The back-to-school countdown is on and it’s time to think about the essentials, starting with an everyday backpack.
There are a few things to consider when choosing a bag that should, ideally, last for at least one school season. First off, will the child be excited to take it to school? Getting their input on choices (like sporty, retro or colour-block basic) will help ensure they don’t reject it come September.
Because there’s obviously a big difference between what a preschooler and a tween needs, utility, durability and spaciousness are also considerations. And for Canadians, we know that warm late summer weather won’t last forever and come fall, this backpack needs to be able to withstand wet weather.
Backpacks for preschoolers and kindergarten
SkipHop has the most adorable animal (real and imagined) backpacks made specifically for toddlers. The design is simple and made for small hands. There’s an insulated front pouch for snacks, a side pocket for a water bottle and an interior name tag. As these are designed for little ones, it will not fit a large book or file folder. It’s hard not too coo over the cartoonish koala, unicorn ($25.90), pug ($25 at Amazon, $30 at Indigo) and dinosaur bags. Price varies by style on Amazon.
Backpacks for kids of all ages
For kids who want a classic backpack that isn’t lacking in style, we honed in on three brands that are frequently spotted on adults but also fit a student’s busy (and book-filled) schedule.
L.L. Bean's normcore design and roominess stand out, with three compartments, reinforced stitching and super durable zippers, mesh and fabric. This is a heavy-duty backpack that has been carefully designed and rigorously tested. It’s ideal for bigger kids and would be perfect for someone who needs to schlep multiple textbooks and binders. $89 at L.L. Bean.
Jansport has been around since the 1960s, with ebbs and flows in popularity. Right now, it’s definitely in a resurgence among cool adults and even cooler teens. One thing to watch for when choosing a Jansport bag is the price: it varies by size, colour and print. From $50 at Amazon and Staples.
It's not a list of "best of" backpacks without this Vancouver staple. The Herschel Heritage Backpack stands out from the basic options with its geometric design and it is specifically made for kids eight to 12. $54.99 at Herschel.
Sporty backpacks for all ages
Bigger kids, tweens and teens who want a more sporty look have lots of branded option. We went with the three big names: Nike Kids Ya Classic Printed School Backpack ($35 at Sportchek), a colourful Puma print ($43.09 at Amazon) and Adicolor ($45 at Adidas).
Backpacks that cost under $25
For a kid who prefers a pop culture-themed backpack, there’s the Heys Star Wars Deluxe ($21.97 at Walmart), Roblox ($22.69 at Amazon) and Minecraft ($24.97 at Walmart).
There are also simple and inexpensive options; these colour-block backpacks are only $12.99 on Amazon.
Amazon Essentials has its own line of primary-coloured backpacks made from high-grade canvas. The design doesn’t reinvent the wheel: it’s basic and gets the job done. From $21, depending on colour, on Amazon.
Joe Fresh kids' backpack options are a little thin this season, with one blue dinosaur bag and one pink unicorn bag. There’s little pizzazz to these styles but for the price, you get the standards: adjustable straps, front pocket and fabric that can be spot-cleaned. $19 at Joe Fresh.