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Best 10 Back to School Backpacks and Daypacks

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Updated August 08, 2014

Carrying your essentials throughout the school day or work day requires a well-designed pack, just as you would want for a day hike. Don't settle for thin, uncomfortable straps. You want straps that are padded and designed to distribute the load weight properly. For walking in the low light of morning and afternoons, you want reflective trim for safety.

1. The North Face Yavapai Backpack

North Face Yavapai Backpack
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The Yavapai is a great school pack with technical backpack features. Carry the load right with well-designed shoulder straps, sternum strap and hip strap. The back is ventilated for comfort. Organize your stuff in its pockets. Carry along drinks in the mesh pockets. Reflective stripe for safety. Compression straps to keep the load tidy.

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2. Timbuk2 Swig

Timbuk2 Swig Backpack
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The Swig comes in a variety of colors and fabrics. It has messenger bag styling for a backpack. The waterproof cover folds down over your load -- and you can use that to secure a jacket that doesn't fit into the compartment. The laptop sleeve is well-padded and doesn't let the laptop rest at the bottom of the bag -- so if you bump the bottom of the bag you aren't directly knocking the laptop. Even better, there is a side-entry zipper to the laptop compartment so you can swing the bag off one shoulder and access it. The Swig also comes in a Litebrite version with a reflective stripe and even more waterproof fabric all around.
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3. Gregory Sketch 15 Pack

Gregory Sketch 15 Pack
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This minimalist pack has a sleek design and comes in four colors. You can choose the smaller 15 or the larger 18 version. The shoulder straps are wide, and it has removable sternum and hip straps, so you can customize it as you wish. You can stow a tablet or a hydration pack in the interior pocket of either, and the 18 bag is big enough for a 15-inch laptop. You will have quick access to your phone or other small essentials in the external side pocket of either, and the 18 version has three external pockets.
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4. Banjo Brothers Commuter Backpack - Waterproof

Banjo Brothers Commuter Backpack
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What about those of us who commute to work or school in rainy climates, toting a bunch of papers and electronics? Banjo Brothers makes bike commuter gear that is waterproof. Walkers will also like the backpack designs with wide, padded shoulder straps, plus chest strap and hip straps to use for extra stability if you want. If you are a walkie-talkie, there is a cell phone holder on the shoulder strap. The two-layer waterproof design starts with a tough ballistic nylon outer layer and a replaceable waterproof inner layer. It's built to carry laptops, with a smaller and larger size available. For safety, it has wide reflective strips and a clip for a safety light.
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5. JanSport Big Student Pack

JanSport Big Student Pack
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This pack is designed to fit textbooks and notebooks.  It comes in solid colors or fun patterns such as plaid. It has a padded back and padded, curved shoulder straps. There is a side pocket for a water bottle.

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6. High Sierra Access Backpack

High Sierra Access Backpack
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Our Mobile Office Technology Guide also likes this laptop-friendly backpack for the college and commuter set. The padded computer sleeve holds laptops up to 17", with access from the back so you can get it out fast. This also makes it checkpoint-friendly if you have to go through security at school, work, or airport. The multi-compartment design lets you organize things the way that works best. It has side compression straps to reduce the girth of the bag. There is a side water-bottle holder and a hidden water-resistant hood for rainy climates. Best of all, it has padded ergonomic shoulder straps (a 17" laptop can be heavy!) and a tuck-away waistbelt. It comes in a variety of colors suitable for men and women.
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7. JanSport Wasabi

JanSport Wasabi Backpack - lg
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S-curved shoulder straps for comfort. Has one main compartment and a half-size compartment with organizer and a front stash pocket. V-Loft pocket with headphone port. Side mesh water bottle pocket Full padded back.
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8. Osprey Jet Daypack - Kids'

Osprey Jet Kid's Backpack
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This pack can take kids age 5-10 from school to after-school activities. It has organizer pockets inside. On the outside it has mesh pockets for a water bottle. The straps are padded and made to ventilate well.

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9. Beatrix New York Kid's Backpacks

Beatrix New York Big Kid Backpack
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Our Kids' Fashion Guide says celebrity kids were seen sporting these fun designs. The backpacks feature fun creatures and come in sizes for preschoolers (age 2-5) and bigger kids (age 5-10). The Big Kid design has a roomy compartment with an interior zip pocket. There is an outside front pocket and two side pockets. The company focuses on toxin-free and lead-free materials. The bags are machine-washable on delicate.

10. Targus Sport Backpack Notebook Case

Targus Sport Notebook Pack
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Carry your notebook computer with this backpack. It has a padded computer compartment to protect your notebook, multiple compartments for your files and accessories, and padded shoulder straps for superior comfort.
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User Opinions: Backpacks and Day Packs

Have you got an opinion on backpacks for walking or for school? Come discuss day packs, and see what other walkers have to say about packs.

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