Consumer Reports: Backpacks for Kids

Most kids’ backpacks can fulfill the basic job requirements: holding books and other school supplies. But construction details can make a difference–to parents if not always to kids.


Traditional backpacks for kids are sold by Eastpak, EMS, JanSport, Kelty, L.L. Bean, REI, and other companies. Timbuk2, among others, makes messenger bags. Some companies, such as L.L. Bean, state age recommendations for their various models.

Price range: $25 to $65.


Contoured and padded shoulder consumer reports straps soften the load. A waist belt stabilizes the pack and transfers weight to the hips. A padded or quilted back panel or one with mesh fabric will “breathe” easier on hot days, making it more comfortable and less sweaty against a kid’s back. Compression straps on the sides can take up the slack of a partially filled backpack. Also look for multiple pockets; small ones are good for a calculator, cell phone, or for holding keys. Make sure there’s a concealed interior pocket for cash.


Performance differences. All backpacks Consumer Reports tested were sturdy enough to withstand daily abuse or a tug-of-war at the bus stop. Water-resistance varies. Most did a good job of withstanding the test-lab equivalent of a 5-minute shower.

Recommendations. The middle-school boys and girls who checked out packs for Consumer Reports didn’t favor one backpack over another, but they preferred a traditional backpack over the messenger bag’s single shoulder straps design. When choosing a pack for your child, look for one in your price range with the features mentioned above. Something to keep in mind after you’ve chosen a bag: according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a loaded backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of a child’s total weight. So make sure the backpack is the right size–and not oversized, which might tempt a kid to overload it.

Copyright © 2002-2006 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc.

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Elliptical exercisers provide a calorie-burning workout that is free of some of the problems experienced by other machines. However consumer reports and reviews advise that quality-control problems are a major factor.

Elliptical exercisers are a combination stair-climber/cross-country-ski simulator. The motion of your feet is in flattened circles or ovals (otherwise known as an ellipse), hence the name elliptical machine. The value of the workout depends on resistance that slows down the elliptical machines drive system as you try to turn it. Some elliptical machines use a band or belt driven drive system; nicer more expensive models use magnetic force to create resistance.

Elliptical machines have become popular for a few reasons:

· The pedaling is low impact and therefore joint friendly.

· Exercise on an elliptical machine is weight-bearing. This helps ward off osteoporosis.

· Movable arms are available on some models. This adds an upper-body benefit to the workout.


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