Back To School – Is My Child’s Backpack Too Heavy?

The end of summer is here, school is back, and pumpkin spice everything is quickly approaching. With school returning we have had a few parents ask about correct positioning of their child’s backpack. What is the proper position? How heavy is too heavy? This issue applies to far more than just kids. High school and university students hauling books to class, adults hauling their laptop to and from work – all need optimal carrying position.

During the first month of school at all levels, students tend to adjust to a new backpack with the weight of all new supplies and books inside. The excitement of new binders and subject dividers!

First, what makes a good backpack?

  • Padding on the back to avoid unnecessary pressure on the back.
  • Wide shoulder straps will help to avoid unnecessary pressure on the shoulders.
  • Waist straps help to secure the load to the body and distribute the weight.
  • Multiple pockets will allow weight to be distributed across the bag and not all in one pocket.
  • Light weight to avoid adding any unnecessary weight

What is optimal positioning?

We must have an even load. – Use both straps. The human body likes symmetry. If we expose the body to an asymmetric force by carrying the weight on only one side of the body– we must balance that weight with our core strength OR we compensate by distorting our posture. For the vast majority of us, the later is the result. As cool as it is to wear the bag with only one strap on your shoulder – having horrible posture and an achy neck/back negates that!

The load needs to be higher on your back. The body can handle a load with less overall stress to the system when the weight is closer to the center of gravity. If you try to carry a 20 lb back pack in front of you with arms extended it is much harder than the same pack centered on your back. We tend to see people carrying their bag too low causing them to lean forward to attempt to pull it higher on their back.


The load needs to be lighter. Depending on your size and weight, the load needs to be adjusted. No matter how strong you are, everyone can only hold so much without terribly compensating. An easy rule of thumb is the weight of the backpack should not exceed 15% of bodyweight. The average student weighs between 100-150 lbs meaning the average pack should not weigh more than 15-20 lbs.

Load the backpack or bag with necessary items and observe:

  • Are you/they leaning
  • Is it comfortable
  • Are you/they able to move their arms
  • Does the weight sit on the back evenly
  • Are the straps just below the shoulders
  • Does the bag sit on the lower back or fall past the buttocks

All of these factors effect posture. It is important to optimally fit your bag and avoid any unnecessary stress on your back and neck. Allowing compensations to develop can lead to future injury. If you or your child complains about back or neck pain, or if you need help fitting a pack – call us today 303-444-5105.