Once upon a time back to school shopping meant stocking up on paper and pencils. Today, this annual shopping expedition involves making sure gadgets never lose their charge, fashion is on-trend, productivity tools are on point, blossoming minds stay motivated, and that kids can get from point A to point B safety. Here’s this year’s gear roundup—with separate sections for College and for Pre-K-12 kids—full of finds that are sure to make the grade.
******* GREAT FOR COLLEGE *******
Perch Wall Organizers by Urbio – Starting at $21.99
Urbio’s award-winning design team’s new line, Perch, was created to organize and breathe life into small spaces such as dorms, apartments and study areas in style. Perch 3 and 5-Piece Starter Kits come with a décor-friendly magnetic wall plate that can be mounted to the wall with either screws, or 3M command strips for easy installation and damage free removal—both options are included in the kits! Each kit also come with magnetic containers that are modular and can be moved around, customized and added to! Perch vessels hold everything from plants to pencils and will help keep college kids, dorm dwellers and desk occupants organized.
Stationary Multi Charging Station – $34.99
Have multiple gadgets scattered around your surfaces, possibly even the floor? Now you can keep them organized in one place and charged up with a stylish solution that’ll keep those ugly cords out-of-sight. The G.U.S. Multi-Charging Station has room for a laptop, a tablet and up to 3 other devices like smartphones and MP3 players. This sturdy stand not only holds these devices and charges them up from a single location, it hides unsightly wires. A magnetic base flips open to reveal a hidden storage compartment for cords that would otherwise clutter up the area. This is a great desktop accessory allowing students to keep their tech devices charged and ready for class. There’s also a separate power strip that sits behind the unit available for purchase.
Walls of Quotes Wall Art – Prices vary
Warm the heart with a piece of art. Walls of Quotes is a great way to get the words out…on the wall, on the shelf or in the hall. Give as a gift or keep them at home to inspire, motivate or rejuvenate your student. 100’s of creatively designed layouts are available in 12 contemporary colors, 6 sizes, and 2 orientation choices. There are a variety of quote themes and options to choose from. The Walls Quote, “Life works best if you have an attitude of gratitude,” is a great option to start the year off right. All college-specific signs, with 100’s to choose from, come in actual college colors. Signs are a solid 1″ thick wood with a beautiful satin laminate finish and come ready-to-hang.
Yogibo Max – $239
The “Yogibo Max” is Yogibo’s most popular bean bag that’s perfectly suited for a dorm room. Unlike any other bean bag, the Yogibo Max is made from a stretchy cotton/Spandex fabric and filled with frictionless microbeads, allowing it to completely mold to the body. Additionally, it functions as four different pieces of furniture in one, depending on how it’s placed! It can be used as a chair, recliner, couch or bed. When not using the Yogibo Max, stand it up so it only takes up only four square feet of space. The Yogibo Max, available in 16 vibrant colors, weighs under 20 pounds and has a machine washable outer cover that zips off. It’s ideal for gaming, reading, relaxing, or as a comfortable sleeping option for visiting friends.
D-Link AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Router – $309.99
Life today requires connectivity, lots and lots of connectivity. Smartphones, laptops, tablets and gaming consoles all need to connect at the same time. That’s why the D-Link AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Router is a great find. With Tri-Band Technology and speeds up to 3.2Gbps, it delivers the necessary ultra-performance to power even the most ultra-connected students. Featuring “Smart Connect” technology, the router chooses from the three Wi-Fi bands and automatically connects each device on the network to the best, clearest band available for the fastest connection every time. Students can stream HD video, surf the web, Skype other students and teachers and, when they need a respite from homework, play online games—all at the same time courtesy of the strong Wi-Fi coverage and premium performance the D-Link AC3200 Ultra Router delivers.
Epson’s Expression Home XP-420 Small-in-One Printer – $69.99
The Epson Expression Home XP-420 Small-in-One is a budget-friendly, ultra-compact, wireless solution that is designed to meet busy families’ and students’ printing, scanning and copying needs–either at home or on-the-go with Epson Connect. Equipped with a large, high-resolution 2.5-inch color LCD and touch panel, plus built-in memory card slots, the XP-420 offers users easy PC-free photo and document printing, scanning and copying. The feature rich printer boasts an ultra-slim footprint that’s great for dorm rooms and other tight living spaces. It even enables users to edit, scan and share photos directly to Facebook or other popular cloud services all in one single workflow.
Logitech Bluetooth Multi-Device Keyboard K480 – $49.99
The Logitech Bluetooth Multi-Device Keyboard K480 is fantastic for the student who has a hand in multiple on-campus clubs and organizations. It’s a desk keyboard designed for use with up to three Bluetooth-enabled devices, regardless of computing platform. Now, your diligent student can type an essay on a computer, and with the flick of the Easy-Switch dial, respond to a message on a smartphone or type a tweet on a tablet. The integrated cradle holds a phone or tablet at just the right angle to read while working away. The keyboard is available in black with a stylish yellow accent, or in white with a dark gray accent.
Lexdray San Diego Pack – $99
The Lexdray “San Diego” model backpack is inspired by designer Alex Drayer’s childhood trips to San Diego. Growing up in Southern California, Drayer reportedly spent countless summers at Sea World and the San Diego Zoo, always carrying a favorite backpack with him. The Lexdray backpack is designed with both nostalgia and function in mind. Made from a durable neoprene and ballistic nylon, it uses the same hardware used in the military. It comes with pockets for a water bottle/phone, laptop sleeve and detachable key ring for your locker key or house key. While solid in color on the exterior, the interior of the bag reveals a camo-print lining. This is a smaller size backpack for those occasions when a giant backpack simply isn’t necessary. As with all Lexdray products, the San Diego Pack adheres to the company’s core principles of superior materials, quality construction and performance-driven style. Unlike mass-produced backpacks in the market, all Lexdray products are produced in limited quantities for quality control and exclusivity. In fact, only 350 of these backpacks were made, making this a highly covetable piece.
Lexar JumpDrive P20 Flash Drive – Starting at $34.99
The Lexar JumpDrive P20 USB 3.0 is among the fastest USB flash drives available, with speeds so fast you can transfer a full-length HD movie in less than 40 seconds! Lexar JumpDrive USB flash drives are available in a wide range of options (styles, colors and capacities), and are especially useful for students and teachers who need to have portable access to large files like term papers, semester projects, educational multi-media and more. These drives are also great for storing music and video files, which, let’s face it, is a top priority for today’s tech savvy students. The drive securely protects files using EncryptStick Lite software, and is backwards compatible with USB 2.0 devices. Also nice looking, the Lexar JumpDrive P20 has a sleek metal alloy design with a glossy mirror finish top. Other fashionable Lexar flash drives like the colorful JumpDriveS25 (retractable design) and JumpDriveS35 (swivel design) are stylish and also store and transfer content fast thanks to SuperSpeed USB 3.0 technology. These models also boast security software to ensure files stay protected.
Ventev Mobile Powercell Battery Chargers – Starting at $54.99
Have you ever run out of battery life on your mobile devices while on-the-go? Of course you have! Well that no longer needs to be the case thanks to Ventev Mobile’s portable powercell Battery Chargers. Ventev Mobile’s powercell 6000+ is perfect for frequent travelers who hate carrying multiple chargers to juice up their gadgets. This 6000mAh, dual output portable backup battery provides 25 hours of talk, 18 hours of Internet, 20 hours of video or 100 hours of audio playback power. It features 1A and 2.1A ports that allow for optimal and simultaneous charging of phones and tablets, and built-in folding AC prongs that make recharging the battery easy. The powercell 3015c is a smaller form factor with a built-in cable. The slim, wallet-sized device provides 12 additional hours of talk time and features an on/off button with LED battery indicator light. The attached cable eliminates the need to carry around pesky cables to charge your phones and tablets on the go.
6th Sense Professional Flat Iron – $114.99
Want to always look your polished best even though there’s no time to muss and fuss with your hair? You’ll want the 6th Sense Professional Hair Styler—a tourmaline, ceramic flat iron designed to create silky, straight hair in ½ the time. Its negative ion technology eliminates frizz, and leaves all types of hair smooth and shiny in a short amount of time. It also minimizes hair damage due to even heating across the floating plates, which also don’t pinch or snag. Locks are also kept lovely since users can set the perfect temperature for their own hair type. The iron is extremely lightweight, built for easy and comfortable handling. So it’s easy to take it along when traveling between campus and home. Also included in the package is an added bonus—a 2-in-1 Mini Flat Iron/Curling Iron and a heat resistant carrying case.
*******GREAT FOR PRE-K-12*******
Logitech Play Wireless Mouse Collection – $29.99
The 2015 Logitech Play Collection is bright, playful and high-spirited. Featuring two of Logitech’s most popular mice, the Logitech Wireless Mouse M325c and Logitech Wireless Mouse 317c, in eye-catching patterns, the 2015 Logitech Play Collection wants to revamp your technology—and amp up the style factor—for the new school year. With the collection’s reliable 33 foot wireless range and long-lasting battery life, it’s easy to stay productive for up to 18 months. Available prints include Ophelia Owl, Francesca Fox, Luke Lion, Blue Harlequin, Blue Facets, Purple Zigzag, Red Zigzag, Blue Zigzag and Teal Chevron.
V.ALRT – $19.99
V.ALRT is an ergonomically designed wearable help button that can be carried discreetly in a pocket or a bag, worn on the wrist with the included band or around the neck as a pendant. Put V.ALRT in a backpack or pocket and have a hotline to Mom or Dad, whether the wearer be a tween, teen, or college student. This personal emergency alert device uses Bluetooth SMART (Bluetooth 4.0 LE) technology in association with a software application from VSN Mobil to initiate calls and text messages from a smartphone. With the push of the V.ALRT help button, the system pings the smartphone to send personalized text messages to three pre-selected contacts, while the user’s GPS location is also reported from their smartphone! V.ARLT notably does not require a monthly service fee.
Life Mounts LED Pack Light with Strap Mount – $19.95
The Life Mounts LED Pack Light attaches to the shoulder strap of any sized backpack to provide a forward facing light. It’s especially useful for kids who walk to school or to the bus stop, or that bike to school, in the dark early morning hours. This powerful light will illuminate the path ahead. The secure Velcro straps mean the light will fit and stay exactly where you put it, but can also be easily removed for hand held use. The unit is water resistant, shock proof, and super bright at 300 lumens. That’s over twice as bright as the leading headlamp! The powerful LED flashlight has 3 modes (high, low, and safety strobe), operates on just one AA battery and can be seen for over 1,000 feet. The patented universal mount is made of durable silicone rubber, not brittle plastic, and can actually adapt to any sized flashlight you put in it. The Life Mounts LED Pack Light is destined to improve the visibility, safety, and security of everyone who wears one.
thredUP.com – Prices vary
thredUP is a super easy way to save money on great kids’ clothing brands and also you’re your own gently worn clothes for cash. On thredUP, you can refresh your kid’s entire wardrobe online, without ever leaving your house. Browse thousands of like-new clothing items, which thredUP has hand-selected and certified for quality. You’ll find favorite brands discounted up to 90% off, year-round. Put together an entire head-to-toe look, including accessories, for under $50! And, when you’re done with the clothing, simply fill up a thredUP bag and put it on your doorstep. thredUP covers the shipping, and pays you for every item sold to other families.
AquaBall Naturally-Flavored Water – Appx. $1 per bottle
AquaBall reports that it’s the first zero-calorie, sugar-free, naturally flavored water for kids. Created by a former school principle in response to the global obesity epidemic and rampant childhood diabetes, AquaBall is a great sugar-free alternative to juice and soda. It has no artificial colors or flavors, is enhanced with vitamins B3, B5, B12 and C, is sweetened only with all-natural Stevia, and comes in a ball-shaped bottle that is fun for little hands to hold! AquaBall Berry Frost features Anna, Elsa, Olaf and Sven from Disney’s Frozen. AquaBall Orange Splash features Dusty, Lil’Dipper, BladeRanger and Jumper from Disney’s Planes: Fire & Rescue. The Fruit Punch bottle features Disney Princesses Ariel, Rapunzel, Cinderella and Belle; Grape features Marvel Avengers Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk and Avengers Ensemble; and Orange features Disney’s Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Daisy Duck.
SwissGear ScanSmart 15-inch Laptop Backpack – $67.99
Wildkin Emerald Green Lunch Box – $22.99
There are certain back to school supply staples, most definitely including a new lunch box and backpack that not only looks great, but can stand the test of time all year through. This season, give the SwissGear ScanSmart backpack that is roomy and durable, sure to withstand the rigors of daily use. It also makes traveling with your laptop a breeze with a unique design that keeps the laptop easily accessible for the owner—and visible for airport security. An airflow back system keeps the student cool and comfortable while carrying this laptop backpack, and convenient pockets keep sunglasses, water bottle and other accessories safe and in close reach. A shoulder strap system makes carrying this bag easy, while the black and gray color scheme suits any look without being too flashy. It’s a great look for high schoolers and college kids, alike. Of course, Overstock.com has hundreds of other backpacks from which to choose. They also carry the Wildkin Lunch Box—a super-durable, easy-to-clean, fabric lunch box sure to stand up to the rough and tumble all throughout the school year. The roomy, insulated interior, and sturdy construction will ensure that lunch gets to the lunchroom just the way it was packed.
Bentology – $19.99
If you want to up your lunchbox game even further, consider the Classic 6 piece “Bentos” by Bentology. These have versatile, mix and match containers that allow you to store everything from sandwiches to soups, or salads to sushi. The compartments are just the right size for kids’ appetites and there’s enough room for items that’ll keep them fueled all day. Bentology Bentos eliminate the need for disposable plastics, such as baggies and utensils, and also negate the need for single serve items like yogurt cups and juice boxes. With this item, parents can purchase just one lunchbox that will last for years to come. Parents also like that the individual compartments help encourage and facilitate healthy lunch selections. The Bentos have also been embraced older college kids who utilize them for packing snacks while traveling (either by plane or road trips), at hangouts, for intern work hours or to generally help with portion control.
The Multiples Math-Promoting Tableware – Starting at $7.99
Why not help them learn while they eat? The Multiples award winning tableware encourages math learning, specifically, by simply making math fun! This line of plates, bowls and tumblers each feature one of 12 multi-national animal characters along with several mathematical methodologies for children to explore and learn. The items offer a great way to get kids comfortable with math throughout the new school year, as the repetitive daily exposure increases instant recall of math facts. Made of 100% melamine, this tableware is BPA free, dishwasher safe and meets all FDA and CSPC regulations. The cause-conscious company has started the “Everyone Can Do Math” initiative whereby every time a product is purchased they also donate product to a child in need.
Strider Bikes – $119.99 (12-inch)
Strider Bikes is the original pedal-free balance bike that helps children as early as 18-months learn the essential balance and steering skills that are needed to transition to regular bicycles. Among studies from the University of South Dakota, in a 4-week period researchers saw an increase in cognitive awareness, coordination, and social-emotional growth when children practiced on Striders. The psychomotor development increases a child’s confidence along with other cognitive skills including decision-making. These bikes are also available for children with special needs and adults who never learned to ride. Parent testimonials have even suggested that Strider provides a faster learning rate for their child. The bikes are available in three sizes: 12-inch, 16-inch and 20-inch.
Pilot FriXion Clicker Erasable Pen – Starting at $3.99
Unlike the old-school, erasable pens of the past that broke your paper and left eraser shavings, FriXion ushers in a whole new class. This pen writes smoothly and erases clean. It comes in 8 vibrant colors with unique thermo-sensitive ink. In addition to being a must-have BTS tool, this is a great pen with an even greater cause! Pilot is partnering with national non-profit STOMP Out Bullying and Disney XD to encourage freedom of expression and to help erase bullying in schools. Pilot is donating a minimum of $125,000 to Stomp Out Bullying during Back to School 2015 and 2016.
***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were arranged to accommodate this editorial review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***