5 tips for back-to-school backpack shopping

The new school year almost here, and if you're shopping for back-to-school supplies, one of these is surely on your list. A backpack that's too heavy for your child or doesn't offer the right support can cause poor posture, and even lead to injury.

But with so many backpacks to choose from-- and so many books to carry-- how can you make sure you find the right one for your child? Here are five helpful tips for finding a great backpack for your child (and their back):

1.  Lighten the load
Don’t buy a huge backpack for a small child. Get one just big enough to carry what they need. This one by Mountaintop is sized just right for kids in preschool or kindergarten. It has a chest strap (keep reading for more on why that's important), a water bottle holder, a pouch to hold wet clothes, plus extra mesh padding to protect your child's back. It's available now for $19.99 on Amazon, and Amazon Prime members can have it as soon as tomorrow! It also comes in pink.

Kids will always find a way to fill their packs to the max, so buying a smaller-sized bag will save them some struggle-- and only let them carry what is truly essential.

Another way to take the weight off? Put them on wheels! There are lots of options for backpacks on wheels for younger kids (who are probably more likely to use the wheels than older students), like the J. World New York Lollipop rolling backpack ($44.99 on Amazon). It has a three-stage handle to fit your child's height.

2.  Look for chest straps
Chest straps help keep the weight of the backpack closer to the body, making it easier for your child to stand up straight. The High Sierra Access backpack is large enough to hold your high schooler's laptop and text books, but the chest strap and padding provide protection for their backs ($46.67 on Amazon).

Encouraging your child to use the chest straps can eliminate the urge to hunch forward.  Some newer models even come with waist straps, like the Osprey Youth Jet 12 backpack (which has both chest straps and waist straps). It's pricier at $50 on Amazon, but doubles as a hydration pack (with a pouch to hold water on the inside). It's also available for fast delivery if you're a Prime member.

3.  Wear both shoulder straps
It might look cool to only use one shoulder strap on your backpack, it can also lead to poor posture and back problems. The lesson here? Use the straps!

The wider they are, the better. Kids can also help support the weight of their books by holding onto the straps with their hands while they're wearing it.

4.  Find the right fit
Kids usually want the backpack with the coolest design, but it's the fit that really matters. Find one that fits your child’s figure best. The High Sierra Curve ($24.99 on Amazon) has a shorter silhouette than most larger backpacks, but still has plenty of compartments and room inside.

No matter what pack you pick, be sure to adjust the straps so that the bottom of the bag ends near the small of your child’s back.

5. Multiple compartments
Look for a backpack with multiple compartments. This helps to evenly distribute the weight and prevents unnecessary leaning. 

For older kids, this bag by SwissGear ($49.99-$54.99 on Amazon) is loaded with pockets for everything from a laptop to books to pens and markers to keys, plus a spot for a water bottle and an umbrella.There's literally a pocket for everything. It's also got ventilated straps and a back panel to keep it as sweat-free as possible. Bonus: It's great for the trek through TSA when you travel.

While they're loading up, talk to your child about how to use those compartments to balance the weight they're carrying evenly in the backpack.

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Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons - edenpictures | license info

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