Choosing The Right Backpack
WHEN YOU BEGIN GOING THROUGH your college’s “what to pack” list, think twice about the bag you choose to haul everything around in. Picking the right backpack is much more important than simply settling for the cheapest one or the one that looks the best.
You’ve probably never had a problem carrying stuff through the halls of high school, but it will be quite different when you start lugging countless pounds of books, a laptop and other gear across a college campus that likely dwarfs your high school in size.
Throughout your first year at college you will lift your bag hundreds of times, carry it dozens of miles and slip it on and off over and over again. All of these actions can leave a lasting impact on your body, and not in a good way. If you choose the wrong backpack—or you use it improperly—you may find yourself suffering from headaches, back or neck pain, poor posture and fatigue. Begin your search for the perfect bag by considering the following suggestions:
Find a bag with support. In addition to placing the weight in the bag on both shoulders, you want to find a bag that best utilizes your shoulder strength. Wide, cushioned shoulder straps help spread weight across the width of both shoulders and make the load a lot more comfortable. Choose a bag with a waist belt as well. Using this strap puts the bulk of the weight on the hips, which is where it should be.
Choose a backpack instead of a messenger bag. You need to make sure all the weight in your bag is evenly distributed on your body, which means the one-strapped messenger bag is out of the question. These bags force all the weight you carry onto one shoulder, while a backpack distributes the weight evenly between both shoulders. This even distribution is not only safer for your back and shoulders, but is also better for your hips, knees and ankles. Women may want to look for one specifically designed with a female-friendly frame. And remember, while a leather messenger bag might look stylish, a durable, weatherproof backpack will better protect your gear.
Check the strap adjustments. When you try a backpack on, make sure you can comfortably loosen and tighten all of the straps. Backpack straps are meant to keep the bag close to your back. If kept too loose, your backpack will tip backward, which will throw off your balance and put unnecessary strain on your body.
Test drive the bag. What works well for others might not work for you, so don’t buy a bag blindly or because someone else recommends it (although reading gear reviews does offer some important insight). Try the backpack on, adjust the straps, put some weight in it and walk around the store for a bit. You shouldn’t be carrying more than 15 percent of your total body weight, so keep this in mind as you load it up. The heaviest items should be placed closest to your back and lowest in the bag.
Once you start college, you’ll have lots of other things on your mind. Make sure you’ve chosen the right bag before school begins, just to take that extra “weight” off your shoulders.