School Backpacks: Guidelines on Buying the Suitable Bag for Your Child

Kids School Bag Packs
As a loving parent, you want your kids to make the most of their time as students. One of the things you can do for your child is getting a school backpack that is good for their well-being. But the perfect backpack is not just about style, it should also fit the size and weight appropriate for your child and is designed for optimal back support. Our comprehensive buyer’s guide on schoolbags will help with narrowing your search.
At a Glance
  • The right school backpack for your child should not be wider or longer than the length and width of his torso. It should also be made from lightweight, durable, waterproof, and reflective materials.
  • Carrying a heavy bag can be straining to your child’s muscles and cause posture problems. That’s why you need to buy a school backpack that has sufficient padding for your child’s back and shoulders. It should also come with two adjustable shoulder straps and abdominal and/or chest straps for better weight distribution.
  • The recommended maximum weight limit that your child is allowed to carry in his school backpack varies between 5% and 20% of a child’s body weight [Source: Journal of School Health]. For the American Academy of Pediatrics, a loaded backpack should not weigh more than 10% to 20% of a kid’s body weight [Source: Journal of School Health]. However, the American Chiropractic Association , in particular, is more conservative, recommending that a backpack should weigh no more than 5% to 10% of the child’s weight.

Kids Today Are Carrying Overloaded School Bags

Two-thirds of American parents pay no attention to school backpack safety. According to a survey conducted by Kinderzeit.org,  73.2% of American parents tend to neglect their children’s backpack safety as they seldom weigh their kids’ bags when sending them to school. It also revealed that only 39% parents make sure the bags are worn correctly with two straps on both shoulders and that the backpacks don’t become a burden for the children.

Kids feel discomfort and pain while using their school backpacks because, more often, they are just too heavy for their weight and size as they tend to over-pack carrying books, notebooks and other educational materials to school everyday. They usually struggle with putting them on, or they may tend to lean forward while carrying one. If your kids are attending school for quite some time now, then you may have heard them complain about experiencing tingling pain or feeling numb while wearing their backpack.

Improper carrying of a backpack or heavy backpacks can cause a lot of acute and chronic pain in the neck, shoulder, hips and lower back area. As young children are suffering from back pain much earlier than previous generations, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), it is important to use proper posture and limit the everyday weight your child totes to and from school. Regular monitoring of the child’s physique while wearing a backpack should also be done to ensure it is appropriate and safe for your child.

School bags that are too heavy can also endanger your child on the way to school

A satchel that is too heavy can get your child in trouble during maneuvers either on car or a bicycle. The high center of gravity can easily upset the child’s balance and lead to a fall. In public transport, there is usually no space to position the bag during rush hours and kids are forced to keep the backpack on their backs, making them more exposed to brakes and sudden changes in speed.

Indicators that your child’s backpack is too heavy

  • If your child bends forward with his upper body more than 20°.
  • When your child complains of tingling or numbness in his or her fingers.
  • Your child shifts the weight very strongly to the left or right when walking in order to cushion the weight of the bag with the hip.
  • If the child has problems lifting the satchel on its own.
  • If your child can only run a few meters with the satchel on his back.

How Much Should Your Child’s School Backpack Weigh?

One of your responsibilities as a parent is to know the weight limit that your child is allowed to carry in his school backpack. However, so far, there is no universal guideline about the load limit of children’s bags.

So far, there is no universal guideline on load limits for children’s bags. For now, the recommended maximum weight limit varies between 5% and 20% of a child’s body weight. For the American Academy of Pediatrics, a loaded backpack should not weigh more than 10% to 20% of a kid’s body weight. However, the American Chiropractic Association is more conservative with its recommendation that a backpack should weigh no more than 5% to 10% of the child’s weight.

There is no binding directive for this. However, it is important to evaluate the physical condition of your child. In case of obese children who do little sport and therefore have a weaker bone structure and musculature, a percentage value would mean that higher carrying weights would be permissible.

How to Measure the Maximum Load Limit for Kids’ Backpacks

To accurately determine the maximum weight that your child can carry in his backpack, you must first weigh your child. Once you have his exact weight, multiply it by 10% (or 0.10). The number you get is the ideal bag weight for your child.

Once you have loaded your kid’s bag with school items, it must not weigh over this calculated weight limit. You will then weigh your child’s school backpack using a bathroom scale to know if the bag is compliant with this recommended limit.

The World Health Organization has came out with the following charts to guide you on the maximum backpack weight that your child should carry. This include data from the standard growth charts that they published.

For Boys

Age (Years)Average Body Weight (lbs.)Ideal Loaded Bag Weight (lbs.)Dangerous Loaded Bag Weight (lbs.)
331≤ 3.1> 6.2
436≤ 3.6> 7.2
540.5≤ 4.05> 8.1
645.5≤ 4.55> 9.1
750.5≤ 5.05> 10.1
856.5≤ 5.65> 11.3
963≤ 6.3> 12.6
1070.5≤ 7.05> 14.1
1178.5≤ 7.85> 15.7
1288≤ 8.8> 17.6
13100≤ 10> 20
14112≤ 11.2> 22.4
15123.5≤ 12.35> 24.7
16134≤ 13.4> 26.8
17142≤ 14.2> 28.4
18147.5≤ 14.75> 29.5

For Girls

Age (Years)Average Body WeightIdeal Loaded Bag Weight (lbs.)Dangerous Loaded Bag Weight (lbs.)
331.5≤ 3.15> 6.3
434≤ 3.4> 6.8
539.5≤ 3.95> 7.9
644≤ 4.4> 8.8
759.5≤ 5.95> 11.9
857≤ 5.7> 11.4
962≤ 6.2> 12.4
1070.5≤ 7.05> 14.1
1181.5≤ 8.15> 16.3
1291.5≤ 9.15> 18.3
13101≤ 10.1> 20.2
14105≤ 10.5> 21
15115≤ 11.5> 23
16118≤ 11.8> 23.6
17120≤ 12> 24
18125≤ 12.5> 25

In principle, you do not have to be an expert to realize that every gram added to your child’s bag makes walking more difficult and restricts your child’s movement.

Since children have to bring books, exercise books and other teaching materials for different teaching units at school every day, some children don’t pack their bags every day and overload their bags with unnecessary things. In some instances it is also considered very cool to carry a backpack casually over just one shoulder. The result: back and shoulder pain, as well as a bad posture.

Therefore the daily repacking of the schoolbag is essential. You and your children can start by going through a checklist of the necessary equipment for the next day. Little by little your child can then go through this routine on his or her own.

It is also important to adjust the straps correctly to ensure an optimal fit. If the risers are set too short, this will promote a hunchback. If the risers are set too long, a hollow back will help. At least 3 cm wide, well padded straps are ideal because they distribute the weight well on the shoulders. The straps should also be infinitely adjustable.

What is a School Backpack?

A school backpack is basically a bag that students carry on their back using one or two shoulder straps to bring their education-related belongings to and from school. Textbooks and notebooks are usually loaded in the bag’s main storage compartment while smaller items can be stored inside the backpack’s multiple pockets.

School backpacks continue to be popular today not just because of their functionality. People view them as a symbol representing the young generation. Nowadays, these bags are an inherent part of the global student culture as well as kids’ and teenagers’ fashion, just like children’s jeans and kids’ jackets. Therefore, for students, owning a knapsack is considered stylish and fashionable as well. We’ve all been through that phase of carrying backpacks, it’s our kid’s turn now.

little girl run to school with backpack

Types of School Backpacks

The design and appearance of schoolbags have been evolving over the years, which is why it’s pretty difficult to classify and differentiate them. But in the case of school backpacks, we can, at the very least, identify three basic types.

  • Messenger style backpack: Its most distinctive feature that sets it apart from other backpack types is its one-shoulder strap design. While backpacks with two straps are known to be better for your child’s posture and comfort, some people find messenger style backpacks far more stylish.
  • Standard backpack: A two-strap backpack is a classic design that never really goes out of style. Most students use this type of backpack because it distributes the weight of the load they are carrying evenly. Therefore, their backs are not as strained, and their posture is not as misaligned compared to when they wear other types of schoolbags. This type of bag can be classified further into two sub-types:
    • Full-zipper backpack: Equipped with a zipper that opens and closes the bag. The zipper is movable from one side to the other and passes over the top of the bag.
    • Top-loading backpack: This bag opens at the top and is equipped with a folding flap as its closure.
  • Trolley backpack: A hybrid between standard backpacks and trolley bags, a trolley backpack is best for wheeling around heavy loads (e.g., several textbooks). But unlike the traditional trolley bag, trolley backpacks won’t be so difficult to bring along in crowded areas. You have the option to carry it on your back when you need to. However, because it comes with a frame, handle and wheels, it is much heavier than a regular backpack.

Things to Consider When Buying School Backpacks

Size

The right school backpack for your child should not be wider or longer than the length and width of his torso. Therefore, smaller children should not be using backpacks for big kids or adults.

The top portion of the backpack should hang around two inches below the shoulder blades. The bag’s bottom, however, should not hang more than four inches below the waist.

Capacity

Your child’s school backpack should be able to accommodate all the essential items he needs for school, including the largest ones (e.g.laptops, three-ring binders, etc.).

As a guide, you may refer to the details below:

  • Small kids: They typically use bags with capacity starting at 1,000 cubic inches.
  • Big kids: They typically use bags with capacity starting at 1,500 cubic inches.
  • High school kids: They typically use bags with capacity starting at about 2,000 cubic inches.
Note:  When it comes to buying backpacks for your child, bigger is not always better. The roomier the backpack, the greater your child’s urge will be to fill it.

Material

The ideal backpack for your kid is made from lightweight, durable and waterproof materials. Bags made from synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon are lighter than bags made from leather, they also last longer than bags made from natural fibers like cotton. However, if you’re environment-conscious, eco-friendly backpacks made from natural fibers are preferable. And if you want a bag that ages well, you may opt for a leather bag for your child.

The zippers of your child’s backpack should also be made from high-quality material, durable, and easy to close.

Comfort

Carrying a heavy bag can be straining to your child’s muscles and cause posture problems. That’s why you need to buy a school backpack that comes with sufficient padding for your back and your shoulders.

The ideal backpack also comes with two adjustable shoulder straps as well as abdominal and/or chest straps for better weight distribution.

Safety

It’s best if your child’s backpack – especially if he’s still of preschool age – has reflectors or is made from reflective fabrics. This added feature makes them more visible when traveling to and from school.

However, if your chosen bag doesn’t have reflectors, then you can buy reflective tape and sew them on your child’s backpack.

Style

Your child’s backpack should reflect his personal sense of style. You should try to purchase a backpack that has the color or design that your kid likes. Style may not be as important as the other purchase criteria mentioned on this page, but your child will treasure the bag more if he likes the way it looks.

Keep in mind: You should instill in your kid the habit of carrying what is only necessary. Therefore, he won’t have to struggle with carrying a heavy bag every day.

Popular School Backpack Brands

JANSPORT THE NORTH FACE HERSCHEL PATAGONIA SWISSGEAR DAKINE HIGH SIERRA FJALLRAVEN DABBAWALLA BAGS L.L. BEAN

Traditional Backpack Vs. Trolley Bag Vs. Trolley Backpack: Which Is Better?

Deciding whether a standard backpack is better than a trolley backpack is just a matter of opinion and preference. Using either type of school bag comes with their own benefits and disadvantages. But if you’re choosing to buy one over the other, below are the pros and cons of each bag type.

Standard Backpack

Pros: 
• The backpack allows for more mobility since both hands are free to move around.
• This bag is versatile because your child can use it anywhere else apart from school.
• Your child can carry it while walking to school or while riding a bike.
• You and your child have a large selection of bag designs and models to choose from.
Cons: 
• If the load is too heavy, carrying it may cause back and shoulder pain as well as posture problems

Trolley Backpack

Pros:
• Your child won’t be burned by heavy-weighing items if used as a trolley.
• It’s the more practical bag to bring for long school trips.
• If your child doesn’t want to use it as trolley bag, he can wear it like a backpack.
Cons:
• This bag has a bulkier and rigid frame than a regular backpack so it eats up a lot of space.
• Because it’s built with a frame, a handle, and wheels, it’s already heavy without putting items in it.
• The bag may be a trip hazard when used as a trolley.
• Some schools do not allow its use.

Tips on Buying and How to Wear School Backpacks

  • #1: Buy a school backpack with enough padding in the shoulder straps and the back.
  • #2: Select a bag that comes with multiple compartments for better weight distribution.
  • #3: Weigh your child’s bag from time to time to determine if it’s too heavy. If so, lighten the load by keeping only the items that he needs for the day and leave everything else at home.
  • #4: Place the heavier items closest to your kid’s back for better weight distribution.
  • #5: Take the time to teach your child how to properly lift and carry his bag. He should bend his knees and not bend over at the waist.
  • #6: Always remind your child to wear the backpack using both straps to avoid curving the spine or feeling pain or discomfort while carrying the bag.
  • #7: Make sure your child always uses the waist and chest belts to help even out the weight distribution of the bag.
  • #8: Encourage your kid to talk to you if he’s experiencing any pain or discomfort while using his backpack.

Care and Cleaning Tips for School Backpacks

School backpacks require cleaning every once in a while. However, backpacks are not really meant to be machine-washed. You could risk damaging the fabric, particularly the reflective ones. To guide you, here are a few tips on how to clean your child’s school bag:

  • Remember to always, always check the care label for special instructions on how the backpack should be cleaned.
  • For regular cleaning, all you need is a cloth damped with cold water to scrub the bag’s fabric.
  • For dirtier bags with heavy stains:
    • Soak the bag in warm water.
    • Rub gentle detergent gel on the backpack’s fabric and let it stay for several minutes.
    • Use a brush to scrub the bag clean.
    • Rinse the bag with water.
    • Let the bag dry under the sun. You may also place it in front of a heater.
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