We looked at non-wheeled backpacks with two shoulder straps. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends wearing a pack with two straps because a backpack with a single shoulder strap across the body does not distribute weight evenly According to our in-house survey, an estimated 84 percent of backpacks bought in the last two years were non-wheeled models.
We tested all the backpacks for durability, construction quality, safety, convenience features, comfort, and resistance to rain.
For durability testing, very little difference was found from pack to pack, with one exception. In two samples of the Bakugan Battle Brawlers pack, seam rips made the backpacks unusable. It was also the only backpack to show signs of wear in our shoulder-strap durability tests.
On one sample of the Hannah Montana Undercover Pop Star backpack by FAB StarPoint, for the outer pocket on the pack, the part of the zipper that closes the "teeth" together broke off while in use. In another sample, an adjustment buckle was sewn onto the wrong side of a shoulder strap. And on a third sample, an adjustment strap came undone during the kids' comfort tests, causing the bag to hang from one lone strap.
We evaluated all packs for the presence of safety features such as a reflective material, an abdominal strap or chest strap (to help keep the weight of the pack closer to the body and distribute weight), and a place to store excess adjustment straps to prevent them from getting snagged on a doorknob or school-bus door, for example.
To test rain resistance, we lined each pack with construction paper, filled it with linen cloth, zipped it and placed it on a mannequin that was subjected to a five-minute shower simulating rainfall. The backpacks were then removed from the mannequin, the water shaken off, and our engineers scored the saturation of the construction paper.