Whether you're looking for a backpack to hold their first-ever school books or re-equipping them for senior year, there's a good chance backpacks will be on your shopping list soon. To make that process just a little bit smoother here's our cheat sheet to Backpacks 101 (there will be no pop quiz).
We like to think of the relationship between a backpack and a bookbag as being like a violin's relation to a fiddle. The violin and the fiddle are, in fact, the exact same instrument: it simply comes down to how the instrument is played. A violin played classically is a violin, but it becomes a fiddle when it is used to play folk music.
In this same way, a backpack becomes a bookbag whenever it's used to transport books. But books or no books, it remains a backpack.
The best backpacks are made from hardwearing fabrics like durable cotton canvas or polyester. In the case of the latter, you'll want to look for a high denier count, which is a way of measuring how thick the fibers are in a given fabric. The higher the denier count, the tougher the fabric. The most dependable backpacks will also have a reinforced cloth bottom made from fabric with a much higher denier count than anywhere else on the backpack.
But durability isn't the whole picture-it's important to look for comfort, too. Looking at the straps can tell you whether or not a backpack is well-made. Backpacks with foam padding straps at the back panel and shoulder straps to help ease the burden of carrying their weight.
The weight of the average high school backpack has been estimated to be between 12 and 20 pounds.
A 2009 study found that elementary school backpacks were an average weight of 18.4 pounds.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the weight of a kids backpack should fall within the range 10 to 20% of their overall body weight to avoid lower back pain.
Generally speaking, high school kids will need larger backpacks as they are more likely to be carrying a greater workload, and consequently, a greater amount of books.
But accounting for the needs of high school kids involves more than just size. As high school kids are increasingly more likely to be using electronics like laptops and tablets as part of their education, you'll want to be sure the backpacks they use come equipped with specialty compartments, like a backpack with laptop sleeve, to keep electronics safe during travel.
Small or medium bags are a better match for elementary school kids. As elementary school coursework typically involves a smaller amount of books, there will be less need for a larger backpack. But aside from course load, you will also want to avoid overburdening an elementary school student's backpack as younger students will be more susceptible to experiencing back pain as a result.