Skip to main content

How to Choose a Safe Backpack

Proper Size

The width of a backpack should be relatively proportionate to the person’s width. Small children should not use or wear an adult-sized backpack. Here’s how to tell if it fits: the backpack’s height and width should never be longer or wider than the child’s torso. It should sit comfortably at waist level, and it should never hang more than 4 inches below the waist.


  • Pick Broad, Padded Straps – Wide straps help distribute the weight and padding adds comfort. Both protect from digging into the shoulders. Thin and unpadded shoulder straps on backpacks can cause nerve compression resulting in numbness, tingling, and weakness in your child’s arms and hands.
  • Compression Straps – Stabilize the contents in your child’s backpack and help distribute their load more evenly.
  • Two Straps –Find a backpack with two straps and remind your child to always use both straps when carrying their backpack. Slinging a pack on one shoulder can strain neck and shoulder muscles causing pain. Placing weight on one side also causes them to lean, negatively impacting their posture.
  • Chest or Waist Straps—These can also help distribute the weight. Chest straps hold the backpack closer to the body. Waist straps help shift the weight back to the pelvis. Make sure they sit properly and snugly.
  • Adjust the Straps - Use the straps to position the backpack correctly. The straps should fit snugly on your child’s body.
    Remember, a sagging backpack = a strained back.


Look for a lightweight material such as canvas. Leather backpacks may be fashionable and even durable but they also add additional weight. Feel for padding in the back area, which adds more comfort.


Shop for a backpack with multiple compartments with zippers and pockets. Use them to distribute the weight.

Other Tips:

  • Trendy backpacks with cartoon characters are popular with children but often lack the supports mentioned above. If having a colorful or decorated book bag is important to your child, you can work together to personalize the pack with accessories such as zipper pull charms or iron-on patches.
  • Teach your child how to organize the pack. Heavy items should always be placed near the back and in the center of the backpack.
  • Encourage your child to use their locker, if available, between classes instead of carrying around a day’s worth of books on their back.

Pick up that backpack from time to time to test its weight, and let your child know that you’ve got their back!