You’ve no doubt heard those “stories” about your dad carrying his schoolbooks in an old burlap sack, walking to school uphill both ways — in the snow!
Well, that was then (maybe). This is now (for sure). Because, thanks to things like school buses, snowplows and highly engineered book bags, you’ve got it easy. These days, the hardest part is wading through the endless options. So to help you pick a pack that’ll work best for your needs, we hooked up with Chris Haslam. As a professional skater Haslam travels the world — always armed with his trusty backpack — and he helps his sponsor, Dakine, design its backpacks. Haslam fills us in on what you need to know to make smart backpack buying decisions:
There are several types of daypacks. First, you have the traditional backpack-style pack, which is most popular. Messenger bags and sling bags have many of the same features as traditional daypacks but in an over-the-shoulder design. And, finally, there are roller bags, school packs inspired by wheeled luggage.
COMFORT IS KING
Sure, a cool looking pack is, well, cool — but comfort must be your No. 1 concern. Bottom line: books are heavy. You want a backpack with padded shoulder straps, a padded back panel and maybe even a hip belt and sternum strap, which help you carry heavy loads easier.
“Look for adjustable straps that accommodate bigger or smaller body frames,” Haslam says. “It should fit well on your back and shoulders.”
Try it on. Make sure the bag doesn’t ride up toward your shoulders or sag down in the back. It should sit comfortably in the small of your back.
Take a quick inventory of the things you’ll be carrying on most days. Will everything fit inside the pack? And do you have extra room for gym clothes and things you might carry occasionally, like snow boots or your bicycle helmet? Check the tag, too. The amount of stuff a pack can carry is measured in cubic inches. Be sure to measure the width of your school locker to make sure the bag will fit inside. If you have lots of heavy books and you can’t go to your locker between classes, consider a roller bag. You’ll be able to drag it effortlessly most places (you’ll still have to lift it up and down stairs and onto the bus).
Some guys prefer bags with one big bin-style compartment, while others like plenty of pockets, dividers and holders to keep their stuff organized. Look for handy extras like a cellphone holster, key holder, fleece-lined sunglasses pockets and ports for your headphones.
“A laptop sleeve at the back of the bag is always nice,” Haslam says. “That way you don’t have to search through your bag and figure out what it’s stuck on when you’re trying to pull it out.”
A quality pack should last long past your high school graduation. Look for bags with sturdy reinforced
bottoms and load-bearing seams lined with binding tape. If you live where it rains a lot, get a water-resistant pack. And never underestimate the need for heavy-duty zippers.
“Thick zippers help keep your bag closed when it’s packed really tight,” Haslam says. “And the straps and buckles need to be strong, too, for those days when the bag is full.”
If you plan to use your backpack for more than just hauling your homework back and forth from school, look for a pack designed with other activities in mind. For instance, if you love skateboarding consider a pack with a skate keeper.
“The thing I look for in a skate pack is that they have Velcro board straps,” Haslam says. “They are more secure in holding the board in one place than just the clip straps.”
Need your pack to do double duty on those Scout outings? Look for a hiking-style daypack that has a large capacity (at least 1,500 cubic inches) and perhaps room for a hydration bladder.