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Backpack Tips: How to Choose and Wear the Right Backpack

Many Americans develop back or neck problems because of a bad or improperly-worn backpack.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent backpack-related body pain. Today, we’re explaining some of the best tips for choosing, using, and wearing the right backpack.

Weight Matters

Students carry up to 30 pounds of weight in their backpacks – even at a young age. That’s a problem: one study published in Spine in 2010 found that children’s spines were compressed when carrying heavy loads.

Another study published in BioMed Research International in 2015 found that backpacks heavier than 10% of a child’s body weight could cause the child’s back to lean one way or another.

Other studies have shown that incorrect backpack usage at any age can lead to posture problems and stiffness.

At the very least, a heavy backpack can leave children in pain. For these reasons and others, the American Occupational Therapy Association started “National School Backpack Awareness Day”, during which they educate students on the tips and strategies they can use to avoid backpack-related discomfort.

The 10% rule is important. If a 16-year old student weighs 140 pounds, for example, then his backpack should only weigh 14 pounds.

What to Look for in a Backpack

Some of the key features to look for when shopping for a backpack include:

Waist Strap: A waist strap distributes the weight of the backpack across your back more evenly.

Padded Back: A padded back makes the backpack comfier to wear, but it also protects your back against jagged or oddly-shaped objects in the bag.

Wide Shoulder Straps: Wider shoulder straps distribute the weight across the back more evenly. Narrow shoulder straps put too much weight on a small area, and this weight on your neck and shoulders can affect circulation.

Padded Shoulder Straps: Padded shoulder straps reduce the load on your neck and shoulders.

Compartments: Compartments make it easy to organize your backpack and keep it neat. You can distribute the weight evenly and avoid having oddly-shaped objects against your back.

Reasonable Size: You should wear a backpack proportional to your size. A child’s backpack, for example, shouldn’t be the same size as an adult’s backpack. The length of the backpack is particularly important for children, and a child should not wear a backpack designed for an adult torso.

Of course, none of these features matter if you don’t use them. Your backpack might have a great waist strap that distributes the weight more evenly, but if you never take the time to tighten the strap, then you’re not getting the benefits.

Tips for Wearing a Backpack Correctly

After picking the right backpack, you need to wear it correctly. Some of the best tips for wearing a backpack include:

  • The bottom of the backpack should sit at around waist level
  • Wear both shoulder straps at all times
  • Ensure the items and weight in the backpack are distributed evenly
  • Ensure you can walk normally with the backpack on without slouching or breathing heavily
  • Use the waist strap to spread the weight evenly across your back
  • Adjust the shoulder straps so the backpack is high on your back and the shoulder straps are comfortable on your shoulders
  • Readjust straps as needed for different clothes; backpacks could sit differently depending on the thickness of the fabric
  • Your backpack straps should be tight enough so that your backpack doesn’t sway as you walk; swaying can lead to chafing
Final Word

When you purchase the right backpack and wear it correctly, you reduce the risk of pain and discomfort at any age.
Use the tips above to ensure your backpack is helping you – not hurting you.