Double Duty: Back to School Gear That’s Ready for ADVENTURE

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When did back-to school get so expensive?  It’s ridiculous!  We just get the bare essentials and it still blows my mind.  Honestly, why do first graders need fancy erasers and twistable crayons/colored pencils?  CRAZINESS!

With all of the craziness, the more mileage that you can get out of any of your back to school purchases, the better.  Here are some of our top picks for this fall that your kids are going to love, are going to last a long time, and will easily make the transition from the playground to the trail at a moments notice.

KEEN Jamison Shoes

We are a huge KEEN loving  family around here.  I’m pretty sure there are about 8 pairs floating around our house.  And with good reason – they LAST!  My favorite pair is about 6 years old, gets worn several times a week in the winter, and still looks great.

Last year we got the kids some KEEN shoes around this time of year and despite tons of wear and abuse, both pairs still look fantastic.  As a Mom, this is an incredibly huge deal to me.  I’ve had several pairs of kids shoes that don’t even last until they outgrow them, so finding shoes that will not only last, but look great to pass down to siblings is amazing.  Yes, they do cost a little bit more, but I’d rather pay $50 for a pair of shoes that will last for Mason and Jimmy and still look great at the end of it than buying each of them a few $20 pairs that only survive a few months.

2 happy hikers rocking their KEEN shoes (and don’t worry, it’s ROOT beer)

Let me introduce you to this years favorite – the Jamison:

These shoes have a pretty athletic feel to them and are almost the kids equivalent of a trail runner with a tough sole.  They are light and flexible, and come in colors that kids are WILD about.  My favorite feature?  The bungee elastic closure.  We got a pair of these for Chloe (who can’t tie her shoes) and that bungee closure saves me about 10 shoe ties a day (yes, 10 – she’s constantly putting her shoes on and off)!  She is thrilled that her shoes look just like the big kids shoes she sees at school and is convinced that they are the fastest shoes that she owns.  I love that they’re not bulky and clunky so they can perfectly transition from summer to winter with no issues at all.

A Daddy-Daughter KEEN moment w/ the Jamison shoes

So that’s all great, but you’re wondering how tough they really are, eh?  Well, remember Mt Cameron?  This is what Chloe wore.  I was so thrilled she had these on because they helped to much with stability and traction on the loose rocks we were hiking on.  Although she did complain at the top that her heels hurt, since there was no sign of rubbing or blisters, I think this was more a result of the trail than anything else.  Other than that one complaint (which likely isn’t even valid), these shoes are fantastic.

It’s safe to say that KEEN is going to play a major role in my back-to school shopping for the next 15 years!


Another piece of school gear that every kid needs is a backpack.  Have you noticed the trend that kids get new backpacks every. single. year?  It’s crazy.  Initially, I thought it was just parents caving into the character obsession of the moment.  However as school ended last year, I learned it was more than that.  All of those “cool” backpacks were now falling apart.  The vinyl lettering was peeling off, the straps were frayed, there were holes in the bottoms.  Sadly, most kids backpacks are just not made to last.  Thankfully, this is an awesome business plan for Walmart and Target who can keep selling these packs and make $20 off of every parent every year.  Don’t even get me started on how absolutely HUGE most of them are…because somehow it became acceptable in the last 20 years to give a kindergartener a backpack bigger than they are – RIDICULOUS!

Want my advice?  Get a good backpack from a reputable company that’s actually the correct size for your kid!  You’re welcome!

Our new favorites?  The kids line-up from Deuter.  We introduced you to some of their backpacking packs this summer, and that same quality has gone into the packs they build for kids.

Deuter Junior

I think this is quite possibly a perfect pack for kids ages 5-8.  It’s designed to be the right size for their back, is comfortable and is extremely well made.  It’s nice and neutral so your kid won’t get sick of it when the latest “phase” is over and you’ll love that in red or blue, it can easily be passed from a boy to a girl (yes Chloe, you’re getting this pack too).  With just one major pocket, it’s easy to keep track of papers and supplies that can easily get overlooked in the 10 pockets that many packs have.  The only downside is that it’s a tight fit with a lunch box.  Yes, it fits, but just a little tight (so avoid the problem by just getting a lunch box with a handle…)  

Okay, it’s good for school, but equally good for the trail.  It’s padded back and chest strap make it comfortable to wear for hours and help it stay put.  Best of all, since it’s sized correctly for kids this age, they actually can wear it for hours.  Seriously, if you tried that with the typical over-sized school pack, you’d probably be carrying it for your kids after 20 minutes.  Since it’s for kids, it’s not overly technical (which I actually like) but is well designed to be versatile, comfortable and long-lasting.  Retailing at $40, this is a great pack for the money (yes, do the math and add up how quickly you’ll be saving money over what you buy at Walmart…).  


 Deuter Kikki

I dare you NOT to fall in love with this pack (or the insanely cute boy wearing it here).  Seriously, it’s one of the cutest packs I’ve ever seen!  And the baby?  Don’t get me started on him, I just don’t have that many hours to gush on his sweetness!

This is the perfect first backpack for your little one.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that it fit both 1-year-old Jimmy and Chloe, who’s almost 4 really well.  This is the ideal pack for kids up through preschool as it can fit papers for them (which a lot of smaller packs we’ve found don’t) but the size isn’t overwhelming.

It’s a great pack to get them not only excited about learning, but also excited about adventure.  With a few fun pockets in it, there is lots of room for all of the “treasures” your kids are going to find.  The chest strap is perfect and prevents the straps from sliding off the ever-wiggling shoulders of your toddler/preschooler.  Wearing it all day should be no issue at all!  The only problem might be getting them to take it off…

My youngest two have been constantly battling over who gets to wear this pack.  This is the first pack that has fit Jimmy and he is so proud and happy when he’s wearing it.  Take my advice and grab one of these for a first birthday gift and get years of use out of it.  At $45 it’s a little on the pricey side, but when you figure you can get 3-4 years of use from it and then pass it down, it makes it easier to swallow (or better yet, just send a picture of it to grandma and hope it magically appears at your door…)


Final words of wisdom: As much as all of us want to save money, when it comes to things your kids are using every day, don’t buy something cheap.  Get something good that will last and you’ll get more than your money’s worth!


We received these shoes and backpacks at no cost to facilitate this review.  As always, these are our honest opinions that are not influenced by that.


3 thoughts on “Double Duty: Back to School Gear That’s Ready for ADVENTURE”

  1. We too are a keen family. Have been through multiple pairs as adults, lasting several years. And kids, we’ve had three pairs of sandals in varying sizes pass through both our boys. Fantastic quality that truly lasts!!

    As for backpacks, our oldest has had his MEC pack for two years now and it shows no signs of wear whatsoever. And our littlest guy is graduating from a deuter kid pack (old school one that the older boy used for two years in preschool and he used for preschool and day hikes and is just too small for kindergarten stuff!!).

  2. I bought my son keen sandals (secondhand) and he hates them for some reason. I am not exactly happy either, they feel too stiff (we are not barefooters, but I try to get shoes that are as flexible as possible). Any thoughts? And just yesterday we ordered our older his first deuter bag, called waldfuchs, I hope he likes it! I might try to talk my husband into getting the kikki for the younger one’s first birthday;)

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