Whether you need a backpack for camping, hiking, or just carrying school books, there are endless choices available. From no-frills one- or two-pocket zip-ups, to multi-compartment, multi-closure carry-alls, hereís what we found:
Shape & Size
Proper fit is crucial. To determine the correct size, measurefrom your most prominent neck vertebra down to the low point between your hipbones (just above your tailbone).
- 18 inches (44 cm) or less = small
- 18-20 (45-52 cm) inches = medium
- 21 inches (53 cm) and over = large
Shoulder straps should be adjustable for custom fit.
Look for padded straps for added comfort.
The hip belt should fit snugly at hip level, not at yourwaist.
A chest strap provides extra stability and is especially good whenyou're hiking with a heavy load.
- Extra back panel padding will provide addedcomfort when you're lugging heavy books around.
- When choosing a school backpack, consider the student's size, how much space is needed for notebooks, textbooks, lunch kit, etc., and extra featureslike an MP3 or laptop compartment, extra straps for skateboards and helmets, orside pockets for water bottles.
- Remember: when loading a child's backpack, it should be no more than 10% of his or her body weight.
We tested these day packs for typical school usage:
- Obusforme: $35
- Dakine: $62
- North Face: $90
- JanSport: $125
Our tests and results include:
From typical use such as carrying a day'sload of school books, to the extremes of dragging a full pack behind a car andsoaking them in a simulated west coast downpour.
In the drag test, the JanSport came out on top with only a few scuff marks. The rest ofthe packs ripped at the seams and zippers. The Dakine fabric was especiallydelicate.
In the soak test, all packs allowed water inthrough the zippers. The JanSport was the only one thatotherwise kept the body contents dry.
Comfort & Style Test
The NorthFace pack was found to be the mostcomfortable by 75% of testers, who also liked its many differentpockets and versatility.
The Obusformewas surprisingly the least comfortable,given it's a brand name known for back comfort.
The Dakinewas preferred as the most stylish,but its construction, fabric, and lack of hip-belt left much to be desired.
The JanSporthad favourable results, though theextra iPod/cell phone pocket wasn't worth the high price.
OUR TOP PICK
It all came down tocomfort, durability and different sized pockets to keep everything organized. We picked the North Face backpack for its comfort.
If you are looking for something thatwill last and keep your things mostly dry, the JanSport comes a close second ifyou don't mind shelling out the cash.