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Beyond Back to School: The Best Backpacks for Fall 2014

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We’re now full speed ahead to back to school season, and not surprisingly you’ll be seeing sales for school supplies…and backpacks for students. But school and students notwithstanding, backpacks have become almost necessary equipment for smart travelers—not just for campers, but business travelers, or just beach goers. According to the Travel Goods Association’s 2013 State of the Market Report, Americans purchased 139.6 million backpacks in 2013.

Here are some of the best backpacks for 2014.

Lovers of the Outdoors

da kine

There are countless options for backpacks when it comes to hiking and camping, and those who love other outdoor sports have many options as well. Surfers, for example, can find backpacks designed to hold wetsuits, towels, sunglasses, and other supplies needed for a long day in the ocean. The Dakine Point Wet/Dry backpack, priced at $60, includes a waterproof wetsuit pocket, a fleece lined pocket for sunglasses, and extra mesh pouches for water bottles.

rip curl

For something a little more convenient, Rip Curl’s MF Ultimate Surf Backpack, at $94.50, includes a removable plastic pouch for a wetsuit, several pockets lined with fleece for storing electronics and sunglasses, and organization space for fins, wax, and sunscreen. There’s a plenty of space for your wetsuit, towel, or clothes, and even organizers for documents or your passport.

golite

Cyclists also have plenty of choices when it comes to backpacks. Rather than carry around something large and heavy with limited access while on a biking excursion, backpacks designed for cyclists are light, portable, and most importantly, provide easy access to water. Priced at $64.99, the Go Lite Rush 14L Hydration Pack, for example, comes with a 3-liter reservoir complete with a straw for cyclists on the go. It also has extra pouches for water bottles and a hip belt for extra support to ensure the straps do not slip while you’re on a bike.

ortleib

A useful alternative to a backpack may be packs designed for rear bike racks, such as the Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic Panniers. The waterproof bags, at $153 for a pair, clip onto the bike itself, so you don’t have to carry anything on a biking trip.

north face

Of course, there are hundreds of backpacks available for those who need a simple, convenient pack for outdoor sports. At $80, the North Face Waterproof Daypack is collapsible, light, and completely waterproof, and would be an excellent choice for kayaking, spelunking, or hiking in wet conditions.

Backpacks for the City

All backpacks are definitely not created equal when it comes to traveling through cities, especially at the height of summer. Keeping important belongings safe is naturally a concern, but weight, convenience, and comfort are also important when a lot of walking or transit on busy buses or trains is part of your day.

bag2

The Pacsafe Citysafe 350 GII, priced at $85, features a clip directly under the shoulder straps that will lock the zippers together to prevent pick pocketing. The front pocket is hidden, which opens to reveal small pouches for a wallet, passport, iPod, and other small objects. While the pack is smaller and lighter than an average backpack, making it much easier for a long day in the city, the main pocket does have a compartment large enough for a tablet or a small laptop.

coleman

For those who need to carry more gear on a longer journey, the Coleman RTX 3500 35L Backpack, at $72, is a good option. It has a main compartment, a pocket for a laptop or tablet, and four additional smaller pockets on the side. It also features a side pouch for a water bottle, a removable waist belt for extra support, and a small pocket on the shoulder strap for an iPod or cell phone.

Keeping it Simple

kcliffs

Sometimes, we don’t need anything more than a basic backpack for school, work, travel, or any simple, daily task. K Cliff’s 18-inch Simple Backpack, for $10.95, has one main compartment with one small front pocket, and is also available in many colors.

llbean

However, for something more durable, L.L. Bean’s Original Book Pack, priced at $26.96, is also a simple pack with one large and one small pocket, but may last longer and be better for the outdoors.

jansport

For a little extra convenience, the Jansport Wheeled SuperBreak Backpack has one large and one small compartment, but also has wheels and a durable handle, making it easy for kids, seniors, or anyone transporting heavier items. The pack retails for about $85.

And finally…

Back to School

Students heading back to school certainly have more options than the usual black, one-compartment backpack that looks just like every other black backpack in the classroom. There are hundreds of options for students, and many include convenient ways to carry laptops, tablets, iPods, and plenty of other supplies.

dakine

At $29.99, the DaKine Garden Pack not only has a laptop pocket inside, but also features lots of small front pouches for phones, iPods, pens, and other small supplies, as well as a mesh water bottle pouch on the side.

gtech

Of course, tech-savvy students will love the G-Tech 5237. The $70 backpack has room for a tablet and small pockets for supplies and accessories, but includes headphone ports and iPod controls on the should strap. This particular model is a mono-strap, for those who decline to wear both backpack straps at school, to make sure the weight is more evenly distributed across the body.

gtech2

G-Tech also makes iPod-friendly backpacks with two straps, such as the Revolution iPod Backpack.

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By Jessica Hobbs for PeterGreenberg.com

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