bag open to dry. If that weren’t enough, Wildkin has solved the lunchbox backpack spillage problem by installing an exterior strap for kids to hang their lunchbox on. This brilliant technology ensures a rogue apple sauce or yogurt pouch won’t become a backpack bomb on the ride home. Instead, lunchboxes hang in clear view off the front of the bag (where you or a teacher can double check that they’ve been zipped!). Naturally, Wildkin sells matching lunch boxes if you want to optimize the look. Or, if you are a bento box lunch packer, the front zip is designed to fit food containers, so you can just slip it in there, a space that’s insulated to also prevent messes. Win/win.

8. Stain Resistant Backpack

Water resistance can help liquids trickle away from a backpack, but stains are a tougher issue, especially if something super fragrant spills. Not a problem with Hanna Anderson’s stain resistant heavy duty polyester. This backpack looks darling, but is secretly also super rugged so your kiddo can work hard and play hard (just like Wonder Woman who is featured on the front). Hanna Anderson brand understands kids. They’ve been making children’s clothing and accessories for over 30 years, and because of that this bag has not only been designed for durability, but also accessibility with small hands in mind. That means that zippers are easy to access and straps comfortably fit small shoulders. This bag also reports to be PVC-free. PVC, or Polyvinyl chloride, is a synthetic plastic polymer fabric that’s a contested material some research indicates might pose a health risk to humans, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. So parents can rest assured that it's not included in this bag. But back to the stain resistance. Perhaps what makes this relatively smell-proof backpack such a find is the fact that not only does it fight stains, to give it a deep clean one need only give it a scrub with soap and water, then leave it out to dry at room temperature. A few more perks? The straps feature reflective stripes to make kids more visible and there’s also a reflective strip on the zipper itself.

9. Venting Backpack

If your kid attacks the walk to school with the same energy they bring to a hike, they might need a backpack that’s more day tripper than day student. This Osprey backpack is the ticket with breathable straps to help reduce heavy (and potentially fragrant) perspiration that could cause foul smells in their bag. Plus, according to reviewers, it’s appropriate for kids as young as six. Mesh plays the leading role here in a bag that’s ultimately ideal for mountain trails and camping. Water bottles can be stored in one of two mesh side pockets preventing the accumulation of funky fluids that could bloom into mildew. A large front mesh pocket on the front is big enough to store snack bags or unwrapped fruit, allowing them to breathe and not get lost in the depths of a dark interior. But it can double as a school bag thanks to its smart design. To start with, it features a cover and drawstring lid. So kids can throw stuff in their bag fast, but snap it shut as well to make sure nothing escapes. The thin fabric also ensures your child won’t overheat. Structure is added by a foam back panel to help the bag hold its shape. And, like the aforementioned Wildkin backpack, this Osprey bag also features exterior loops where a carabiner could be attached to snap on a lunch box further keeping foul smells away from the actual inside of the bag itself. And, while not a smell-proof element, it’s still worth mentioning that this bag comes with a built-in emergency whistle, something every parent can appreciate.

10. Drawstring Odor-Resistant Backpack

For a kid on the go, often there’s just enough time to throw things into their pack and roll. That’s where a drawstring is so handy, like on this Fitkicks bag which was specially designed to handle wet items like swimsuits or sweaty workout gear — perfect for after school practice or kids who go from early morning swim team to school. Budding athletes often are asked to do two-a-days, and you know what that means: double the dirty (and more than likely fragrant) laundry. The Fitkicks keeps those items separate from books, lunch, and tablets with its bottom zip pouch. The lower zippered base is odor- and water-resistant, so they can feel confident throwing sweaty garments in there knowing odd odors won’t escape. On days when there isn’t practice, the bottom compartment doubles as snack storage, great for packing ice packs, drinks, and eats that will stay safe and protected from items carried in the top compartment. Or, if their gym gear is really large, the bigger opening of the bag offers 60 liters of storage space, so they can cram it all in. And smelly sneakers? Those can go in that bottom section too. One Amazon review notes, “Bottom section is really large. I could put size 11 men's shoes in it & still room.” The bag is made of wipe-clean polyester, so you can just take a wet rag to it should a spill occur. And don’t worry about your child crumbling under the weight of their wet laundry. The shoulder straps are padded to reduce back strain.

The battle against odd odors is never ending, but with the right tools, you can ensure your child stays fragrance-free and can do what they need to do: focus on learning.

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