The L.L.Bean Critter Pack is designed for children ages 7 and older, so it offers more space than many kids' backpacks. However, the screen-printed "critters" on the pack may appeal more to younger children.
Fits a kids needs. With more than 1,500 cubic inches of space and multiple pockets -- including two zippered side pockets -- some parents say that the Critter Pack looks a little large on a small child's frame, but nonetheless fits well and leaves plenty of room to grow. That roominess can come in handy, letting kids pack everything they need: "It fits folders well, with enough room for a lunch box, gym shoes, gloves and all her extras,' writes one mother on LLBean.com.
Another reviewer singles out the zippered side pockets as helpful for keeping items handy on field trips or in the classroom, but some reviewers describe the water bottle pockets -- mesh panels mounted outside the zip-close side pockets -- as "worthless." They say the bottles tend to fall right out, especially if the child bends over.
Mixed reviews for comfort. There isn't a lot of mention of this pack's comfort one way or the other in most of the user reviews, but we did find a few who say the padded, contoured shoulder straps make for a comfortable pack. Child testers at Good Housekeeping magazine had a different take, saying this pack was not as comfortable as others they tested. There was no mention of the age of the child testers.
Most say it'll last for years. Although we found one or two complaints about this pack's fabric at LLBean.com -- one parent, whose kindergartener had a few tears in his pack after about a year, speculates that there might be a minor quality-control issue -- most say the Critter Pack is durable and hardy.
There are no complaints about the zippers or other fasteners wearing out. One owner did note that, although the pack lasted for years, her son needed a new one for middle school because of the juvenile "critter' print. Several reviewers as well as Good Housekeeping echoed the sentiment that the print too childish for a middle-schooler.
Some parents comment that the Critter Pack is a little pricey, but it lasts long enough to make it worth the purchase. Our take is it may last longer than its useful life, since some say it's a tad large for children at the lower end of this age range (7 to about 13 or 14), and too childish-looking for children at the upper end. Also, the panning of the water bottle holders may mean it's not the most convenient choice for kids.
Very good More than 375 owners comment on the L.L.Bean Critter Pack, giving it a 4.7-star average rating. Most are very happy with the backpack's durability and quality, but a few say the water-bottle holders are "worthless."
Review: Critter Pack, Contributors to LLBean.com
2. Good Housekeeping
Very good Good Housekeeping gives the L.L.Bean Critter Pack a B in this brief review that is part of a roundup of kids backpacks. They like its light weight and durability, but say it's not as comfortable as other packs and is too young-looking for any but young children. There is no mention of the age of the testers.
Review: L.L. Bean Critter Pack Backpack Review, Editors of Good Housekeeping, Aug. 2010
Fair The L.L.Bean Critter Pack gets a mention in this brief review. The zippered side pockets get high marks for organization.
Review: Top 5!: Cool Backpacks Under $40, Amy Loeffler