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School Backpack Buying Guide

Backpacks are essential for school aged children, from preschoolers to college students. Over the years backpacks will store everything from art projects to textbooks, so they need to be sturdy and have enough compartments for your child's needs. In this guide we take a look at backpack features and types.

Common Backpack Types

Your child will have many backpacks over the course of his or her schooling. We break down the four main types of backpacks, and offer suggestions for which type works best for each age group.


  • The standard backpack has two straps.
  • The two straps help evenly distribute the weight of the load in the backpack.
  • Since it's the best option for your kid's back, (if properly worn), a standard backpack is ideal for students of all ages.



  • Rolling backpacks are much like rolling luggage, except they can also be worn on the back.
  • The handle lifts up and allows the backpack to be pulled on wheels.
  • If small children are carrying large amounts of weight on their backs, a rolling backpack may be an ideal choice until they grow a bit.


Sling or One-Shoulder

  • Sling backpacks are worn on one shoulder with the strap crossing diagonally over the front of the body.
  • They don't evenly distribute weight as well as backpacks with two straps.
  • Sling backpacks aren't recommended for young children.


Messenger Bags

  • Messenger bags are worn much like sling backpacks, except the pack rests on the side of the body, not the back.
  • Oftentimes college students prefer messenger bags, as the bags can transition with them into the working world.

Common Backpack Features

Backpacks have come a long way from the standard two-pocket models; they now feature clever compartments for organization and storage. Special compartments will keep lunches from getting squashed and electronics from being scratched. We look at common features and explain why they're important.

Water Bottle Holder

  • A designated holder will help prevent leaks and keep water bottles from getting squashed inside the backpack.
  • This section is generally located on the side of the backpack, so that kids can grab the water bottle for a drink while wearing the backpack.


Laptop Compartment

  • A laptop compartment is especially important for college students who will be transporting their computers to and from class.
  • Often this section contains extra padding to protect the laptop.


MP3 Compartment

  • This feature protects MP3 players and can help keep cords from tangling.
  • Young children won't need this, but for some older students it's a must-have feature.

Water Resistant

  • It's inevitable that kids will get caught in the rain. Water resistant fabric will help keep the backpack's contents nice and dry. 

Padded Straps

  • For added comfort when carrying heavy backpacks, padded straps are ideal. 

Metal Zippers

  • Zippers get a lot of wear and tear, so to prolong the life of your kid's backpack, look for metal zippers. They break less frequently than plastic zippers, so the backpack won't need to be replaced as often. 

Waist and Chest Straps

  • If you know your child will be carrying heavy books, a backpack with waist and chest straps will help distribute the weight evenly, causing less back strain.
For proper weight distribution, the bottom of the backpack should line up with the curve of the lower back and rest no more than 4 inches below the waistline.

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