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Christopher Van Tilburg

Professional Wilderness Expert

Backpacks for Boys

Featured On:

  • NationalGeographic
Backpacks for boys come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. It can be difficult to sort through tons of brands and loads of accessories. Let’s keep it simple.

Choose something burly: durable material, beefy zippers, and big compartment. Consider a dark color — navy, green, brown, or black — as it will get trashed with dirt, grass stains, and whatever goo coats the school cafeteria floor.

A backpack should be large enough for gym gear or overnight clothes, plus schoolbooks and notebooks. For size, choose approximately 1500 cubic inches (25 liters), larger if he totes sports gear. Expect to plunk down around $50-100 for a quality backpack that will last a few years and multitude summer trips to the pool and beach.

Pick the accessories you think he will need:
- Front straps are key to hold a skateboard
- Side pouches are convenient for water, umbrella or wet swim trunks
- A hydration sleeve, which holds a vinyl water bladder, is popular for the trail
- A laptop sleeve is great, as he’ll never remember to put the computer in a case
- A cell phone or music player pocket means less chance the electronics will be crammed under muddy soccer cleats
- Bungee cords and front stuff pouches: love ‘em to strap on that last minute sweatshirt
- Reflective strips are key car safety at dawn and dusk

Best Boys Backpacks by Christopher Van Tilburg

The Best You Can Get

  • The North Face Recon

    Christopher says: From the popular climbing equipment company, The North Face Recon is about quality. It will last well through college. For boys that are both hard on gear, and on the go, this is a superb choice. It’s it functions equally well at school or the trail. It has a side water bottle pocket as well as a large front stuff pouch, which you can jam in a wet towel from the pool or an extra pair of shoes. The main pouch has laptop and hydration sleeve. A small phone/music pocket has a water-resistant zipper in case of drizzle.

    • 2015 cubic inches/33 Liters
    • Outer stuff pouch
    • Bottom panel with compression straps
  • High Sierra Hauler

    Christopher says: High Sierra builds great packs, and a whole slew of them. But here’s something every kids loathes, carrying a ball under their arm when walking or biking to school. The Hauler has a large mesh pouch on the back that fits a basketball, volleyball, or soccer ball. How come no one thought if this sooner? Now he can keep both hands on the handlebars! It includes side water bottle holders, reflective strips, and small pockets for electronics.

    • 2110 cu. in./35 L
    • Carries a ball
  • Lowe Alpine Attack 20 + 5

    Christopher says: This is one of my favorites. It’s small and slim, perfect for taking a laptop, book, snacks, and a jacket on an airplane. But, if you need more room for a change of clothes, the pack expands 300 cubic inches. It has a hydration bladder sleeve and a small zippered pocket for essential electronics. The high tech climbing accessories — ice ax lashes and climbing equipment straps — are removable to make the pack simple and sleek. It even has a waist belt, which can be removed, too. It’s perfect for field trips, day hikes, or bike commuters who don’t need a lot of stuff.

    • 1200 + 300 cu. in./20 + 5 L
    • Small
    • Expandable
  • Jansport Merit

    Christopher says: Boys sometimes need big packs, especially when they carry a weeks worth of gear. Books, football gear, and a change of clothes, this pack will haul it all. The Merit has a big main compartment, two front essentials pockets, and a padded laptop sleeve that fits up to seventeen-inch notebook, a size that many daypacks don’t accommodate. A fully padded back, compression straps, and ergonomic shoulder straps make the big load fit better. It doesn’t have an external water bottle carrier, but sometimes jamming everything inside is better when you toss this bag on the back of the bus headed for a week at summer camp.

    • 2700 cu. in./44 L
    • Ergonomic shoulder straps
    • Large storage
  • Osprey Circuit

    Christopher says: A light pack doesn’t need to be devoid of accessories. The Osprey Circuit is part of the ReSource Series, which use recycled material. It has a padded laptop sleeve, one of the few that hold a seventeen-inch computer, and small electronic and organizer pockets. But it also has side pockets, which zip close, and a stretch woven front pocket hides a towel, after-soccer flaps, or spare sweatshirt.

    • 1900 cu. in./32 L
    • Recycled material
    • Front stuff pouch

You will be happy with any of these

  • Columbia Shield2 Cyber Pack

    Christopher says: Loaded with accessories for school and play, the Shield2 Cyber Pack has a laptop sleeve, two water bottle pouches, and reflective accents. Not often found on smaller packs, compression straps cinch the load, especially important if the pack is heavy but not totally full. And it had a sternum strap to stabilize the load, complete with a whistle integrated to the buckle, vital for alerting slacking motorists or other bikers. This is a great pack for those who bike to school!

    • 1900 cu. in./31 L
    • Laptop and hydration sleeve
    • Whistle for safety
  • Dakine Duel

    Christopher says: This is a do-it-all pack, school and play. They can’t help but be organized with it. Built with Dakine’s signature economy (read, not big bucks), it has an external laptop sleeve, an insulated cooler compartment for lunch, skateboard carry straps, an organizer for pens and a phone, a sunglass and music pocket lined with soft fleece, and an external water bottle pouch. Everything has a place.

    • 1660 cu. in./27 L
    • Laptop sleeve
    • Built-in cooler
  • Dakine Terminal

    Christopher says: One of their larger daypacks, the Terminal is built for campus. It has a padded laptop sleeve to accommodate a fifteen-inch computer. Plus, it has a side organizer, a hidden compartment for a wallet, school supply organizer pocket, and pouches for sunglasses and a water bottle. It’s got everything for school and in a large enough size to hold sports gear or overnight clothes.

    • 2100 cu. in./35 L
    • Laptop sleeve
    • Breathable mesh panel and straps
  • Jandd Mountaineering Tozi Kletter

    Christopher says: Some people like to keep things simple. Simple is easy, inexpensive, timeless. Enter the Jandd Tozi Kletter, one of my all-time favorites. Unlike most daypacks, this is a top loader, one giant pouch with a drawstring and top lid. The lid has a zippered storage for essential gear. Multiple lash patches and side bungee cords allow extra gear to be strapped on. The bottom is reinforced for water and dirt protection. For the size, it’s probably one of the lightest, simplest, least expensive packs around.

    • 2263 cu. in./37 L
    • Simple
    • Top loader
  • Kelty Urchin

    Christopher says: The Urchin from famous backpack maker Kelty is small and light. It’s designed for younger boys who won’t carry heavy books or a laptop. The Urchin suffices for school supplies, a lunch, and a jacket. It’s reinforced, has fun colors, water bottle pockets, and padded straps.

    • 1000 cu. in./16 L
    • Light, slim
    • Top for tots

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