Back-to-school shopping is so. much. fun. Crisp new paper, pointy new crayons, brand new notebooks. We get giddy just thinking about it. (Just me?)
Then there’s the backpack. If last year’s pack is no longer cutting it or if you’re setting up a Kindergartner for a fresh start, you’ve got one on your list.
This purchase takes a little more thought than the rest. There are so many options and it’s hard to know what we’re buying. Some are $15; some are $150.
It’s tempting to just run to the local office supply store and buy the cheap option with junior’s favorite cartoon character on the front.
Will that stand up to all that will be asked of it throughout the school year, though? Will we find ourselves back at the store before the holidays looking for a replacement when the pickings are slim and our time is super tight? Will this almost certainly “Made in China” option contain toxic materials? Was it made by someone being persecuted in a slave labor camp?
Luckily, that is not the only option. So, what’s the best choice?
First, let’s weed out those backpacks that are being manufactured in China. This includes some JanSport (below are some lines that are not made in China, however), Pottery Barn Kids, Roxy, Hanna Andersson, LeSportSac, MadPax, and Herschel.
Of course, there are more. Finding out the country of origin is not as easy as it once was. This reporter made inquiries to some companies that could not (or at least would not) specifically say where their products are made. Under Armour, The Children’s Place, and The Gap were not forthcoming with this information, for example. And so, we’ll weed them out, too.
The best thing about sifting through products using this criteria, is that you tend to find yourself left with a high-quality, manageable set of options.
Consider these for your child’s next backpack:
At the high end of the price point, is the Duluth Pack. These bags are “Guaranteed for Life & Made in USA.” Ranging from $90 for the Envelope Style to $200 for the Large Standard Daypack-Backpack, these bags feature exquisite details and come in a range of colors.
Beautifully crafted, if these fit your budget, look no further.
Originally a company targeting mountain climbers, Patagonia now offers a wide range of gear including children’s backpacks. Available in a range of sizes and colors, these bags are all made in Vietnam. Patagonia offers an “Ironclad Guarantee,” in which you can return products for any reason or request wear and tear repair for “a reasonable charge.” Their kids’ backpacks range in price from $29.50 to $299.
Another outdoor lifestyle company, Marmot offers two options for kids: the Kids Half Hitch at $39 and the Kids Hitch at $49. Simple in design, these bags are made in Vietnam.
The North Face
A popular brand among kids, The North Face offers three backpack options for little ones. The Happy Camper Backpack at $45, the Recon Squash Backpack at $55, and for very young children, the Sprout Backpack at $35. These bags are made in Vietnam and have a lifetime warranty.
(The * of course, because not all JanSport are not made in China.)
JanSport, a company synonymous with backpack, and one that used to proudly manufacture all its bags in the US, now imports from overseas, but not exclusively from China.
The following are made in Vietnam:
Right PackTM, ranging $40-$65; Wasabi, at $40, available in many patterns,Tulare, at $80, featuring a sleeve for a laptop and one for a tablet, along with water bottle pockets;
and Odyssey, at $100 also offering room for a laptop and a tablet sleeve, among other features for outdoor adventurer.
TOP PICK: L.L.Bean
Offering a wide variety, reasonable prices, superb customer service, and a lifetime guarantee, L.L.Bean is the best of the bunch. Their bags are manufactured in Bangladesh and Vietnam. They range in price from $29.95 to $249 and come in an array of sizes, configurations, and colors. Products are shipped free and super fast.