Best Backpacks

Last month, I teamed up with Well+Good to provide some tips on what to look for when it comes to selecting a backpack. This information is valuable not only for school-aged individuals, but also adults who are required to carry any sort of bag, be it for work, travel, or recreational activities such as hiking. I share my suggestions to some frequently asked questions below.

What qualities should someone look for or keep in mind when buying a backpack that won’t take too much of a toll on the spine? 

There is a well established link between backpack use and back pain. The key with healthy backpack use is to “pack it light, and wear it right”.  Choose a vinyl or canvas bag to keep it lightweight.  Choose a backpack with wide padded straps and a padded back.  Backpacks with a waist/chest strap are an excellent way to distribute the backpack weight.  Select a backpack with multiple compartments to allow for easy access to items, and for the weight to be distributed evenly.  Reflective material on the outside of the backpack will improve nighttime visibility for enhanced safety.  

What is the maximum weight a person should be carrying in their bag?

The heavier the backpack, the more load is being placed on the low back.  A bag that is 30% of a person’s body weight creates a 64% increased load on the lumbar spine.  Loads this heavy also cause increased blood pressure as a result of leaning forward and changing the mechanics of the lungs.  Therefore the backpack should only contain what you need for the day, and should not exceed 10-15% of the wearer’s bodyweight.  This applies to children as well – for example if your child is 50 lbs, their packed bag should be under 7.5 lbs.  The weight should be evenly distributed throughout the bag.  

What is the best technique for putting on and wearing a backpack?

The following technique is particularly useful for small children. When putting the backpack on, place it on a surface that is waist height, then slip on the shoulder straps one at a time.  The backpack should be worn with two straps always (asymmetrical loading and pain is much more likely when using a single strap) and adjusted to fit closely against the body.  

Are there particular red flags to watch out for when buying a backpack?

Avoid choosing backpacks that do not have adjustable straps. I recommend avoiding shoulder bags that would require you to carry the load on one side of the body. For bags such as purses that are typically worn over the shoulder, try alternating sides frequently. It is a good idea to get in the habit of cleaning out your bag regularly to remove unused items and keep the load as light as possible. 

What are some products you recommend?

To see the full list, take a look at the full article ‘I’m a Chiropractor and These are the 7 Best Backpacks For Back Support’ here. In response to the original article, one reader reached out and shared some information on a backpack that I was not familiar with before – it turns out, it is a very neat and unique product that has a lot of potential in its completely transformed design. You can find the BackTpack here.