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Consumer Reports - Backpacks for Kids

Most kids' backpacks can fulfill the basic job requirements: holding books and other school supplies. But construction details can make a difference--to parents if not always to kids. WHAT'S AVAILABL...

Most kids' backpacks can fulfill the basic job requirements: holding books and other school supplies. But construction details can make a difference--to parents if not always to kids.

WHAT'S AVAILABLE

Traditional backpacks for kids are sold by Eastpak, EMS, JanSport, Kelty, L.L. Bean, REI, and other companies. Timbuk2, among others, makes messenger bags. Some companies, such as L.L. Bean, state age recommendations for their various models.

Price range: $25 to $65.

IMPORTANT FEATURES

Contoured and padded shoulder straps soften the load. A waist belt stabilizes the pack and transfers weight to the hips. A padded or quilted back panel or one with mesh fabric will "breathe" easier on hot days, making it more comfortable and less sweaty against a kid's back. Compression straps on the sides can take up the slack of a partially filled backpack. Also look for multiple pockets; small ones are good for a calculator, cell phone, or for holding keys. Make sure there's a concealed interior pocket for cash.

HOW TO CHOOSE

Performance differences. All backpacks Consumer Reports tested were sturdy enough to withstand daily abuse or a tug-of-war at the bus stop. Water-resistance varies. Most did a good job of withstanding the test-lab equivalent of a 5-minute shower.

Recommendations. The middle-school boys and girls who checked out packs for Consumer Reports didn't favor one backpack over another, but they preferred a traditional backpack over the messenger bag's single shoulder straps design. When choosing a pack for your child, look for one in your price range with the features mentioned above. Something to keep in mind after you've chosen a bag: according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a loaded backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of a child’s total weight. So make sure the backpack is the right size--and not oversized, which might tempt a kid to overload it.

Copyright © 2002-2006 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc.

For the latest information on this and many other products and servicesFeature Articles, visit www.ConsumerReports.org.

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