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Medically reviewed by: Yamini Durani, MD

Backpacks make it easy to carry all of your school supplies. It would be tough to carry everything without one. But backpacks also can be a real pain. Here's why: kids can get hurt if they trip over them or get bumped with one. And heavy backpacks can be hard on your neck and back.

Because backpacks are a fact of kid life, let's talk about backpack safety.

How Can I Use a Backpack Safely?

Here are two big backpacking rules:

  1. Watch that backpack! Like a pet, backpacks can get away from you sometimes, so keep an eye on yours. Keep it out of the way where people are walking, such as hallways, the middle aisle on the bus, and the walkway between desks in class. You'll also want to watch out for falling backpacks if you've stored it on the top shelf of your locker.
  2. Check out your blind spot. Before taking your pack off or putting it on, take a look around you and behind you. You don't want to back into anyone with your backpack. And, of course, don't try to hit someone with your backpack. Loaded down with books, it's like hitting somebody with a bag of bricks.

Sometimes, backpacks can give a kid a backache or cause pain in the neck or shoulders. To avoid this:

  • Use both shoulder straps so you spread out the weight evenly. Wearing your backpack on only one shoulder might make you lean to one side. Adjust the straps, making sure they aren't too loose.
  • Stand up straight. If your backpack makes you hunch forward or lean to one side, you might be carrying too much weight or not using both shoulder straps.
  • Limit the weight. Carry as few books as possible. If you can leave a few books behind, do so. Doctors recommend carrying no more than 10% to 20% of your body weight. For example, if you weigh 80 pounds, your backpack shouldn't weigh more than 8 to 16 pounds.
  • Give your back a break. When you can, leave your backpack in your locker and carry just what you need.

Talk to your mom or dad if you have problems putting your backpack on or taking it off. Also let a parent know if you have any aches, pain, tingling, or numbness (no feeling) in your back or arms.

What Should I Look for in a New Backpack?

Having the right kind of backpack can prevent problems. So if it's time for you to get a new backpack, consider these tips:

  • Choose a lightweight backpack so you don't add to the weight of your books and other supplies.
  • Pick a backpack with a padded back and wide, padded straps that won't dig into your shoulders.
  • Look for a pack with lots of pockets and sections inside so the weight can be spread out.
  • Look for a pack that has compression straps on the sides. You can tighten the straps to make your books and supplies snug in the pack. This also can keep them closer to your back.
  • Hip and chest straps also can help spread out the weight and make things easier on your back.

Now you know how to carry your load of books safely. Happy backpacking!

Medically reviewed by: Yamini Durani, MD
Date reviewed: June 2023