Size: A backpack shouldn't be longer or larger than the wearer's torso.
Weight: The lighter the backpack, the better. It's vital that a backpack weigh less than 15 percent of a person's body weight. The smaller the pack, the less that can be packed in it.
Padded straps: These protect the shoulders from carrying the heavy weight of the pack. If possible, opt for backpacks with wider straps (the wider the strap, the more evenly weight will be distributed on the shoulders).
Waist strap: When done up, this strap helps reduce the weight the shoulders carry by re-directing a portion of it to the abdomen. It also helps stabilize the body when carrying the pack.
Pockets: Multiple pockets help redistribute the weight throughout the backpack instead of in one central place.
Other features: Reflective stripes for safety and additional straps to distribute weight across the body are ideal. Double zippers and heavy material increase a bag's lifespan.
If your child is carrying a laptop computer or other electronics to school, look for a backpack with a padded, water-resistant compartment to keep these items safe and secure. Many backpacks have space for laptops, MP3 players, cell phones and other devices.
A backpack that fits right should sit comfortably on the shoulders without digging into them and should never look overstuffed. Your child should be able to zip it up without tugging on the zipper. The bottom of the pack should rest on the curve of the lower back and should not hang below the natural waistline (that means it's too heavy). He should also be able to fit his hand between the pack and the back.
Michelle Merget, OT, provides valuable advice to families choosing a new backpack. Thick straps, lumbar support and avoidance of overpacking are just a few features that help keep backs healthy during the school year.
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