Back to school

Now that start of classes is around the corner, the search for a comfortable and practical schoolbag is on.

jansport 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
jansport 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
That time has come again: Another school year means another backpack to buy. Children carry schoolbags every day to every class all year long. They're thrown on the ground, used as seats and often treated with little care and attention. Choosing a good one may not be an easy task for a parent. What do you look for? What makes a "quality backpack"? At first glance, every schoolbag may appear strong and long lasting. Only with usage does one get to know the true story. While there is a lot to think about when your child is starting school, the search for the perfect schoolbag is the most important part of our back-to-school shopping experience. For some kids, a backpack is one more item to cart around, keep clean and try not to lose. For others it's a portable bit of personal space - a home away from home. So what kind of backpack does young Tamar or Yair really need? While younger kids are not yet overburdened with homework and don't tote the loads that older kids do, they do require gear that holds the essentials and can stand up to abuse. High-school students need stronger bags that can hold many books and other supplies. We've tested a few variations of school backpacks for first graders and for all ages. One note on eco-friendliness: Good quality backpacks are often made of nylon or polyester, which are fantastic when it comes to cleaning, durability and waterproofing, but are unlikely to do the planet any favors. For those who want their kids to go earth-friendly to school, there are options, such as Columbia and The North Face, which make environmental responsibility part of their corporate strategy. These companies don't make any backpacks specifically for kids, but you might well find one that will suit yours. JanSport This extra-light bag has a simple design with one large zippered compartment and another external pocket. The straps could be wider and the back is a little thin, but its light weight makes it easier for the younger kids to work with. It comes in an array of fun colors and patterns, and is good for boys and girls. NIS 199 at all office supply stores The Kilowatt model from JanSport is sturdy and large enough to tote around all the essentials a kid may need. Both the back and the straps are padded for extra comfort and it would be perfect for high school students who are looking for a comfortable way to carry loads of school gear. Available for NIS 249 at Kravitz, Graphos and Office Depot. Palphot/Kal-Gav, Spiderman This extra-padded orthopedic schoolbag is sure to get lots of attention for its fun design and functionality. It jams all the must-have bells and whistles into one stylish extra-sturdy bag with a main compartment that has ample room for books, and two additional pockets for other essentials. This is a 2-in-1 bag that separates into two different units: a main and a smaller one (with straps) which is excellent for day-trips or after school activities. The Palphot/Kal Gav comes with a nylon rain cover and a water bottle. NIS 249 at Toys'R'Us, Kravitz, Office Depot and office supply stores The North Face, Recon This all-ages pack holds more than any of the others we tried (it even has a laptop slot, if you already have a young computer geek at home). Three outer zipper compartments can absorb all sorts of stuff - probably more than your kid needs at this stage. The straps aren't super-padded, but they distribute weight well. This could be a fine choice for a high-school student, but skip it for the kiddies. NIS 399 at The North Face and camping stores. Outdoor Bright and colorful, this roomy orthopedic backpack has all the pockets and dividers your kids need to stay organized for school. Kids love the extra features like an MP3 player pocket with headphone porthole and removable keychain holder. NIS 199 at Kravitz, Office Depot and Graphos. Spalding Your kid will love this eye-catching model with its large central compartment and two outside pockets with organizer and pen slots. It has good quality straps and a perfect place to stash items you want ready at hand, like a water bottle. The Spalding backpacks come in different colors and patterns. NIS 169 at Gali stores. O'Neil This backpack came up a little short on comfort and shorter on durability. The back has no padding, and the straps don't have much, either. That's not a problem for students who want to stow only a few books, and the light weight might even be an advantage, but add some more supplies and the game changes. Pretty and smart don't always go hand in hand. NIS 189 at Lafayette.