Best of Back-to-School Gear {Top 10}

Since our kids don’t start school till next week, I’m still doing last minute BTS shopping.  I thought it might be fun to put together a list of my favorite Back-to-School gear for kids and parents alike.

1. Best Back Packs: Lands End

As far as I’m concerned, these are the only backpacks to buy.  I’ve had others, but they just don’t hold up.  I can get two years out of a Lands End backpack, and my kids are HARD on backpacks.  They come in different sizes for kids of different ages, and they’re made like tanks.

Right now many are discounted up to 50% off, so if you haven’t gotten your kids’ backpacks yet, you’re in luck!  See, sometimes procrastination pays off.

2. Best Lunch Boxes for Little Kids: Crocodile Creek

These are stinkin’ adorable, especially for the preschool set.  They are made well and easy to clean, and they are PVC, phthalate, and lead FREE.

3. Best Lunchboxes for Big Kids: Lands End

For the older set, I go back to my old standby, Lands End.  They have several different designs and tons of cute color combinations.  This year each of my older kids got to pick out a new backpack and matching lunchbox from Lands End.  I found a coupon code online, and they were surprisingly affordable.

4. Best Water Bottles: Sigg

Each member of our family has one of these.  We take them with us when we’re going to be out and about for the day, and of course when we go hiking. The kids take them to school with water in them every day.  They come in different sizes, which is nice.  The kids have smaller ones, of course.

I particularly like that type of bottle cap.  It’s easy to screw on and off, it’s easy to drink from the small opening, they never leak, and there’s only one simple piece to keep track of.  (And they sell replacement tops if you lose them.)  The interior lining is leach-proof and BPA-free.

Crocodile Creek makes a cute one too, especially for the younger set.  I just don’t like those lids quite as much as the Sigg; I think they are more likely to leak.  Still, my youngest daughter has one of these.  The are free of lead, BPA, and phthalates; and quite affordable at about $8 on Amazon.

5. Best Footwear: OLLY Shoes

OLLY has the best selection of quality shoes for kids I have ever seen in one place — from KEEN to Merrell to Converse to Geox.  If you have one nearby, it’s definitely worth stopping in; but if not, their online store just opened for business.  Lucky you!

6. Best Labels: Mabel’s Labels

Remember when we were little, and our moms had to sew labels into our coats and stuff?  Well, Mabel’s Labels, besides being the cutest name ever, makes fantastic labels in every size shape and kind — new sewing required.

Their water-proof sticky labels are great for labeling water bottles, calculators, cameras, and anything else with a hard surface.  Bag tags are great for labeling backpacks and lunchboxes.  Shoe Labels go inside the shoes so there’s no confusion over whose are whose when the party’s over.  (Am I the only one who had to look that up to make sure I had the right whose?)

Not sure what to get?  They have this fabulous Back To School Combo Pack to make choosing simple.

7. Best Pencils: Newspaper Pencils

Okay, I haven’t actually used these pencils, so I can’t really say they’re the best.  But I love the concept.  These pencils are made from rolled up newspapers.  They promise that no toxic chemicals are used, and they provide jobs for people in developing countries.

Have you tried them?  What do you think?

8. For Fun: PakNaks

PakNaks are fun soft rubbery 3-D decorations for kids (and adults too!) to personalize all of their stuff.  I love PakNaks.  They are adorable, and a great way to jazz up that plain Lands End backpack.  PakNaks also make great party favors or a little extra something to slip into birthday gifts.  For 20% off, enter PAK20 at checkout.

9. Best Family Organizer: Cas Company FridgeFile

I discovered this through a post on organizing your Command Center at I’m An Organizing Junkie.  I ordered it a while back, and I can’t wait to put it to use when school starts next week.  I’m hoping it will help me keep track of all that paperwork that comes home with the kids throughout the school year.

UPDATE:  It is out of stock at Laura’s store, but you can find it on Amazon as well.

10. Best Desktop Organizer: momAgenda

Hey, moms need BTS gear too!  Check out this mom Agenda Home Office Edition.  It sounds the same as the Desktop version I’m used to, with their signature layout with space for mom and up to 4 kids; but the Home Office Edition also gives you monthly and weekly views with monthly tabs, note pages and 2 folders for loose papers.  The academic calendar runs from August 2010 through August 2011.

Or check out this Back To School Survival Kit that includes a momAgenda Desktop Day Planner, momAgenda Grocery List Pad, and momAgenda Sticky Notes.  Plus if you “like” their Facebook page, you can get free shipping and free momAgenda Pockets.

What would you add to my list?

Join the Conversation

20 thoughts on “Best of Back-to-School Gear {Top 10}

  1. I’ve got to say-although I’m a fan of Lands End for quality items-I prefer an LL Bean backpack. Talk about made like iron-My daughter still has the backpack I bought her in 1st grade-and she’s starting 4th this year. It still looks new-and we are HARD on things. Actually she would rather it DID break-she’s tired of the pattern! I promised her we’d buy her a new backpack when she hits middle school

  2. Another thing about L.L Bean is that they will replace any item, ANY time for ANY reason! My Mother-in-Law just sent back a backpack she had been using for 14 years just because she wanted a new one (it was a little worn but not much) and they sent her the same kind just a new one…no questions asked! It is an amazing policy and shows you just how much they care about the quality of their products! You should really check it out…I believe the policy is even in effect on Outlet items too so you could save money on the original and then never have to buy a new backpack again!

  3. Two of the backpacks and two of the lunch boxes you featured are exactly what I bought my kids!! Our minds must be in sync!

  4. We love Lands End backpacks and lunchboxes, too, although my daughter got an LL Bean for preschool. I like the mom agenda products, too.

  5. The Land’s End backpacks saved me last year! Boo’s took such a beating that we had to get one mid-year and it was perfect! I love it, and they have such a range to choose from.

  6. LOVE the FridgeFile so much, thanks for featuring it and linking to my shop. Unfortunately it’s out of stock right now due to it’s popularity but we are working hard to get more in as soon as possible.

    Happy Back to School!!!


  7. Crayola crayons are a must! Don’t bother buying one of the other brands, they’re a waste of money. (and they don’t smell as good, either!)

  8. Thanks for this! I especially love that organizer thingie to hang on the fridge. Paper clutter always takes over my house around school time (my husband and I are both teachers and little man brings home art projects everyday from preschool). I was also trying to decide what backpack to buy for my son. He is starting pre-K and they need a backpack big enough to hold folders for his “journal writings”. I was going to just pick up a cheap one but maybe now I will invest in a lands end one (especially at 50% off) and hopefully it will last him into elementary school. Another lunch box I have had my eye on for a while is the lap top lunch system (laptoplunches.com) it comes with all of its own containers and compartments.
    Anywho I think this enough commenting for now! Good luck with back to school!

  9. That fridge organizer looks like sheer brilliance. What a great find. And thanks for the Lands End tip, I had missed their big kid lunch bags and my boys are totally outgrowing their character bags (both in maturity and the amount of food the need.)

  10. I’m allllllllllll about the Adidas backpacks. They hold up 2 years and going. Zippers on those things rock.

  11. I love it when other people do the shopping for me. 😉 Also love the Crocodile Creek water bottles we have and I’m excited about that Fridgefile!

  12. Our Crocodile Creek lunchboxes were in excellent shape at the end of a year of preschool use. I liked them so much better than the character lunchboxes my kids chose for themselves this year — better zipper, more logical space somehow, sturdier, handy mesh pocket on the back. Yes, the Crocodile Creek water bottles leak. They’re fine for home and around town but can’t go off to school, I’ve learned. I’m on the verge of buying the Sigg.

  13. I love these top ten style posts. I may have to join OhAmanda’s carnival one of these Tuesdays…I’m just usually so preoccupied w/ my Tuesday Tours column. 🙂

  14. We are big Lands’ End and LL Bean backpack fans. Both companies stand behind their products no questions asked. I find Lands’ End styles are more ergonomic than LL Bean.
    My fave water bottles are Camelbak, love the no leak bite valve style (great for when you are driving, no bottle all up in your face!). At school we must have spill proof water bottles, so these are great.
    For shoes we are again Lands’ End (and LL Bean) fans. Love their Trekker shoes. The bungee cords make for easy on & off plus no worries about untied shoes.

  15. Love this post!

    I know everyone is crazy about Mabel’s Labels but I reviewed Oliver’s Labels and really love them. They are the only online labels I know of with a secure lost and found coding system printed on your labels. Pretty cool!

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