A Complete Backpack Buying Guide

Cool clothes? Check. A surplus of supplies? Check. Fun, yet functional backpack? Working on it. Before purchasing a new backpack, look out for the following criteria: the amount that the backpack can hold, the quality of the zippers/buckles/closures, the finishing detail on the seams, and the safety features (double straps, padded back, and ergonomic design).

Toddler Backpacks

Tiny in size but mighty in design, toddler backpacks are essential for children who attend daycare or introductory school and need to tote around show-and-tell, a healthy snack, or a spare change of clothes. Toddler backpacks also serve as a smart way for your little one to lug around his or her beloved blankie or favorite toy. Commonly constructed of durable polyester, these small school bags don't typically exceed 15-inches in height, so they're the perfect size for your little one to carry. Most toddler backpacks feature a spacious main compartment with one or more inner pockets, in addition to an outer side pocket for holding a cup. Toddler backpacks are manufactured with your little one in mind, often featuring both bright colors and playful patterns. Some mini carryalls resemble zoo animals, while others feature popular characters. For safety purposes some toddler backpacks are constructed with a removable harness at the base of the backpack.

Rolling Backpacks

Rolling backpacks are a smart option for students who have a full load to carry throughout the school day, as they are often made of durable fabrics (like nylon, polyester, and canvas) and feature an extended handle and two small wheels attached to the base of the backpack. Most rolling backpacks also have standard double straps for use in particular areas (near stairs or outside in snowy and icy conditions) that are not suitable for rolling. Available in all sizes to accommodate students of all ages, you'll find sweet options for your toddler/preschooler, stylish designs for your big kid, and practical varieties for your tween. No matter the brand you choose, make sure that your child's rolling backpack rolls smoothly, is not too large for his or her frame, features an easy-to-extend handle, is accessible, and can fit within a designated cubby or locker. Bonus: Rolling backpacks are a great alternative to traditional overnight or weekender luggage when you decide to go on a family vacation.

Big Kids Backpacks

When your little kid (ages three through five) grows into a big kid (ages six through 11), his or her backpack becomes so much more than just a vessel to carry books, school lunch, and sports gear. To combat overweight backpacks, look for one that has the following key features: the correct size (it should never be wider or longer than your child's torso); an ergonomic design; chest or hip straps to transfer some weight off the shoulders; multiple compartments to distribute contents more effectively; wide, padded shoulder straps; and a padded back. Additionally, it's wise to choose a backpack that has reflective paneling for visibility, especially if your big kid will be returning home in the evening from after-school activities. Most big kid backpacks are constructed of synthetic materials (like polyester and nylon) due to their water resistance, but canvas and cotton backpacks are also readily available.

Trendy Backpacks

Your big kid's backpack preference will likely change again when he or she enters adolescence (ages 12 through 18). During this transformative time, your child will continue to develop his or her own personal style, and may change the types of clothing and accessories that he or she wears. Trendy backpacks—the perfect combination of fun and function—are constructed similarly to big kid backpacks, which means your child will be able to show off his or her uniqueness without risk of injury or pain. Available in all shapes, sizes, and colors, there are stylish backpacks that appeal to sporty students and glam students. No longer just high fashion, but also high tech, stylish backpacks have evolved with the times, with most brands featuring special pockets for laptops and smart phones, and some brands even featuring backpack straps with imbedded speakers or buttons to control your devices. As your adolescent nears college-age, he or she may gravitate towards a minimalistic backpack that can grow with him or her. Although messenger and satchel backpacks have gained in popularity, they only feature one strap, which, when carried on one shoulder for an extended period of time, can cause the spine to curve, resulting in back pain. If your tween or teen insists on carrying a single-strap bag, ensure that he or she wears the strap diagonally across his or her body to better distribute the weight.