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Backpacks - or how to carry your life around with you

backpack; back; pain; safety; shoulder; bags; spine; pack;


Why use a backpack?

  • backpackDifferent lessons, moving between classrooms, taking work home and bringing it back to school are all good reasons for wearing a backpack.
  • Going camping, going out for the day, going to stay over at a friend's place, hiking in the country or even round the shops – a backpack will hold everything you need and leave both hands free at the same time.

And then of course, there are all those pockets in a backpack, so that you can organise things and find them easily. Do things swap places in your backpack? They seem to always be in the last pocket I look in.

However did we manage before they were invented!

The old days of school satchels – a sort of leather bag with a long handle that hung off the shoulder – must have led to heaps of kids walking lopsidedly. Actually, what used to happen was that kids sort of hugged the satchel or balanced it on one hip, which meant that hands were busy holding onto the bag and hips got sore!

When backpacks can be dangerous

Yes, backpacks are great, but you do need to take a bit of care or they could be dangerous.

  • On the bus your backpack could knock into someone.
  • When walking in crowds, you could hurt someone if your backpack is really full and heavy.
  • Someone could fall over it if you haven't put it under your seat properly.
  • It could fall on someone if it is on top of your locker or a shelf at school.
  • The straps could trip or catch someone if they are sticking out from the bag.
  • Not wearing them properly can hurt your back, neck or shoulders.

Using a backpack - 10 tips

  1. backpack too tightBuy a backpack which is light and waterproof.
  2. Always use both straps over your shoulders. Choose padded straps so that they don't dig into you.
  3. Alter the straps so that the backpack fits up against your shoulders and back when you are standing up straight.
  4. If you are having to lean forward, the straps are not tight enough.
  5. Don't have everything including the kitchen sink in there!
  6. backpack – only carry what you needClean it out regularly – half dead lunches, mouldy apples, etc. are extra weight as well as germ factories!
  7. Give your backpack a regular wash or a wipe out especially at the end of the term and before each term starts. It will look and smell better and it will last longer too.
  8. Only carry what you actually need. Lockers, trays and desks are for storing books you don't need all the time. Organise yourself so that you have only what you need in your backpack.
  9. Check your lesson timetable and only take what you need that day. Leave everything else home. (This doesn't include the homework you have to hand in!)
  10. Have a different bag for sport's gear.

What else you need to know about backpacks

Backpacks with just one big pocket mean that everything gets lumped in together.

  • Choose one with several pockets to organise your stuff better. Then the weight will be evened out, which will be better for you to carry.
  • A waist strap keeps the bag from sliding about and it also takes some of the weight so that your shoulders don't have to do all of the work by themselves.

If you do have a lot to carry and there are no lockers at your school, then it may be a good idea to get a backpack that has wheels and a pull out handle.

  • First, check with your school to see that it's okay to use this type.
  • It can stand next to or sit under your desk or your seat, so that other people are safe.
  • It also means that you only have to pick it up to put it on the bus or train or into the car – the rest of the time you can just pull it along.
  • Still watch where you and the backpack are going in case you run someone over with it!
  • Of course, these kinds of backpacks will cost more, but they should last for years, and so will your back!

Advice from kids

backpack"Padded straps are really much better and don't hurt your shoulders." – Anna

"Don't leave your backpack on the floor of the bus. Mine was all wet and smelly because someone had spilt a drink on it." – Tanya

"Always put your name on the outside and the inside of your bag, then you can find it easily if everyone else has the same bag." – Tom

"It's not a good idea to swing your bag round. I got hurt when someone's bag knocked me into the wall." – Chris

"Sometimes straps can slip, so check and tighten them regularly so that they are not hanging too low and making you lean forward." Gabriel


I know I've got one somewhere
Oh! That's where my pen went.
I've found another dollar
I thought that I had spent.
YUK! What is all this squishy stuff
I've found right at the bottom?
It used to be a sandwich,
But now it's all gone rotten.
Oh, here it is, I've found it.
No, it's my brother's rocket.
Why is it what I'm looking for
Is in the very last pocket?


Dr Kate says:

Dr Kate"The most you should carry is around 10% to 15% of your body weight – so if you're a little kid and you weigh 32kg, you should only be carrying between 3 and 4kg of weight. Carrying more can be doing damage to your back.

Tell a parent if you are getting headaches, backaches or tingly feelings in your arms or back – you may not have adjusted the straps properly or you could be carrying too much weight."

Take it off if you are standing around, perhaps waiting for a bus, and when you are sitting down or hug it on your lap if there is no room on the floor.  When you are travelling it can push you off balance if you are standing and still have it on your back.


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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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