The increasing burden of backpacks


Jason Gonzalez

   2007                        2018

Lightest: 3            Lightest: 5

Average: 5            Average: 14.85

Heaviest: 11         Heaviest: 24


A gallon of paint, a bowling ball, and a Jack Russell all weigh about fifteen pounds. Add the average weight of a West Ottawa student’s backpack to the list.

  West Ottawan reporters canvassed the first floor of the South building during seminar on November 8 with a borrowed scale from Instructor Kyle Plank. Over and over again they asked, “Can I weigh your backpack,” as hesitant students replied “Yes?”

  Of the 100 brave students who volunteered their bags, the average weight was 14.85 pounds. West Ottawan reporters did the same process in 2007 and the average was only five pounds. Five pounds? Who has a backpack that weighs five pounds? Only one backpack was that light this year.

  Eleven years later the average has increased threefold, and two developments are easily identifiable.

  First, more students are taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes. West Ottawa offers 20 AP courses, and most require a textbook. The textbook for AP Chemistry weighs 5.8 lbs.

  Second, Chromebooks have been added, which weigh around three pounds. Some students are disappointed we still use textbooks in a majority of classes. “In middle school, we were told that Chromebooks were going to replace textbooks,” Jr. Caroline Johnson said. Johnson is one of many who heard WO was going to switch to online textbooks with the addition of Chromebooks.

  “There was discussion about the possibility, but the decision was made that [Chromebooks] weren’t going to replace textbooks,” Instructor Doug Mandrick said. Administration decided students would benefit the most from using textbooks along with Chromebooks.

If you experience back pain, headaches, neck spasms, or soreness you probably already know that your backpack is too heavy. But if you want a guideline to follow, the University of Iowa recommends “you carry no more than ten percent of your weight in a backpack.

 If you’re sick of carrying around your 15-lb backpack, try carrying only what’s necessary or just ditch the bag at home and bring a Jack Russell instead one day; they weigh the same so no one will even notice the difference.