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Back to school: How to find the best backpack for your kid

Get back to school ready with backpacks from

Get back to school ready with backpacks from Pottery Barn Kids that come in all sizes. Photo Credit: Pottery Barn Kids

Backpacks have come a long way since most adults were in school, from higher-quality fabrics to spots for phones, tablets and laptops.

When buying a backpack, there are four key things to keep in mind. Allison Spampanato, senior vice president of product development for Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen, walks us through the essentials.

Proper fit

The child’s height plays into this. Pottery Barn Kids has several models of packages depending on height, with pre-K backpacks for kids who are 36-42 inches tall, small for 44-49 inches tall and large for over 48 inches. Kids can get measured in store to make sure they are getting the best fit. From there, “The bag should really fit snugly on the back and not tilt down, and the straps should be tightened for a snug fit so the bag’s not too loose,” Spampanato said.

High quality

For a high-quality bag, Spampanato recommends looking for synthetic fabrics, like a 600D polyester that’s water resistant. Durable zippers, good back padding and, for older kids, chest straps for extra support are also key. “You want to find a bag that’s going to last the school year,” Spampanato said.

Right function

“Bags today have a lot more function built into them,” Spampanato said. “And depending on the age of the child, as they grow older, bags tend to have a bit more function.” For preschoolers, a simple, small bag is fine, while older grades will need more pockets for supplies, devices and water bottles, and clips for their lunchbox or jacket. Students carrying a lot of books may opt for a rolling backpack.

Personal pattern

For kids who have a favorite movie, animal or color, there’s a bag out there for them. “The printed patterns have really evolved over time,” Spampanato said. “That’s where a child can really find a bag that fits their personality.” You can often make it personal with a monogram or name, and coordinate with matching lunchboxes, water bottles and pencil cases.

Leaders of the pack

Investing in a high-quality backpack once kids are settled on a size can be a cost-saver in the long run — especially if it comes with a great warranty. Here are some brands that will keep your backpack functioning long after your kids are in school.

Eastpack: 30-year warranty to replace or repair backpacks for damage such as defective zip pullers, sliders and seams; excludes limited-edition products (2-year warranty).

JanSport:Lifetime warranty to repair or replace damaged backpacks.

Land’s End: Customers can return items at any time, guaranteed, for an exchange or refund of the purchase price.

L.L.Bean: With its 100% satisfaction guarantee, customers can return items at any time.

The North Face: Lifetime warranty to replace or repair products with defects in material and workmanship.

Patagonia: With its “ironclad guarantee,” customers can return a product at any time for a repair, replacement or refund.

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