Backpack what?! Yes, gratitude. Are you totally rolling your eyes? Hear me out. We all know backpack popularity comes and goes (with the adult set; kids have no choice) but the truth is, I have come to worship mine. I swear my bag saved my back, which was not doing so well from running around the city in heels and lugging around a 25 pound child—sometimes both at the same time. Once I ditched the crossbody style, which completely threw off my balance, things improved dramatically. Will your stuff sometimes get lost in the bottom of that great big abyss? Yes. Will you have approximately an entire box of something-or-other floating around somewhere in a pocket? Of course. But you will be able to go hands-free and basically store a weekend's worth of needs in your bag, plus your back will never suffer. Not to mention, there are so many cute styles to choose from.
The bag I'm using right now is by Stone + Cloth, a California-based company by Matthew Clough. S+C gives a portion of the proceeds of each bag directly to the Knock Foundation, which supports local children's tuition, school supplies, and lunches. Clough's trek up Mount Kilimanjaro a few years ago inspired the company after he learned his local porter, Benson, made less than a dollar a day—not enough to cover a child's education. The bags are symbols of education, and their signature Benson pack—named for Clough's beloved porter—is modeled after the oversize rucksacks used to carry trekker's gear up and down the mountain.
Eight more American-made standouts: