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Back to School Backpack Safety

Back to School Backpack Safety

It’s that time of year again.  Students are stocking up on pens, pencils, binders, paper, books and other school supplies.  With so much stuff, the weight adds up quickly.  Many children will be lugging around all of that gear in one backpack, but carrying a heavy backpack to school every day can lead to injury. 

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, a child shouldn’t carry a backpack that weighs more than 15 to 20 percent of their body weight, and I have seen other recommendations as low as 10 percent.  My wife is going back to school this year to get an MBA.  I weighed her backpack, and it weighed in at a hefty 20.4 pounds.  She weighs … Let me rephrase that.  I weigh about 180 pounds, so I could squeak by with a 20.4 pound backpack, but this would be pushing it for most children and for my wife. 

You can avoid the weight issue all together if you purchase a backpack with wheels.  If you go this route, make sure the handle is long enough so your child doesn’t need to stoop over to pull it along.  If you go the traditional backpack route make sure you buy a backpack with good features.

A good backpack should have:
Two straps which should be wide and padded.
A chest strap and a waist strap both of which will help take extra stress off the shoulders and spine.
A padded back.
Multiple compartments to help organize and distribute weight evenly.

Make sure the backpack fits your child.
The top of the backpack should rest just below the shoulders, and the bottom of the backpack should rest around 4 inches below the belly button near the hips.

Pack smartly.
Pack only what you need for the day and remember the 15 to 20 percent guideline.
Pack flat objects in the back of the backpack and heavy objects at the bottom.
Try to distribute the weight evenly.

Most importantly, encourage your children to do well in school.  A good education is invaluable.

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Andrew Peterson

Andrew Peterson is a Certified Industrial Hygienist with over 10 years of experience working in the environmental and occupational health field. In addition to writing, he is currently the Environment, Health and Safety Manager for a medium-sized company that has been voted one of Fortune Magazine’s Best Places to Work For and one of CRO Magazine’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens. He lives in California with his wife and adopted pound puppy.


+ add your own
4:55AM PDT on May 4, 2012

It's difficult to get kids and teens to wear the backpacks where they sit properly, with the weight distributed evenly across the back. I see SO MANY kids with their straps adjusted so long, the load is bouncing on their butts with each step they take, because it's cooooool.

2:39AM PDT on Mar 26, 2011

Thanks for the article.

6:01PM PDT on May 31, 2010

thank you =]

11:28PM PST on Dec 29, 2009

"She weighs … Let me rephrase that." LOL! Nice save!! Disaster, pain and dismemberment narrowly avoided!

11:14PM PDT on Sep 25, 2008

jiiiii thanks. for the info..
cause in my country many parents buy backpacks for their children that are bigger size than the body. The reason is to save money so they won't buy bag again. Will informed to parents as i can

And also many backpacks in a cute style, but with small strap and bad stitching.

Big thanks-thanks..

1:53PM PDT on Aug 18, 2008

I am the wife with the heavy backpack, and boy was I shocked how many books I have to carry! Yikes. One thing to add, even at my age I still want to only wear one strap because it "looks cooler". Please caution kids that it ain't worth the pain. Just get a stylin pack.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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