Backpacks are a wonderful fashion statement, but they come in so many shapes and sizes that you might feel a little overwhelmed. Then, add in the cost for some of the more unique styles, and it can become a financial burden to purchase one of the most basic back-to-school items.

Just for a moment, step back from the question of which backpack to get, and make a quick list of why you need the bag. After all, the most basic (and long-standing) use for a backpack is to carry books and other supplies (for reading and writing, as well as other educational functions). So, before you select a glitzy or glamorous backpack, first consider your needs, and take a few moments to answer these questions…

  1. Age and size. If the backpack is for a child, the size and functionality requirements will be different than if you are starting high school or college. Even for a young child, it’s important to look for a bag that offers at least basic support, wide straps, as well as a bag that doesn’t cause pain or discomfort.
  2. Quality. There are lots of really great character-inspired backpacks available for students and readers of all ages, but you may find that some of the most attractive (and popular) bags won’t last long (with even the most gentle use). So, check the material. Take a look at the zipper, and examine a number of different types of backpacks–to find a bag that will meet your needs (and will also last beyond the first day of use).
  3. Multipurpose Needs. For the youngest backpack carriers, you can usually expect that the bag will be used for the day-to-day transport of homework, a lunch box, and perhaps a few books. For more advanced users, you’ll need to consider whether you will be carrying your backpack, the number and heft of books, and also whether you’ll be using the bag for outdoor activities (hiking, biking, etc.).
  4. Modern Niceties. Depending on your academic load and your activity level, you may find that a rolling backpack will best meet your needs. Particularly if you know the load will continue to be heavy, it’s just easier to make use of some of the more fun-and-useful backpacks. Don’t break your back! Find ways to reduce or eliminate your load.
  5. Go Digital. Although the books and other resources necessary for younger students have not gone completely digital yet, there’s more of a trend toward the use of digital devices. Some high schools now assign at least some of the reading via ebooks and/or online reading, and some college courses are moving in that direction as well. That may mean that instead of putting more consideration into how much your books will weigh, you’ll need to consider the padding of your backpack–to ensure that your digital device is not damaged.

There’s a great deal to consider when you’re selecting the appropriate backpack for your own (or your child’s) needs. If you experience pain and/or discomfort related to your backpack or carrying your books, you should see a doctor. It’s likely that he or she will have additional tips and suggestions for ways to improve your personal book-bearing situation. But, continuing pain can also point to other back issues that it’s never safe to ignore.

It’s also important to note that if the weight and number of academic books (or your own personal library) continue to be a problem, you can consider other possible solutions:

  • Rent or use an available locker–to store books and avoid the necessity of transporting them back-and-forth.
  • Secure multiple copies of the book(s), whether by purchasing, borrowing from the teacher or colleague/friend, or checking it (them) out of the library.
  • Plan your schedule around your book repository (complete your homework/research at the library, at school, or wherever your books are located).

It’s not always easy to select a backpack that will work for you, but a quality backpack can also make your life much easier. You may just find that backpack that will become your constant companion–you’ll take it with you everywhere, and protect all of your most bookish treasures…

What do you look for in a backpack?

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