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Buying school bags is about more than just the way they look.  We cover some of the more serious aspects of buying a school bag in our School Bags article.

It goes without saying that school bags are one of those ‘must have’ items. Your child will use it everyday, and it will suffer all sorts of shoving, dragging, dropping, and leaking. It’s obviously got to be durable, practical, and affordable, but it should also be ‘back safe’ for your child. To top it all off, your child will probably want one with a specific logo and all the swing tags that go with it.

Choosing a school bag with your child will undoubtedly require some negotiation, but before you hand over hard earned dollars for the latest label, take a look at some of the more serious things you should consider when buying a school bag.

Size

When it comes to size, you need to be practical. Primary school students don’t need to carry the kitchen sink, so don’t buy them a bag that is big enough to do so. Even high school students don’t need to carry all of their gear, all of the time. School bags are like handbags, the bigger it is, the more stuff will end up getting carried around.

While the size issue may seem over the top, excess weight in school bags contributes to back and neck strain in children. Children should not carry any more than 10% of their body weight on their back, so think about how big a bag they actually need.

Straps

The straps on a school bag should be wide, padded and adjustable, so that the bag’s weight can be correctly distributed on your child’s back. Ideally the main weight should rest against the curve of their back, and there should be a tummy strap to support the weight.

If the shoulder straps are too long, it will cause your child to lean forward and strain their back and neck. If the straps are too short, it will cause strain on their shoulders. Adjustable straps allow you to get the positioning just right.

The width of the strap is also important as this distributes the weight across the shoulders and generally makes it more comfortable for your child. Padded straps are also a comfort feature, and are less likely to ‘dig in’ than non-padded versions.

Padded Back

To correctly distribute the weight in your child’s bag, the heaviest items should be packed closest to the body. Heavy items are usually rigid like books and laptops, so a padded back allows these to be packed correctly without digging into your child’s back.

Compartments

A school bag should have at least 2 compartments, so that wet togs or sports clothes can be kept separate from stationery and lap tops. A wet section should have breathable fabric, and be easily cleaned.

Ideally the bag will also have a couple of extra pockets, especially for high school students. A drink bottle holder on the side is particularly useful for children of all ages, and teenagers will appreciate a front pocket for small things like keys, phones, wallets and tampons. Many bags are sporting a new sized pocket for Ipods, with a hole for the headphone cord to thread through!

Bags on wheels

You can also get ‘back pack’ style bags with wheels on the bottom. These are great to reduce the strain of carrying heavy bags on their backs all the time, but the frame of the bag will be heavier as a result.

Durability

It’s no secret that school bags get a good hammering, so they need to be tough. Zips, straps, seams, and bases all need to be extra strong, so take particular note of these areas when you are checking them out.

Zips with large teeth and a closed end tend to last longer than smaller zips, with less chance of getting jammed. Velcro and domes give up the ghost fairly quickly. Straps need to be stitched securely to the bag, and seams should be bound and double stitched.

The bottom of the bag gets the most wear and tear, as children dump their bags on the tennis court or drag them up the driveway. Make sure the bag has a double layer of fabric in the bottom, or reinforced material which will stand up to rough and tough tests. The stitching which holds the bottom together should also be reinforced, as this is where all the weight sits.

Safety

Having reflective patches on the back of the bag is a good idea, particularly if your child walks or bikes to school. Even children who travel by bus or car have to cross the road, so having a reflective patch certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Affordability

To some degree you get what you pay for when it comes to school bags, but there is also an element of branding and fads that come into play. Just because a school bag has a fancy label, doesn’t mean it has everything you need so check out the cost carefully.

To get a good bag which meets all the essential requirements, you should expect to pay between $40 and $70. There are obviously bags available for less than this, but make sure you double check the quality. A cheap bag may seem like a good option at first, but replacing it every year can end up more expensive in the long run. A good quality, durable bag should last your child several years.

Where can I buy school bags from?

You can buy school bags from most large department stores, but be conscious of the ‘get what you pay for’ scenario. Good quality bags can be found at specialist bag shops or camping and outdoor stores, and staff in these stores are usually more knowledgeable when it comes to fitting the bag correctly to your child. Surfing and sports stores also sell backpacks, but you’ll probably pay more for trendy brands and ‘bells and whistle’ type features.

Useful links

For information on purchasing other essential school items, see our Kiwi Families articles on Lunch Boxes and School Shoes

There’s also great advice on ensuring those new items stay out of the lost property box in our article on Labelling

The Kiwi Families Team

This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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