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August 19, 2019 2 min read

It may not be the most exciting pre-college purchase you make, but investing in a good backpack can go a long way in making the four years you spend at a US college that much more pleasant.

I tried to play it cool by using a messenger bag when I was a freshman, but after some serious shoulder and back pain, I finally caved and joined the backpack-carrying masses on my campus – and never regretted it.

The college will require you to use (and lug around!) way more books than you maybe use to. Some simple tips can help you pick out a great bag and avoid scoliosis.

Make sure you have room.
You’ll need room for more than one flimsy notebook and some pens. Make sure you get a bag that has room for multiple books, notebooks, a laptop (if you’ll be using one), plus the everyday essentials, like your wallet, cell phone, and pens.

Of course, unless you invest in a seriously huge hiking backpack, it’s unlikely that your bag will always hold all the books you need. That’s why, when I knew I was going to be checking out a lot of books, I would throw a cloth tote bag into my backpack to help handle the extra load.

Get multiple pockets.
Different compartments are a huge help. You can have smaller pockets for things like house keys and a cell phone, and keep the heavy books elsewhere.

Most backpacks have all types of pockets and compartments, whether for laptops or water bottles. Some models also offer a front bungee system, which is convenient for strapping on sweatshirts or gym shoes.

Double zippers are your friend.
Backpacks with double zippers make it easier to get into your bag without a lot of fuss. Your backpack will also be more secure because if one zipper breaks, you have a back-up.

Speaking of broken zippers – some high-end backpacks come with a warranty, which is always a good idea for cash-strapped college kids who can’t afford a new bag every year. Find out if it’s an option when you buy your bag.

Go as lightweight as possible.
With your gym gear, textbooks, laptop, iPhone and more, your backpack will be heavy enough. You don’t want the backpack itself adding to all that weight.

Go as light as possible, while still making sure the bag is sturdy (synthetic fibers hold up best). Many companies also make special lightweight backpacks that won’t weigh you down.

Ease the pain with padded straps.
No matter how light your bag is, there will be days when you find yourself shuffling home from the library carrying what feels like 200 pounds of books on your back.

For those days, padded straps can help ease the pain. The padding keeps the straps from digging into your shoulders and helps you avoid discomfort, which is essential. Some backpacks even offer back padding.

After all, the whole point of a good backpack for college is to make life more comfortable, right?

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