Backpacks: How Much Weight is Kids Carrying Around?

Backpacks are standard school equipment carried by children of all ages to school. They allow the child to have everything they need, plus a few extras.

Some schools do not allow anything but clear backpacks to reduce possible contraband or the possession of a weapon by a child.

Elementary Student Backpacks

Backpacks: How Much Does The Student's Backpack Weigh

The average elementary school child carries a backpack that weighs about 18.4 pounds.

The backpacks allow the teacher to ensure each child has their daily work in a folder and will be more likely to carry the work home. Once children develop the habit of carrying a backpack, they rarely forget the carry-all at school or home.

Experts recommend that your child’s backpack not weigh more than 15% of their body weight. The CDC tells us that the average weight of children five years of age is about 40 pounds. That means the packs carried by children of this age should not exceed 6 pounds.

What’s Inside Those Bags?

The average elementary school backpack is filled with things the child may or may not need in school.

  • For the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten children, there is often a change of clothing in their backpack.
  • The daily folder contains their work and notes from the school and teacher.
  • A water bottle
  • A lunchbox if they carry their lunch
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Gloves in the winter
  • Winter hats
  • A scarf
  • Sunglasses
  • sunscreen

Middle School Student Backpacks

The students’ average middle school backpack weighs between 12 and 20 pounds.

Middle school students carry more inside their backpacks than elementary school students do. This is the age when kids are starting to go to several classrooms rather than being in just one room.

This is when children are introduced to lockers at school where they are supposed to store their books and supplies. In-between classes, they are supposed to return to their locker and get the supplies they will need for the next class.

The problem is that the lockers are not always convenient to go to between each class. If the safe is positioned in an area that is a reasonable distance from the next class, the student risks being late for their next class, so they omit the trips to the locker and carry all the supplies and their books with them.

Locker Problems that Prevent Kids from Going to Them

  • the placement of the locker in comparison to the location of the next class
  • locks that can be hard to operate
  • bullying
  • crowded hallways that impeded travel
  • the desire to have time to visit the bathroom or get a drink of water between classes
  • the desire to visit with friends between classes

What’s Inside Those Bags?

  • School books, often they carry the books for every class, so they do not have to go to their lockers
  • Paper, spiral-bound notebooks, composition books
  • Pens, pencils, colored pencils, protractors, rulers
  • Folders
  • Snacks
  • Gloves, hats, scarves, sunglasses,
  • Hand sanitizers
  • Calculators
  • Extra batteries
  • Cell phones
  • Lunch money or lunches
  • Bottled water
  • Girls often carry make-up and may be starting to carry feminine hygiene products
  • Tablets and school-issued laptops are often carried in these

High School Student Backpacks

Once a child reaches high school, they are used to carrying a backpack. They are also in the habit of either taking every book they have at all times or visiting their locker only a few times each day.

High school backpacks average between 12 and 20 pounds, but many weigh as much as 50+ pounds, depending on how many books and supplies the student carries.

What’s Inside Those Bags?

Inside the backpacks of high school students, you will find everything that might be inside the bags of middle school children. The main difference in high school packs is the weight of their textbooks. High school textbooks are often thicker, and the student may carry 6 or 7 of these books with them at all times.

Students also carry research books and other written material that the lower grade students do not have.

These packs are called backpacks, backsack, booksacks, sackpacks, rucksac, rucksacks, knapsacks and more.

The Problem with Heavy Backpacks for Kids

The Problem with Heavy Backpacks for Kids

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 3000 children between the ages of 5 and 14 are being treated in emergency rooms each year for injuries they sustained from carrying heavy backpacks.

Injuries sustained from overweight backpacks include:

  • Shoulder strains and pain
  • Neck strains and pain
  • Severe back pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling in the upper extremities
  • Poor posture
  • Nerve damage

Preventing Backpack Injuries

Several things can be done to help prevent the possibility of an injury from an overloaded backpack.

Of course, getting the student to carry fewer books in their pack is the number one thing you can do, but it is also likely to be a futile argument.

Helping reduce the strain:

  • Buy backpacks that have wide shoulder straps, so they help position the weight evenly
  • Tighten the straps on the pack, so the pack is positioned close to the back and more towards the center rather than off to one side
  • Use a cross-body bag
  • Always lift the pack by bending at the knees and not just bending over at the waist
  • Organize the contents, so the heaviest items are at the bottom and situated to be nearer the center of the bag

School Backpacks in Other Countries

In other countries, students carry different items in their packs.


  • Pencils, pens
  • Notebooks
  • Acrylic paints
  • A music notebook with 48+ pages
  • Plastic to create dust jackets for books


  • two2 copies of each school subject book. One is Arabic and one in French. The school does not supply these. The parents must purchase them.
  • Paper
  • Notebooks
  • Pens, pencils, markers, crayons, rulers, and more


  • Lunch. In Holland, the school supplies are kept in the classroom and provided by the school system, so the child does not need to carry so many items to and from school daily.


In Japan, backpacks must be red or black. The red is for girls to carry, and the black is designated for the boys.

  • Melodica
  • Books
  • Pens, pencils, and notebooks
  • Tissues

Did you Know?

  • These bags may have internal or external frames to make them hold their shape. The framing and materials to create the structure add to the bag’s overall weight. Backpacks with f5rames are better for hikers and travelers than for school children.
  • The bags are often made of a heavy cotton fabric called “Duck Canvas” because they are efficient at repelling water.
  • In the 70s and 80s, kids carried backpacks with just one strap over one shoulder because it was considered “cool.”
  • School children do not just wear backpacks. Many professionals use these easy-to-carry items rather than carrying easing to misplace briefcases. Some professional women wear tennis shoes while traveling to and from work and have their heels or dress shoes in a backpack to be put on when arriving at the office. This helps them walk without pain and allows them to run for the train.

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