Gear and stuff for back-to-school

Posted: Friday, August 11, 2000

Backpacks are frontrunners with schoolkids.

When school opens this fall, 96 percent of all children ages 8-13 plan to show up with a backpack, according to a study commissioned by direct marketer Lands' End.

And what goes into them? Heavy books, of course, but there's also sports clothing, art supplies, lunch, CDs and even stuffed animals.

Downside is that 31 percent of the kids say they one-shoulder the things, which means a lopsided load. Tell your youngsters to use both shoulder straps at all times, cautioned Jerome McAndrews of the American Chiropractic Association. Also be certain their loads don't exceed 10 percent of their body weight, he added.

That said, here's a look at the goods:

The weight issue can be addressed with a backpack that converts to a wheeled cart. Lands' End's Wheeled ($69.50), Collegiate ($32.50), and Collegiate Junior ($29.50) models all have lots of zippered pockets to arrange the stash.

Wheels emulating wheels is the Jeep Command Trac Wheeled Backpack ($90), which has inline skate wheels and self-repair nylon zippers. When the rollers hit the ground, the straps can be tucked away in a zippered compartment.

The Herk ($70) from Timberland has a padded computer sleeve, an organizer for pens, pencils and calculators and a four-point bungee lash system for more storage.

There's even a backpack that accommodates the youngster's basic transportation. The Skateboard Backpack ($24.98) from Lillian Vernon secures a skateboard with adjustable straps and has zippered compartments to carry other sports gear.

An insulated Fashion Lunch Bag ($18) from Tupperware picks up on the backpack theme and contains a rectangular Modular Mates container inside. Also look at the blue plastic Sandwich Keeper ($9.50 for two) with hinged, snap-shut closure or the 30-ounce Thirstquake Tumbler ($6.50) and Insulated Beverage Tote ($8.50)

If you're packing for dorm life at college, consider an idea offered by Bed Bath & Beyond: Use laundry bags and pillowcases to pack your items instead of luggage that would just have to be stored somewhere. Another clever item from the household marketer is the MTV Stuff For Your Space Dorm Towel ($9.99), in white or loden, which has a Velcro mesh pocket for your room keys and a hanging loop.

A compact solution to a too-long ruler comes from Fiskars, which offers the Fold-It Ruler ($3.35), which measures 12 inches but folds down to 6. When it's folded, its raised design offers a compartment for paperclips or other small items.

Everybody connected to school knows the year is 18 months long, starting in September. Now comes The Family Organizer ($14.95 spiral bound), recognizing this inner reality and helping mom and dad keep track of kids, classes, meals, volunteer work, doctor appointments, and other complications of modern life. It was created by Amy Knapp, a real mom, who observes the routine gets slack during summer but has to be straightened out in time for school.

Even the youngest can get organized, with The Rugrats Pint-Sized Planner ($12.49) from At-A-Glance. Besides the calendar with pictures of the familiar cartoon characters, the planner offers skill-building activities, fun facts and Best Buddy pages, aimed at 6- to 9-year-olds.

Phone and Web information:

At-A-Glance -

Bed Bath & Beyond -

Family Organizer - 1 (800) 313-0653;

Lands' End - 1 (800) 734-5437;

Lillian Vernon - 1 (800) 545-5426;

Timberland - 1 (800) 445-5545;

Tupperware - 1 (888) 919-8099;

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