Backpacks That Last

Twenty million students risk back pain by lugging around twice the recommended weight in their backpacks. Consumer Reports has some recommendations.

Need a new backpack? Do you buy the one with a picture of a pop character or the plain one that can cost twice the price or more?

Consumer Reports tested a dozen backpacks, including ones from JanSport, Under Armour, and North Face.

They range in price from $15 to $70.

Loaded base are tumbled in the giant hexagonal spinning drum, soaked in simulated rainstorms, and lifted and lowered thousands of times.

The backpacks were then graded on how well they hold up.

One that didn't hold up-the $16 Bakugan backpack.

The $15 Hannah Montana backpack didn't fare so well either.

During one test, one time the strap failed.

And another had a buckle sewn onto the wrong side of the shoulder strap.

"One way you can size up how well a bag is made is by turning it inside out," said Consumer Reports' Gayle Williams. "If it doesn't have sloppy stitching or loose threads, that's one good indicator of quality."

Consumer Reports found several backpacks held up very well, including the top-rated Jester by North Face that goes for $55 and the $40 JanSport Big Student.

Besides quality, a good fit is essential.

"The top of the shoulder strap should be about 1 to 2 inches below the shoulder line. The bottom of the bag should be no more than 4 inches below the waistline," said Consumer Reports Alex Willen.

The Occupational Therapy Association recommends children's backpacks be no heavier than 15% of their body weight.

And it's also important to distribute the weight evenly by wearing both shoulder straps and a waist strap for additional support.


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