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How to find the right backpack

When it comes to buying the right backpack for the new school year, it's the moms who are doing the homework.

Choosing a good quality backpack -- and packing it correctly -- helps prevent back, neck and shoulder pain, especially for kids entering middle school, where they may have to haul heavy textbooks, laptops and sports gear for the first time.

There are hundreds of kids' backpacks to choose from, with prices ranging from $10 to more than $100. For most kids, the backpack is also a fashion statement, so the challenge is to find a good one that the student likes, too.

The Mayo Clinic offers tips on its website. With that criteria in mind, and other advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics, MomsMiami hit the stores to see how some of offerings compare.

Backpack 101
  • The correct size. A kindergartner -- with no heavy books or a laptop to carry -- can get away with a smaller backpack with less padding. It should not be wider than your child's torso. The bottom of the backpack should rest against the curve of the lower back


    Share your tips for buying backpacks and read what other moms are saying in our Kids Health forum. Compare notes on how to save money on other back-to-school items in our Schools forum.

and never more than four inches below the waist.

  • Wide, well-padded shoulder straps. The padding helps prevent the straps from digging into the child's shoulders, back, and neck and can make a heavy pack more comfortable. The straps should be adjusted so the backpack fits snugly against the child's back and sits a few inches above the waist -- but not so tight that it pulls on the shoulder. Experts also recommend a well-padded back panel and, if you can find it, an additional waist belt, which helps distribute the weight more evenly.
  • Avoid bags with a single shoulder strap. Those put all the pressure on one shoulder, which can lead to back, neck and shoulder pain.
  • Wheels? These help kids lighten their load. But they can be hard to get up and down stairs and may not fit inside lockers. Since they also pose a tripping hazard, some schools don't allow them.
  • Lightweight, sturdy material. It will need to withstand being thrown and dragged around. Look for nylon or canvas that can be spot-cleaned. Skip those made of heavy leather.
  • How they compare

    • Use the pockets. Select a back pack with pockets for smaller items, which help to distribute the weight of the load and keep items from shifting. Don't put all the books in one pocket.
    • Don't overload it. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children carry no more than 10 percent to 20 percent of their body weight in a backpack.
    • Place heavy items, like books, in first. Put them closest to the back. Other items should be arranged so that they do not slide around.
    • Keep it light. Pack only the necessary books and supplies, even if it means storing extra items in a locker or desk between classes. Clean it out daily.
    How to Pack