Help us get the word out about backpack safety. Pack it Light, Wear it Right.

The act of “strapping on the backpack” is a daily ritual for students who struggle to stuff and carry the necessities for the school day: Books, binders and supplies, alongside their sports gear, food and drinks. BC’s chiropractors would like to remind parents, teachers and students to “Pack it Light” and “Wear it Right.”

Research indicates that there are long-term health risks associated with youth who wear poorly designed backpacks or carry too much weight. In fact, over 50% of Canadian youth will suffer at least one back pain episode during their school years. Not only are these injuries painful, they can directly impact the enjoyment of leisure and sports activities that are critical part of a young person’s life.

Tips for finding a good backpack:

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a good backpack. Here are some tips that may be helpful with your next purchase:

  • Backpacks should be made of light materials. Vinyl and canvas are much better than leather.
  • Backpacks with two straps distribute weight better than book bags that are slung over the shoulder. Function should take precedence over fashion.
  • The top of the backpack should not extend higher than the top of the shoulder and the bottom should not fall below the top of the hipbone.
  • The shoulder straps should be at least 2 inches wide and should not fit too snugly around the arms, straining muscles and affecting nerves.
  • A hip strap or waist belt can take as much as 50-70% of the weight off the shoulders and spine. The waist belt will equalize the strain on the bones, joints and muscles.
  • Choose a backpack with a lot of pockets to help distribute weight more effectively.

How much weight is too much?

The chart below is a guideline on the maximum weight your child (or you) should carry in their backpack. The general rule is no more than 15% of the student’s body weight or 10% for younger kids.

If You Weigh …

Only Carry …

50 lbs 5 lbs
70 lbs 7 lbs
90 lbs 14 lbs
110 lbs 16 lbs
130 lbs 19 lbs
150 lbs 22 lbs
170 lbs 25 lbs
190 lbs 28 lbs