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Great Lunch Boxes and Backpacks to Take Back to School

A new school year means your kids get a new and improved backpack or lunch box. We've got you covered for where to get the best one.

This story is part of Gift Guide, our year-round collection of the best gift ideas.

Making sure your schoolgoer has a good backpack and lunch box may seem like a smaller job compared to the other back-to-school issues, but it needs to be done. A good backpack will last your child the whole year if you're lucky and lunch boxes are more important than ever. 

Lunch boxes have come a long way since I was a kid. I used to have a metal Transformers tin -- I'm old, don't judge -- but while it kept my lunch together, it also made it warm and a little gross. These new-style lunch boxes, though, keep your child's food fresh and delicious all day. Lunch is one of the most important meals for a child as it helps wake them up after a morning of studying and gives them the energy to face the rest of the day.

Backpacks are another essential for every student, whether they're 5 or 35. Having a good bag to hold your laptop, notes, pens and pencils, as well as having one that's comfy and sturdy, makes your scholastic year easier to deal with.

Best lunch boxes

Bentgo

Gone are the days of sending your child to school with a warm tuna sandwich and dry chips. This new trend of bento-style lunch boxes has made school lunches something to look forward to. My daughter loves hers, as it means she can have different, smaller snacks, as well as a nice dip to eat them with. 

Sometimes she'll have carrots and celery with a delicious ranch dip. Most of the time though, she gets a chocolate sauce with strawberries and oranges. It's easy to clean, too, and completely dishwasher safe, making it perfect for everyday use.

Bentgo

Not all students are young and need bright colors. If you're an older high schooler or a mature student, you may want to bring your lunch in something a little more sophisticated. This stackable bento box comes with a cutlery set and separate compartments for more adult food, like SpaghettiOs, Dino-Nuggies and... maybe leftovers? I don't know what grown-ups eat, I'm a man-baby who loves baked beans on toast.

Amersun

While the Amersun is a fairly standard-looking lunch box it does have a few nice features. I love the front pocket, which can be used to store things separately from the food. My kids use it to store the dirty cutlery so it doesn't make a mess over all their snacks. The insulated main pocket is spacious and, if you use a freezer block, will keep your food cool well into lunchtime.

This box also comes in a variety of colors and patterns. Whatever your kid is into, there's likely a pattern to suit their style.

Thermos

Thermos is well-known for keeping cool things cool, and hot things hot. This lunch box uses that technology to great effect, and the separate compartments let you put your Bentgo box in the base, while still leaving room for chips, a drink and perhaps even a pencil case and notebook if you need one. Both areas are lined with a waterproof material that insulates the bag, so you can use a freezer block to really keep things chilled.

Thrive

All of these lunch boxes so far have had some kind of insulation that will allow them to hold temperature well. This four-pack of reusable icepacks can be used to help keep food cool, and because there are four. you'll always have one ready when you need it. 

Backpacks

Walmart

The Mandalorian is a huge part of the culture right now, with Grogu -- once called Baby Yoda -- taking center stage. This fun backpack has plenty of room for your young padawan to store all their books and notes, while the chibi-style lunch box can be detached when it is time to snack. It's around a foot high, so it should be OK for anyone starting full school, though I think kindergartners might struggle a little if it's full.

Canis

The first day of kindergarten is a milestone that can affect how your child progresses into their school career. Start it off with some cheerful fun with these cute little animal backpacks. They have several different spaces to store stuff and have mesh pockets on the side for your child's water bottle. They're so colorful and light, I wish I had one when I was a lad.

Newhey

Although this isn't technically a backpack, it's a nice bag for a college student. It fits your laptop, notebooks and just about everything else you need. I'm a big fan of the vintage look and that waxed canvas exterior repels water, so your electronics should stay safe as you run to class.

Trailmaker

I hate that this exists. I hate that my child might need one of these someday. But they do exist, and some schools now require them to make it easier to spot weapons. So if your family needs one of these, this is a good one. The stitching is strong around the plastic so it won't come apart, and it has a mesh bag in there for pens and pencils. The straps are well padded too, so at least your kid can be comfortable. 

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