Back to school means find a great Backpack

Back to school means find a great Backpack

After a long and crazy summer, the new school year seems like a welcome treat, a first step back to the normal grind of everyday life. And as you pick up your supply list and start shopping for the best deals, remember that we are here for all your sport and style needs. Whether you’re headed to the field for practice or strutting the halls to class, you need a bag to hold your stuff without clashing with your style. But with so many types of bags online, how do you find the perfect one for you? Easy! First find the type of bag that fits your needs, then shop for the brand and color you like, then personalize it to match your style. BACKPACK Obviously, when it comes to school, the most popular type of bag is the classic backpack, but there are so many varieties within this category from basic to decked out. We’ve listed some common features that you’ll find on many backpacks so that you can identify the technology and know exactly what you’re getting. POPULAR TECH FEATURES Water Bottle Pocket It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day so that when you get to practice after school, you’re ready to sweat! This pocket keeps your water bottle within arm’s reach while keeping it away from inside items in case of leaks. Small Accessory Pocket These keep valuable items (like your phone and wallet) from falling out, but close at hand for easy access. Laptop Sleeve Sometimes there will be a separate zipper compartment, other times there will be a divider in the main compartment. Either way, this is important if you have a laptop or table that you want to protect from jostling or scratches. Backpack sizes change depending on style, so make sure you know how large your laptop is to ensure it fits. Support Straps If you carry a full bag of books to and from school, you’ll want to make sure there’s extra support straps across the chest, waist, or hips. These adjustable buckles make sure the backpack fits snug on your back. Water Resistant/Repellant Fabric Sometimes this will be the entire backpack and other times it’ll just be on the bottom, either way water-resistant fabric can protect your belongings from water damage. Ball Pocket Nothing says athlete more than a backpack that can hold your soccer ball or basketball. Shoes/Clothes Storage This may not be a feature you even think about, especially if you’re used to carrying both a gym back and a backpack. But if you shop smart, you can have one bag to do it all. Your books and laptop can go in the top and gym shoes or an extra set of clothes can fit in the bottom. Shop Backpacks MINI BACKPACK If you want the school aesthetic but a little more stylized, try a mini backpack. These look like regular backpacks, but as the title implies, they’re smaller so you won’t find as many tech features on them and you won’t be able to fit as much inside. So, if you normally carry all your textbooks to and from school, this pry isn’t the one you want. GYMSACK Gymsacks are as simple as bags get. They’re super lightweight and easy to throw on, but they rarely have pockets or any other tech. Usually, it’s just a single pull string compartment to put everything in. If you like minimalist style and carry very few items, this could be an option for you. They’re bigger than a mini backpack, so you could probably fit a small laptop or tablet in it, but, because of the simplicity of design and material, you’ll want to make sure you put your electronics in a padded case before putting it in the bag. TOTE BAG The most purse-like fashion option is a tote bag. They’re big enough to fit everything you need and feature a few separate sections like a small accessory pocket and laptop sleeve. The biggest difference with this bag is that it’s not quite as hands-free. Since it doesn’t have dual shoulder straps, you can either put it on one shoulder or just carry it in your hand. Sh DUFFEL BAG A small duffel bag can be a great option for student athletes. Most come with a long strap that you can wear crossbody to keep your hands free. When people picture duffels, they often think of big, bulky bags, but they actually come in many smaller sizes that can be perfect for athletes that don’t want to carry multiple bags. With a duffel, you’ll have enough room to store your school items as well as your gear for practice. Shop Du Pro Tip: If you find yourself hunched over to ease the weight of your bag, consider lightening your load. Kids younger than 13 shouldn’t carry more than 10% of their body weight, while kids 13 and older are okay carrying up to 25% of their body weight. Once you’ve bought the bag that fits your needs, you can personalize it. Whether that’s adding keychains on the zippers, ironing on patches, or pinning on buttons. Or, if you’re really artsy, find some fabric markers at your local craft store and create your own masterpiece. Personalizing your bag is fun, but also can be helpful – when your bag is one of a kind, it’s easier to identify. Looking for a fresh pair of kicks to start school off right? Check out our top picks and make this year the best one yet!


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:

  1. It will last longer.
  2. 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 keychain, cute 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 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 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. 

Pottery Barn Kids Backpack Reviews: For Older Kids & Teens

These are both stylish and surprisingly quite durable, as they are meant for teens. I did not believe it at first but the sales rep and the stellar pottery barn backpack reviews convinced me! 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. You can check these all out online or at your nearest Pottery Barn store. 

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. 

The Best Backpacks for College and High School Students

  • Going back to school may be a nebulous concept in 2020, but nevertheless we’ve updated this guide to include a new round of picks from our most recent testing of laptop backpack


    • Going back to school may be a nebulous concept in 2020, but nevertheless we’ve updated this guide to include a new round of picks from our most recent testing of laptop backpacks

    There’s a lot to think about during high school and college besides just studying, from potential job offers to bonafide heartbreak, but you still need a way to carry your stuff. A new backpack can help you get in the right frame of mind for learning, too, whether you’re physically headed back to school or attending class online. The last thing you should have to worry about is which one to buy to shepherd you through these next four (or eight) years.

    Since our first round of testing in 2015, we’ve tested dozens of backpacks in a variety of styles to find the best bags for high school and college students. The right school backpack should be able to carry all of the books and supplies you need for a long day of classes while also being comfortable, affordable, and stylish (whatever “stylish” means to you).

    If you’re a high school or college student, you need a bag that can carry your books, electronics, and school supplies alongside whatever you might need for the gym, rehearsal, or a late night stuck inside the basement of the library. Or, if you’re learning remotely, it’ll serve equally well for stashing your books when you’re not using them or for carrying supplies to a picnic. A good school backpack should survive the wear and tear of at least four years of education, as well as well-deserved weekend getaways and trips back home so your parents can do your laundry.

    Keeping student budgets in mind, as well as an understanding of how someone might use a backpack both in and outside of school, we looked for options that cost $140 or less. The bags we considered range in style from more ergonomic and spacious bags that hold a huge volume of books and can function as a daypack for weekend trips to smaller bags that sacrifice some utility for aesthetics or ease of use. We discuss several of the bags in this guide in greater length in our guide to laptop backpacks, which also includes other bags that didn’t fit within our price range for this guide.

    The backpack you choose also needs to be appropriate for what your school requires. Some high schools still want students to lug six giant textbooks and their lunch from room to room all day. If you’re in college, you might need just a laptop and a paper notebook because most everything is online. So choose a backpack based on what you’ll need, and keep in mind—as much as you can—the American Association of Pediatrics recommendation that your bag and its contents should never weigh more than 10% to 20% of your body weight.

    Who it’s for: Someone who doesn’t need to pack much more beyond a small laptop, a light sweater, and a slim textbook—someone who cares about style and wants a bag that’s small, fashionable, and designed to keep their lab notes dry if they get stuck in a sudden downpour.

    Why it’s great: If you want something that’s fashionable but still comfortable, smartly organized, and easy to get around with, the Rains Backpack Mini balances those seemingly opposed qualities in a slim package. It’s gorgeous: Sleek, minimalist lines keep it from veering into ostentatiousness, and even the pastel-hued color options feel stylish—and will make sure you don’t look like “the schoolkid who’s in for the summer” on the way to your internship. On the days our tester carried it, they even received a few compliments from strangers—an unheard-of event on the otherwise aloof streets of New York.

    The Rains bag’s smart organization and petite size make it ideal for someone who wants to look stylish and carry a light load. A back zippered section securely holds a phone and a meal-pass card for easy access, and its small, flat shape means it won’t cause you to bump into people in a crowded student union. The Rains doesn’t have space for much, but its laptop pouch and inner zippered pocket—perfect for your laptop and phone chargers—keep your basics organized, with room for a few more items if you need that.

    If you tend to lose umbrellas and forget to check the weather before stumbling out of your dorm late for class, the waterproofing on the Rains is a gift from the gods. We tested this feature accidentally when walking from a favorite coffee shop through a brief lightning storm, and the Rains, true to its name, kept everything in the bag totally dry. In addition to weather security, the bag’s combination of magnetic flap snaps and a carabiner closure makes it hard for someone to reach in and steal your laptop.

    Flaws but not dealbreakers: The thin straps on the Rains Backpack Mini are part of what makes it look so sleek and professional, but that design also means that it’s not as comfortable as other bags with thicker straps. Still, because the bag can’t fit too much (it can hold a laptop of only 13 inches), your shoulders will be safe from strain unless you’re trying to fill it up with every pre-med textbook you’re meant to have read before the next lecture.

    Long-term test notes: Wirecutter staffer Dorie Chevlen has been using the Rains Backpack Mini for over a year, and it has held up wonderfully. She noted that it didn’t make her hotter than her other, cloth backpack. And although the thin straps are less comfortable than wider varieties, that has never been a problem. When attending grad school, Dorie found that the bag’s waterproofing helped it last through many rainstorms while she waited for buses.

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