The most important piece of back to school supplies is your backpack. A high-quality backpack will make your school experience great! A bad one will make it miserable. Think about it. Everything that you carry with you to school will be stored in your backpack all day.
Luckily, choosing a backpack is a simple process that boils down to three criteria: Comfort, Durability, and Utility. These three things come from my own experience with school backpacks (four years of high school, then another four years at college). My hope is that by following my advice here, you’ll make a backpack purchase that you are happy with for years to come!
A good fitting backpack will make your walks to and from class much more enjoyable. We all know how heavy a backpack can get with all of those textbooks, notebooks, pens, and calculators in it. It can easily exceed twenty pounds. All of that weight will be focused on your shoulders and back. If it doesn't fit you, your back may suffer the consequences!
To find a backpack that fits, you simply need to try them on. If you can, go to the store and try on as many backpacks as you can. Adjust the straps, play with the buckles, and walk around in them. Try weighing them down to see if rides well on your back under load. Remember, If it doesn’t fit you well in the store, then it isn’t going to fit you. By trying out different brands and packs, you’ll find the one that fits you the best.
Everyone has their own personal preference on how they like to wear their backpack, so it’s important to think about your own style when choosing a backpack. I personally prefer to carry my bag high on my back with the straps nice and snug. Others prefer to carry them lower on their back with the straps let out. Think about how you like to wear yours, and find one that fits well the way you’ll wear it.
You’ll want to notice a couple spots that might cause trouble down the road. First is how the pack sits on your back. Some backpacks tend to press most of the weight high on the back, while others put the pressure lower. This can be troublesome if you have frequent lower back pain. Another area to watch for is your shoulders. If you have broad shoulders, make sure the straps don’t put the weight too far in towards your neck. This can cause discomfort and neck pain after weeks of use. Another option might be to get a wheeled backpack so that you can take the load off your back and shoulders.
Your backpack is going to face a lot of abuse over the next few years of its life. Your poor bag is probably going to be worn on your back for hundreds (if not thousands) of miles, carrying as much as twenty or thirty pounds of gear. It will be dropped to the floor at the end of a long day, and thrown into the backseat of a car (where it may sit in the heat or freezing cold overnight). It will endure the beating sun, the pouring rain, and who knows, maybe even snow or ice. Make sure you get one that can stand up to all of this work.
The first place you want to look for durability in your backpack is in the stitching. You’ll want to look for high-quality stitches that are doubled up and look nice and strong. Go ahead and pull on the seam and see if the stitched try to pull themselves apart. If they can’t stand up to you pulling them, they won’t stand up to your textbooks tearing them apart. The most important place to look for this strong stitching is on the shoulder straps. This is likely where things will start tearing first.
Also check the bottom of the bag to ensure that over time your books won’t start poking through. The bottom should at least be reinforced with another heavy duty fabric or rubber panel. While you’re doing your inspection, look through the inside as well and make sure it looks like it will hold up the weight of your books, as well as the sharp ends of your pens and pencils.
Lastly, make sure the backpack will hold everything you need it to. Mentally scan your school supplies list and try to think of where each item will go. Think of how many textbooks and notebooks you will be carrying. Will they all fit in the main compartment? If they do, will they cramp the other pockets? Sometimes you can cram all your books in, but it stretches everything else to the point where you can’t fit anything in the other pockets.
Once you’ve decided you have enough room for all your big stuff. Check out those smaller pockets. IS there room for all of your pens and pencils? There are generally neat little slots for those. But think about your other smaller items. Is there a pocket big enough to hold your big calculus calculator? After spending money on one of those, you definitely want to have a cozy pocket for it to live in!
If everything looks good so far, then it’s time to think about extras. Do you want a pocket for your mp3 player? Some backpacks offer not only a neat little pocket to hold your favorite tunes, but speakers as well. Others have built-in headphone cords so that you can stow your music in your bag, and plug your earbuds into a socket at the top of your pack near your head, eliminating those annoying cables.
Remember, you need a backpack that fits these three criteria:
These three things are the key to a good school backpack experience. Your backpack is arguably the most important item on your back-to-school list. So do yourself a favor, and take the time to find one that fits your style and school supplies. Your back will thank you!