Pack it Light, Wear it Right

It’s not uncommon for kids to lug around backpacks that are much heavier than their body weight. Though it may seem cool to sling a heavy load over one shoulder – long-term head, neck, and shoulder pain are not. Here are some helpful tips that will help your child carry his or her backpack with ease.

Choose the right backpack:

Forget leather! It looks great, but it’s far too heavy. Go for vinyl or canvas. Pick a pack that has two wide, adjustable, padded shoulder straps, along with a hip or waist strap, padded back and plenty of pockets. Make sure the pack fits properly, is not too snug around the arms and under the armpits, and that its size is proportionate to the wearer’s body.

Pack it properly:

They’re not moving out! Make sure your children’s packs contain only what is needed for that day, and that the weight is distributed evenly. It’s a good idea to know roughly what each item weighs.

The total weight of the filled pack should be no more than 10 to 15 per cent of the wearer’s own body weight. Pack heaviest objects close to the body, and place bumpy or oddshaped ones on the outside, away from the back.

Putting it on:

It’s a good idea to help young children with this, at least the first few times. Put the pack on a flat surface, at waist height. Slip on the pack, one shoulder at a time, then adjust the straps to fit comfortably. Remember when lifting a backpack, or anything, to lift using the arms and legs and to bend at the knees.

Wear it right:

Both shoulder straps should be used, and adjusted so that the pack fits snugly to the body, without dangling to the side. Backpacks should never be worn over just one shoulder. You should be able to slide your hand between the backpack and your child’s back. The waist strap should also be worn for added stability.

More than 50 per cent of young people experience at least one episode of lower back pain by their teenage years. Research indicates that this could be caused, to a great extent, by improper use of backpacks.

If your child complains of back pain, numbness or weakness in his or her arms and legs, get help to prevent future problems.

How much weight is too much:

The chart below is a guideline on the maximum weight your child (or you) should carry in their backpack. The general rule is no more than 15% of the student’s body weight or 10% for younger kids.

If you weigh… Only carry…
50 lbs 5 lbs
70 lbs 7 lbs
90 lbs 14 lbs
110 lbs 16 lbs
130 lbs 19 lbs
150 lbs 22 lbs
170 lbs 25 lbs
190 lbs 28 lbs

Backpack DOs and DON’Ts

  • DON’T sling your backpack on one side.
  • DO wear both straps and adjust them so that the pack fits snugly.
  • DO use the waist strap. It reduces the strain on your back.
  • DON’T carry your backpack too low: this can cause you to lean forward and puts the weight on your upper back.