Backpacks for Back To School – How To Pick The Best One

School & Learning

Back To School and the Best Backpacks

With back to school right around the corner, many parents are buying new backpacks for their kids. I remember well the pain in my shoulders and back when I schlepped home my backpack each day from school, filled to the brim with too many heavy books, my leftovers from lunch, water bottle and sporting equipment. I’m not sure there were as many backpack choices in the 80s.

I remember well the pain in my shoulders and back when I schlepped home my backpack each day from school

My husband, son and I ventured to a sporting store this weekend to pick out his first school backpack as he is entering junior kindergarten. We gave him a few choices of packs that suited his size and weight and he got to choose. He was so excited he wore it out of the store and around the house all day!

He was so excited he wore it out of the store and around the house all day!

Ill-fitting backpacks can cause back-ache and neck and shoulder pain. To avoid this, I suggest following these recommendations when purchasing a new backpack:

  • Consider purchasing the lightest pack you can find
  • Consider purchasing a pack on wheels for older children who are carrying heavier loads.
  • Packs should have padded shoulders and backs
  • Generally speaking the wider the shoulder strap, the more comfortable the pack
  • Look for packs with multiple compartments so weight can be evenly distributed
  • Compression straps on the sides allow you to bring the pack closer to the body and minimize low back pain
  • Chest and hip straps allow for a tighter fit which is especially helpful with heavy loads or walking long distances.

To minimize strain and pain:

  • Packs should not carry more than 10-20% of the child’s weight. I don’t want my 40-lb child carrying more than 5 lbs. of weight in the pack.
  • Encourage your child to stand up straight and use both shoulder straps to distribute the weight evenly
  • Adjust the straps so the pack sits above the hips to minimize lower back pain
  • Only carry around the pack when absolutely necessary. It should hang in the locker or cubby when not needed
  • Encourage your child to tell you if they feel back, neck or leg pain when carrying the pack. This may be due to improper fit or size

Now you know how to buy the best bag for your child and how to fit it properly. Enjoy the school year!

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Dina M. Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

About Dina M. Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.

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