Your Ultimate Buying Guide to the Best Backpacks for School
July 19, 2020
One of the key items on most back-to-school shopping lists are backpacks for school. And not just any backpacks, but cool backpacks for school, right? However, as much as your child might be clamoring for a certain “look,” as a parent, your goal is to find one that will be both versatile and rugged. Consider this article your inside look at the best backpacks for school.
Features to Consider
Most kids lug around a lot of stuff—textbooks, snacks, homework, electronics and sometimes even equipment to support their activities, such as a change of clothing for sports or an instrument for their orchestra practice. However, some lucky kids have a newfound freedom because their school has gone digital—just one sleek tablet or laptop computer for them—or they are able to keep their various extracurricular accessories in a locker or the band room. Before you invest in back-to-school backpacks that are too big or too small, you can talk to your child about what they will be regularly carrying around and then plan your purchase accordingly.
For example, you can look at a full-size, spacious backpack, either a traditional style or what’s known as a laptop backpack, that has special compartments specifically for a laptop or other electronics. Or check into something more compact like a messenger bag. If you do make this choice, try to show your child how to wear a messenger bag properly—that is, cross-body style rather than just slung over their shoulder. That’s important for ergonomics (see more on this below) and also to help them stay balanced if they will be biking to school.
Yes, you want backpacks for school that are the right size, but there’s another consideration to balance with equal, shall we say, weight. Let’s face it, kids today are under a lot of pressure, and sadly, much of it is from their backpack.
And that’s likely more than is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which suggests that backpacks weigh less than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight. The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) goes even lower, recommending only 5 to 10 percent of your child’s body weight. (Go ahead and weigh your child’s backpack from last year—it’s ok, we won’t judge if you haven’t unpacked it yet—as you are likely to be surprised at just how heavy it is.)
After weighing your child's full back-to-school backpack, you might need to help him or her brainstorm how they can make it lighter—such as leaving heavy textbooks in their desk or only bringing them on certain days, for example. Or, consider a rolling backpack, which means they can bring everything they want without compromising the health of their back. Try to check your school’s policy though. Some have banned them as they can be a menace in crowded hallways.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), you can focus on the shoulder straps, which should be padded and wide…and which your child should wear over both shoulders for better posture and to prevent lower and upper back pain and neck and shoulder strain. The NSC also recommends that backpacks for school not hang more than four inches below the waistline, which can cause your child to lean forward due to increased weight on the shoulders.
Consistently carrying an overstuffed backpack can lead to trouble not only today, but down the road.
How much will your child be in and out of the backpack? If they want to have writing implements, a calculator and we hate to say it, but let’s be honest…their phone…at the ready, consider one with multiple pocket configurations and compartments so they can easily find what they’re looking for. Many of today’s backpacks for school even sport features like a water bottle holder, a cord container or a charging port. Also consider the durability, security and functionality of a flap compared to zippers.
Cost and Durability
Yes, of course, cost is a factor, but this is one of those areas where you are probably better served by spending more for rugged backpacks for school that will last, than going a little cheaper and having to ultimately replace it.
If you live in a rainy or snowy climate or your child will be walking to school—potentially in inclement weather—consider whether the pack is waterproof. You can also use a waterproofing spray that can help repel dirt and stains.
Elements that indicate a well-made backpack include sturdy zippers and strong straps. Many of the best backpacks for school also come with a warranty, so be sure to save the requisite paperwork just in case.
Don’t worry, we are not totally overlooking the need for cool backpacks for school.
Today’s backpacks for school come in a wide variety of looks, from stripes or geometric patterns for your young sophisticate, to whimsical fabrics adorned with almost any theme you can think of such as arrows, space, hearts, animal prints, camo and dinosaurs.
In fact, a special shopping trip for back-to-school backpacks and lunch bags is a good way to cap off your summer and get your child excited for the year ahead. Enlisting their participation in the selection of cool backpacks for school is an important way for them to showcase their interests and personality.
Keeping your back-to-school backpacks in top condition
So we’re going to state the obvious: Backpacks can get pretty darn gross as they slide along bus floors and are grabbed by germy hands. That’s why you should try to do some routine maintenance to make sure your pack stays as fresh as possible. Here are some tips:
Empty everything out.
This is also a good time to try to go through artwork and homework and find any errant school supplies that can be repurposed. You also might find out that whatever you’ve been packing for school lunches hasn’t been making the grade—and definitely better to find this out sooner rather than later.
Check the laundry instruction tag.
Sometimes even the best backpacks for school shouldn’t be fully immersed so definitely try to check the directions before tossing it in the washing machine.
Remove anything detachable.
Take off any hooks, straps, etc., that are easily removable. Soak the straps in a solution of water and liquid detergent and allow to air-dry.
Wash the pack in the washer or spot clean.
Depending on the directions, you can wash in the washing machine—best bet is to use a gentle cycle and turn it inside out—or spot clean with mild detergent. Either way, air dry away from direct sun.
Consider the material.
If the pack is leather, you can follow directions for cleaning leather garments; i.e. do not immerse in water. If the backpack is waterproof, don’t submerge it more than once or twice a year as that can harm its protective coating.
About the author
Cathie Ericson is a freelance writer who specializes in small business, finance and real estate.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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