Back to School: Backpacks – How to pick the right one.

Why it Matters…

With the start of a new school year upon us its time to talk backpacks. It is important to have a backpack that is correctly sized for your child (and yourself). Improperly fitted or overweight backpacks can lead to back pain, neck pain, headaches, muscle tension and poor posture – setting your child up for future injuries and musculoskeletal conditions.

When an improperly fitted backpack or an overloaded backpack is incorrectly placed on the shoulders, the force can pull a child into backwards (extension) position. To compensate, a child may then bend forward at the hips or arch the back, which can cause the spine to compress unnaturally. This position compresses the discs between the vertebra and reduces motion at the spinal joints, while pinching the nerve supply and blood flow of that area. This can cause spinal misalignments that in some kids will develop into shoulder, neck, and back pain.

Backpack specs…

A child’s backpack should weigh no more than 10% of their body weight.


Backpacks should have wide padded shoulder straps.

Shoulder straps should sit 1-2” below the top of the shoulder blade.

Look for backpacks that have a padded back and mesh panel.

The length of the back pack should not extend beyond 4”past the iliac crests (top of the hip bones).

Place heavy objects toward the back of the pack.

Encourage kids to wear both straps of their backpacks.

How to Measure for a backpack…

First you need to find the torso length.

  1. Start by finding the bony bump where the slope of the shoulders meets the neck (C7 vertebra).


2. Then find the top of the hip bones (iliac crests) use your thumbs to mark an imaginary line across the tops of the hips.


3. With a soft tape measure, measure from C7 to the imaginary line between your thumbs – that’s your torso length.


4. Next you need to adjust your shoulder straps. The anchor points should be 1-2 inches below the top of your shoulder blades.


5. If your pack has a sternum strap it should sit about 1 inch below the collar bones. The strap should be adjusted to a width that is comfortable and allows the arms to move freely. If it is too tight it can constrict your chest muscles and restrict breathing.


I’ve included links to backpacks of varying sizes that meet all the requirements listed above.

Remember to:

  • Measure torso length to determine size of backpack needed.
  • Look for a backpack that has wide padded shoulder straps and a padded back panel.
  • Weigh your child’s backpack (fully packed) to make sure it is not over the weight limit. It is better for them to carry an object in their arms to help reduce the weight being placed on their spine.


Recommended Backpacks:


1. Fjallraven Kid’s Raven Mini Pack (*This is the pack we’re going with.)

backpack 1


2. Potterybarn Kids Mackenzie Backpacks

backpack 2.png


3. The Northface Women’s Isabella Backpack



4. Fjallraven Raven 20L Pack


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