Here we are, the dog days of summer. Just at the height of the heat, the realization hits that the new school year is just around the bend. At long last, the little ones are getting back on that school bus and mixing it up with their peers and teachers! So much to prepare for, especially this year, coming on the heels of last year’s weirdest of all school years. There’s something reassuring and even exciting about the ritual of back-to-school preparations. There's a comforting routine, a feeling of rightness in it, even as there’s stress and anticipation. After a year + of remote learning, parents are making up for lost time outfitting their kids with new school clothes, backpacks, and learning tools for the much-anticipated return to classrooms. When does school start for your child? Getting an early start preparing can help minimize the stress of the new school year, and soften the shock on them when the First Day arrives (pro-tip: start getting them back on a school sleeping schedule before school starts). Plus, think of all the me-time you’ve been missing with them perched in front of their Chromebook at home during school hours. 

Cool Backpacks for Teens and Children 

Modern backpacks have really come into their own. Gone are the days of flimsy fabric surrounding a single compartment, book corners poking you in the back and #2 pencils falling to the bottom where they hopefully didn’t smear graphite all over your notebooks. School backpack makers have taken a cue from backcountry backpackers, and backpacks like The North Face Pivoter are designed with the needs of students in mind. At an impressive 27.7-liters, this thing has room for all the books, notebooks, and Funko Pops (are those still a thing?) kids need to pack in there. The Pivoter not only has a laptop sleeve to keep your student’s tech safe and easily reachable, but a second tablet sleeve you can call on. It’s loaded with quick-access external pockets for water bottles and other stashables. Its roomy front pocket helps students sort their odds and ends so it’s not bedlam inside, with interior zippable pockets, charger sleeves, and a key fob. Pivoter is designed to stand on its own, loaded or unloaded, so it doesn’t flop down across the aisle beside a student’s desk. And, of course, this being The North Face, the whole thing’s water-repellent, and the backpack straps and back are designed with an active lifestyle in mind, adjustable, flexible, and vented. 

For a student backpack that leans even more into outdoor adventure, check out the slightly-larger, more backwoods Recon from The North Face. This one’s particularly good for older kids and college students whose backpack serves multiple duties in school and out. Older students might also fall in love with The North Face Aurora. A little smaller and sleeker than the Pivoter and Recon, the Aurora is tailored for women and packs a ton of specialized pockets into its 22 liters, with perfect nooks and crannies for school and work cargo, gym clothes, and a variety of supplies. 

Kids Jackets For the Cold and Wet 

While we’re talking about The North Face, I should probably mention that North Face puffer jackets are on sale right now. While you’re preparing for the school year, don’t forget to think ahead to colder months. Now’s a great time to snap up The North Face Youth Moondoggy. This North Face hoodie jacket is built true-to-form with a water-resistant shell over insulating goose down and lined with soft layers of warm Sherpa micro-fleece. Although not as toasty as the Moondoggy, the lighter Reversible Perrito jacket seals up nicely at the hems and cuffs and against the cold wind and at only 1lb, 1.6oz, offers a great warmth-to-weight ratio - perfect for everyday use. 

If rain is more your concern, keep your student dry with a raincoat from the good folks at Grundéns. They’re not as well known as North Face, but these specialists in fishing gear have been making waterproof clothing for over a century. The Grundéns Kid's Zenith 293 parka can easily handle the rainy walk to school, keeping kids warm and dry with knitted polyester wrapped in an impenetrable waterproof outer layer. It’s even got retro-reflective stripes around the torso and arms to keep kids safe and visible in downpours. 

The Best Gym Shoes for Boys and Girls 

Old gym shoes stinky and falling apart at the seams? Tsukihoshi has been perfecting children’s and youth sneakers for decades, so if your kids need new gym shoes, they’re the ones to turn to. Their entire line is fantastic, and designed with kids’ specific needs in mind. They’re all washable, with insoles infused with green tea extract to kill odor-causing germs, and their uppers are built with roomy toe boxes and arch support tailored to growing feet. Sneakers like the Tsukihoshi Blast are great all-purpose active shoes for gym class and for after-school play. They’re lightweight, breathable, durable, and their outsoles won't scuff the gym floor. Older kids might prefer something like the sleek Tsukihoshi Mako, super comfortable for all-day wear on the court, in class, and on the street. 

Tsukihoshi really has kids all-day activewear figured out. For the more specialized runner in your family, however, pick up what Altra is putting down. As we've discussed here before, Altra running shoes are really the track and cross-country pinnacle, with a long-lasting gripping tread that absorbs impacts and protects a young runner’s feet. Altra’s flagship Lone Peak running shoe is lightweight and fits like a sock, but protects like heavier shoes. It’s even got a removable insole to make room for growth spurts. 

A New Beginning 

 Take a breath. You got this. This school year is going to be an interesting one, and kids will have some catching up to do after you-know-what last year. But they’re resilient, and they’ll make it happen. Be patient with the transition. Connect with other parents and share information so you and your kids can ease back into school more comfortably. Talk to their teachers; educators have lots of good advice for helping your child succeed. Take stock of what school supplies you need and prepare ahead of time; we all just need a little time to get used to the school year routine again. This is their chance to get back to all the exuberant fun and messy melodrama of youth. Getting them outfitted right for the school year will help them do it, and Outdoor Equipped has your back.