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Top Tips for Choosing an Ergonomic Backpack

Friday, May 15, 2009
By Anne Kramer

As children’s workloads and extracurricular commitments increase, children simply have more to carry. Often they are responsible for bringing home books or carrying around sports equipment on a daily basis. All this weight can take a toll on a child’s health, in the form of muscle strains and back pain. A simple remedy is an ergonomic backpack.

It is important to choose the right size backpack. It should be no bigger than the child’s back. Ideally the backpack will hang one to two inches below the shoulders, and no more than four inches below the waistline. Children under five feet tall need a small backpack. Those who are 5’ to 5’5” do best with a medium backpack, and children over 5’5” can handle a large backpack.

The construction of the backpack is also significant. Certain features will minimize the risk of injury and make the backpack more comfortable for the child.

  • A backpack with two straps will distribute the weight of the pack evenly over both shoulders. Duffels and satchels, which only have a single strap, place all the weight on one side, placing the body out of balance.

  • Those straps should be at least two inches wide, to further distribute the weight. Curved straps better conform to children’s small bodies, and keep wider straps from cutting into their underarms or necks.
  • A chest strap ensures that the shoulder straps stay in place, and encourages proper posture. Proper adjustment is key, because if the chest strap is too loose, it does not serve its function, and if it is too tight, it can cause the shoulder straps to dig into the child’s neck.

  • Padding on the straps and back eliminate pressure points. Adequate padding on the back also keeps the child from being poked with the backpack’s contents.

  • The bag itself should be lightweight, since the backpack is also part of the total load the child will carry. The acceptable weight for a child’s backpack varies, based on the child’s weight; no one, however, should carry more than 25 pounds in a backpack.

  • Specialized compartments keep the load in place. They allow the user to balance the load more effectively, and they prevent that load from shifting. Multiple compartments also permit placing flat items, like textbooks, against the back. Oddly shaped items, which could poke the back, can be stored in a separate compartment.

  • A waist strap takes the stress off the back and spine, placing it instead on the hips. Moving the load to a lower point in the body not only removes stress from more fragile spine, but it also makes the load more comfortable to carry. Fitting the waist strap correctly is important: it should sit low over the hips and fit snugly.
Carefully fitting a child with an ergonomic backpack both prevents injuries and encourages healthy habits. By making kids’ ergonomics a priority, parents set a smart example for their children.



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