Help me not buy an embarrassing backpack for a middle school girl.
August 2, 2015 7:58 AM   Subscribe

What brand backpack should I donate to the local backpack/school supplies drive?

I was assigned to buy a backpack and supplies for a sixth grade girl I know nothing about. We live in a diverse, mainly mid-to-low middle class academic community, but with a percentage of kids who come from financially strapped families. School's out right now, so I can't walk around to see what the backpack styles are if there are any. What are your kids picking out for backpacks? My budget is open.
posted by Elsie to Education (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
There are so many color/pattern options these days and tastes vary so widely. I would have been embarrassed beyond belief to have a tie dye print backpack when I was in 6th grade, but I know plenty of 6th grade girls who would eat that up.

So go neutral with the option for customization.

Either a plain white backpack with a pack of Sharpie fabric pens (these are fantastic) or a plain black or charcoal colored backpack with a pack of metallic sharpies. Maybe even a note like "customize me! :)" in one of the backpack pockets.

I see tween girls with backpacks that they or a friends have decorated all the time and I think that will go over well.
posted by phunniemee at 8:05 AM on August 2, 2015 [22 favorites]


No kids, but I usually see quite a few around here with Eastpak classic backpacks and the online reviews seem to be very positive. They can be a bit pricey, but they're also built to last.

As for appearance, go with phunniemee's idea. Way too many options and tastes these days.
posted by lmfsilva at 8:14 AM on August 2, 2015


Get the highest quality backpack that you can afford in a neutral color (her school's colors for instance). You can then throw in a $10.00 gift card for Claire's or her school store so that she can add her personal style to it.

It is more important to get something sturdy, roomy, and comfortable to wear than to look at fashion. Fashion is cheap. Quality is sometimes unattainable in a poor household. Give her something that she can be proud of for several years.
posted by myselfasme at 8:19 AM on August 2, 2015 [11 favorites]


Get a colour that doesn't show dirt easily...

LL Bean packs are highly recommended in parent circles.

When I did this I knew the first name of the kid and had it monogrammed. I'm not sure if that was a good idea -- one thing that occurred to me after the fact was that it then turns into a thing the parent can't re-sell when the kid outgrows it -- and then there are the paranoiacs who think that is a safety issue -- but if you did get a little slip telling you "Arianna, age 11, grade 6," having Bean embroider an 'A' could be a nice touch.
posted by kmennie at 8:53 AM on August 2, 2015


Something high quality, but not 'flashy', to reduce the risk of it being a target for theft. Seconding a 10$ gift card tucked into a pocket so the girl can get something of her own choosing. For supplies, remember that by 6th grade many girls are carrying feminine supplies to school, so a small, discreet pouch/bag tucked into the backpack may be much appreciated, but easily used for whatever the girl desires if she doesn't need it for that.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 8:55 AM on August 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


I teach fifth grade and my female students tend to stay away from the obviously girlie colors like pink. Most back packs I see are darker shades of blue. Also, I've noticed many of the kids are going with the smaller bags with just nylon rope for shoulder straps. I don't know the specific name or style, but it's just a medium sized nylon bag. If you go with a traditional back pack, stay away from gigantic bags. Kids fill them up with junk and pack that back and forth each day which we all know isn't good for their shoulders and backs.
posted by OkTwigs at 9:13 AM on August 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also Land's End in a neutral color. My last one lasted 7 or 8 years of heavy use.
posted by 8603 at 9:13 AM on August 2, 2015


Basic jansport 2 pocket, though not necessarily in that color, is a popular pack and has been for a long time.
posted by mosschief at 9:32 AM on August 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


If you want to risk going slightly trendy, I've noticed that all the surf/skate shops carry the Herschel brand and I have seen young people around here wearing them and I think they're pretty nice looking with some simple colors and designs. I also second the basic Jansport mentioned above.
posted by vunder at 10:15 AM on August 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


That Jansport is a classic and will last her whole life. They also come with an actually-for-real lifetime guarantee. Get a neutral color like dark blue or black.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:30 AM on August 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Mrs w0mbat's mother is involved with a charity that gives kids backpacks and coats in California. They don't buy red or blue stuff to avoid gang colors that can cause the kid problems.
posted by w0mbat at 12:22 PM on August 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Another vote for basic Jansport.
posted by wym at 12:46 PM on August 2, 2015


Jeoc Jr. is a 12-year-old rising 7th grader. She carries an LL Bean Deluxe Book Pack in purple plaid. I agree with the advice to go with a more neutral color as opposed to a print. The back pack is roomy and really sturdy, and she liked that it had lots of pockets and ways to organize things. I like this one. It is not girly, but it is a little more interesting than a plain navy or black pack. Jeoc Jr. thought pretty much any girl her age would like it. It is also $30 right now, with free shipping, which is a great deal.

My kid has to carry multiple books, a HUGE binder, and a tablet back and forth to school, so a string backpack would not have cut it and would have been very uncomfortable.

The other thing I routinely experience is fulfilling the school supply list published by the school, then attending open house a few days before school starts to learn there's a list of additional/different things needed. I don't know why this happens, but it has happened every single year. Tossing in a gift card to help offset that would be very thoughtful.
posted by jeoc at 1:14 PM on August 2, 2015


I have a middle schooler. She likes her Jansport Big Backpack. I bought her the smaller one but it didn't fit all of her stuff (PE uniform, giant binder, lunch) and this one has a sidepocket for her water.
posted by biscuits at 4:14 PM on August 2, 2015


High Sierra is a not too well known subdivision/brand of Samsonite; low recognition = good pricing; but the high build quality is still there.
posted by buzzman at 8:52 PM on August 3, 2015


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