Sunday, May 31, 2015

BAK Gear: MEC Elementary Book Bag

My eldest kid is almost finished Grade 1 and throughout the year she has been using the MEC Elementary Book Bag as her daily backpack. It goes on sale once in a while, but normally it costs about $43. It may seem like a lot of money for a little kid, but we look at it as a longish term investment. Unlike walmart bags or Disney bags which might last one school year, this bag will last a few years. Backed by MEC's rocksolid guarantee, we feel that the bag pays for itself many times over its life cycle.

The pack is available in an assortment of nicely complimenting two-tone colours, we opted for the Blueberry/Saltwater combination. It's designed to be carried by little bodies with enough capacity to carry books, lunch box, water bottle, with a couple pockets for smaller miscellaneous items.

The pack is waterproofed due to its PU coating over the 420D nylon. The inside is lined with 210D. The bottom panel is reinforced to mitigate flop and handle extra wear and tear. The backing is an airmesh padded foam, great for the spring time. What I also like about this pack is its extra wide shoulder straps that have hi-viz material sewn into it. These characteristics help spread the weight load across the shoulders, it also has a sternum strap to keep the shoulder straps where they are suppose to be (not to mention the buckle itself is a safety whistle).

The grab handle may not be load bearing but can definitely handle the typical loads of an elementary school kid. There's also the expected front and side compartments to carry everyday items.

Looking at these images, one thing is immediately clear - strap management. There's too much webbing hanging around - a recipe for disaster. I don't know many elementary kids who have the need for a waist belt - if their bag is so heavy that they need to redistribute the weight onto their hips, they should stop collecting rocks and stop bringing canned soup to school - try a different hobby like elastic bracelets and shit like that.

I dunno, maybe there might be use for the waist straps, for now its just extra webbing lying around. The sternum strap I do see use for. My kid's shoulders are not as wide as the pack's shoulder straps are, so having the sternum webbing enables my kid to pinch and cinch in the shoulder straps so it won't fall off her shoulder if she's wearing something slipper - like that shit they buy at Forever 21 and H&M.....faaaaaaaaaaaaacccckkk.

Ok, so one of the questions I get asked alot, is "how does it sit?" I don't know, I'm not a kid. But, judging by some of these photos, on an average grade 1'r of the type female, it looks to fit fine. Don't worry, if you are Korean, there's enough straps to hang it low to the butt.

So, what is it's true carrying capacity? Well, a typical daily loadout for the kid includes a change of clothes or a light spring jacket, lunch box, water bottle, homework, trading toys that are currently en-vogue, UV screen, widebrim hat, and other stuff.

Remember, this is meant to be a book bag, not a travelling bag or a hiking pack, so the ergo's on this are slightly different (although in a pinch it has doubled as her carry-on travelling pack when we are going from hotel to hotel to hotel and she needs to be a one-man, one-kit). She's also taken the pack on day hikes. But that's probably the type of activity I would limit this pack to.

By design, it's a deeper pack from the back-outwards, meaning if you were to stack books up against books, eventually she would tip over backwards as it would f*ck up her centre of gravity. Hence not the most ideal for packing on outward bound type activities. I would look for something that is more vertical and narrower for those kinds of activities.

From her comments after a school year of use, she's extremely satisfied with it, though she never gave it any thought really. She has expressed her opinions about other packs that were gifted to her like Disney Princess ones, or el-cheapo walmart ones - but she hasn't said much about this pack - which is a good thing because it means its comfortable.

So yes, for next school year, if you are looking for book bag for your elementary-aged kid, seriously consider this bag.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this funny and honest review. My son will start pre-school in August. School asks big backpack for 5 years old kids... I started looking for a good backpack. Unfortunatly MEC don't carry the Elementary Book Bag anymore. The Kinder Book bag is also discontinued. I think I'll get him the MEC Book bag. I don't understand why MEC stopped carrying those good kid backpacks.
    I hope I'll make the right choice.



Full Disclosure: Unless noted, Bad Ass Dad has not been compensated in any means to review this gear. It is all his own, procured through pro-channels, retail, or issuance.