None of the backpacks that parents have bought, so far, or are likely to buy while the kids still insist on having one, is designed to “backpack.” Like nearly all backpacks for the school market, the ones that parents and kids find, variously priced by make and design wherever one shops for a school backpack, they are all one and the same.
Backpacks are also priced by grade; the smaller more colorful ones with trademark designs desired by young students going off to the early grades are less expensive and less durable.
Other backpacks for slightly older students in upper elementary schools are more durable but vary in quality and design, including pockets, inner, zippered pockets, large zippered compartment, middle-sized zippered compartment and smaller-sized compartment piggy backing on the previous one, and so on. Usually included are mesh pockets for water bottles and other secret pockets for favorite keepers like trading cards, magnets, pencil stubs, colorful but worn erasers, and old sticks of chewing gum purloined from mother’s handbag.
A wise parent can try taking the child along for a fitting, but backpacks come in two sizes, small and regular. As you might have guessed, small is for the kindergarten and first grade crowd, and regular is for all the others, no matter their size.
It would truly have to be a specialty store that would manufacture a backpack to fit the various back lengths that kids come with. A parent who pulls out a measuring tape would be rare in any store.
The really important thing about the right backpack for your child is that unless you can prevail upon the school never to allow a student to leave the classroom with a backpack weighing more than 30 pounds, you know that your child is likely to leave for school with a backpack saddling his shoulders that will weigh 30 pounds or more when fully loaded.
Fully loaded means that the bag contains a math book that weighs as much as a five pound bag of flour and is as large, a zippered folder with a great deal of heft that has to be forced into the largest pocket of the bag with a great deal of force.
The next larger pocket contains a lunch bag or box that always manages to fit. And along with those key items are included all of the instruments necessary for the day’s activities that the school will not provide, including identification tags, and a road-map home writ large enough for someone to read in case it becomes necessary.
If you ever wonder why elementary schools screen for scoliosis, this is one of the reasons. Whereas scoliosis is a serious condition, there might be a relationship between the weight of the bag when fully loaded for school and then carried back and the curvature of the spine. There is no expertise intended.
In the many years of kids going off to school in my experience, there has never been a note from school, and there are zillions of these, that says, No kid ought to carry a backpack that weighs more than five pounds.
My triplets have already announced that they are transitioning to middle school in a few weeks with the same backpacks they shouldered in fifth grade. I would like to accept their decision as an enlightened one; however they have declared that they want to know what the majority are using before they decide on purchasing a new backpack, well three new backpacks.