Lugging books around the campus is a big part of any typical school day (or hike!) The best backpacks are designed to make sure there’s enough support so that there’s a lot less pain and strain.

So what exactly should you look for in a comfortable, ergonomically-designed back pack? Here are a few tips to stay healthy and comfortable as you (or your kids) pack up:

It’s all about the straps

The key to comfort is always adjustability so make sure you only purchase a backpack that has adjustable straps. Some packs come with waist straps in additional to the standard shoulder straps. Depending on the weight being carried, the pack can slide or sag if the straps are too loose, causing too much pressure on the neck and shoulders. And it’s no fun to have to keep pulling the straps forward and holding them in the front to lift the pack higher onto the back while walking. I remember many walks home from school being rather miserable because my bag was sagging against my shoulders – and a shout out to my parents for paying for the many, many chiropractor visits that resulted!

Also, you’ll want be sure that the straps are sturdy and up to the task. Look for quality construction with strong seams. Straps that are contoured to fit will also make a huge difference on the way the pack lays against you.

A handle on the top of the pack can be convenient way to move your pack around while it’s on the floor or anywhere else you’ll set it. Be sure the handle seam is tough and can support the weight of the pack while you’re swinging it around.

Let’s get padded

Padding can make all the difference, especially when your pack is completely maxed out with items. It can also help to avoid broken laptops from accidental drops. The best kind of padding also breathes so that you don’t end up getting too hot and sweaty. Padded mesh is great if you get overheated easily so look for something that’s going to breathe.

Pockets, zippers, and pouches – oh my!

Think about how many items you’ll need to be carrying each day to get a good perspective of the size of pack needed. If you don’t need all the bells and whistles as far as zippers and pouches go, that will cut down on excess weight and bulk. Zippered compartments are great to help keep smaller items organized so that they’re not rolling around in the dark recesses of the main compartment. Many packs also come with a pockets to hold bottled water – it’s important to stay hydrated while you’re carrying heavy things around all day!

Charge all the things!

Some newer backpacks are all tech-ied out with battery chargers and usb ports. Solar backpacks are an easy way to keep things charged when all the panels have to do is soak up some rays. These charging packs are a great option if you’re traveling to and from school on the subway and need to use your laptop without worrying about it running out of juice.

Test it

Whatever backpack you decide on, make sure to do a test run to see that it’s comfortable and manageable before you need to start using it hardcore. You definitely do not want to be stuck halfway through the day with a pack that’s uncomfortable and bursting at the seams because you picked the wrong size. Make sure to save your receipts and everything the backpack came with in case you need to return it and replace it with a more workable model.

The bottom line is that you need to choose the backpack that works for you in whatever way you’ll be using it. So try out a few different styles. And remember, happy backs equals happy students, which can equal better grades and a much more comfortable day!