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High Sierra Daypacks Swerve Backpack
High Sierra Daypacks Swerve Backpack

How to Buy a Backpack for Back-To-School

By Yana SimoneSHOP.COM Contributor

It's time to go back-to-school and that always goes hand-in-hand with back-to-school shopping. Although updating the wardrobe is a back¬-to-school must  making sure you have the right backpack is a back-to-school essential. Not only will your backpack keep books, papers, electronics and school supplies in their place - some of the latest styles and designs have multi-purpose features to keep you organized and help you make the grade. Read on for an in-depth guide on how to buy backpacks for back-to-school and beyond that's sure to take you to the top of the class.

The Basics

Step 1Durability: Look for backpacks that are constructed well and are from a recognized brand. You'll find zippers that come off the track and seams that fray are common problems with low quality book bags. Pictures and decals can crack and wear off so try to stay away from those if you're looking for a bag that's built to last.
Step 2Comfort: Wide, padded straps on backpacks help kids carry heavy loads. Messenger bags and one-strap backpacks are not recommended when it comes to back safety. Wheels are good for kids that have a lot of heavy books and/or must carry their bags long distances. But keep in mind that wheels add weight overall and the folding handles of rolling backpacks can be uncomfortable on the back.
Step 3Size: Size is probably the most important thing to look for when choosing a backpack. The bag should be no larger than the child's back. It should rest 1-2 inches below the shoulders and no more than 4 inches below the waistline (note: the waistline is level with the bellybutton). Many backpacks designed for preschoolers are not even large enough to hold a folder without bending it, and most preschoolers are sent home with big art projects. Messenger bags and laptop backpacks are often narrower and may not hold all the essentials. Look for backpacks that are roomy and have extra compartments for school supplies, electronics and other useful features.
Step 4Useful Features: Look for added extras that will actually be useful, such as pockets, key chains, lunch kits, water bottle holders, cell phone holders, etc. (But keep in mind there is such thing as too many pockets when a kid is looking for misplaced lunch money.)
Step 5School Specifications: Some schools have rules against wheeled backpacks while some require clear backpacks, so check your school supply list.

The Lingo

Shoulder Straps: Make sure the bag has two shoulder straps. Single strapped bags, like satchels and duffel bags, should be avoided. A single strap places the entire load on one side of the body. Two straps balance the load on both shoulders. Wide straps distribute the load over more area of the shoulder. The wider the better, with a minimum of two inches. The straps should also be padded. Padding spreads the load as well as alleviates any pressure points.
Padded Back: The back should be padded as well. It will alleviate any pressure points. And it will protect the back from being poked and prodded by whatever is inside the bag.
Lightweight: The bag should be light. The lighter the better. The stress on the back is caused by the weight of the bag. Anything you can do to reduce that weight will reduce the stress. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, a child weighing 60 pounds should carry no more than 5 pounds of weight on his/her back and a child weighing 150 pounds should carry no more than 25 pounds of weight. No one should ever carry more than 25 pounds.
Waist Strap: A waist strap is a wonderful thing. It dramatically helps direct the load away from the shoulders and onto the much stronger waist and hip muscle groups. By lowering part of the load to this point you also remove it from the spine. Less stress on the back means less chance of back pain.
Compartments: Having a bag with several compartments helps in two ways. First, it helps keep the load where you put it. A properly loaded backpack can go a long way in reducing the stress. Second, it lets you put flat things next to the back and pointy things away from it.
Chest Strap: A strap across the chest from shoulder strap to shoulder strap is a small, but worthwhile improvement. It holds the shoulder straps securely on the main part of the shoulder eliminating slippage and load shifting. It also helps fight the urge to slouch.

The Experts

"The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child's backpack weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of a child's weight. Consumer Reports recommends keeping the weight closer to 10 percent of a child's weight." - NY Times Well Blog
"Sales of backpacks in the U.S. totaled $1.31 billion in 2008, according to the Travel Goods Association. And more than half of all backpacks purchased are for children under 17, according to the National Sporting Goods Association. Jansport has been the top-selling brand for at least 15 years, with L.L. Bean placing second." - Consumer Reports

The Brands

JanSport is the Original Outdoor Gear Brand that embodies a culture of fun and discovery. They equip people globally with quality, enduring and reliable products that enable the freedom to experience life's adventures. They are the top selling backpack brand and have been for at least 15 years.
L.L. Bean has been a trusted source for quality apparel, reliable outdoor equipment and expert advice for more than 95 years. Founded in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean, the company has grown from a one-man operation to a global organization with annual sales of $1.5 billion.
Roxy is a division of Quicksilver, Inc. and was initially a women's swimwear line, debuting in late summer 1990 to immediate success. By the next year, a Roxy sportswear line was introduced, and that too prospered, with sales of over $1 million. 1992 saw continued expansion of the brand with a new denim line and key snowwear pieces. The fact that Roxy was a women's line offered by an authentic surf brand made it intriguing for both retailers and girls alike. It was the first of its kind on the market, and soon after, the other surf brands followed.
Hurley is based on love of the ocean and its constant state of change. With deep roots in beach culture, they are all about inclusion and positivity. The brand was started with the idea of facilitating the dreams of the youth. Music and art are the common threads that bring us all together. They are passionate about freedom of expression and the individual voice.

The Price

$: Jansport Superbreak Backpack This sketchy backpack, covered in graffiti-inspired graphics, is the perfect bag to bring you back to cool. It's a combination of street style and comfortable carrying, with a main compartment big enough to handle all your gear. Lifetime warranty.
$$: Roxy Barcelona Backpackhttp Womens  Black - Whether you're backpacking through Europe or just walking the halls at school, the Roxy Barcelona Backpack can handle anything. This bag features an all-over print with heart logo appliques, an interior organizer, side pockets and a padded laptop sleeve -- since you can't leave home without your important information.
$$$: Patagonia Crosstown Backpack Organize your commute or a day hike with the Crosstown backpack from Patagonia. The double-weave, recycled synthetic exterior features a water-repellant finish; synthetic 3-D spacer mesh on the shoulder straps and back panel wicks moisture, dries quickly, and promotes air circulation. A suspended, self-adjusting padded laptop sleeve offers protection, while a portable office organizer system encourages mobility on the job. The additional multi-functional pockets and sleeves stow all of your accessories. An adjustable sternum strap and a waist belt lend optimal weight distribution.

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