Backpacks can be as personalized as tattoos for Pitt-Johnstown students.
Senior Ashley Back, drops her patterned Madden Girl backpack on the floor beside her desk.
The black floral backpack, full of books and notes, holds up well, according to Back.
She said she usually buys vintage backpacks, but that she wanted to try a different look this year.
“With this being my senior year, maybe my last year needing a backpack, I wanted something modern and elegant.”
Back said that she still uses her backpack from when she was younger, because it has more compartments and is bigger than her Madden Girl backpack.
According to Back, using two backpacks allows her to be both practical and stylish.
Junior Coltt Lepley, enters his class with a black Under Armor backpack hanging from his right shoulder.
Lepley said he isn’t particular when considering backpacks.
“As long as it serves its purpose, doesn’t fall apart and doesn’t look like I live out of it, it’s all good.”
Lepley said that his backpack is good quality, which he said he thinks is important.
He said that he likes that his backpack is spacious.
“I have a dinosaur of a laptop, so the extra room is nice to lean on.”
According to Lepley, his backpack’s front pocket is valuable to him.
“The first week of class as a freshman, I lost my keys. So, now I keep everything important in that (front pocket).”
Junior Bradley Walker walks through Biddle Hall with a plum-colored North Face backpack.
She said she likes her dark-colored backpack, because it doesn’t clash with her wardrobe.
Patterned backpacks are to be avoided, said Walker.
“I always try to get a dark-colored (backpack) that will match the majority of my closet. I’m just…like that.”
According to Walker, her backpack, which is full of books and snacks, has several compartments to keep belongings organized.
Walker said that it’s also important for her to have a quality backpack.
“I want a backpack that will last me, so I usually go for a North Face or JanSport.”
Freshman Emily Coffer, a pre-physical therapy major, said she had bought a black JanSport backpack for college, which was sturdy enough to last for a few years.
Coffer said she did not have a backpack in high school, as she did not think it was necessary.
Besides practicality, some students go to great lengths for a one-of-a-kind backpack. One is senior Emily Helms, a Pitt-Johnstown’s women’s soccer team member.
On the practice field, what distinguishes Helms from the other team members are her soccer shoes, which are in various colors and styles.
Off the field, Helms’ backpack also distinguishes her from everybody else.
On her navy-blue backpack, her last name is embroidered in a flowery font above the backpack’s outer pocket.
“It added a little personal touch to my backpack.”
Helms said she had ordered the embroidery when she bought her backpack from a retail website called Thirty-One Gifts.
Helms said the backpack and the embroidery service cost about $30 to $40.
According to the website, embroidery costs $7 to $10.
Another retail store that has backpacks for college-age students is PacSun.
The Galleria mall’s PacSun store sells six brands of backpacks even as the back-to-school season has passed, according to Jacob Hoffman, the store’s part-time manager who also is a Pitt-Johnstown civil engineering major.
However, Hoffman said the store sells only about one per day even at the sales peak.
This does not seem as surprising as the number of backpack choices – PacSun’s online shop has over 100 backpack styles available, not to mention other stores selling backpacks, whether online or offline.
The most expensive backpack in Hoffman’s store, an army-green backpack with a water-resistant coating and pockets for a laptop, cell phone and tablet, is $84.95.
Hoffman said backpacks that have these pockets are popular among students.
“There (is) a fair number of tech-specific backpacks in the store. “
The least expensive, standard-size backpack in the store is $34.95.
Discounts and extra services also can influence how much students pay for their backpacks.
Hoffman said PacSun’s employees’ in-store purchases could be discounted as much as 50 percent.
Coffer also said she used her 25-percent employee’s discount to buy her backpack when she worked at Sears this past summer.