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Kids Backpacks; My Very Strong Opinions on Them


When the back-to-school season rolls around, there is one important item you need to think about buying your little one; a backpack! It can be hard to find the perfect one (and they aren’t always cheap!) so we have narrowed down our favorite kid’s backpacks below.

You will find we have listed out the best toddler backpacks, the best backpacks for kindergarten, and the best backpacks for elementary school and beyond. We are here to help no matter what stage your kiddo is leaping into!

Best Backpack for Every Stage

My Very Strong Opinions About Kids’ Backpacks

I need to let you know that Whitney and I are on opposite sides of this kids backpacks debate. She likes to let her children pick their own backpacks and make them happy. Buying one each year or two is a victory in her family. That’s all well and good, but my vision of success is that my child owns one backpack for the long haul!

I insist on purchasing high-quality backpacks only. Here’s why:

  1. It will last longer.
  2. Many higher-end brands offer a warranty on the life of the backpack meaning you can get it replaced if something goes wrong.
  3. The $30 to $50 you spend on a good strong pack will more than makeup for the annual purchase of a $20 crappy-zipper, break-before-the-year-is-out school bag. Though my cheap gene shudders at paying nearly $60 for a kids backpack, I know it will withstand many years’ worth of aggressive treatment.

Think a sturdy long-lasting backpack sounds too boring? Of course, kids should be kids. Though I might want to borrow my kiddo’s solid color backpack, his buddies shouldn’t know his mama makes him suffer.

If your child still wants to personalize, there are many ways to make a plain pack seem more childlike: like LEGO Star Wars keychains, cute zipper pulls, labels & tags, or all of the above. Add a homemade lanyard and some dog tags and you’re good to go! I have been delighted that this method completely satisfies them.

To each their own, though, below you will find options that fit both sides of this spectrum!

Pottery Barn Backpacks – My Favorite Kids Backpack Brand

pottery barn kids backpacks

Kicking things off with a bold statement; Pottery Barn makes the absolute best backpacks for kids.

They are my go-to options whether I am looking for a small backpack for my preschooler or a backpack that can withstand the load of my teen’s AP courses. For this reason, Pottery Barn gets a section of its own on our list. If Pottery Barn isn’t for you, you can find my other favorite for toddlers, elementary school kids, and teens further below.

Rookie Mom Tip! If you are looking at the price and wondering, “When do Pottery Barn backpacks go on sale?” the answer is often! I recommend checking them out offseason as you can score a great deal. You can also always check the Pottery Barn Backpack Sale section on their website.  


Pottery Barn Kids Backpack Review: For Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Kindergartners

There are a few different Pottery Barn backpack sizes offered for each style. If you are looking for a backpack for your little one to take to daycare, preschool, or kindergarten I highly recommend checking out the Mini or Small-sized PBK backpacks.

I specifically love the Mackenzie Backpack because it is the perfect balance of cute and dependable. Your little one doesn’t need much space at this age and something smaller will be easier for them to carry. Plus, the Mackenzie is durable, made of water-resistant polyester, and has very sturdy zippers (all essentials when being handled by a 5-year-old).

One cool feature is the fact that you can personalize these backpacks with name embroidery. However, it is important to keep in mind there is no Pottery Barn backpack warranty and you cannot return a customized item. 

Here are a few patterns I love:

best kids backpacks

My favorite toddler or kindergarten backpack girl style! PBK’s Mackenzie Mermaid Friends Glow-in-the-Dark Backpack


best backpack for kindergarten

PBK’s Mackenzie Classic Camo Reflective Backpack


best toddler backpack

This has got to be one of the best toddler backpack prints and would be perfect for preschool! PBK’s Mackenzie Disney and Pixar Toy Story Backpack


Shop More Adorable Mackenzie Backpack Patterns!



Rookie Mom Tip! My favorite backpack tip is to fold a trash bag to fit right around the lining making the inside waterproof. This will make the best backpack for kindergarten in snowy places where gear might get a little extra wet!


Pottery Barn Kids Backpack Reviews: For Older Kids & Teens

When it comes to picking out a Pottery Barn backpack for older kids, I definitely lean toward the PB Teen line as they seem more durable and can be styled long past childhood.

I love the Gear-Up style which is made of water-resistant polyester and has ultradurable bound stitching. This backpack makes staying organized easy with plenty of compartments. There are tons of designs and colors available. Best of all, these backpacks are made from recycled plastic water bottles!

Here are some options I love:

kids backpack

PB Teen’s Gear-Up Rainbow Tie Dye Recycled Backpack (if you are looking for a Pottery Barn rolling backpack, this print is available in that style)


kids backpack

PB Teen’s Gear-Up Ombre Recycled Backpack


cool backpacks for teens

PB Teen’s Northfield Green Backpack


Best Toddler and Kindergarten Backpacks

The options below are great for little ones headed to daycare, preschool, or kindergarten. Your little one probably won’t need to take much more than a change of clothes and lunch bag at this point, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a cool big-kid backpack.

Ll bean junior backpack

L.L. Bean Junior Backpack

This backpack is perfectly sized for a little one, but I love that it has a more grown-up look. It is specifically designed for ages 4 and up and is made with high-quality materials that ensure it will be long-lasting.


best toddler backpack

Skiphop Spark Style Little Kid Backpack

Not only is this one of the best toddler backpacks but it is super cute as well! The big pocket is roomy and easy for little ones to access and put things inside. I love that the front pocket can serve as a lunchbox with plenty of room for snacks and there is a water bottle holder.

It is available in 4 prints; rainbow, robot, rocket, and strawberry.


best toddler backpack

Kids’ Colorblock Backpack from Target

Target always comes through, am I right? This little backpack is durable and has easy to adjust straps for growing little ones. Despite being the perfect size for a toddler or kindergartner, this backpack still has plenty of compartments making it easy to keep things organized which I love!


cocomelon backpack

Cocomelon JJ’s Mini Backpack

You can probably guess my feelings on character-themed backpacks, but I can’t deny that there are plenty of kids out there who would be thrilled to have a Cocomelon backpack. If you are a nicer mom than me, then you might just be willing to oblige to the request for a character backpack and this is a great option.


ten little recycled backpack

Ten Little Recycled Backpack 12″

You probably know the brand Ten Little best for their awesome toddler shoes, but this year they have added some back-to-school items to their lineup. Their Recycled Backpack is made just for kids, it’s the perfect size and lightweight.

Plus, your little one can easily customize their backpack with Ten Little’s Jumbo Stickers which are weatherproof and easily removable.


Best Elementary School Backpack Options

best kids backpack

Adidas Unisex Classic Backpack – The Best Options for Your Future Hall of Famer

If your kids are like mine, they are addicted to all things sports. While many sports brands don’t sell quality backpacks, we’ve found that Adidas is consistently great. It is one of my favorite places to shop when looking for cool backpacks for boys!

Kids Backpack Adidas

We love this Adidas Classic 3s Plus Backpack. It has just the right amount of storage and is comfortable to wear. My son has had it for 3 years now and stands by it being the best kid’s school backpack. 

Adidas School Gear

lands end backpack

Lands’ End Kids Classmate Backpacks – One of the Most Durable Backpacks!

We had a Lands End Featherlight for five years before the water bottle mesh started fraying after being dragged along the sidewalk every day. I should’ve kept it because now they’ve discontinued one of my all-time faves! However, Lands’ End accepted it as a return and replaced it for the full value I paid.

Our new favorite is the ClassMates Backpack. It runs around $40-$50 depending on colors, patterns, monograms. We have it and love it dearly (especially that it is machine washable), and I even sprung for the monogram. 

Below are my kiddos with the Lands’ End  Classmate Medium and Classmate Rolling. We really loved both the prints and the durability. I was surprised by how much my daughter enjoyed the rolling option!

Lands End Backpack

Best Backpacks for Teens

backpack for kindergarten

JanSport Packs Review – The Best Selection of Classic Solid Colors 

These popular kids’ backpacks are available on Amazon in different sizes and a gazillion colors. The Classic SuperBreak is good for your grade-schooler, while I’d suggest a Half Pint for a small kids backpack. They both range from about $20 to $40 depending on which color combo you choose.

If you’ve got a big kid and schooling has started to get more serious, I would suggest the Big Student Classic Backpack. It is the perfect size for 5th graders and above and allows for optimal organization.

Rookie Mom Tip! If you have a top-notch Jansport with a broken zipper floating around your house from childhood, you should see if the good folks will fix it for you. Check out the Lifetime Warranty policy they have here.


LL Bean Backpack

LL Bean Backpack – A Lightweight Backpack with Everything You Need

Jump into the world of quality packs from LL Bean. The LL Bean Deluxe Book Pack is one of my favorites and is pretty similar to the JanSport backpacks. It might just be the only backpack you ever need to buy because it has a large capacity but is still nice and lightweight.

Every year there are fresh fabrics to choose from. This year, I’m leaning toward this Vintage Lavendar with grey trim.


rei backpack

REI Workload Backpack

If you are willing to spend the big bucks, the REI Co-Op Workload Pack is a wonderful backpack. Your kiddo will be able to carry it comfortably and it has tons of pockets. It is a great backpack for kindergarten and beyond.

Kids Backpack

I suspect you will get your money’s worth for about $40 to $60 at REI. Holden used his REI backpack for first grade with great success; it easily fit his folder and lunchbox. The only problem was that the whistle fell off (I suspect user error), and this is where I reaffirmed my very strong opinions.

REI attempted to repair this backpack free of charge. When they couldn’t, they offered to return or exchange it. That’s what I’m talking about. Thank you!!


Going rogue with your kid’s backpack? 

Some of you cannot be convinced by my strong opinions. I implore you to test the hell out of the zippers when you choose a backpack and here’s how:

  1. Pretend you’re drunk — or actually get drunk — and zip and unzip until you lose count.
  2. Put your stuff in the bag and then walk around with it half-zipped to see if the zipper gives out the rest of the way or secures your load.
  3. Ask your BFF to wear the bag and then try to climb on his/her back. Claw at the zipper. I’ve been led to believe that’s how backpacks get treated on the playground, especially kindergarten backpacks.

Lunchpail Reviews

I couldn’t leave you hanging with just the best kid’s backpack options. Of course, I had to include some of my favorite lunchbox options. Just like with backpacks, I think it is super important to find long-lasting lunchboxes that really get the job done. 

Eco Friendly Kids Gear

ECOlunchbox

If you are looking for an eco-conscious option ECOlunchboxes are fantastic. My daughter loves her Furoshiki ECOsnacksack Kit, and though this option has been discontinued they have other kid-friendly lunch boxes we adore. The Furoshiki ECOlunchwrap Kit is very similar to what my daughter has, and includes the bamboo spork she raves about. BONUS- you do your part to help protect the planet by reducing waste while saving cash on Ziploc baggies!


Skip Hop Lunch Bags

This year OshKosh B’gosh partnered with SkipHop to create an adorable line of backpacks and coordinating lunch boxes. My 4-year-old was all about matching so we opted for these and are pleased with the quality.

best lunchbox for kids

The added zippered pouch on the front is nice and we like the mesh pouches inside too. Learn more about these over on my Global Munchkins blog. I’ve got some great back to school tips over there as well!


If you are a mama taking your baby to school for the first time, I hope this list has helped you find the best kindergarten backpack that is getting you both excited. If you have gone through backpack after backpack and failed to find one that lasts, this list is for you too! 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best backpacks for kids?

We love Pottery Barn and JanSport backpacks for kids. They both stand up to rough kiddos and last through the school year.

What is the best size backpack for kindergarten?

The typical Kindergarten backpack size is between 10″-17″. The Half Pint by JanSport and also the Mini Mackenzie from Pottery Barn are both great backpacks for kindergarten.

Should I put my child’s name on her backpack?

You don’t necessarily want to put your child’s name on the outside of their backpack for safety reasons. However, writing their name on the inside or on a tag is a good idea to keep it from being lost.

What should I look for in a kids backpack?

My number one requirement when looking for a kids backpack is that it is durable. Water-proof materials, multiple pockets for organization, and sturdy zippers are also great.

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Pin for Later – My Very Strong Opinions About Kids’ Backpacks

kids backpacks for school
best preschool backpack
Best Backpacks Pin

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Note: This post was not sponsored, but some affiliate links appear, for which I may earn a few cents. Mostly, I just thought you ought to know my very strong feelings before you lay out your own hard-earned money. You’re welcome.



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