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.
My Very Strong Opinions About Kids’ Backpacks
Back to school shopping. Ugh. As I walk through Target and see the many character-themed backpacks trying to leap into 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, Pottery Barn, L.L. Bean, JanSport, REI, I’m looking at you. Buying a sturdy backpack 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 makeup 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 first, fifth, and seventh grades this year and their backpacks have stood the test of time. 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 childlike: LEGO keychains, silly zipper pulls, labels and stickers (now with emojis!), free printable star wars tags, 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).
Best Kids Backpacks
Pottery Barn Teen Backpacks
These are by far the most decorative backpacks my kids have because, well, they are both stylish and surprisingly quite durable. I did not believe it at first but the sales rep convinced me and I do have to say, they last pretty well. I lean towards the PBteen line as they seem more durable and wearable long past childhood. It is also pretty cool that you can add a personalized touch by getting their initial or name embroidered. You can check these all out online or at your nearest Pottery Barn store.
Best Pottery Barn Kids Backpacks
If you don’t see a Pottery Barn Teen option that you love, you should check out the Mackenzie Backpack from the kid’s line. This little gem can be purchased based on the size of your little kiddo, ranging from sizes pre-k to large. In addition, your child’s name can be sewn into the front of the backpack, assuring it won’t be mistaken by another child’s as their own. Plus… how cool would it be for them to show off their very own PB kids backpack that’s 100% personalized to them? Check All of their awesome Kids & Toddler backpacks out here!
Lands’ End Kids Backpacks
We had a Lands End Featherlight for five years before the water bottle mesh started fraying after being dragged along the sidewalk every day. I should’ve kept it because now they’ve discontinued one of my all-time faves! Lands’ End accepted it as a return and replaced it for the full value I paid. The replacement ClassMates pack is $44 to $54 depending on colors, patterns, monograms. Machine washable. We have it and love it dearly, I even sprung for the monogram. Check out all their backpacks here!
The Handled Canvas Backpack is one of my current favorites. I can see my kids carrying it for years, and it is one option that I might just have to borrow from them on occasion! Check it out here.
My kids modeled some of the newer styles, like the Classmate Medium and Classmate Rolling. We really loved both the prints and the durability. I was surprised by how much my daughter enjoyed the rolling option!
These popular kids backpacks are available on Amazon in different sizes and a gazillion colors. The Classic SuperBreak is good for your grade-schooler, while I’d suggest a Half Pint for your preschooler. They both range 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 monogram and glitter and the cool cats print. The JanSport comes in so many colors and patterns, all I ask is you consider how long each option will last!
If you’ve got a big kid and schooling has started to get more serious, I would suggest the Big Student Classic Pack. It is the perfect size for 5th graders and above and allows for optimal organization. Check out current prices here!
If you have a top-notch Jansport with a broken zipper floating around your house from childhood, you should see if the good folks will fix it for you. Check out the Lifetime Warranty policy they have here! My 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!
LL Bean Kids Backpacks
Jump into the world of quality packs from LL Bean. Check out all of their designs and current pricing here! In a similar class to Jansport, I bring you the LL Bean Deluxe Book Pack. It might just be the only backpack you ever need to buy because it has a large capacity but is still nice and lightweight. Some styles are on sale for about $39, but they usually run about $49. Every year there are fresh fabrics to choose from. This year, I’m leaning toward this fresh mint with a grey trim.
LL Bean Rolling Backpack Options
In addition to their already wonderful, lightweight backpacks, LL Bean has the option of a rolling backpack. If your child prefers to pull along their books and goodies, this may be just the option to choose. Here is the current pricing!
The North Face Kids Backpack Options
Sorry, North Face, you’re a great brand but your kids’ backpack selection looks to be a bunch of rip-offs with the possible exception of the Mini Berkeley, which runs about$40. I do really love this Taupe Green color! Whitney might steer you to the little Sprout bag, but that is because she believes that kindergartners and preschoolers need adorable small backpacks.
Holden picked an REI Big School Backpack for 2nd grade because he liked all the extra pouches. After four years, it still looks nearly new. It would have completed his 6th-grade year with a few extra key chains and patches, but it finally was deemed too small. Despite the fun colors and patterns, the big school backpack seems to have been discontinued, which is total bullshit. Faced with today’s overpriced options at REI ($149?! F that!), I would encourage you to browse REI-outlet.com for close-out deals. It’s worth browsing because if you can find a deal they are truly great kid’s backpacks. If you are willing to spend the big bucks, the REI Co-Op Workload Pack is a wonderful backpack. Your kiddo will be able to carry it comfortably and it has tons of pockets. Buy yours here!
I suspect you will get your money’s worth for about $40 to $60 at REI. Holden used his REI backpack 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!!
Going rogue with your kid’s backpack?
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.
I couldn’t leave you hanging with just the best kid’s backpack options. Of course, I had to include some of my favorite lunchbox options. Just like with backpacks, I think it is super important to find long-lasting lunchboxes that really get the job done.
If you are looking for an eco-conscious option ECOlunchboxes are fantastic. My daughter loves her Furoshiki ECOsnacksack Kit, and though this option has been discontinued they have other kid-friendly lunchboxes we adore. The Furoshiki ECOlunchwrap Kit is very similar to what my daughter has, and includes the bamboo spork she raves about. BONUS- you do your part to help protect the planet by reducing waste while saving cash on Ziploc baggies!
This year OshKosh B’gosh partnered with SkipHop to create an adorable line of backpacks and coordinating lunchboxes. My 4-year-old was all about matching so we opted for these and are pleased with the quality. The added zippered pouch on the front is nice and we like the mesh pouches inside too. Learn more about these over on my Global Munchkins blog. I’ve got some great back to school tips over there as well!
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.
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