Buying a backpack for school used to involve one simple question: What color? In recent years, backpack options (and prices) have exploded, turning the yearly ritual into a challenging, complex series of decisions.
Check out these five backpack-buying tips before you hit the store:
- Remember what goes in. You might want to wait and see what school supplies your child will be required to use before going shopping. Even small children may need a bag big enough for notebooks and a couple of textbooks, but what about extra clothes or all the special project items like milk cartons or paper towel rolls? Will your child need an e-reader or laptop and need a padded sleeve or pocket? Depending on your child’s organization skills and preferences, you might consider a backpack with extra pockets or “hidden” compartments.
- Look for that $40 “sweet spot.” Not all backpacks are the same, so don’t just grab the lowest priced bag at the drug store and be done with it. A decent, durable backpack could run about $40 at many retailers today.At the same time, you don’t need to pay big bucks for a standard school backpack. Specialty bags can run $150 or more, but they’re truly geared toward sports uses. Unless your child is enrolled at Mount Kilimanjaro Elementary, a school backpack doesn’t have to be that fancy.
- Comfort above all. While we may have slouched under the weight of our backpacks (while trudging to and from school through two feet of snow, uphill both ways), doctors tell us heavy loads aren’t good for kid’s growth and development. Experts recommend that a backpack should weigh no more than 15 percent of the child’s weight. If you know your child will be pulling a heavier load, consider padded shoulder straps, a waist strap, or even a roller bag, to prevent problems with shoulders, neck and back.Try on the backpack before you buy, and keep in mind the 4” rule: A backpack shouldn’t sit more than 4” below the waist. Any lower can cause the lower spine to arch backwards, creating back problems.
- Consider the material. Most backpacks these days are made of a synthetic material that is virtually indestructible. Make sure the bag you buy seems sturdy: Test zippers, too.
- Let your child make the final call. Comfort and durability are the parent’s main concerns when it comes to buying a backpack, but let’s face it: It’s the child who has to lug this thing around over the next 10 months or so. A backpack can reflect a kid’s personality just like a pair of sneakers or haircut. When you find a few backpacks that pass the parent test, let your child make the final decision to ensure a happy school year ahead.