2016 Back-to-School Gear Guide

Featured Gift Guide Products


August is upon us and, whether your kids have already trudged back to their first day of school or they’re madly completing summer reading assignments in anticipation, a new school year is upon us. We love August if for no other reason than we get to discover cool new gear to send with our geeklings as they level up their academic skills. Here’s some of the GeekDad and GeekMom favorites for 2016.

Saddleback Mountainback Canvas Bag

Saddleback Mountainback Simple Canvas Bag
Image Credit: Saddleback Leather

Every school year, I wage a constant maintenance war with my kid’s backpacks. Zippers break, seams tear, and straps disintegrate as they are buffeted in daily assaults. As my son heads into high school, I decided to get him something that wouldn’t just last the year, but last him all four years (and college). Saddleback Leather makes some of my favorite leather bags and lucky for me, they’ve decided to branch out into bags that are a bit more casual and just as durable as their leather products. The Mountainback line features bags that are constructed from durable (and when they say durable they mean “in case of apocalypse, can stop a zombie bite, then be shredded and used as a torch if necessary”), waterproof 24 oz waxed canvas, solid metal accents, and thick bull leather straps and pads. The Canvas Bag is the perfect daily whip to throw in a few textbooks, binders, and a laptop. The drawstring enclosure and eye pad strap are maintenance free (and won’t get stuck up or down). And while the thick straps and leather pad take some getting used to, once they’re broken in they’re far superior to any nylon or polyester backpack. (Sample provided by Saddleback Leather.)

Anthony Karcz. Buy it on Amazon $327

Razer Orochi Mouse and Man O’ War Wireless Headset

Razer Orochi Man O' War
Product Images: Razer

Let’s get this out of the way right up front – do your kids need a mouse and headset with a velvety black plastic finish and flashy Chroma LEDs that can display zillions of different color combinations? No. No they do not. Will handing them these give them one less thing to complain about when it comes time to sit down and get their homework done? Yes. Yes it will. The Razer Orochi mouse is a precision beast of a mouse in portable, compact form. No dongle needed, it connects via Bluetooth, and offers multiple thumb buttons, smooth tracking, and a comfortable fit for either hand. If you do manage to burn through the batteries during a long Overwatch…um…”homework” session, you can quickly convert the Orochi to wired and not miss a beat. The Razer Man O’ War is a wireless wonder, with thickly padded ear cups, a wireless dongle that stores right in the headset, and sound that will have you checking over your shoulder. Sound is clear and crisp and the mic performs with no crackle or drop out. Battery life is impressively long, even with the Chroma LEDs doing their light show. For a headset, it’s a hefty bit of kit, so you may need to doublecheck that it fits your student’s noggin before picking up this one. (Samples provided by Razer.)

Anthony Karcz. Buy it on Amazon $45 (for Prime Members)/$170


Small Hollar Haul (Image by Will James)

Hollar is like an upscale, online dollar store. They have tons of school supplies (like those in the picture) along with household items for organization, toys, and more at deeply discounted prices. Just like any discount store, there is a ton of stuff to sort through to find real gems, but it’s time well spent, especially if you don’t have time to go to a physical store for school supplies. Our favorite score was the Finding Nemo lunchbox. While we didn’t need another lunchbox, my son loves bags and boxes to carry toys in and this $5 zippered lunchbox with one of his favorite characters on it was perfect. Take a look at Hollar–you’re sure to find plenty of what you need at a great price.

Will James. Buy it on Hollar, prices vary


Image credit: KidGPS

Keeping up with kids in that in-between age group, where they’re developing autonomy but still require ample oversight, can be challenging—especially if they’re not quite responsible enough to warrant their own smartphone. We’ve tried a number of different connected technology solutions, but the one that really seems to work for my family is KidGPS. This palm-sized device clips to a backpack or fits in a pocket and lets caregivers easily check a child’s location via a free companion app. You can receive push notifications when your kid enters established “Zones” like home or school, and a Panic button on the device itself can be used to alert you if your child becomes lost or feels they are in danger. The KidGPS charges via micro-USB and conveniently retains a charge for a full five days, making it simple to make sure they’re where they need to be—and find them via accurate driving directions if they’re not—all week long. (Review materials provided by: X-Doria)

Z. Buy it on KidGPS $79.99 + Service Plan

Boogie Board Jot with Clearview

Boogie Board Jot
Boogie Board Jot with Clearview (Image credit: Will James)

The Boogie Board Jot with Clearview is the same as the original Jot 4.5, but with no back on it. This transforms the Jot from a grownup writing instrument, to an educational kids’ toy. So what exactly is Clearview? The LCD screen is translucent instead of black. The protective cover on the Jot can be attached to the back of the Jot and can hold the included flash cards or any other text or images you want. This allows kids to trace things, which is especially helpful for learning to write. Just like the original, the stylus snaps right on to the Jot. The Jot is perfect for all ages, including adults. In addition to its many educational uses, it’s also a great way for adults to take a break doodling (perhaps while waiting in the pick up line). Check out GeekDad’s full review.

Will James. Buy it on Amazon $19.99

Bentgo Kids Children’s Lunch Box

Bentgo Kids
Image Credit: Bentgo

If your kid likes to have variety at lunch, there is no better lunch box than the Bentgo. It’s a bento-style leakproof box, with five separate compartments to keep things in place. Perfect for young kids, easy to open, but it keeps things organized. Portion size is perfect with room for a dessert. Pack it with an ice pack to keep things fresh all day. You can buy additional trays to pop into the container. Dishwasher and microwave safe – which makes this a winner in our house

Kishore Hari. Buy it on Amazon $27.99

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