Choosing a Backpack for Your Child

Your child’s school backpack will probably be the hardest-working item in your back to school shopping. The backpack will be used every day to take items to and from school. It needs to withstand daily use including traveling to and from school, locker storage, and the rough treatment that children dish out on their belongings.

Quality Counts in Backpacks

To look for a quality backpack, Consumer Reports magazine suggests you look over the backpack, inside and out, and keep an eye on the following:

  • Loose, uneven or careless stitching that could easily come undone.
  • Raw or frayed fabric edges which could unravel.
  • Zippers that are openly exposed to weather. Instead, opt for zippers that have fabric flaps over them to keep water and other elements out of the backpack.

A Backpack Needs to Fit Properly

Backpacks that do not fit properly, or are used incorrectly, have the potential to cause back and shoulder strain or pain.

To find a backpack with the proper fit, follow these tips:

  • Choose the proper size: The width of a backpack should be relatively proportionate to the person’s width. For instance, a small child should not opt for an adult-sized backpack. Further, the backpack’s height should extend from approximately two inches below the shoulder blades to waist level, or just slightly above the waist.
  • Straps are important features: Consider broad straps with padding for the shoulder, both to offer more comfort, and protect the shoulders from excessive pressure. Adjustable straps are useful, not just for proper fit but for proper positioning – again, the backpack should sit just slightly above the waist and both straps should stay even in length.
  • Evenly distribute the weight: Consider backpacks that offer pockets, slots and dividers to help evenly distribute extra weight. Heavier items should be placed closer to the person’s back, within the pack. Lighter items may sit further from the body.
  • Don’t over pack: The backpack, as well as its contents, shouldn’t total more than 15% of a person’s weight: A 100-pound child’s filled backpack shouldn’t exceed 15 pounds, while a 60-pound child shouldn’t carry more than 9 pounds.

Some backpacks offer chest or waist straps designed to help distribute weight. It is important to make sure that these straps sit properly on your child. If they do not sit properly on your child, they will not help distribute weight and may even lead to discomfort.

  • A hip belt should wrap around your child’s hips.
  • A chest strap should be adjusted to bring the shoulder straps in so the arms can move freely.
  • The height of the chest strap should be placed where it is the most comfortable for the child.