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 $50 for a kid’s backpack, I know it will withstand many years worth of aggressive treatment.
My kids are going into fifth and third grades this year and their backpacks are not being replaced since KINDERGARTEN. That’s it. That’s all I wanted to tell you.
Sounds too boring? If your child still wants to personalize, there are many ways to make a plain pack seem more
childish childlike: glowing zipper jewelry, mini-me felt patches, labels and stickers, dogtags, printable star wars tags (free from Amy Locurto), or all of the above.
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).
JanSport packs 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. This bigger size ranges from about $20 to $40 depending on which color combo you choose. So many colors!!
I might put you in a Big Student Classic Pack if you’re 5th grade or higher. 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!
Lands’ End Backpacks. I bought Milo the Featherlight model (because it sounded like it wouldn’t be too heavy) for kindergarten. It is going strong for a fourth year. Truthfully, it is showing some slight wear along the bottom where he drags it along the sidewalk and jumps on it. The Featherlight pack is $44 to $54 depending on colors, patterns, monograms. Machine washable. Look for a sale, you might find one.
Amazon sells this cute little North Face Sprout with a smaller capacity for smaller preschool-sized torsos. Colors vary, sells for about $38.
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. I was taken by this totally old-school lumberjack motif.
Holden picked a big school backpack for 2nd grade and beyond because he liked all the extra pouches. After three years, it still looks nearly new. It will be making another appearance in 5th 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 probably steer you toward REI-outlet.com for some close-out deals or back to my friends above.
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!!
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.
Whitney’s nephew has this Star Wars-themed backpack from Hanna Andersson for third grade. I cannot vouch for their backpack skillz, but you know I am obsessed with their high-quality pajamas, so I implicitly trust Hanna’s line of backpacks.