I tend to carry a lot in my backpack. A book to read, often the current manuscript I’m working on, a bottle of water, plus a bunch of other things (an umbrella, sunscreen, keys, my cell phone, my iPod Touch, a notebook to write in, a bunch of pens–on and on it goes). My backpack often gets quite heavy, but most things feel pretty important to me to carry around.
Kids and teens these days also have heavy backpacks, with all the books they have to carry for school. According to a study by Negrini, 64% of schoolchildren suffer from back pain due to backpacks, and 3,500 children ages 5-14 were treated for backpack related injuries in 1997. So getting an ergonomic backpack for students, or anyone who carries a heavy load, is important.
I started to have back pain this past year, after years of carrying around a backpack. But I didn’t want to give up most of what I carry. So I started looking into ergonomic backpacks.
I wanted a backpack that was truly ergonomic, not one that just said it had “ergonomic straps.” After much online research, I settled on the Airpacks backpack by Core Products. And I’m very happy I did.
The Airpacks backpack has a few features that convinced me it’s really ergonomic. It has a lumbar air cushion and wide, dense foam shoulder straps, which redistribute the weight from the shoulders to the hips and lower back, which encourages an upright standing position. According to Core Products, this reduces the stress on the body up to 80 %, and lightens the effective load up to 50%. The shoulder straps also adjust from side-to-side to help maintain correct ergonomic support, even when using one strap. And you can adjust the straps so that they’re the correct length so that the backpack cushion sits on your lower back. There are three sizes; you choose your size based on your height–Small for people up to 5′ (including children); Medium for people 5′ to 5′ 5″; and Large for poeple taller than 5′ 5″.
That sounds great, but does it work? It did for me. Once on my back, the backpack feels so much lighter than any backpack has. I often don’t feel the weight, unless I’ve really loaded it down with groceries or heavy objects. And even then it doesn’t feel heavy, exactly–I just notice it. There’s also nothing clunking against or poking me in the back; the blow-up pillow keeps things from digging into me. I don’t feel any stress or strain anywhere. If I really load up my backpack (say, with groceries) then I feel a slight pull on my shoulders–or if it’s really, really heavy, a slight strain on my shoulders. That’s it.
I’m really impressed; I’ve never had a backpack that felt so comfortable or so light–or that felt like it was truly protecting my back. It was worth the money to me. (The Airpack backpacks are between $44.95 and $59.95, depending on the size you get and where you purchase them.)