Back-to-School Backpack Basics


While backpacks are incredibly handy to help kids carry schoolbooks and supplies, they can also be harmful if improperly fitted or overloaded. With so many sizes, shapes, and styles to choose from, selecting one for your child’s frame and needs can be confusing. But considering about half the students aged 9 to 20 experience back pain from backpacks, it’s important to make sure yours makes the grade. Use the following tips as your guide.

Selecting A Backpack

  • Look for two wide, padded shoulder straps. This helps evenly distribute the weight of the backpack and increases comfort. Narrow straps can dig into the shoulders.
  • Select backpacks with a padded back. Padding in the back offers extra protection against book edges and sharp, poking objects.
  • Get a waist belt. A waist belt helps anchor the pack to avoid swaying while walking and helps distribute the backpack weight better.
  • Look for multiple compartments. This further distributes weight and makes it easier to find smaller items that might otherwise get lost in the chaos.
  • Think small and light. Find the smallest backpack to accommodate your child’s folders, books, and school supplies. The backpack should be no wider than your child’s torso and constructed from a lightweight, nylon-type material vs. leather or traditional canvas.

Although many students like the ease of wheels, some schools don’t allow them because they pose a tripping hazard. Check with your school first.

Packing A Backpack

  • Pack with care. Put your heaviest items in first, on the bottom and closest to the back. Organize smaller items in the compartments.
  • Lighten up. Packs should weigh no more than 10 to 15 percent of your child’s body weight. Preferably on the lighter side. For example, if your child weighs 70 pounds, the pack should weigh between 7 to 10.5 pounds.
  • De-clutter. It’s easy to keep shoving extra papers, folders, and other items into a pack, but a few ounces here and there quickly add up to pounds. Regularly cull through the pack to eliminate old papers, unneeded school supplies, or video games. Carry only essentials and store the rest in the school locker.

Wearing A Backpack Properly

  • Adjust the straps. Position the backpack snugly, close to the body. The straps should hold the pack two inches above the waist and never more than four inches below. Make sure the straps allow free movement of arms.
  • Double up. Although kids may think it looks cool to casually sling one strap over their shoulder, this doesn’t evenly distribute weight and can quickly strain neck, shoulder, and back muscles.
  • Lift with caution. Your child should be able to put on and take off their backpack without difficulty. Avoid twisting the torso in the process. Bend at the knees, grab the pack with both hands and place arms through the straps.
  • Stand tall. If you see your child leaning forward or backward to carry the backpack, it’s too heavy.

With these basics in mind, your child can wear their backpack comfortably and safely all year long.

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