When you’re shopping for a backpack, look for these important features:
- Wide, padded shoulder straps. Make sure your child uses both straps, because slinging a backpack over just one shoulder can cause muscle strain. Straps should be tight enough that the pack fits close to the body, in the middle of the back (not hanging past his butt).
- Padded back. This provides protection against sharp objects (like a binder’s edge) and helps relieve strain on the back.
- Waist strap. This one is harder to find in a kid’s backpack (and pricier), but it’s helpful for distributing weight and taking pressure off little shoulders.
- Compartments. Using them helps distribute weight more evenly. The heaviest items should go in the center of the backpack.
- Lightweight. The total weight of a full backpack shouldn’t be more than 15 percent of your child’s body weight — that means an 80-pound kid should carry 12 pounds, max. If your child needs to haul more than that, consider a rolling backpack (check to make sure it’s allowed).