Backpack Buying Guide: How to Find the Best Backpacks for School

Picking out a new backpack is an exciting part of back-to-school shopping for many kids.

Sometimes it’s all about the characters, with lots of little ones flocking to Frozen and Minions backpacks this fall. For older kids, versatility or cool features might be the top consideration.

But no matter what your child’s top motivation is when searching for a backpack, be sure to keep a few things in mind to make sure the bag that comes home will meet your child’s needs. Here’s a guide for parents on all the important backpack features to consider.


One of the most important features is durability since kids are “notoriously tough on their bags,” says Syndi Stark, vice president for Lands’ End Kids.

Backpacks at Lands’ End are made to withstand many years of use, she says.

“At Lands’ End, we add details such as interior seams that are bound for extra durability so the backpack won’t rip. Reinforced base fabric keeps the backpack upright and adds extra durability and reverse-sewn zippers make for long-lasting performance,” she says.

When you’re out shopping, take a close look at the materials used, the stitching and the overall feel of the bag to decide whether it seems likely to last.


As cool as a backpack may look to the child, parents will want to make sure it’s also comfortable. Encourage your child to try on their potential new backpack, put in a couple books for some weight and make sure the straps have enough padding.

Comfort features to look for include padded straps and mesh lining for breathability, she says.


Parents should keep in mind that backpacks now come in a wide range of sizes, so make sure your child’s backpack is large enough to fit everything they’ll need.

If your little one is just starting preschool, check with the school before purchasing a toddler- or preschool-sized backpack as it may not be large enough for the full-sized folders or other items that may be sent home.

Older kids and teenagers will need even more room, especially if they’ll be carrying supplies for sports or other after-school activities.

“It is important to find a bag that fits their needs,” Stark says. Lands’ End offers a “what it fits guide” where customers can view videos demonstrating the different sizes and there’s also a backpack size guide based on the child’s height.


You want your child to love their backpack, so perhaps most important of all is choosing one that fits your child’s personality and makes them excited about wearing it to school.

The options go beyond what you see in the stores, too. At Lands’ End, online shoppers can personalize their backpack with embroideries, monograms or both, Stark says.


“To address safety concerns, especially for younger kids, look for backpacks that offer reflective trims to help keep kids visible,” Stark says. Also look for adjustable straps that ensure a good fit and minimize stress on the back and spine, she says.

Cool features to look for

  • Padded sleeve for laptops or other devices
  • Extra pockets and clips to help your child stay organized
  • External bungee cord options that help kids carry things like a jacket or even a skateboard
  • Matching lunch box or water bottle. Some backpacks have lunch box options that clip right onto the outside of the backpack for “hands free convenience,” Stark says.

Current trends

Wondering what’s hot this year in backpacks? Stark says camouflage prints are “in” with boys this season, including the newest trend of geometric camouflage prints. “It’s a fresh twist on a classic,” she says.

Citrus colors are also trending this year, especially for boys, while lots of girls are opting for Aztec prints, tie-dyes and leopard prints, she adds.

Metro Parent picks

You’ve learned what to look for in a great backpack, so now it’s time to shop! Here are five cool backpacks we found that we think your kids will love.

1. Lands’ End – Print ClassMate® Medium Backpack in Zesty Orange Tech Camo

Price: $39 (on sale now for $24.99)
Made from a durable polyester with a water-repellent finish, this backpack has a no-tip base, padded shoulder straps and lash strap for external carrying capacity. It has a reflective trim to help keep kids visible and the cool print is bright and trendy. Plus it features adjustable straps, a loop for clipping on a lunch box and lots of personalization options.

2. Pottery Barn Kids – Mackenzie Navy Rainbow Backpacks

Price: $29.50-$69.50
The adorable print is just the start of what this cool backpack has to offer. It has lots of pockets, straps and gear loops to keep everything organized and you’ll appreciate the water-resistant, durable fabric and adjustable straps. An MP3 player pocket cutout for headphone cords is included and you can add your child’s initials, name or a cute decal to the front.

3. MadPax Lollipop Gang Bubble Half Pack

Price: $65
Kids will love this brand’s crazy-cool backpacks offering funky prints and styles that are sure to stand out. This bag features photo-real printing, adjustable padded straps with D-rings for easy clipping and chest strap, comfort air-mesh back padding and a clear ID window. The half-bag style can hold iPads, folders and a change of clothes. Opt for the full-size bag to hold a binder.

4. Skip Hop – Zoo Packs Panda Preschool Backpack

Price: $20
Why not let your little one sport his or her favorite animal to school? For the preschool set, this whimsical little backpack easily holds supplies and snacks and it also has a mesh side pocket to fit a juice box, sippy cup or water bottle. There’s a write-on nametag inside and the backpack is BPA- and phthalate-free.

5. Adidas Foundation Backpack in Deepest Space/Frozen

Price: $45
For older kids and teens, consider this full-size backpack that features classic styling, two spacious main compartments and a Tricot-lined laptop sleeve. You’ll find mesh pockets at the sides for water bottles, loops for attaching extra gear and padded shoulder straps.


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