Are Expensive School Backpacks Worth The Money?

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Most of us have heard people recommend buying expensive school backpacks to save on school supplies because they claim the backpacks last longer and have a lifetime guarantee, but are expensive backpacks really worth the price?

Are Expensive School Backpacks Worth The Money?

Are Expensive School Backpacks Worth The Money?

Every year when we start running our Back to School Savings articles I get a lot of readers who say how great it is that if you buy a Land’s End backpack it is guaranteed for life.

They tell how their kids got the backpack in kindergarten and used it until college. I have to say I was IMPRESSED so when Elly found a rolling one at a garage sale for $3 we grabbed it up.

lands end backpack

After using it for 2 months the zipper broke so I decided to take them up on their offer and get an exchange. I almost passed out when I found out it was going to cost me $13 to ship it back!  Normally I would have just trashed the broken school backpack and moved on, but she just LOVED this backpack so I went ahead and sent it in against every frugal bone in my screaming body.

Partly, I sent it in just to show the kids that you should take companies up on the guarantees and she was so excited about the backpack that I couldn’t break her heart on this one.

kids love school backpacks
Jack loves big sister’s backpack, too!

I have to say I was very impressed that in 10 days Land’s End sent her a new backpack. But…(you knew it was coming) I would say this was far from a good deal since I can easily get a nice backpack for $16 or less at Walmart this time of year.

Having said that, if you buy their backpacks in the store you can return them to the store and get an exchange without paying the shipping but you do have to hang on to a receipt.

Still, is it worth $60 for a backpack? In my opinion, no, it’s not. I see school backpacks in good condition at the thrift store all the time for .99-$2.98. I could make it through their entire 12 years of school for less than the shipping cost to send one back even if I had to buy a new one every year.

While I am very impressed with Land’s End customer service and I LOVE their clothes (although I won’t be buying any of those because they don’t hold either!), I still wouldn’t pay $60 for a backpack.



Update:  Here is my response to all the people who said that it’s worth it pay more for a backpack. This post was originally written in 2010 and I have to say, even 5 years later, the expensive backpacks are NOT worth it!!! I’ve found a few school backpacks at thrift stores and they still have still held up better than the one from Land’s End. After I wrote this story, the replacement Land’s End backpack broke again (about 3 months later).  So we will not be buying expensive backpacks anymore. We will continue to buy our school backpacks at thrift stores, garage sales or simply buy cheap backpacks from Walmart. 



  1. says

    Tawra is right. You really need to follow all the way through with the money trail on these things and check it out carefully. I was watching a thing on TV the other night and it said you get this item for $10 but they would send you a second free you only pay for shipping and handling. I was curious what the shipping and handling would be and it was over $12. So you get this:

    $10 item
    $12 it’s S&H
    free item
    $12 it’s S&H
    Total = $34
    for what looked like a $10 item

    I don’t know how many things have a money back guarantee butit can cost almost as much as the original item to ship it not including the time packaging it up so be careful.

    • Mary says

      If you wait a few weeks, you can get that same item at the store for $10 in their “As seen on TV” section. Even if you bought two of the item, you would be saving $14. LOL.

  2. Tina B says

    I highly recommend the L.L. Bean backpacks. First of all, theirs are less expensive than Lands End. Theirs are equivalent in quality, if not better. They guarantee theirs, no questions asked, just like Lands End. Plus, if you have the L.L. Bean VISA card, shipping is free, both to you and to return an item.

    All 5 of my children have L.L. Bean backpacks. I got tired of spending $10 for a backpack that would last a year, possibly for two, then wore out beyond use. The L.L. Bean Deluxe backpack is a wonderful item, holding all that my kids need in junior high and beyond. They retail for $39.00, but are marked down 20% right now.

    I needed to get one for my daughter, who is entering 7th grade this fall. She has one of their smaller models that I bought for her in 1st grade and it wasn’t going to hold all of the books for homework from her 7 classes a day. (It still looks like NEW after 6 years of use!!) Their Deluxe backpacks were marked down to $31.95. I have an L.L. Bean VISA card, the use of which earns me “Bean Bucks” which are essentially free money to be used only at L.L. Bean. I had enough “Bean Bucks” to take the price of her backpack down to $1.95! It shipped for free, and I had it monogrammed with her initials for free as well. I think that was a very frugal purchase.

    • frank says

      I sent an LL Bean backpack in for replacement. Their fulfillment company required me to cut the logo with at least a 4 inch patch from my pack with broken zippers. I had the original tag, so they knew exactly which style i needed. The “replacement” they sent was smaller and was a brand I had never heard of. Not such a great guarantee.

  3. Alicia Webster says

    Your Elly is such a lovely girl. I hope that she enjoys her new backpack. My oldest child (Samantha, age 4 3/4) starts school for the first time next month. My kids have never been in preschool or had a babysitter, so I am very uptight about the whole thing. I’ll try to remember how much I enjoyed school–

    I would not pay anything more than $20 on a backpack (and hopefully less than that), so Land’s End will have to do without my business on that particular item.

  4. Heather says

    I had a LL Bean bag that I loved that lasted through college and grad school. Even with those heavy books! We snagged one of the Staples free after rebate backpacks last week.

  5. Mandy Berry says

    We have an outlet near us that sells Jan Sport backpacks. They are also garenteed for life and you can take them to any store that sells them. I got my son’s backpack for $15 at a back to school sale. If it ever breaks he will be able to get a new one for free.

  6. says

    I am not going to argue about whether Land’s end backpack is worth it. The fact is, the cheap backpacks often break and they are bought more often than a quality one would be. That said, we still buy the cheap ones anyhow since we have six kids!

    Also, my kids bring home massive amounts of heavy books and backpacks are pretty much expected, so that papers and things get home safely even if there were by some chance no books involved.

  7. says

    Wow, I just re-read your article and I am super impressed by their commitment to their product by replacing your yard sale find with a new backpack. YAY! Who knows how long it had been used previously. I love hearing stuff like this about companies, there are certainly enough bad customer service stories like that. I tell ya if I find one at a yard sale I am grabbing it!! hehe

  8. Erin Howard says

    I would like to say that I agree with you, but Land’s End backpacks really are the greatest and you can get them for a steal at the end of the season. Four years ago, the shoddy backpack my daughter BEGGED for from Wal-Mart was ripping by the third week of school. By then, most stores had moved out their school supplies and were stocking Halloween and holiday items. I couldn’t find a backpack anywhere! One day, I was in Sears (which has a Land’s End department) and found a wall filled with closeout backpacks, lunch boxes, etc. – all by Land’s End. I got her a really nice new Land’s End backpack for $10! Best of all is that she is in high school now and still using it … and it looks GREAT! They are definitely fantastic backpacks, but you don’t have to pay $60 for them.

  9. Kim says

    I would also recommend the L.L. Bean, my kids have them and for some reason my younger ones smaller bag the top handle keeps coming loose but my son has the larger model recomended for middle school to high and no prob! All we do is send my daughters back and get it replaced. They are very well made other than the top handle, on the smaller one! I believe hers was around 30! I spend that much in crappy cartoon character ones at walmart or kmart! So spending it once instead of every year is great!

  10. Maggie says

    When my daughter went to Jr. High, she wanted a Jansport backpack which I was reluctant to buy because it cost $30 but I had heard such good things about them, I went ahead and purchased it. She used it all the way through college and we sent it back twice for a zipper repair. Once they replaced the bag and once they fixed the zipper. I was able to ship it back for about $5 each time. The thing I loved was that the company sent my daughter postcards from the backpack stating its progress in the repair process. She really enjoyed them.
    When my son went to middle school, he wanted a Jansport, too and I got one for him. He has been out of college for 7 years and I am still using that backpack. It was repaired once (a hole in the bottom corner) but it still is waterproof and going strong.
    I would invest in another for my grandson if the warranty is still the same. Sorry this is so long, but I have been very happy with this company.

  11. Lucy says

    We wnt through at least two cheap backpack per year for my son for several years. For us, living a ways out from town, the gas, time, hassle, and sometimes cancelled business commitments to get to the only store that had backpacks was a major factor. Thankfully he got a hand-me-down LL Bean backpack that lasted him 8 years, after doing 14 yearswith his cousins, and he still uses it for weekend trips!

  12. Sheri says

    I worked for Eagle Creek for a very short time in 1979. I bought a backpack there in the clearance department and my husband also bought one. My husband is tough on things. He used his for 20 years before it needed repair. These things are tough! I believe Eagle Creek originally made their backpacks for backpacking. Imagine that! They were one of the first to make the full sized backpacks with the internal frames. Below is their life time warranty information. They have more than backpacks.

  13. Lori Aldrich says

    Eastpack and Jansport have no cost, lifetime guarantees on their backpacks. I had an Eastpack from high school until our oldest lost it her senior year. We had it repaired two times, with no shipping charges. We also had one repaired that we bought at a thrift store from Jansport. You just take the bag to a retailer that carries that brand and they ship it for you to their distributor. You only have to pick it back up when it comes in.

  14. Addie says

    First, regarding price…I’m not sure where everyone else is shopping, but I have never found a backpack
    For less than $15. And yes, while a thrift store may me a good option for that less-than-$5 price point,
    I have yet to find one in good condition that doesn’t have the last owners name sharpied in every nook
    and cranny. Would you want to carry a purse around that had someone elses name written all over it? I
    doubt it.
    Something else to consider…while this article/suggestion works great in theory for an elementary kid, you get to middle school and its a whole new ballgame. Many middle schools no longer have lockers (none in our district, or at the MS my oldest daughter attends in another state), but students still have to use large books, haul them home, and use them as “walking lockers” IN school, siince they still change classes, yet only have 12x12x12 cubbies in homeroom, as if its daycare. A $10 backpack will NEVER hold up to that kind of use, and one without rollers is just setting your child up for life-long back problems.
    So a $60 backpack that carries a lifetime warranty? Absolutely! While is always smart to be frugal, its smarter to do the math of “cost per use”. I can spend $10 on a walmart back pack, but if I have to replace it every 3 months, I’ll have spent $90 over the course of middle school, versus $60 for something that will last 6+ years.
    Some things are worth the xtra money!

    • Linda Busby says

      the catch with Walmart backpacks is even with a receipt U can only return it with in 90 days of purchase… Cheap backpacks are ok for emergency ‘bug out’ bags…
      For travel I would rather purchase LL Bean…

  15. Rute says

    I live in Chile.. and I just looovvveeee reading what you write in Living on a Dime.. I will recommend it to my mom.. she lives in Brazil!!! I just love it! Thankkksss

  16. grizzly bear mom says

    In 1985 I bought two $5 backpacks from a merchant in Korea. The gray one died about 7 years ago and was burried with honors in the backyard. Of course the camoflougue one survived his brother, and I use it daily as a 53 year old exectutive. In it I carry my wallet, book, phone and snack on my two long commute on the train and subway. (My mom objected. She said that I was a director and it was not appropriate to carry a camo backpack as a director when I had 3 briefcases in the closet) However, backpacks are essential when one has to grab bars to get on and off trains or hang from straps on the subway. Mine has a luggage tag with my name, phone and office address so it can be returned from where I vacation without thieves knowing where I live. The luggage tag can be updated if I hand it down to my little brother! It’s still my favorite backpack for travel. That’s 38 cents a year for backpacks that are still going strong!

  17. Amelia Thompson says

    Okay one comment to add here. If most kids are like I was in school (and I was in no way spoiled), they are going to want a new backpack for style reasons after at least a few years, so the whole “use the same backpack through all of your school years” is kind of out there to me. That being the case, I’m all about thrift stores or worst case scenario places like Ross that sell some really nice/cute backpacks these days for much less than most retail stores. And purses. I feel the same way about purses. Who cares if it’s not the best of the best!? I’ll use it until it breaks and then I’ll buy another inexpensive one that I like. I can’t commit to one purse for a lifetime b/c I spent $100 on it. Lol!

    • says

      So true Amelia. I have thought that not only about backpacks and purses but also things like carpets,linens or couches and many other things. They say buy the more expensive carpet because it will last 25 yrs. or a lifetime and I think with colors and styles changing every 5 to 10 yrs. why would I want to spent extra on a carpet that I will either be sick of or it will be out dated after a few years. I would rather buy nice inexpensive something and be able to change out when I want to and not feel guilty about when I do.

  18. Erica says

    When I was in school the first few years I used a canvas tote bag. Enough for the small amount of supplies I needed. I had a handful of backpacks, usually Jansport purchased on sale/clearance in plain colors that I’d jazz up with pins or patches (or keychains!) to customize them. I think my mom spent less than $60 total on all of my backpacks over my entire childhood. I think by going for a mid-range brand like Jansport, getting it on sale and going plain allowed them to last longer.

  19. Jean says

    My step daughter was one who carried everything in her backpack instead of using her locker. All her books for all her classes, her notebook and her flute, as well as anything else she might need for the day/weekend. I don’t know how she lifted it. Her dad & I refused to even try.

    I bought her school supplies, including a new backpack every year. Of course, by March, it was ruined. Ever try buying a backpack in March? I stumbled into an Eddie Bauer store and found them. They told me they were guaranteed for life. I told them they didn’t know what she put in her backpack, but they assured me they were guaranteed. This was her sophomore year. That backpack lasted her the rest of high school and her early adult years. Given the choice of wanting a new backpack every year and having one that was actually functional, she picked functional each time. There are places to skimp, but shoes on kids feet and weight on their back are two places I believe you need to go for quality over frugal. Buy a notebook with the cartoon character they want.

  20. Kelly Z says

    If you watch the clearance section at Land’s End, you can get really good deals. My daughter has a Land’s End back pack that I purchased for $10.

  21. Kallie says

    I don’t think my parents spent $60 per child on backpacks from K – 12th grade! they limited us to the cheap ones (no Jansport). We were expected to take good care of them and use them until they wore out. Some of them last two or three years! Just because it’s frayed in some areas doesn’t mean it’s trash :)

  22. cheryl says

    I sit on the fence with this one. When I was in university in the 1990’s I went through 2 inexpensive back packs in as many months from the weight of the books. So, I bought a VERY expensive (don’t remember the brand) from the university bookstore that came with an unconditional guarantee. It was replaced twice in about 14 months and I gave up on it when I changed universities and was going to have to pay to ship it for return. And, even when returning it to the bookstore I had to wait a couple of weeks for the new one to be approved. BUT after having to spend $15 sometimes twice a year for my daughter I spent $30 two years ago at Costco on a Roots backpack and it is still going strong and looks like new even thought she puts an amazing amount of stuff in it. This is from Canada and I don’t know about American brands, but I would only put out the $5 for a WalMart backpack for a preschooler.

  23. says

    There is one option that isn’t mentioned and that is if you really need to save don’t buy them a backpack at all. I never ever owned a backpack in my life going to school and for most of their years my kids didn’t own one either. I had 8 classes in high school and had to carry books, lunch and everything without a backpack. I also had to walk to a bus stop and ride a bus or walk to school for quite a ways. In jr. high I really did have to walk a mile to school. I was suppose to ride the bus but wanted to be with my best friend who couldn’t ride the bus so I walked carrying books and all. I actually lived to tell about it.

  24. CJ says

    Hmmm. Interesting. I just bought some of my kids $10 backpacks from WalMart, the oldest her last $10 backpack was getting pretty beat up after 6 years (still useable, but fraying and now the lining is getting dodgy), and the other kids just had their “little kid” backpacks which were waaaay too small for anything. I can’t see myself buying a $60 backpack no matter what kind of deal it was. My husband and I still have our bags from high school and university (used for a variety of purposes since then including job training), and our “diaper bag” is a backpack we bought used at the neighbour’s yard sale for $2 when the repurposed university backpack got a giant rip (had an encounter with some metal shrapnel methinks).

    • says

      I’m with you CJ. This backpack thing is very interesting. I always bought the cheapest too and they did fine even with my kids walking to school everyday and not just riding in a car. Of course I still laugh and say I never even owned a backpack for school. We carried everything in our arms and that was even carrying books for 7 classes, gym suits and home ec projects among other things. For awhile in jr. high I walked a mile to school too. I don’t say this for anyone to feel sorry for me because it was my own choice. I was suppose to ride the bus but my best friend couldn’t so I walked in order to spend even more time with her each day. : )

  25. Heather says

    Saying “expensive” backpacks aren’t worth it is crazy! I have never found a $10 back pack in a store like Walmart in 16 years. I bought my 16 year old an LL Bean backpack 4 years ago. He told me right before school started that he needed a new one. Is it broke I asked. No just gross he said. So I unloaded he backpack and threw it in the washing machine. Hung it dry and it looks like new. This is a backpack a typical boy uses. I would never spend $15-30 for a store backpack that doesn’t last one school year in this household.

    However. The thrift store backpacks are brilliant. Why did I never think of that. Heck yeah I would spend $1 or 2 for a years worth of backpack.

    I must also say I have two boys and they are rough on backpacks as well as shoes and belts. I have been extremely happy with “expensive” backpacks.

    • says

      Have never been able to figure out the back pack thing myself. I was just at the thrift store the other day and they had a ton of really nice backpacks for just a couple of dollars. They even had some nice expensive name brand ones there for that same price. Like I have said may times before too, if you are really hard up for money don’t buy one. I and I know many others who survived going to school all 12 yrs plus with no back pack at all.

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