Picking Backpacks

August 6, 2009 7:16:43 PM PDT
20-million students risk back pain by lugging around too much weight in their backpacks. Finding one that will last through the school year is also tough. 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-dollars.

Loaded bags are tumbled in the giant hexagonal spinning drum ... soaked in simulated rainstorms ... and lifted and lowered thousands of times. Then graded on how well they hold up.

It's the $16-dollar Bakugan backpack. The $15-dollar 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.

Consumer Reports found several backpacks held up very well, including the top-rated Jester by North Face that goes for $55-dollars and the $40-dollar JanSport Big Student. Besides quality, a good fit is essential.

Too heavy a backpack can cause lower-back pain. So Consumer Reports recommends children's backpacks be no heavier than 15 percent of their body weight. And it's also important to distribute the weight evenly by wearing both shoulder straps.

With the help of Consumer Reports, getting a good backpack that's the right fit is one assignment every student can ace.

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