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The Indispensable Backpack

What's in my trusty backpack? Children pack their bags with school supplies and necessary personal items such as snacks, water, and clothing.

What's in my trusty backpack? Children pack their bags with school supplies and necessary personal items such as snacks, water, and clothing.

As I was writing this article I recalled an old tune from my elementary school days. I learned it years ago from my dear music teacher, Mr. Reed. You've probably heard it. Well, maybe not. I don't think it was a popular song after the 70's:The Happy Wanderer. Now, here's a catchy tune that will wrap itself around your head all day long and beyond. In fact, if you play the music video posted you may just find it coming back to you as well - over and over. You'll thank me later.

As a kid, what I found most endearing about this song was the knapsack. I could picture myself trekking along a rocky mountain path, tramping through a field of daffodils, and hiking along a bubbling riverbed while singing and whistling this tune, my trusty rucksack slung over my back. What a life!

Today, the knapsack is now an indispensable backpack for school kids around the world. Over 40 million children carry these mobile packs every day. And somewhere on God's earth they may just feel like the happy wanderer as they traverse the trail to school.

Valderi, Valdera, Valedera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

The Essentials

They enter class carrying their backpacks and unload them by their desk. Several land with a loud plunk on the floor, others jingle and shake as they spin towards their sanctuary under the chair. Regardless, it is near them, a silent maître d' ready to serve.

I don't remember having anything resembling a backpack as a high school student. I carried a notebook equipped with inside pockets for holding paper. I hooked a plastic pencil pouch on the rings for my writing tools. That was it, besides the added weight of three or four textbooks. Remember carrying those heavy books in your arms all day at school? I'm surprised my hands didn't stretch past my knees!

Today items packed inside a bag range from textbooks to toiletries. Many students use their backpacks as mobile storage closets and it makes you wonder if there is anything left in their room back home. Nevertheless, the inner holdings of backpacks are what keep students organized and ready for whatever their schedule requires.

What are some of the unusual items I've seen students carry? A tide stick, stuffed toy, silly string, small pillow, and a superhero cape are about the most bizarre items I have come across. Because of the limited space, walking distance between classes, and priority of school supplies, most students pack only what is essential for the day. (Below is a list of common items carried by students.) Still, there can be a lot of "essentials" packed into one bag.

 Common Backpack Items 


cell phone/ipod





writing/note paper







memory stick



index cards/sticky notes


snacks, gum, mints



The Proper Fit


Which student is carrying their backpack properly?

It may be cool to sling it over one shoulder, but using both straps will protect your back and prevent injuries.

It may be cool to sling it over one shoulder, but using both straps will protect your back and prevent injuries.

Safeguards and Tips

Is there a proper way to wear a backpack? The US Consumer Product Safety Commission states that approximately14,000 children are treated for backpack related injuries each year. Most often treated are shoulder pains, strain to the back, and contusions. If improperly worn or too heavy, they can cause joint and muscle injury as well as posture problems. Over time, toting a heavy bag can lead to chronic neck, shoulder and back pain.

It is important a child wears a backpack appropriate to his weight and size. Other key features are padded shoulder straps, adjustable straps, waist strap, and lightweight material. The bag should rest against the lower back with the heaviest items packed so that they lie against the child's mid-back.

Remind your child to always use both straps when wearing her backpack. Make sure the straps are tight and the waist strap is also fastened to help distribute the weight across her back. Teach your child to bend from the knees when picking up the backpack. If a child struggles putting it on, it is too heavy. Watch for signs such as tingling or numbness in the arms or legs indicating a heavy load.

Child's WeightMaximum Backpack Weight














American Physical Therapy Association;American Chiropractic Association

Trivia Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. The lightest objects should be packed at the bottom of the backpack.
    • True
    • False
  2. Generally, which of these activities/individuals is not associated with a backpack?
    • baby
    • Picnic
    • hiking
    • alpine climbing
    • laptop
    • none of the above
  3. A backpack should be worn on the _______ of the back to minmize the effect on posture.
    • Upper
    • Middle
    • Lower
  4. A backpack is also called a rucksack.
    • True
    • False
  5. The maximum weight of a child's backpack should be ___?
    • 8-10
    • 10-15
    • 15-20
    • 20-25

Answer Key

  1. False
  2. none of the above
  3. Lower
  4. True
  5. 15-20
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