Written By Vicki Anzmann

Back to school means back-to-school clothes, possibly back-to-school shoes, and of course, school supplies and textbooks.

For most students, the carrier of choice for supplies and books is a backpack. Backpacks can be wildly stylish or extremely practical, or even a little of both. Depending on the owner’s taste and objective, they can cost anywhere from $10 to more than $100.

In addition, one’s choice and the level of use will determine whether the owner will need to replace the bag each year, or even before the school year ends.

When choosing a carrier, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a backpack with wide padded straps and a padded back. In addition, the pack and its contents should not weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the student’s body weight.

Other considerations when making this important purchase include: Are there multiple pockets or sections to help distribute the weight? Are the materials synthetic or natural? Are there cell phone, mp3, and drink pockets? Are there openings for ear buds? Does the pack have a rubber bottom to resist spills and wet floors? Are the zippers heavy-duty? Are the materials weatherproof? Will it hold and protect a laptop?

The size and capacity of the bag are also factors to consider. In many schools, lockers are just not big enough to store all of a student’s belongings. And in some cases, building size and time constraints prevent students from visiting lockers often.

Choosing fashion over function may leave a student open to backpack failure before the school year is much underway. But can the ones that wear like iron offer the cool vibes of their boutique versions? Here are a few suggestions:

SwissGear From the manufacturer of the Swiss Army Knife, the Trinity backpack has a padded laptop sleeve at the back that holds a 15-inch laptop. The pack also features an internal mp3 pouch with an external headphone port, a water bottle pocket, padded shoulder straps, an organizer pocket on the front of the main pouch, and even a sunglass holder. $29.99, Marshall’s, 200 Clifton Blvd, Westminster, 410-857-9835, www.marshallsonline.com.

Vera Bradley Completely redesigned and part of the new Fall 2010 collection, the new Signature style Laptop Backpack has padded straps, room to hold a 15-inch laptop, and comes in four brand new Signature colors. $98, The Hickory Stick, 28 Liberty Street, Westminster, 410-848-4370, www.thehickorystickwestminster.com.

Old Navy Padded straps, a zipper pouch on the front, and two mesh side pockets characterize this utilitarian backpack. $14.50, Old Navy, 200 Clifton Blvd, Westminster, 410-751-5612, www.oldnavy.com.

Marie Lifestyle Collection With a zippered pocket on the front flap and two side pockets, this quilted backpack comes in several different colors and patterns. $90, Union Bridge General Store, 11 North Main Street, Union Bridge, 410-775-1780, www.unionbridgegeneralstore.com.

Under Armour
The Motivate backpack from Under Armour comes with a lifetime warranty and a plethora of storage. The pack has a front zip pocket on the main flap, a media storage pocket, two side zip pockets, a mesh cell phone pocket on a padded shoulder strap, and a pull-out mesh bag that snaps on to the backpack for extra storage. $24.99, Marshall’s, 200 Clifton Blvd, Westminster, 410-857-9835, www.marshallsonline.com, and www.underarmour.com.

Ful Featuring a multitude of pockets and compartments, the Ful Beale Street daypack has padded straps, a padded back, an electronic accessory pocket, an inside mp3 media pocket with an ear bud wire port, and numerous other features. $34.99, Target, 200 Malcolm Dr, Westminster, 410-848-6180, www.Target.com, and www.ful.com.

Backpacks can also be found online at:

L.L. Bean: www.llbean.com
Jansport: www.jansport.com
Roxy: www.roxy.com
The North Face: www.thenorthface.com