Best Kids' Backpacks

July 18, 2011

For school-age children, a sturdy, well-designed, comfortable backpack is indispensable. We tested 48 — simulating the wear and tear they might get, loading them with gear to check capacity, and then having kids judge them for comfort and convenience. These made the grade:

Highest Honors

The ballistic polyester of The North Face Hot Shot ($89) survived being dropped and abraded, and proved water-resistant. Smartly designed compartments (such as bungee cord--secured water-bottle pockets) keep gear organized. In five colors. Ages 13-18.

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Pack-It-All Pick

If your teen's stuff won't fit inside the L.L.Bean Turbo Transit ($70), it's time for some serious decluttering. Two huge sections, plus front stretch cord and pockets, plus bottom space for sneakers give everything a place. In seven colors. Ages 13-18.

Simple Schlepper

The budget-friendly High Sierra Loop ($35) doesn't scrimp on amenities; it has three large sections and several specialized features (like a hook for cleats). Lean back padding may make long hauls less comfy. In 11 colors and patterns. Ages 13-18.

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Head of the Class

Freshman bag-maker Fül's Heart Breaker ($40) took the top spot among backpacks for younger kids. Its luggage-grade ballistic polyester won't easily tear or wear out, and its curved straps are well padded for comfort. In four colors. Ages 8-12.

Tidy Toter

For an organized kid (or one who needs help), Pottery Barn Kids' Large Mackenzie ($45.50) has spots for books, electronics, and more. The 600-denier polyester handled abrasion, water, and being dropped, but could tear. In 19 patterns. Ages 8-12.

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Basic Value

Another excellent entry, Fül Superstition ($30), uses the same tough fabric as the Heart Breaker in a simpler sack (just one large compartment and one smaller pouch). Still, it handily stowed our 10 pounds of gear. In 10 colors and patterns. Ages 8-12.

What do you look for when you’re picking out new backpacks for your kids? Tell us in the comments.

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Reprinted with Permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.

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