At first glance, purchasing a backpack seems like a mundane task. Most parents simply pick one off the shelves, or let their children pick their own pack. But if you really consider all this rucksack is going to have to endure in the next ten months, you might want to be more careful as you make this purchase. North Face backpacks have a great reputation for sturdiness, but there is much more to a pack these days than just how well it will hold up to routine wear and tear—though that is, of course, important.
The density and weave of the fabric is going to be vitally important. Think about it; your child is going to be pulling books in and out of that backpack all day. Not just paperback books, hardcover books with some real weight to them. And binders, which can cut through flimsy fabric after only two weeks of use. What good is that backpack going to be when the bottom rips out? You’ll have to rush to the store to buy a new one before school has even really picked up. Test the fabric with your fingers, pull on it a little, feel how thick it is. Even grade school kids now have heavy books and thick binders, so don’t think you can get off with just any old backpack. North Face has a variety styles in plenty of capacities and weights.
Having a stuck zipper is probably the worst thing that can happen to a backpack. Without even a tear, the pack is useless, and it may have homework assignments trapped inside. Study zippers are an absolute must. If you’re buying your backpack in person, test all those zippers a couple of times before you get to attached to the bag. A tricky zipper will be tricky from the start. Even a plastic zipper that seems smooth at first will quickly start giving your child trouble. As far as zippers go, stick with metal ones, especially if you’re buying off of the North Face website. They just hold up better to repeated zips.
Alright, so a stuck zipper might not be the worst thing that happens to a backpack—but getting wet definitely is. As you’re narrowing your choices, make sure they all boast some sort of water resistance. Remember, you’re going to put this in the hand of a six-year-old (the same goes for teenagers). It is going to be dropping in puddles, spilled on, and rained on. Things may get damp, but you don’t want water to collect in the bag, not only bringing mold, but ruining everything else inside. It’s not something that you can generally feel on a backpack’s fabric (though a tightly woven blend is going to be more effective than something cheaply made), but the North Face prides itself on quality backpacks that work in any weather.
While most schools don’t have specific policies for backpacks—unless a private school is especially stringent about their dress code or uniform policy—some schools have very specific rules about what’s appropriate for children to carry their books in, and what’s not. For example, some school have outlawed rolling backpacks, stating that the risk of back injury is overshadowed by the risk of tripping fellow students. If your school does have any special guidelines about what is allowed and what should be avoided, it will probably be included with the school shopping list, or at the very least, highlighted on the school’s webpage.
Most backpacks are labeled not only with their size, but which grade level they are designed for. Preschoolers carry less stuff than grade schoolers, and grade schoolers carry less than high schoolers. It’s a fairly basic formula, but you will need to consider your specific schools. Some school require students to carry more than other schools, whether the curriculum is more intense, or whether they just need the students to have more stuff. Either way, what is rated for a fifth grader may not work for your fifth grader. Use past years as a way to measure what size they might need this year. The importance of having a big enough backpack cannot be emphasized enough. You’d hate to have your kids carrying things in their arms that could have been in the pack, for one thing, those books and assignments are more likely to get lost.
As students become more and more tech-savvy at a progressively younger age, you’re going to want compartments in their backpacks where they can safely store their gear. Lots of North Face backpacks have zipper pouches inside the bag that have headphone ports, making it safer for your kids to carry their iPods and cellphones. Even if your child isn’t quite into electronic devices yet, these pockets could be great places to stow a snack, a toy, or some other valuable.
Lastly, and most importantly, you want a backpack that is going to be comfortable on the kid’s shoulders. The last thing you want is your child to be carrying a painful pack every day until the end of the school year. Look for North Face backpacks with padded straps and air cushioning technology. Both of these advancements help distribute the weight better and make the rucksack easier to carry. Some elite models even have inflatable cushions, which press against the back and help alleviate some of the burden. There are even design elements that may make one backpack more comfortable than another. It all depends on how your child carries the pack. Some like it high on the back, other prefer it low on the hips.
Finding the perfect backpack, one that your child will love and will serve him well for the entire year, can be a little time-consuming, but once you find the right one, both you and your child will be glad you put in the extra effort.
Images courtesy of The North Face