Not all kids’ backpacks are the same. By the time they reach nursery age, at the latest, they should be ready for their first rucksack. Most children grow quite a bit taller in the 15 years that follow. As a result, their backpacks also have to be changed and adapted repeatedly during this time.
The range extends from nursery school backpacks to backpacks for primary school children and school backpacks to special models for young people and teenagers. Backpacks for adults with short torso lengths are suitable from late teens onwards. Here are a few tips and considerations to help you find the right backpack that will please children and parents alike; one that’s practical, stylish, appropriate and fully equipped.
Kids’ backpacks for kids up to 2 years
Size and backpack volume
Any child who has already learned to walk and can stand,carry a backpack. Given that most toddlers learn to walk at around one year of age, you might want to buy a backpack when they’re around one and a half or two years of age.
Kids of this age should not carry much more than one kilogram on their backs. Padded straps and padding on the back ensure that the backpack is comfortable to wear and does not cut into the neck or shoulders or cause chafing. If a toddler’s backpack weighs between 200 g and 300 g , this leaves just under 700 g of potential backpack contents. With a volume of around 4-5 litres, this is sufficient for a full water bottle, a lunch box, a jacket and a pair of gloves.
Materials and child-friendly handling
Backpack models for toddlers are tailored to small hands and fingers so that children can learn how to use the backpack at an early age. All-round, easy-to-use zips with large eyelets allow the backpack to be opened and closed quickly and easily. Robust workmanship and hard-wearing materials forgive rough treatment in everyday life. Most backpack manufacturers use polyester or polyamide (nylon) as the base material. An additional PU coating provides protection against rain and makes cleaning easier if water bottles leak.
Most toddler backpacks do not have too many compartments, and instead provide good visibility. A large main compartment and possibly an additional front compartment, an extra carry handle and possibly a mesh pocket on the side for a water bottle are all you need.
Design and reflectors for safety
Kids’ backpacks are often brightly coloured and decorated with child-friendly patterns and images. Children love this and it also has the added advantage that easily visible colours such as red, yellow or orange also help to improve safety in everyday life and in road traffic. Bright, light colours are much easier to see in good weather, and even more so in rain and poor visibility, than dark blue, brown or black.
For additional visibility at dusk and in the dark many kids’ backpacks have reflective details so that the backpacks are even more visible to cars and cyclists. When combined with reflectors on jackets or shoes, kids are much easier to spot and, importantly, hard to miss.
Small kids’ backpacks summary
- 4-5 litre backpack volume
- Max. 1 kg load on child’s back
- Easy handling
- Durable material
- Rain cover
- Clear compartments
- Beautiful design
Backpacks for children up to 6 years old
Size and backpack volume
From their first day at nursery to their first day at school, children usually grow between 15 cm and 20 cm. This means that their first nursery school backpack will not necessarily be the same one that is swapped for a school bag or school backpack when they start school. However, it is possible that a first nursery school backpack will fit well for about two years and then be replaced by a larger model with a longer back . Bags for nursery school kids shuld have about 6-9 litres volume, correspondingly lower than the larger size group which have 10-12 litres storage space.
Carry system and handling
Backpacks for nursery school children differ from backpacks for toddlers not only in torso length and volume.. There are also often more compartments and child-friendly zippers, buckles, adjustment straps and buttons . Most backpacks for nursery school children are designed as toploaders with zips or overlapping lids.
It is very important to have a soft padded carry system that can be adjusted well and is neither too long nor too short at the back. If the back section is too short, the weight of the backpack will press into the lower back. If the backpack is too long, it will hit their buttocks or even their legs. The load then pulls the child backwards at the shoulders – which of course is extremely annoying when walking. Backpacks for nursery school children often feature an adjustable chest harnesses that is held in place by a practical buckle.
The additional chest harness improves comfort even with a low load, because it prevents the shoulder straps from slipping sideways. This means that the backpack sits securely and comfortably on the back and arms can enjoy full freedom of movement. This is not only perfect for running and playing, but also provides additional safety as both hands are free at all times to hold on to when needed.
Kids’ backpacks are all rounders
The small backpacks are versatile all-rounders and not as specialised as their parents’ hiking, trekking, climbing and cycling backpacks. They are also ideal for kids’ first hikes and for holiday trips because of their ergonomic cut and good padding. The design of nursery school backpacks is very diverse and ranges from plain models to colourfully printed backpacks with different motifs.
In terms of colours and patterns, differences between boys and girls models can already be seen in the nursery models. Backpacks in the shape of different animals or animal heads are particularly popular. From Vaude, Deuter, Jack Wolfskin and Affenzahn – backpacks with friendly eyes and long ears that look like a dog, a lion, monkey, wolf or like an owl are very popular with children of nursery school age.
Kindergarten backpacks summary
- 6-9 litre backpack for 3-4 year olds
- 10-12 litre backpack for 5-6 year olds
- Padded carry system
- Adjustable chest harness
- Closure system with push buckles or adjustment straps
School backpacks and backpacks for primary school children from 6 years old
For school itself, a special school backpack or satchel is more suitable than a walking backpack for primary school children. A walking backpack is generally more rounded in shape, so it’s easier to carry a change of clothes, gear and supplies. School books, notepads and pens are better carried in morerectangularshape with compartments for various school equipment.
School backpacks offer about 18 litres of storage space , so as much as a small adult daypack. You should also choose hiking and outdoor backpacks for kids that are in this size range It is not advisable to choose a small adult backpack, because the back section will probably be too long and the straps cannot be adjusted properly to the child’s size.
As kids get older, backpack manufacturers make the technical details and designs more and more similar to the “big” models. They go from playful animal heads to printed or plain-coloured designs. Some hiking and everyday backpacks for children feature compression straps, adjustable waist belts, integrated rain covers and elasticated holders.
School backpacks summary
- 18 litre backpack volume for school bags, but also for outdoor backpacks
- Adult backpacks are NOT recommended
Backpacks for older kids and teenagers
Many children reaching late primary school age are already undertaking their first challenging tours with their outdoor-minded parents. Brands such as Tatonka, Haglöfs and Deuter offer specialised hiking, mountaineering and walking backpacks for this. A compact walking backpack for kids with a 30 litre volume and the same features as a 75 litre travel backpack for adults is perfect for hut-to-hut tours with a determined ten-year-old.
The transition to adult backpacks is gradual and depends on the size of the child. There is a good selection of backpacks for teenagers, which are often more specialised such as hiking backpacks, walking backpacks and cycling backpacks. They are often very similar to the models for adults, but they are usually a little smaller and cut shorter and narrower in the back area.
It’s all about adjustment!
When buying a high-quality kids’ backpack from a well-known outdoor brand, parents should consider some important aspects:
- The backpack is easy adjustable
- The straps and back are softly padded
- The material is stable and abrasion resistant
- Ergonomics, cut and volume should be perfectly aligned
The first thing to do is to find the right backpack size for the child. For children of average height, the volume of kids’ backpacks is a good guide. An age recommendation or recommended torso length in cm is rarely given.
The max. load is rarely mentioned for kids’ backpacks, but parents should make sure that school backpacks in particular are not too heavy. As children’s spines are still developing, backpacks that are too heavy can quickly cause irreparable damage to the back.
|Child’s age||Backpack volume||Maximum load|
|up to 2||3 – 5 litres||0,5 kg|
|2 – 3||4 – 6 litres||1 kg|
|3 – 4||6 – 9 litres||1,5 kg|
|5 – 6||10 – 12 litres||2 kg|
|6 – 8||15 – 18 litres||3 kg|
|8 – 10||16 – 20 litres||5 kg|
|10 – 12||18 – 24 litres||6 kg|
|12 – 16||20 – 28 litres||7 kg|
|Over 16||25 Liter +||10 kg +|
Younger children in particular will not be able to adjust a backpack themselves. Parents will need to help out. The backpack should be loaded in the same way as it is typically loaded in everyday life. For example, with a lunch box, full water bottle and other accessories. For younger children, we also recommend that they put on their current jacket when adjusting because otherwise the backpack may be too tight.
Then the shoulder straps should be loosened completely first and then tightened so that the shoulder pads are pretty much at shoulder height and there is not a big gap between the shoulder and the backpack. Ideally, the backpack should then rest straight on the back. As children may adjust the straps either on purpose or by mistake, the shoulder straps should be readjusted at regular intervals. Especially if they are wearing thinner or thicker clothing. In any case, both shoulder straps should be adjusted equally so that the backpack does not hang at an angle.
Durable with regular backpack care
Kids’ clothing and kids’ backpacks quickly show signs of daily use and playing outside. Washing their clothes is a matter of course. But kids’ backpack also benefit from regular care inside and out. This keeps the backpack fresh and ready for use – and maybe means it can be passed down to a younger sibling. Read more in our care guide for backpacks.