We’ve all seen children struggling with overfull backpacks. The child who can’t walk straight because the backpack is too full. The child who is dragging the backpack along the ground because it’s too heavy to lift. How does a parent know what backpack to choose and how heavy it should be?
A recent study conducted by the University of Granada and Liverpool John Moores University confirmed prior studies that school children should not carry backpacks that weigh more than 10% of their body weight. What the study did discover was the maximum weight for a wheeled backpack is 20% of a child’s body weight.
If you feel your child is being weighed down and may need a different backpack or adjustment, we have compiled a few recommendations.
Ideal Backpack Features
Backpacks without wheels should have the following features to protect against back injuries:
- Be made of lightweight material
- Have padded double straps
- Have a sternum strap or waist belt
Fill the backpack with a typical day’s contents and weigh it. Remember, the total weight should be no more than 10% of the child’s body weight. For example, the backpack for a 50-pound child should only weigh between five and seven pounds, with five being the ideal.
Invest in a Durable Backpack
Having to buy a new backpack every year can be expensive, so purchase a durable one that will last for a few years. Most of the long-lasting backpacks come in more than one size, so be sure to check the dimensions and weight before buying.
- LL Bean‘s original book pack is a 1980’s design so it doesn’t use mesh or have a sternum strap, but it lasts for years.
- Lands’ End‘s classmate backpack is a viable option if you or your child do not care for the LL Bean. It comes in more than one size; however, it is not as well made as the LL Bean packs.
- Pottery Barn‘s Mackenzie backpack is on par with Lands’ End in terms of durability. The Mackenzie backpacks come in a range of sizes, including a wheeled pack.
- REI’s Workload Mini Pack is a newer model, but has shown to be quite comfortable with thick, cushioned straps and back padding, as well as a supportive sternum strap. Because of this backpack’s size, it is best for children from kindergarten to fifth grade.
Properly Wearing Backpacks
If your child is complaining of pain after carrying his backpack, make sure it’s fitting properly by checking the following:
- Backpacks should not hang more than four inches below a child’s waistline. When a backpack hangs too low on a child’s back, it increases the weight on the shoulders.
- Wide, padded straps should be adjustable. Loose straps can cause spinal misalignment and pain.
- Ensure he or she is using both shoulder straps as well as a sternum strap or waist belt. These straps help distribute the weight more evenly.
Be sure to reassess how a backpack fits if your child has a sudden growth spurt during the school year.
At Bard & Didriksen Pediatrics, we want your child to experience as little pain and discomfort as possible. If you have questions or other concerns, contact us today.