A backpack is a convenient way for school kids to bring books and other equipment to school. There are many ergonomically sound backpacks to chose among that will help distribute the weight in a healthy way. A slingback carried on one side of the body is less suitable than a backpack, since it causes an uneven weight distribution, and the same goes for handbags.
Backpacks intended for school children often have padded shoulder-straps and backs to make them more comfortable. Some have reinforcements to keep them from breaking when carrying a large number of heavy books.
Reflective panels are found on many school backpacks, since they make it easier to spot the bag, and thus also the wearer, in low-light conditions where the risk of traffic incidents is increased. If the backpack doesn’t come with reflective panels, you can buy individual ones and add them yourself. Many styles and colors are available.
When choosing a backpack, it is important to take the current size and build of the child into account. Getting a huge backpack for a small child thinking they will “grow into it” is not ideal, since an overly big backpack can be difficult to wear correctly. This, in turn, can cause various problems, especially if the child has to carry fairly heavy loads.
A few questions
Before getting a backpack, it is a good idea to answer the following questions:
- Should there be enough room for PE clothing in the backpack, or will PE clothing be carried separately?
- Should there be enough room to place a lunch box/lunch bag in he backpack?
- Does the child have extracurricular activities or afternoon/weekend classes where the backpack will be used to carry specialty items, e.g. a musical instrument or sports equipment?
- Will the child be biking while wearing the backpack? Some backpack designs are uncomfortable when biking because they tend to move around a lot or distribute the weight in a strange way when the child is sitting on a bike instead of standing up.
- How resilient to rain do you want the backpack to be? Some materials get soaked quicker than others.
- Should the backpack be large enough to fit a laptop? Should there be a special padded pocket for a laptop integrated into the backpack? Generally speaking, specialized laptop bags with shoulder-straps are not advisable. Clearly advertising that the child is carrying around a laptop can increase the risk of theft and assault. Also, this type of bag tends to have very little room for bulky items that the child might need to bring into school.
- Does the pupil want the backpack to have extra pockets on the outside? Outside pockets are handy when you have certain objects that you want to be able to reach quickly without rummaging through the main bag compartment. Valuables such as money, phones, and keys should ideally not be stored in outside pockets since pick-pocketing from such pockets is easier than getting into the main compartment unnoticed.
- Does the school have special rules about backpacks, e.g. when it comes to size, color, and style? This is especially common in schools that have a mandatory school uniform.
- Are clear backpacks obligatory at the school? In some schools in the United States, only clear (see-through) backpacks are allowed. This is for safety reasons, and the rules were implemented as a response to school shootings. Not all schools in the United States have this rule, but some do, so it is best to check directly with the school before purchasing a backpack. In some schools where this rule is enforced, the school will hand out identical see-through backpacks to all students.
A backpack with a rigid frame is usually not recommended for everyday school use. Rigid frame backpacks are typically used for carrying heavy loads long-distance, e.g. during camping trips on foot in the wild.
- A rigid frame can make it more difficult to fit the backpack into a tight school locker.
- A rigid metal frame can set off metal detectors.
- Wearing a backpack with a rigid frame can increase the risk of certain types of injuries in case of an accident.
A padded belt can offload up to 90% of the weight into the hips, leaving the shoulder straps mainly for stabilization purposes. This is desirable when carrying heavy loads, since the hips are stronger than the shoulders, and the load will ride closer to the wearer’s own center of mass. Also, the backpack can not move around as freely when it is secured with a belt.
Padded belts, also known as waist straps or hip straps, are common on large backpacks intended for heavy loads. Most backpacks intended for everyday school use does not come with such straps.
Backpack palsy (BPP) is a type of brachial plexus injury associated with carrying a heavy backpack. The injury is believed to be caused by excessive compression of the shoulder areas by the shoulder straps. Distributing the weight differently by using a padded waist or hip belt is, therefore, the recommended method for preventing backpack palsy when a heavy load needs to be carried.
Backpack palsy typically manifests as weakness or partial loss of voluntary movement at the shoulder girdle and/or elbow flexors after carrying a heavy load with shoulder-straps. Numbness or “pins and needles” can also occur. Backpack palsy is usually painless, and pain can be a sign that some other injury has occurred.