I used to buy new backpacks every school year for my kids. I would pay around $20-$40 for them and they would last half the year.
Usually the zipper was first to go or the canvas was so thin, my kids heavy books would wear a hole right through the bottom.
I was getting annoyed at buying more than one back pack a year for my kids.
Then I noticed my husband's Mountain Equipment Co-Op (MEC) back pack that he's had for years and it was still in great condition.
I took my boys to MEC when they started junior high and bought them back packs. My oldest will be starting grade 12 this fall, using his bag for the 6th year. It's in perfect condition.
So let's do the math, I paid about $50 for each back pack. That's an average of $8 a year. Compare that to the $40 - $80 I was spending (per child!) a year, buying cheaper quality backpacks.
The closest MEC store is a good 30 minute drive, but it's well worth our time.
In September, MEC has a great selection of backpacks from preschool to University students.
I was really impressed last year with the quality of the sales staff at MEC as well. It took us less then 20 minutes to find the right bags for our girls.
Here are a couple of tips:
1) Take the kids with you to chose the back pack at the store or online. Let them know, this is your backpack for five years or longer so chose something that you will like, year after year. (Luckily there are no trendy Frozen themed back packs!)
2) Keep in mind that they may need bigger back packs as they get older. I'm prepared to buy one for elementary & one for junior high/high school.
3) If you have more then one child, it's helpful if their bags are different colors.
This prevents a mix up in the morning and makes it easier for me to identify who keeps leaving their bag on the floor and not on a hook!
While it's tempting to buy the cheap $20 back pack at Wal-Mart, save yourself time & money and buy the kids bags only once.
By investing in good quality back packs, once every 5 years, I know their bags will last and I have one less thing to shop for every September.
You can shop in store or online at MEC and all orders over $50 have free shipping. There is a $5 lifetime members fee and you can see their web page to find out what that $5 fee covers.