I used to carry a huge backpack in law school. I carried all of my books, a bulky laptop computer, as well as snacks and supplies − all on my back − all day, every day. I did it in college too. And I still do it. Every time I travel, I carry a heavy backpack with me. In fact, even for the last week, I have been wandering around Italy (and now Santorini), carrying a lot of my clothes and books on my back. This inspired me to find some backpack carrying tips for law students and others like me, who carry everything on their back.
Five Backpack Carrying Tips for Law Students:
1. Get a high-quality backpack. This includes padded shoulder straps and a padded back. A waist strap is always a good idea too (as well as wheels, if you can manage). In order to find a backpack that fits you well, it is always a good idea to try it on in person rather than ordering one online. The higher the quality of the backpack, the less shoulder, back, and neck pain you will experience.
2. Keep your backpack as light as possible. The general consensus is that 15% of your bodyweight is the maximum weight you should carry on your back. So if you weigh 160 pounds, your backpack should be no more than 24 pounds. I am sure I am guilty of not following this tip on several occasions. I have found that it is a good idea to ask yourself, “What is in here that I have not used in the last week?” If you have not used something in the last week, take it out of your backpack and only pack it when you need it.
3. Put heavier items toward the bottom of the backpack and and toward the body. Put your books closest to your back. Avoid putting anything too heavy on the front or side of your backpack. Distribute the weight evenly. This avoids spine and neck injuries.
4. Don’t lean forward when you carry your backpack. It is tempting to lean forward when you carry a backpack. I find myself doing this a lot recently. When I speak at law schools, I see law students hunched forward with heavy backpack. Leaning forward is bad for your spine. Try to stand straight up with good posture when you carry a backpack.
5. Wear two straps and carry the weight evenly. If your backpack has even more straps (like a waist strap) wear that too! I caved into finally buckling the waist and chest strap when I was traveling around Japan for a few weeks this past March despite my initial resistance to doing so. It helped significantly and I am determined to start a waist-strap trend! If you carry a one-strap backpack or a side back or bag, it is a good idea to switch sides to have the effect of distributing weight evenly.
A few other tips: Take breaks. If you can set your backpack down for a few minutes, then do it. It will help you more than you know. When you pick your back pack up again, remember to bend at your knees rather than your waist.
Some law schools will also provide lockers if you ask. I found out my 3L year that my law school provided lockers! Better to ask sooner rather than later since the best way to easy backpack-related pain is to carry less!
If you have any good backpack carrying tips of your own, please share them!