When the back-to-school season rolls around, there is one important item you need to think about buying your little one; a backpack! It can be hard to find the perfect one (and they aren’t always cheap!) so we have narrowed down our favorite in style and durable options.
I need to let you know that Whitney and I are on opposite sides of this kid’s 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 owns one backpack forever!
And I do mean that he gets married and brings his kindergarten backpack on his honeymoon. Below you will find kid backpacks that fit my philosophy, along with some cute options that Whitney would prefer!
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.
- 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 childlike: LEGO keychains, cute zipper pulls, labels & stickers, free printable star wars tags, or all of the above. Add a homemade lanyard and some dog tags and you’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 the best kids backpacks (that I hope do not fall victim to the blogging curse of breaking because I said nice things about them).
Best Kids Backpacks from Kindergarten to High School
Pottery Barn Kids Backpack Review: For the Little Ones
We’ll kick off the list with a very popular backpack brand; Pottery Barn! The Mackenzie Backpack is the perfect balance of cute and dependable and is truly the best backpack for kindergarten. That being said it is definitely a backpack choice that can last through elementary school as well.
I love that this backpack comes in 4 different sizes. I recommend going with the smaller sizes for a preschooler or kindergartner. I also think it is so cool that you can really personalize these backpacks. However, it is important to keep in mind there is not a Pottery Barn backpack warranty and you cannot return a customized item.
My favorite kindergarten backpack girl style! PB’s Mackenzie Pink Mermaid Friends Glow-in-the-Dark Backpack
This is the best toddler backpack and would be perfect for preschool! PB’s Mackenzie Paw Patrol Backpack
Pottery Barn Kids Backpack Reviews: For Older Kids & Teens
When it comes to picking out a Pottery Barn Backpack for older kids, I definitely lean towards the PBteen line as they seem more durable and wearable long past childhood. Another cool thing about these is that you can add a personalized touch by getting their initial or name embroidered.
If you are looking at the price and wondering, “When do Pottery Barn backpacks go on sale?” the answer is often! I recommend checking them out offseason as you can score a great deal.
Pro Tip: Our favorite backpack tip is to fold a trash bag to fit right around the lining making the inside waterproof. This will make the best backpack for kindergarten in snowy places where gear might get a little extra wet!
Sport BackPacks Reviews: The Best Options for Your Future Hall of Famer
If your kids are like mine, they are addicted to all things sports. While many sports brands don’t sell quality backpacks, we’ve found that Adidas is consistently great. It is one of my favorite places to shop when looking for cool backpacks for boys!
We love this Adidas Classic 3s Plus Backpack. It has just the right amount of storage and is comfortable to wear. My son has had it for 3 years now and stands by it being the best kid’s school backpack.
Lands’ End Kids Backpacks Review: The Most Durable 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! However, Lands’ End accepted it as a return and replaced it for the full value I paid.
Our new favorite is the ClassMates Backpack. It runs around $40-$50 depending on colors, patterns, monograms. We have it and love it dearly (especially that it is machine washable), and I even sprung for the monogram.
Below are my kiddos with the Lands’ End 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!
JanSport Packs Review: The Best Selection of Classic Solid Colors
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 a small kids backpack. They both range from about $20 to $40 depending on which color combo you choose.
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!
Pro Tip! 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!
LL Bean Kids Backpacks Review: Lightweight Backpacks with Everything You Need
Jump into the world of quality packs from LL Bean. The LL Bean Deluxe Book Pack is one of my favorites and is pretty similar to the JanSport backpacks. It might just be the only backpack you ever need to buy because it has a large capacity but is still nice and lightweight.
Every year there are fresh fabrics to choose from. This year, I’m leaning toward this Vintage Lavendar with a grey trim.
REI Backpacks Review: For Outdoor Adventures & the Classroom
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. It is a great backpack for kindergarten and beyond.
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, especially kindergarten backpacks.
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 lunch boxes 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 lunch boxes. 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!
If you are a mama taking your baby to school for the first time, I hope this list has helped you find the best kindergarten backpack that is getting you both excited. If you have gone through backpack after backpack and failed to find one that lasts, this list is for you too!
Pin for Later – My Very Strong Opinions About Kids’ Backpacks
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best backpacks for kids?
We love Pottery Barn and JanSport backpacks for kids. They both stand up to rough kiddos and last through the school year.
What is the best size backpack for kindergarten?
Backpacks that are around 15? are perfectly sized for a 5-7-year-old. The Half Pint by JanSport and also the Mini Mackenzie from Pottery Barn are both great backpacks for kindergarten
Should I put my child’s name on her backpack?
You don’t necessarily want to put your child’s name on the outside of their backpack for safety reasons. However, writing their name on the inside or on a tag is a good idea to keep it from being lost.
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.