A & E got their Eddie Bauer packs at the same time. They were advertised as "College Ready" and came in lavender and teal among other colors we didn't buy. I can always spot them in a crowd of students. They're classics. And they're the easiest to get fixed if you ever need to use the warranty. No receipt required, just bring it into a store or follow the online instructions to mail it in. (Not that they're showing the least bit of wear after 3 years.)
M has always been pickier, going through a much wider variety of pack styles, including a wheeled one. Today she picked out a Jansport messenger bag, loaded with tech pockets, in a rose print because her middle name is Rose and it's her thing. Like her sisters, there was not a lot of debate about which one, or concern that she wouldn't be able to change it next year. She was ready. She knows herself well enough to choose with confidence. Sure, it's a seemingly small thing, but it's a real thing.
I recently sent in my old navy blue Jansport pack for new straps under its lifetime warranty. Their process is also simple, but you do pay shipping to send it in. My older siblings' Eddie Bauer packs are still in use 30 years and countless trips later. The last backpack really does carry all your gear through life's adventures. At 11 years old and about to start Middle School, it makes you feel more grown up and ready for this next stage of life.
It's amazing how sometimes you're standing in the middle of a commonplace experience and you suddenly realize that it's special. When my kids were little my husband and I discussed different ways to mark this period of transition into adulthood. There weren't any fixed traditions in our family we were aware of, and we didn't come up with anything brilliant for ourselves. But we have discovered that our lives are full of little markers, and rather than a single major event marking the transition, this string of small discovered coming of age rituals suits us very well.