Two school aged kids wearing backpacks and laughing

Packs for kids

A schoolbag or kids’ pack is way more than a miniature version of an adult’s pack. Packs for children and schoolkids feature subtle design differences that make them comfortable, durable and safe.

Shoulder straps and backpanel

It’s best to avoid narrow shoulder straps. Wide straps distribute weight more evenly, without painfully digging into a kid’s shoulders or chest. Look for high-density foam padding in the straps and to cushion the back. If your child is going to use their pack for hiking or biking in warmer weather, mesh fabric covering the shoulder straps and backpanel will add comfort by allowing sweat and moisture to evaporate.

Lots of kids like to wear their pack too low. Encourage them to tighten the shoulder straps so the pack rides up on their back not low on their butt. And if possible, encourage the use of both straps – not just one – to reduce shoulder strain.

Hipbelt

If the pack has a belt, it will help with heavier loads by transferring weight off their shoulders and onto their hips. During activity, a hipbelt will also prevent the pack from bouncing or shifting, which will help your child stay balanced. When the belt is tightened, it should wrap over your child’s hipbones. It shouldn’t sit at their waist, or droop down below their hips.

HoW a kids’ pack should fit

Rule of thumb: a kid’s pack should never be larger than your child’s back. If you’re shopping in store, this is easy to gauge: the bottom of the pack should rest near the top of the pelvis, while the top should sit about 2–5cm below the tops of their shoulders.

If you’re buying online, measure you child’s back length to find the right size.

  1. Find the most prominent neck vertebrae, at about the same level as the top of your child’s shoulders.
  2. Find the top of their hipbone and trace a line around to the middle of their back.
  3. Measure the distance between these two points to find their back length.

Compare this measurement with the given back length (in centimeters) of a pack. You can find this information for all packs sold at MEC. This is also a handy way to determine if an adult-sized pack will fit older children.

Pack it right

Between laptop compartments, pencil holders and secret pockets, backpacks can have all kinds of clever spaces to stash stuff. Stow heavy items in the main compartment, close to your child’s back. This helps reduce strain on their shoulders, and won’t affect their balance when they’re running or playing.

When buying a new school pack, consider what your child might be carrying beyond books and lunches. Many packs feature a protected sleeve for laptop or tablet computers. Check the dimensions listed for the product, or bring the computer along when you’re shopping.

External drop-in pockets are great for water bottles, and get kids in the habit of always having a water bottle with them (hydration is important).

One last thing: a child’s pack shouldn’t exceed more than 10–12% of their body weight. So if it looks like your child is struggling with a big load of books and recess gear, double-check that it isn’t too heavy.

details of a quality pack

A kid’s backpack or school bag needs to stand up to pretty serious handling. Look for features that indicate a well-made pack:

  • High-denier nylon or polyester
  • Heavier fabrics in high-wear areas, such as the base of the bag
  • Bound inside seams (covered by fabric) so they’re less prone to wear or damage
  • Extra stitching in high-stress areas including the shoulder straps and main compartments. (If you can easily count the number of stitches per inch, you probably want to look for a sturdier pack.)
  • Beefy, wide zippers with good sized zipper pulls that kids can grab
  • Adjustable shoulder straps and an adjustable sternum strap to accommodate growth
  • Interior labels for keeping track of the pack’s owner