Backpack Smarts for School (and Beyond)

Backpacks have gone beyond the basics for school or for taking a hike – just check out the handbag section of any department store, and you’ll see how they’ve become the chic, grab-and-go alternative to the usual shoulder bag for women, too!

However, they still have to fit properly on the back and shoulders to avoid causing pain or injury. That’s especially important for children, but adults need to take note as well.

For kids, backpacks are an easy way to carry books and gear to school and after-school activities, including sports. (They’re also a great carry-all for the beach or picnics – and if you can get one that has an insulated compartment to keep a beverage or snack cold, alongside your swimming goggles or mini-football, that’s even better!)

Colorful, cool patterns or images are fun, but if the material is not strong enough to bear the proper weight (with an emphasis on proper), an overloaded or misused backpack can cause injury (not fun at all). A warning goes out to adults too, who try to lug way too much in their travels.

If this sounds familiar, lighten up with these backpack safety tips:

Don’t carry a backpack that weighs more than 10 to 15 percent of your body weight. This is especially important for kids who are still developing. If your child weighs 80 pounds, their backpack should weigh no more than 8 to 12 pounds. Choose canvas instead of leather (at least where kids are concerned; it weighs and costs less). Two wide, padded shoulder straps won’t dig into shoulders. Use both shoulders to carry backpacks, not one. A belted backpack with pockets can balance items inside. A padded back helps protect kids from being poked by packed pencils/pens and rulers. Gently tighten straps for a closer fit. The backpack should “rest” in the middle of the back and not drop any lower.

With the right backpack, the right weight, and the right fit, backpacks can rule at school and beyond.


By Lisa Miceli Feliciano

Sources include: American Academy of Pediatrics (


Related Reading