When my oldest son went off to preschool, he needed a backpack. I liked the idea of the Lands’ End and L.L. Bean ones, but why would I pay five times the price of a Walmart backpack? So I bought him a $5 Walmart backpack, and it wore out in March when of course Walmart didn’t have any backpacks to replace it with. I repaired it with packing tape and my crappy primitive sewing skillz.
The next fall, for kindergarten, I bought another Walmart backpack, but this time I got the one that was more like $8 instead of the one that was around $5—going for quality, you see. That one, too, ripped before the end of the school year. It was very frustrating.
So when my aunt gave us a gift certificate to L.L. Bean, I used it to buy L.L. Bean Original Back Packs for both of my older boys: one for Rob, who was then going into first grade, and one for William, who was starting 4-year-old preschool.
Rob has finished third grade and William has finished first grade, and the backpacks are still in great condition. My conclusion: backpacks are one of the areas where paying more is cheaper in the long run. You can buy one or two $5-8 backpacks per school year, or you can buy one $25 backpack and have it last…well, Rob’s and William’s have both lasted three years so far.
I would feel equally confident buying any of the Lands’ End backpacks, but can’t seem to yoink their photos off their site. Am insufficiently tech-savvy. Here’s a link to their Classmate Backpack, which looks like the equivalent of L.L. Bean’s Original. Both Lands’ End and L.L. Bean have excellent product guarantees, so if the backpack DID fail to meet expectations, you’d get a free replacement. I’ve had to do that with one product (not a backpack) from each company, and neither of them gave me the tiniest hassle about it.
The next time I need a backpack for a preschooler, I would be tempted to buy this crazy-cute L.L. Bean Camp Critter pack, which comes in bear, bunny, or raccoon. (The L.L. Bean Original ones I bought Rob and William were for ages 7 and up, and William’s really was too big for him until he was in first grade.) I want that bear one so badly, I’m searching for an excuse to buy it. Maybe I could use it as a diaper bag, and make one of the twins carry it?
One problem with a backpack lasting year after year is you can’t really go for fun and cute: the fire truck that’s so sweet for the kindergartner is not going to please the fourth grader. If you want to say boo to the fourth grader and go with what’s fun for the kindergartner, I recommend the Crocodile Creek line. We got the dinosaur one, above, for my daughter. (Caution: it’s also too big for her 3-year-old self. I think it would be for a kindergartner or maybe a 4-year-old preschooler.) It also comes in pony, fire truck, dump truck, sunflower, and ladybug versions.
And just for fun: the Love Shine Inc. oil cloth backpack. I don’t have any idea how durable it would be, but I can just picture this for a middle school or high school girl.
The Work It, Mom! site has a slide-show of backpacks, too.
Let’s compare notes: What backpack brands have you tried for your kids, and how have they held up?