I need to let you know that Whitney and I are on opposite sides of this kids backpacks debate. She likes to let her children pick their own backpacks and make them happy. Buying one each year or two is a victory in her family. That’s all well and good, but my vision of success is that my child own one backpack forever! And I do mean that he gets married and brings his kindergarten backpack on his honeymoon. If you’re down with my ridiculous philosophy, keep reading.
Back to school shopping. Ugh. As I walk through Target and see the many character-themed backpacks trying into leap in my shopping cart, I remember why I must make this journey alone. Back-to-school shopping is no place for kids. Alluring as my sons might find these school bags, they will never come home with us.
I insist on purchasing high quality backpacks only. Lands’ End, Eastpak, L.L. Bean, JanSport, REI, I’m looking at you. Buying a sturdy back pack means two important things:
- It will last longer. Duh.
- But if it doesn’t, it will be repaired or replaced for the lifetime of the backpack. As in, never buy another backpack again!!
So the $30 to $50 you spend on a good strong pack will more than make up for the annual purchase of a $20 crappy-zipper, break-before-the-year-is-out school bag. Though my cheap gene shudders at paying nearly $60 for a kid’s backpack, I know it will withstand many years worth of aggressive treatment.
My kids are going into kindergarten, sixth, and fourth grades this year and their backpacks have stood the test of time since KINDERGARTEN. That’s it. For real. Let me tell you the specifics and break down my recommendations.
Sounds too boring? Of course kids should be kids. Though I might want to borrow my kiddo’s solid color backpack, his buddies shouldn’t know his mama makes him suffer. If your child still wants to personalize, there are many ways to make a plain pack seem more
childish childlike: LEGO keychains, silly zipper pulls, labels and stickers, dog tags with cupcakes or rockets, printable star wars tags (free from Amy Locurto), or all of the above. Homemade lanyard and some dog tags and we’re good to go! I have been delighted that this method completely satisfies them.
Alright, with that out of the way, here are a few picks of high-quality backpacks (that I hope do not fall victim to the blogging curse of breaking because I said nice things about them).
Lands’ End Backpacks
I bought Milo the Featherlight model (because it sounded like it wouldn’t be too heavy) for kindergarten. It survived him and still looked pretty good through third grade (4 years, not bad!) I noticed some wear along the bottom where he drags it along the sidewalk and jumps on it, so Lands’ End accepted it as a return and is replacing it for the full value I paid. The Featherlight pack is $44 to $54 depending on colors, patterns, monograms. Machine washable. I bought one on super sale for little brother starting kindergarten. I paid about $30. I still totally stand behind this bag.
Holden picked a big school backpack for 2nd grade and beyond because he liked all the extra pouches. After four years, it still looks nearly new. It will be making another appearance in 6th grade with a few extra key chains and patches. Despite the fun colors and patterns, the big school backpack seems to have been discontinued, which is total bullshit (I’m keeping the link in case it returns). Faced with today’s overpriced options at REI ($149?! F that!), I would encourage you to browse REI-outlet.com for close-out deals or back to my friends above.
I suspect you will get your money’s worth for about $40 to $60 at REI. Holden used his Tarn for first grade with great success; it easily fit his folder and lunchbox. The only problem was that the whistle fell off (I suspect user error), and this is where I reaffirmed my very strong opinions. REI attempted to repair this backpack free of charge. When they couldn’t, they offered to return or exchange it. That’s what I’m talking about. Thank you!!
These gems are available on Amazon in different sizes and a gajillion colors. The Classic SuperBreak is good for your grade schooler, while I’d suggest a Half Pint for your preschooler (if they need a bag at all). This bigger size ranges from about $20 to $40 depending on which color combo you choose. If I could steer you gently toward a darker color to hide the dirt, I would do that, but I feel like I’ve already been so bossy by making you put down the unicorn bag with glittery eyeballs. The JanSport comes in so many colors and patterns!!
I might put you in a Big Student Classic Pack if you’re 5th grade or higher for about $40. Classic SuperBreak, prices vary ($20+)
If you have a top notch bag with a broken zipper floating around your house from childhood, you should see if the good folks will fix it for you. My now-husband had his old high school backpack shipped off to “camp” for zipper repair and now it’s good as new. More than 20 years later!
The North Face
Amazon sells this cute North Face Recon Squash Bag looks like a good one for $30 to $50 (depending on color), but I don’t have personal experience with it. Whitney might steer you to the little Sprout bag for about the same price, but she believes that kindergartners and preschoolers need adorable small backpacks.
LL Bean Packs
In a similar class is the LL Bean Deluxe backpack. It might also be the only backpack you ever need to buy. Some flavor styles are on sale for about $25 but it usually runs about $40. Jump into the world of quality packs from LL Bean here. Every year there are fresh fabrics to choose from. This year, I’m leaning toward this teal color with a .
Some of you cannot be convinced by my strong opinions. I implore you to test the hell out of the zippers when you choose a backpack and here’s how:
- Pretend you’re drunk — or actually get drunk — and zip and unzip until you lose count.
- Put your stuff in the bag and then walk around with it half-zipped to see if the zipper gives out the rest of the way or secures your load.
- Ask your BFF to wear the bag and then try to climb on his/her back. Claw at the zipper. I’ve been led to believe that’s how backpacks get treated on the playground.
Note: This post was not sponsored, but some affiliate links appear, for which I may earn a few cents. Mostly, I just thought you ought to know my very strong feelings before you lay out your own hard-earned money. You’re welcome.