Nothing marks the beginning of a school year quite like brand-new school supplies. Sharp, woody-smelling pencils; color-coded subject notebooks; and clean, unstained lunch boxes all fit into perhaps the most recognizable symbol of a fresh semester: the backpack.
Backpacks are a surprisingly recent invention. Just take a look at Grandma’s back-to-school picture: She’s probably posing with her books bound together by a leather book strap. Fun fact: In the late 1960s, JanSport and Gerry Outdoors introduced lightweight backpacks for hiking, which ultimately found their way into the back-to-school market.
And because backpacks have become a back-to-school staple, the amount of stuff kids schlep has also increased: According to Time, backpacks have steadily increased in weight since 1998. And while carrying a heavy load for a few minutes each day might not seem like a big issue, the minutes add up. The result? Your child could be in for chronic, lifelong back pain. A University of California, San Diego, study says a full third of kids ages 11 to 14 report back pain. Yikes!
Before your child heads back to class, find out how you can offset the risk of a heavy backpack by proactively fitting his or her bag. Here’s how.
The Backpack Brigade
So what backpacks are worthy of your buck? Here are a few options we’re loving for the upcoming school year.
- Satisfaction guaranteed: Lands’ End gets our vote because of its commitment to quality and your happiness. The retailer’s site states, “If you’re not satisfied with any item, simply return it to us at any time for an exchange or refund of its purchase price.” Check out the ClassMate Large Backpack ($49 at Lands’ End), and monogram it for a personalized touch.
- Leader of the pack: Since entering the industry as a pioneer in 1967, JanSport has remained the leading maker of backpacks, selling 8 million each year. The original JanSport Superbreak ($36) is still one of the most popular items and is now available in trendy patterns like pineapple print.
- A classic option: L.L.Bean still sells its Original Book Pack ($29.95), which is popular among elementary-aged children and is available in five kid-fave colors plus six fun prints. The brand offers its signature monogram style ($8 extra) for added personalization.
- Stay connected: The ENERGI backpack by Tylt sells for $99.99 and features a built-in battery that allows you to charge up to three electronic devices at the same time.
- Built to last: The North Face Surge ($129) and Patagonia Refugio Backpack ($89) are designed to last, with compartments for electronics and water and plenty of color options to choose from. These are perfect for both the bus stop and weekend camping trips.
- New kid on the block: Say hello to Herschel Supply Co., an up-and-coming competitor in the backpack industry. Herschel specializes in clean, basic design with features like laptop sleeves, media pockets and internal organizers. We recommend the Pop Quiz backpack ($74.99).