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, Pottery Barn, 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 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
childish childlike: LEGO keychains, silly zipper pulls, labels and stickers (now with emojis!), 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).
Pottery Barn Backpacks
This is by far the most decorative of backpacks my kids have because well they are both stylish and they are surprisingly quite durable. I did not believe it at first but the sales rep convinced me and I do have to say, they do last pretty well. I do lean towards the PBteen line because otherwise, they won’t wear it past the 5th grade. You can check out their styles here.
Lands’ End 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.
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 monogram and glitter. The JanSport comes in so many colors and patterns (like daisies and space dogs!)!!
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!
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 because it has a large capacity but is nice and lightweight. 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 gray or lime green trim.
The North Face
Sorry, North Face, you’re a great brand but your product selection looks to be a bunch of rip-offs with the possible exception of the Mini Berkeley for about $40. Whitney might steer you to the little Sprout bag, but she believes that kindergartners and preschoolers need adorable small backpacks.
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 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 (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!!
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.