The 7 best Backpacks with back support, rated by a Physical Therapist
By: Dr. Abe Kopolovich, DPT, MBA, JD-IP
Whether you’re using them as a gym bag, a carry on, or a hiking accessory, backpacks are the universal carry-all. But as useful (and stylish) as they may be, wearing 10+ pounds of stuff on your back has the potential to put undue stress on your spine.
Now, are backpacks bad for your back? Of course not! There are plenty of backpacks for back support that are specifically engineered to combat those bag-induced aches and pains.
Things to look out for before you wear a backpack
According to Kirstie Griffiths, DC, a chiropractor and yoga teacher based in Ontario, “The key to a healthy backpack is to pack it light and wear it right.”
There are a few things to look out for when selecting backpacks for back support, like:
- Adjustable straps, which will ensure that the bag properly fits your body.
- Chest and waist straps to distribute the weight of a bag equally
- Two-strap backpacks that are always settled on both shoulders
- Padded shoulder straps and back
- Lightweight materials like cotton or vinyl
If straps are mentioned too much, it is because they are a vital feature for the best backpack to avoid back pain. The straps shouldn’t hang more than 4 inches below your waist. If it sits too low (with the bulk of the backpack near your low back or hips), your spinal muscles will compensate, which leads to back pain and fatigue in other parts of your body, according to Alex Renda, a physical therapist at USA Sports Therapy.
As far as how much you should carry in it, the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) says that a child’s backpack should weigh no more than 5 to 10 percent of their body weight, and this rule continues to apply as you get older.
With all of that in mind, these are the 7 best backpacks for back support that will seriously save your spine:
Best multi-purpose: Osprey Farpoint 55 Travel Backpack, $220
This large, duffel-style backpack is one of Renda’s favorites because it features two padded shoulder straps and a hip strap for optimal support. It’s also equipped with a laptop sleeve, waterproof fabric, and a detachable daypack for when you only need to leave home with your essentials.
Shop now: Osprey Farpoint 55 Travel Backpack, $220
Best classic: Jansport Agave Backpack, $79.99
For a very lightweight option that still has supportive chest and hip straps, Dr. Griffiths recommends re-investing in your middle school go-to. from Jansport. The brand is known for its durable fabric and zips, and the padded straps mean your shoulders won’t have to suffer.
Shop now: Jansport Agave Backpack, $79.99
Best functionality: Kopack Lightweight Laptop Backpack, $34.99
With over 4,500 five-star reviews on Amazon, this minimalist pack is perfect for all of your everyday activities. Don’t let the sleek, slim design fool you: It features an anti-theft laptop compartment, an external USB port with a cable for convenient charging, and sponge-padded shoulder straps for extra back support and comfort.
Shop now: Kopack Lightweight Laptop Backpack, $34.99
Best for hiking: Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack, $164.95
If you’re looking for a hiking pack that is lighter and less bulky than others of its kind, Kelty’s cult-fave pack is back with an updated design. The FIT-Pro adjustment system is perfect for quickly customizing the torso size, and the new ventilated back panel seriously limits those dreaded mid-hike, back sweats.
Shop now: Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack, $164.95
Most stylish: Herschel Supply Co. Barlow Large, $121
If keeping up with the trends is the name of the game, this Herschel has got you covered. The Barlow is a versatile option that’s great for city-slicking and hiking alike, featuring mesh back padding for increased comfort and air-flow, internal storage pockets, and a water resistant exterior plus an emergency rain cover. As an added bonus, the bag is made out of mostly recycled materials, making it an eco-conscious choice.
Shop now: Herschel Supply Co. Barlow Large, $121
Best for travel: Nomatic Travel Pack, $299.99
This duffle/backpack hybrid is another one of Renda’s favorites for back support. Its 30-liter capacity limits how much weight you’re carrying on your back, which means you won’t be able to load it up to the point of causing pain. The bag is filled with easy-access pockets designed specifically for shoes, liquids, tech, and more, making it easy to pack and unpack in a hurry.
Shop now: Nomatic Travel Pack, $299.99
Most sustainable: GOT BAG Daypack, $89
The GOT BAG is the world’s first backpack made of 60% Ocean Impact Plastic fabric—to date, the brand has recycled over 117 tons of the material. The Daypack is a great water-resistant option that holds the necessities while still offering maximum comfort, with a padded back and a structured inner pocket system.
Shop now: GOT BAG Daypack, $89
If your backpacks have been hurting you, stop by Therapy in Motion before getting a new one!
The team of physical therapy experts will get you ready and pain-free with a session of decompression therapy.
This is a non-invasive treatment method that can help relieve pain and discomfort in the neck and low back. The therapy involves the use of a traction device that stretches and decompresses the affected area, creating more space between the vertebrae and reducing pressure on the nerves.
Contact Dr. Abe today to book a session and start living your pain-free life with the help of professional in-home physical therapy!