Backpacks for Kids

Archived Q&A and Reviews

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Backpack for Entering Kindergartner

July 2013

Mom of a rising k here with what I'm sure will be the first of many questions as we get ready for school! I see many recommendations in the archives for LLBean & Lands End backpacks, but I checked their websites and neither company recommends machine-washing. I feel like my lovable little space cadet will leave smelly things in his backpack for months on end, not to mention dropping it in every puddle in the East Bay, so I would really like a washable brand. Any ideas? Also durable (so he can hand it down to a younger sibling in a couple years), with a good return policy in case of defects (so, not from Target), and I'm willing to pay up to $50. REI doesn't seem to make kids packs for the school market, and I'm at a loss now. Thanks! So Much to Think About

I've bought backpacks for my 3 kids (ages 8-13) from all kinds of places: WalMart, Target, Costco, LL Bean...and have machine-washed all of them. I don't DRY them in the dryer though. I hang them to dry, and it works fine. Kids are hard on backpacks, but young kids should be able to make one last for two or three years, because they aren't carrying heavy books. But daily wear and tear will take a toll. If you want it to last more than a year, LL Bean is a good bet. sk8ma
We bought this one for our kindergartner last year, The North Face Recon Squash Backpack: I think we ordered it from Zappos. I would buy it again. Good features:
- Holds up well to being dragged across playgrounds and thrown through the air.
- We never had to wash it because we always put his snack in a lunch box first (the soft cloth kind with a zipper closure) before putting the lunch box into the backpack. We did spill water in the pack and it dried out nicely. You could probably machine wash it in cold and then air dry it.
- Zippers are easy to pull and run smoothly.
- Homework folder fits in nicely.
- Adjustable straps and a chest strap keeps pack in place, also fits the 5-6 year old body well
- To be honest, the bag still looks new, despite a years' worth of use
Highly recommend this pack for many of these reasons. I'm sure my kid will be able to use it throughout grade school. anonymous
My daughter, now going into the 8th grade, has had several models of Jansport ( They hold up well and are machine washable. She had different models depending on whatever she needs to carry on which days, but the original, simple model is fine for a kindergartener. P.S. Don't buy any school supplies until you get a list from the teacher on what the kids will actually need. been around the block on kindergarten
I have to give a shout-out to Pottery Barn Kids. I'm not usually a huge fan, but I ended up getting my K son one of their backpacks bc their smallest size was the only one that made sense given his Kindergartner size. But - he's entering 2nd grade now, and that backpack still looks AMAZING. Has totally held its shape, colors are close to perfect, and there is no reason to replace it. He's dragged this thing on camping trips, on 2 international adventures, to camps, to school every day, and so on - the quality has impressed me! sarah
I'm probably too late in responding, but I think you are overthinking this. And I think $50 is way too much to spend for a kindergartener's backpack. We do throw our Land's End and LL Bean packs into the washing machine (you are right--they get filthy! I recommend avoiding light colors). I prefer to buy lunchboxes and backpacks on sale and would never spend more than $30 or so (less for a lunchbox). You can try Hanna Anderson (sale only), Office Max/Depot, Toys R Us, and even Target (though I agree, their return policy is not good). Also, my kids (3 of them) use their backpacks for multiple years, so it's not wise to buy something with Disney characters (for example) that he will outgrow by 1st grade. My rising kindergartener will inherit her big sister's Hello Kitty backpack, my rising 4th-grader will continue to use her Land's End pack that she's had for over a year, and my rising 6th grader will get a new pack for middle school, only because his existing LL Bean pack is too small. Never thought I had so much advice about backpacks!

Backpack for 5 year old

Sept 2008

I would like to hear of any recommendations for backpacks for school kids. Ideally I would like something that will last for a few years, has a side pocket or two for a water bottle, has an extra pocket or two on the outside and/or inside, and can fit a 5 year old comfortably (not too big). Also, I would love it if I could find a water-proof one (we walk to school often and it would be nice to take camping as well). I realize that not all of these expectations can necessarily be met, but do you have any kinds to recommend that you just love? I'd love to hear about them if so. Thanks. Packing for kindergarten now!

You want a backpack from LL Bean or Lands End. Every mom I know who's ever bought one from either of these companies recommends it. If your 5yo is not tall enough to wear a standard size backpack comfortably, get a ''junior'' version -- both LLB and LE have them -- which is sized for preschoolers through age 7 but is still large enough to put the school folders in without bending.

We bought a series of inexpensive packs from Target and other local stores when my son entered kindergarten. The zipper busted on each of them within a couple of months. I finally ordered one from LL Bean and it's going strong into second grade -- having easily withstood all of the daily use and abuse to which a young child can subject it, including outdoor day camps, airplane flights and machine washing in addition to classroom use. Holly

I just bought a backpack for my 7-year-old from Lands End. I really like it! My son likes it too. They had several kids' styles to choose from, in several different colors. I bought the ''Featherlight'' which is the most lightweight one. It looks like it is waterproof. I really recommend getting the child-sized backpacks rather than the adult size because they fit the back better and are easier for kids to carry. My child isn't small - he's the tallest 2nd grader at his school - and this backpack is the perfect size for him. Ginger

School backpack for a five-year-old

July 2003

Now that my son will be starting kindergarten, I suppose he'll need a backpack for school, so I'm wondering what kind of backpack I should get him. It seems that the book packs that I see out there (Old Navy, Target) are too big for his 42'' / 40 lb. frame. Do most younger kids use these, or do most of them go to school with rolling backpacks? What do kids carry in these things? And just out of curiousity, do the kids like the rolling backpacks, or are they (the rolling pack, that is) perceived as kind of geeky? (which is the impression I got from my sister-in-law of two pre-teen girls.) Mystified about backpacks for little kids

No personal experience with these, but the latest Land's End catalog has a backpack sized for four to seven year olds you might want to check out. They come in different colors and can be personalized. Anon
Lands End ( has great school back packs that are smaller in size, my daughter's lasted all of Kindergarten and still looks new. kate
With two kids in elementary school and the third about to enter K in the fall, this is what I have noticed about backpacks: The little tiny ones that seem more appropriate for small (5-6 y.o.s) kids do not fit the folders, art projects, etc. that kids bring home from school every day. K teachers usually give each student a folder for homework, notices to parents, etc. and the backpack should be big enough to fit the folder (and a lunch box?). They are big, but as long as you don't fill them up, they stay pretty light. It is also nice for your kid to have somewhere to put that sweatshirt that might otherwise get left at school every day... (Re: the rolling backpacks -- it seems like these are in vogue only for 4th-5th graders. Middle schoolers seem to associate them with elementary school and younger kids don't have a need for them. It is totally a niche market as far as I can tell!) D. Moran
As a first grade teacher, I see a wide variety -- bright colors,cartoon characters, etc. The geeky issue doesn't seem to be a big deal with children in kindergarten and first grade. Might be nice to get him one he is excited about. But I think you are right to look for a small one -- So he can carry it, but also it's hard to fit them in the space allotted a school if they show up looking like they packed for a month-long vacation. Some younger kids use the pulling ones, but they are difficult to stuff in cubbies at school and heavy for times when they can't be pulled easily, like getting in and out of the car, going up and down stairs, lifting it to put it in the storage area, etc. Think about what he will need to carry. Many kids carry a lunch box (these can get ridiculously large too) if he will be bringing his own lunch or snack, maybe a folder and/or pack of papers stappled together, and maybe a library book or two. Some kids try to stuff their jackets in too. Kids who go to daycare afterward may want some items for that too. The school probably will provide the supplies he needs.

You might want to take another look at places like Target. They're already starting to put out their school supplies and I think they have kids' backpacks with those. This isn't in the regular place where they normally have office supplies but in a special, large area for seasonal items. In El Cerrito it's the back corner. Whatever store you are in, the little kids' backpacks may be in a different location from the adult/older child ones. bb

Don't spend a lot of money on this kind of thing. It will make you crazy when your kids lose them, and both of you will feel badly. Target has reasonably good, inexpensive backpacks, some with characters some without. There are often rules about the kind of backpack that a child can have in public school, so make sure you check with the school. Wheels are popular with older kids, but not the younger kids. Finally: WRITE YOUR CHILD'S NAME ON THE BACKPACK if you buy it from a chain store. There will be about 20 similar backpacks and your kid may have trouble locating his/hers. First Grade teacher
Hi, I am a K teacher and I am so happy when parents purchase a regular-sized kid backpack for their K students. By regular- sized I mean a backpack in which one could put a sheet of paper 8 1/2 by 11 inches without folding. It's important to not buy a really small one because the poor little guys have to take home a lot of paperwork with some programs (Open Court Reading requires mucho parent letters, etc.) and they really struggle trying to fit it all in to those cute little K-sized packs. You can get a cheaper one with perhaps a cartoon character on it that your kid will love at maybe Target or Riteaid. Elaine
You can usually find kid size backpacks at Ross and Marshalls. Kindergarteners don't have to lug alot of heavy books and binders (just lunch, a homework folder, and maybe a library book) so the plastic ''kid'' backpacks are usually sturdy enough. Karen H.
I noticed several posters suggested putting the child's name on their backpack. I want to suggest otherwise - just use initials, or some other distinguishing feature on the outside part that is visible when the backpack is worn. While child abduction is rare, remember that young children tend to trust adults who address them by name. They won't realize that someone has simply read it off their backpack (or sweatshirt, etc.)! concerned parent
My son wanted a backpack and school supplies, but all he really needed was a lunchbox. He could carry his lunchbox in his hand or in his backpack for hands-free play which he often liked. He needed no school supplies, and it was better if I bought those things and donated them to the classroom, as they always seemed to need new markers, and in public school needed basic things like drawing paper, stickers, paper towels, new hula hoops and playground balls. eve

Cute kids' backpacks without cartoon characters?

Aug 2000

Can anyone recommend a good place to buy cute child size backpacks without Disney characters or Pokemon or any other character? I want to take my daughter to pick one out for kindergarten with options that don't include Barbie and Arthur, if possible! Thanks again for all your help! Allison

You may want to check out the Sweet Potatoes store on 4th street for kids' backpacks. My mother-in-law found a very cute selection there. LL Bean also has some for kids, but you can't touch them and try them on. Good luck! - Hilary
I like you would rather my children not have any Pokemon, Barbie, Nascar, etc. backpacks for school.aa Eddie Bauer has some real nice child size backpacks that have great colors andacan be monogrammed.a Check out their website @ In addition, I just received the Lands End catalog and they have some child size backpacks as well.aa What I am going to suggest to my kids is that they can hang key chains of their favorite subject on their nice colorful backpacks with their initials on.a This should look cool - don't you think!! Sarah
For a plain sturdy backpack for kids I recommend Jansport. (About $25.00) They come with a lifetime guaranatee! You child will lose it before a seam ever breaks. I regularly use one also. On mine the Zipper broke. I mailed it in and withing four weeks it came back reparied. Amanda
For cute child size backpacks without Disney characters or Pokemon or any other characters try REI (Eagle's Creek makes a nice one that comes in fun colors including purple. They have multiple pockets) or Lands' End. Sternhickey
REI makes a great kids backpack, the little Teton, that is perfectly designed for small peoples' needs. It has a large outer pocket that has a quick-release snap for easy entry, and it's made partly of cloth mesh so you can see what's inside. It's bright yellow (only comes in the one color). In my opinion, REI backpacks are by far the sturdiest and best designed packs on the market. We've tried many. Spohr
Kid-sized backpacks are available at both REI and Copeland's -- they resemble adult-sized backpacks waterproof vinyl in various colors. The ones at Copeland's are less expensive but the ones at REI are better quality. Eileen
We found a nice, child-size backpack, sans cartoon characters at REI. I think it was around $20. We've had it for about a year now, it seems to be very sturdy. We just throw it in the washing machine when it gets dirty, and it seems to be holding up well. Colleen