Average backpack weight negatively affects students


The average high school student’s backpack weighs around 20 to 30 pounds. Valerie Loughney, a backpack pro who works at a REI Silverdale (backpack shop) in Washington recommends that the weight you should carry on your shoulders is three pounds per every 20 pounds of body weight. This means a significant amount of high schoolers are damaging their shoulders and backs every day.

Heavy backpacks and bags have been known to cause pain and fatigue in children and adults both. While these conditions should be a concern for parents and students alike, healthcare professionals such as Rachel Pins and Katelynn Wellman, who work as occupational therapists  are becoming increasingly concerned about the role these bags play in the development of more serious conditions, such as chronic back pain and functional scoliosis, which is caused when the spine becomes twisted because one shoulder muscle is stronger than the other.

A load of books or materials, distributed improperly or unevenly, day after day, is going to cause stress to a growing spinal column and back. A growing concern is on the rise based on the growing amount of articles about the improper use of backpacks and the relatively scarce amount of preventive information available to young people.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission estimates that 4,928 emergency room visits each year result from injuries related to book bags and back carriers. “Students attending middle and high school level schools are more susceptible to these disorders because their bodies are developing faster,” according to an article from CNN entitled “Weighing School Backpacks” by Tara Parker-Pope in 2009. “Females are even more susceptible because of the physiological demands on their bodies, but body mass and the weight of the backpack plays a role. If she weighs 120 pounds and is carrying a 25-pound backpack, it places a huge burden on her musculoskeletal system.”

Despite the negatives of carrying a weighted down backpack with you daily throughout the school, it can’t be argued that they’re a necessity in the daily life of a student. In order to help keep your backpack more organized and compact, here’s a list of the top 10 things to have on hand in your bag:


This seems obvious, but the type of backpack you carry matters more than you might think. Even though side bags are popular, sticking with a traditional, two-strap backpack that goes around the shoulders is best. It’s better for your back, neck and shoulders. Especially when you’re probably carrying more than 20 pounds of weight around.

Cell phone

They’re helpful with so many things throughout the school day. Just make sure it’s not too much of a distraction.

Reusable water bottle

You can refill this as often as you want and leave it in your locker before heading home. If you play on a sports team, it’s also a great way to stay hydrated throughout the day without realizing it. Plus, it’s nice to have right after gym class.

Small bag for personal items

This could include a contact lens case and solution, personal hygiene products, Chapstick, hand cream, Advil, allergy medicine, a small Kleenex pack—whatever you always seem to need but never seem to have. If you aren’t totally sure what those items might be, jot down what you keep reaching for during the first week of school.


Car keys, house keys, bike keys, locker keys, you name it.

Laptop and charger

Having one of these on hand is always a good idea. You never know exactly how much time you’ll spend on your computer each day, and being prepared is always best. It’s also a great tool for getting work done in between classes or during a free period or study hall.


High school is where you’re learning to juggle multiple schedules at once (academic, athletic, extra-curricular, personal), so it really helps to have a quality planner that you can keep track of everything in.

Two pencils, two pens, two highlighters

It might be tempting to bring an entire case of writing tools with you because, well, they’re fun, but, please, for the sake of your sanity, don’t do it. Bring one or two of each and focus more on the assignment than what you’ll be using to write it with. Plus, a study done by Adobe called “Don’t Overthink It: 5 Tips for Daily Decision-Making,” reveals that the less small decisions we have to make in a day the more energy we have for big things that matter.


Headphones are great. Whether you’re relaxing before an exam or jamming out while doing homework, headphones can be an awesome tool for focusing in or purposefully zoning out. Library tip: Even if you don’t have music playing, they’re a red flag that you don’t want to be bothered.


This is the ultimate place to keep basics: $15 of cash, debit card, driver’s license and student I.D. Done and done.

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