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So, it's August already and with the rest of summer flying by (hopefully not too fast) parents will be starting the traditional scurry that is called 'school shopping'. You may be thinking your kids are too young to be worried about back and neck problems but truth be told, it's never too early to start practicing good spinal health. Want the stats on backpain in young people? Check it out here.

This year get involved in choosing the right backpack for your child, regardless if they are in 2nd grade or a sophmore. Your little ones eyes might alight with stars when they see the latest flimsy superhero backpack and your teenage daughter might beg and swoon for one with so many compartments James Bond would be jealous. Don't give in just yet. Picking the right backpack means avoiding potential serious back and neck discomfort for your child now and in the future.

Backpacks need to fit the child and their school needs. Take a look at our article last year on how to get a proper fitting backpack here - for you and your kids.

Need the low down quick? Below are 6 tips to help you find the right backpack for school.

1. Backpacks are NOT one size fits all. The back of the backpack should fit the back of the child. Quick rule of thumb: The height of the backpack should extend about 2 inches below the shoulder blades to waist level or slightly above the waist. So if theres been a growth spurt it might be time to pass the old backpack down.

2. Padding protects. Pick a backpack that has padding across both the back of the bag and along both shoulder straps.

3. Breathable materials are best. Leather might be trendy (and expensvie) but it also weighs more than breathable materials. Also buy one that is weatherproof and wont be weighed down or damaged by rain or other elements.

4. Hip straps are a big plus for older kids. Generally they haul around heavier items (imagine thick textbooks and laptops). Hip straps are an excellent way to support their back by allowing the hips to take some of the load.

5. Youths, especially girls, love compartments. Keep it to a limit. More compartments mean more stuff. If your kids are young, they can generally do with one main compartment. Older kids and teens typically need more. Help them understand the need to carry only the essentials everyday.

6. For added safety, pick packs with reflective material or reflectors. This will help when kids are walking in the dark or at season changes when the days are shorter. TIP: DON'T put your childs name or initials on the frontside of the backpack as predators can use that to call out their name. Put identifying information on the inside of the backpack instead.

Once you’ve found the right backpack, follow these suggestions for using it properly throughout the school year:

  • It may sound contradictory but don't fill your water bottle at home. Carrying a water bottle with you is a great habit, and many backpacks have mesh compartments to hold a water bottle. Instead of filling it at home, pack an empty bottle and fill it at school to lighten the load.
  • Heaviest items go in first. Put heavy textbooks or laptops in first - lay them in the back of the backpack. Pack the rest of the contents around the heavy items. Side compartments are ideal for small, loose items (like pens and clips).
  • Wear your backpack only when needed. For example, if you’re waiting for the bus, take your backpack off, keeping it close to you on the ground or on a bench.

Happy Campers: A Note on Camping Backpacks
If you’re going on an end-of-summer camping trip, Jacobs says the same rules apply for camping backpacks as they do for school: Be bare bones with compartments and make sure the pack is padded. But, she says hip and chest straps are essential with camping backpacks.

“People on the weekends go hiking and suddenly become warriors: They put as much as they can in their pack,” Jacobs says. “Make sure you carry only what you need, and be sure you use your backpack’s hip and chest straps.”

hikers in the woodsA well-chosen backpack that is properly packed can help make hiking a more enjoyable experience and reduce the risk for back and neck pain.

Jacobs says the hip and chest straps take weight off your shoulders and back, and redistribute them onto your hips—an area better able to support that weight.

“The bottom line is are you comfortable?” Jacobs says. “Part of the whole aspect of being in nature is being healthy—and you’re not healthy if you’re not comfortable.”