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Milk and Cookies

with Kristen

I'm a mother of five, a bargain hunter, a recreational comparison shopper, and always trying to make more time - for me and for you, too. On this blog I'm sharing my favorite tools and finds to help make your work-life juggle a bit easier.

You can find my personal blog at

Backpack time!

Categories: School gear


I’m going to lead with my favorite backpack, and in fact you could suspect me of writing this entire post as an excuse to show it to you:

L.L. Bean Jr. Backpack in Blue Woodland Critter (photo from Look at the little owls! The sweet baby deer! I’m so sorry it’s in a junior size and that it’s not available until late September and that none of my kids need backpacks this year anyway.

They do have good prints in the regular-size backpacks, too: here’s a shark one (photo from I would be tempted to get for Henry, if he didn’t already have the next backpack I’m going to show you.

This Crocodile Creek Jouster backpack (photo from went on sale or clearance or something late last fall for $13, and Henry is in a knights phase, so I bought it for him for Christmas. Because the kids’ interests can be fleeting, it’s harder to spend money on a themed backpack—but I really LIKE to, so it’s nice when price and theme are both acceptable. And Crocodile Creek has a lot of good themes: Henry had the stegosaurus one before the knight one, and there’s also a solar system one, a robot one, a pirate one, a ballerina, a fire truck, a race car, princess, horses

What I like to do is buy a basic sturdy solid-color backpack, and then ALSO get a theme one if it goes on a good price, and/or if the child really wants it and I can get it for Christmas or birthday. Then if the theme one isn’t very durable, or if the craze passes, or if the theme one doesn’t go on a good sale until long after school starts, we’re covered. But you know what’s kind of weird? I was looking for an example of such a pack, and we always buy from either L.L. Bean or Lands’ End—and neither place had very many solid-color regular backpacks. L.L. Bean had some solid colors in deluxe, super-deluxe, and junior, and just four colors in regular/original (photo above right from them)—which I had to specifically search for, because they didn’t show up when I just clicked on the “backpacks” category. And Lands’ End has just three non-patterned choices, each a multi-color (photo above left from them). Well, considering how many such backpacks I’ve bought from both places at severely reduced prices ($11.99 sometimes, or last year I got some for under $9 with a percentage-discount coupon), they must not sell very well, and perhaps switching to mostly patterns and themes is a wise choice!

If you are looking for a good-quality backpack but you need a good price and aren’t picky about what it looks like, L.L. Bean has this blue-wave batik one (photo from at $16.99 down from $39.95.


What is your backpack strategy? Do you look for one durable/expensive/basic one to last for years? A less expensive one that can be tossed at the end of the year? A fun theme one to represent that year’s interest?

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12 comments so far...

  • My strategy in K was to purchase a solid color pack from LL Bean. Zack got the red regular size one with a shark on it. Skyler got the purple regular size one with a…butterfly? on it. They are going into 6th and 4th grades and are off traveling with those same packs right now. I did allow Zack to get a messenger bike style solid color pack for middle school. I can see how he didn’t want to have a logo shark on his pack and even though the pack itself is perfectly perfectly fine, we were in the outlet and so I let him. Now he uses the pack for trips and I use it for times when I need one and he’ll use the messenger bag for middle.

    SO - breaking down my strategy: Buy solid color sturdy reliable pack from LL Bean in Kindergarten. Allow change for maturity in Middle. The end.

    Amanda  |  August 8th, 2012 at 12:18 pm

  • Backpacks are FUN and also make good presents, so I think new ones every couple years are OK. My oldest is going into kindergarten this year, and I got him the Critter pack from LLBean. It’s a bit too big, and it wasn’t cheap, but he loves it and I know it will be durable. Before, he had a Thomas themed one that he also loved but is too small to be useful. I will probably get him a new one in 2-4 years, depending on interest and what size he actually needs for school books and such.
    (We also use the Critter lunchboxes for both kids and love them)

    Shari  |  August 8th, 2012 at 1:13 pm

  • My backpack is a large sturdy one that my Dad bought me a couple of years ago. It’s big enough to hold a laptop, a binder and several books, and two knitting projects.

    Cayt  |  August 8th, 2012 at 1:47 pm

  • ACK! We were willing to wait to get the awesome owl one but now it’s sold out. WOE!! Now my kid is distraught. Sigh.

    Shelly  |  August 8th, 2012 at 5:00 pm

  • when I was a kid I got a Bean’s pack every few years as I grew, although I think for PK/K I had a smaller non Beans pack. But by the time I was in late elementary school I got one, and that lasted most of the way thru MS and part of HS, and then I got a new one. The one I have now I’ve had for maybe 7 years? and its still going strong (I also rock my Bean duffels, daypack, and tote!)

    vanessa  |  August 8th, 2012 at 5:07 pm

  • Shelly- Oh DEAR! And it’s sold out in the lunchbox, too! They do have it in the more expensive lunch box still, I see—though maybe not for much longer! And maybe they’ll get a new supply of the backpacks—they repeat some prints from year to year, and apparently that was a pretty popular one!

    swistle  |  August 8th, 2012 at 5:21 pm

  • I had a black L.L. Bean one that took my from my Sophomore year of high school through college. And I actually still have it in my closet in ok shape. I mean it’s obviously seen lots of wear, but it’s still functional as a backpack.

    I always added clips to my zippers and such to express myself anyway and my binders and book covers had my personality all over them.

    So, I’d go with L.L. Bean in a solid color.

    Barbara  |  August 8th, 2012 at 6:33 pm

  • I bought my oldest the LLBean red camo back pack for kindergarten and it is still in great shape heading into 2nd grade. I think we may need to go one size up in the next couple years. I had his name embroidered on it and that was a good call as the red camo backpack is becoming popular.

    Rayne of Terror  |  August 8th, 2012 at 6:36 pm

  • When I was a kid I got a new backpack almost every year. Sometimes I reused, but usually loved getting to pick out something new.

    Andrea  |  August 8th, 2012 at 7:16 pm

  • For official school this year, the grandparents (who are LLBean fanatics - thank goodness) had picked up a backpack from the sale section for the munchkin and then when they were on vacation in Maine got her another one in a print with matching lunchbox so I think we are covered for a couple of years. However, since my duaghter seems to have inherited my purse/backpack/luggage love gene - we also have her original small backpack from her first plane trip, the first backpack for Pre K, the travel backpack from our last vacation, the backpack from summer camp - she does have a variety to choose from if she changes her mind. All of them were bought on sale from either LLBean or PBK.

    Heather  |  August 9th, 2012 at 1:43 pm

  • Well, I used to just buy two cheap ones to last 6 months each, but then you told me your strategy, which works a lot better. I *do* kind of wish for a new shiny backpack every August though. My kids are really hard on their bags, so they don’t really look new.

    Misty  |  August 11th, 2012 at 2:41 pm

  • The ones from Garnet Hill are spendy but last forever. Seriously, forever. Like, way past the point where the kid is tired of it and wants a new one but you can’t justify a new one because there’s not even a loose thread 4 years later, which is where we are now.

    Suzannah  |  August 11th, 2012 at 3:14 pm