Schoolkids can't leave home without it: a sturdy bag to carry all the essentials. We assessed 32 backpacks for durability, practicality, and comfort to find out which were in for the long haul. Before buying, be sure that the pack fits your child, with the base resting comfortably against his lower back.
Best for High School
Although the Lands' End Multitask ($39.50, 800-800-5800) has a number of pockets, none are overly specialized - good for a high schooler who finds too-structured features impractical. The abrasion-resistant fabric isn't as tear-proof as others. In seven colors.
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Best for Staying Organized
Our teenage testers gave the Calpak Sky Forest Backpack ($75, 310-223-2500) a gold star for its well-thought-out design. School supplies fit in nicely and were easy to locate within pockets, pouches, and nooks just right for texts, binders, and all kids' electronics. In seven colors.
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The extra-strong nylon made this High Sierra Fat Boy Backpack ($30, 800-323-9590) one of the most abuse-proof we tested - it won't easily abrade, tear, or let in water if caught in the rain. The bag holds supplies in three zippered sections. It's also a great deal. In 13 patterns.
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The durable L.L. Bean Apex Pack ($50, 800-809-7057) keeps it simple with one big compartment, a separate zippered section for sneakers or a jacket, and a front pocket for organizing supplies. A cushy back and thick straps make it comfy for carrying. In five colors.
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Least Likely to Break
With many pockets and a large capacity, the L.L. Bean Super Deluxe Book Pack ($50, 800-809-7057) has a spot for all your child's stuff. An extra-tough bottom will stand up to floor-dragging. Padded, curved straps are easy on the shoulders. In eight colors.
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Best for Stashing Small Stuff
One of our testers' faves, this lightweight Eagle Creek Wit backpack ($70, 800-874-1048) got high marks for comfort and for the "secret" pocket in the top rear - ideal for keys, money, or a cell phone. The fabric won't scuff easily, but could tear if snagged. In three colors.
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