8 Smart Ways To Make Your Heavy Backpack Or Laptop Bag Easier To Carry

Photo of author
Written By Editor

Who keeps posting articles without emotional mental changes

person walking with a backpack

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

We've all experienced the phenomenon at one time or another. We pack our bags full of stuff, and then we have the privilege of carrying all of that stuff far enough to where it starts to get annoying. While it is great for strength training and general endurance, especially in military training, where carrying your ruck for dozens of miles is a rite of passage, it's sometimes a good idea to lighten the load a little bit. After all, the point of a bookbag, laptop bag, etc., is to make your life easier, not harder.

There are some health benefits to lightening the load a little bit as well. Heavy backpacks can cause muscle strain and numbness or tingling, especially in kids. Plus, carrying a huge backpack or laptop bag in a cramped space can cause the wearer to bump into things and other people and get generally caught up while walking, which adds another level of difficulty. So, while it is good exercise, it's important to remain comfortable to avoid injury or discomfort. For kids, at least, it's recommended that a backpack is no more than 15% of the child's body weight to avoid issues.

There are myriad ways to make your bag lighter. Of course, there's the obvious and easy method of simply putting fewer things into the bag. However, there are other things you can buy or use to either replace a heavier item already in your bag or stabilize the bag on your back to make it easier to carry. You can even do some things in software to digitize items to make them easier to carry.

Utilize comfort-added accessories like shoulder cushions

backpack strap with a shoulder cushion under it

Shoulder cushions are good accessories to have. They don't lighten your load at all, but they can help disperse the weight a little better across your shoulder. Plus, with the extra padding, you won't have thin, uncomfortable backpack or laptop back straps digging into your shoulders when the bag gets a little heavier. Most decent shoulder cushions will add a decent layer of thickness without making it feel bad.

The Zinz Universal Shoulder Pad is a decent place to start looking for something like this. It's made of that nice, breathable mesh fabric that works so well on outerwear like backpacks. It also has a spot for hooks and straps where you can physically attach it to the backpack or laptop bag strap to keep it from moving around while using it. Because it is universal, it works on bookbags, shoulder bags, laptop bags, and even things like guitar or bass straps. One product for multiple uses is always nice.

In any case, it's pretty easy to see why shoulder cushions can help make a heavy bag more comfortable to carry. It won't redistribute any weight to a different part of your body, but it'll ease the paint and potentially even chafing that can happen when carrying a heavy bag over long distances. Plus, there are tons of options you can match to your existing bag so it doesn't look out of place.

Move some of the weight to a chest bag

man with chest bag walking his dog

A chest bag, on the other hand, will redistribute some of the weight from your bag. While they largely engage the upper body muscles, having a chest bag can balance the load and put less strain on your back. Chest bags are a little bit like fanny packs, but they look nicer, and they can be used alone or in tandem with a laptop bag or backpack, depending on your needs. Typically, they aren't spacious enough to house large items like full laptops or textbooks. However, you can fit plenty of smaller items.

The MJNUONE Outdoor Chest Bag works pretty well for this, although there are plenty of other options. This one has a bag in the front with straps that go around the user's sternum as well as over the shoulders for better balance and stability. There is a back pad that shouldn't interfere with backpack or shoulder bag usage at all. Plus, it comes in seven colors, which is always nice. It's a good example of a decent chest bag that can make carrying a lot of stuff easier.

The only real downside to a chest bag is that you're adding more straps to a chore that already has straps. Usually, it's okay, but having multiple things covering your shoulders, back, and chest can feel a little claustrophobic, especially during hot days when you want fewer things covering your body. In any case, this is still a good choice to take some weight off your back.

Use backpack strap pouches to redistribute weight

strap bag attached to backpack

If the chest bag seems like a little bit much, a backpack strap pouch is a more ergonomic, less intrusive option. It performs the same function of redistributing weight to your front while working with your existing laptop bag or backpack. That means you still get the benefits without the need for the extra straps and pads. Since you can buy them individually, it works for bags with one or two straps as needed.

The Boosteady BackPack Strap Pouch is a good example of a proper strap pouch. It connects to existing backpacks without any drama, and while it's not nearly as big as the backpack itself or even a chest pouch, it's more than big enough to fit multiple items. We're not looking at a 50–50 weight distribution, but it's enough to get at least some of it off your back. It comes in black, which goes with essentially everything. It's also water resistant, which is always nice when wandering around with a bag.

Like the chest bag, there are some drawbacks to shoulder strap pouches. They are a nice size, but you won't be able to fit any larger items like laptops or textbooks. Any redistribution of weight will be relatively minor as a result. Fortunately, these things aren't expensive and are very easy to use. Thus, the pros outweigh the cons, and honestly, any weight off your back is probably a good thing in the long term.

Use backpack sternums traps to keep the bag positioned correctly

woman walking outside with a backpack

Sternum straps are a good choice for carrying large bags. They help in a couple of different ways. The first is by stabilizing the bag on your back. By preventing it from moving around too much, it can reduce the risk of falling over if you shift your weight around. Secondly, a good sternum strap can disperse the weight from your shoulders to your sternum, which is much better equipped to handle lots of weight for a longer period of time and your shoulders. Between the comfort and stabilization, there are few better accessories than sternum straps.

A good place to start looking for something like this is the Ikerall Sternum Straps. It's a reasonably inexpensive strap that connects to your existing backpack. The straps connect to your backpack with hooks and clasps, so it's relatively easy to add or remove to your existing bag. There are also 10 different colors to choose from so you can match them to your bag. There are also various loops and straps on it where you can hang things like your keys, sunglasses, and other accessories, which makes them easier to get to than digging through a bag.

You'll see a lot of hikers and backpackers use sternum straps, and for good reason. They actually do help by lightly dispersing the weight across multiple parts of your body while also adding stabilization. Of course, the more expensive ones will help more, but unless you're backpacking across 100 miles of wilderness, a less expensive strap will be fine.

Use a backpack spacer

white backpack with a black backpack spacer

Most of the ideas and products on this list are for redistributing weight, making heavy bags easier to carry, and making bags lighter. However, a backpack spacer works to make you more comfortable. It introduces a mesh layer between you and the backpack that helps air circulate between you and the bag, which allows for noticeably better ventilation. That can help keep you comfortable, especially on warm days when a bag pressing against your back can cause lots of sweating.

VentaPak makes one of the best backpack spacers you can get. It's a simple frame with a mesh backing that allows air to pass through. It's also curved like a person's back, which helps add to the comfort, assuming proper posture is used. In addition, VentaPak says that the frame will also help redistribute weight more evenly to your back, resulting in less strain on your shoulders. VentaPak has two sizes, regular and small, which should fit most people. The company also says that it can keep your posture straight when riding a bicycle with a backpack as well.

This is one of those items that can easily be integrated into your existing backpack without too much stress or chaos. They should just hook into your bag straps and look like part of the bookbag after that. It doesn't do much to help folks with messenger-style bags that only go over one shoulder, but other products can help with those kinds of bags.

Digitize what you can, starting with textbooks

stack of textbooks at a bookstore

It doesn't take rocket science to know that on a list of the heaviest things people stuff into bags, textbooks rank toward the top. This is especially true for middle school, high school, and college students who get to haul around several books between classes every day. Some schools allow kids enough time to visit their lockers between classes to offload and pick up the proper books, but a lot more don't. Plus, carrying them all home after school for home constitutes heavy exercise.

There is a better way, although it does take a bit. Adobe has a PDF scanner app available for both iOS and Android. You simply point your phone at a textbook page, and it'll scan the page. Once you scan the whole book, you can use Adobe's Merge PDFs tool to turn it into a whole book. This is such a neat solution to an age-old problem. Yes, it means you spend a week scanning in textbooks to combine into one whole textbook PDF. However, now that it's there, you can easily view the book on a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or PC.

Since Adobe-created PDFs natively recognize text, you can also use text search to find specific parts of the textbook that you need to find answers, study, or whatever else you need. Students likely still need textbooks for class, but being able to bring it up on the family iPad at home means no more carrying half a dozen heavy textbooks home after school, and that's a big win.

Use a lighter laptop

MacBook Air on coffee table

Another item high up on the list of heavy items that people often carry in their bags is the venerable laptop. In general, companies make lighter and thinner laptops than they did years ago, but there are still examples of heavier laptops. For example, the Asus ROG Strix G15 has a rated weight of 5.07 pounds. Laptop weight is definitely worth considering if you intend to carry it around all the time. After all, you'll put other things in the bag, too, and two pounds is a much lower starting weight than five.

Fortunately, there are some great lightweight laptops, no matter which operating system you choose to go with. You can get the excellent Acer Chromebook Plus 515, which works great and weighs in at 3.5 pounds, which is less than most gaming laptops. Windows fans can check out the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Nano Gen 3, a workhorse laptop with a carbon fiber lid and magnesium backside that brings the weight down to 2.1 pounds. The Asus ZenBook 14 OLED not only takes up less space but also has a gorgeous 4K OLED screen and weighs a hair over three pounds. Of course, the 2022 MacBook Air weighs under three pounds as well.

It doesn't seem like much, but when you carry a laptop bag around all day, every day, those few pounds really start to add up at the end of a long day. Plus, with thin and light laptops being all the rage, OEMs build plenty of them and make sure that they have the specs to do what you need them to.

Use a backpack frame

man with backpack in backpack frame

Finally, let's take a look at the backpack frame. Current and former members of the military will likely recognize these things since most soldiers have had to attach their rucks to one during long marches. They are a mixture of the sternum strap and the backpack spacer. The frame on the back disperses the weight more evenly across your shoulders and back. Meanwhile, the straps usually wrap around your body to add stability and support. Unlike those other two products, though, the backpack frame usually comes with its own shoulder straps that replace the ones on your bag.

You can see how this product works by looking at the Stansport Freighter Aluminum Pack Frame. The pack straps to the frame from the back and is supported by a bottom frame. From there, you slide your arms in the shoulder straps and clip the belt around your waist. The Standsport Freighter uses aluminum in its design, which is one of the popular lightweight metals to make things out of alongside beryllium, titanium, and magnesium. That means it won't add a ton of extra weight to your pack.

There is a downside, and it's that you can already buy packs with an integrated frame. Such bags integrate the frame into the pack itself, which makes it a lot less bulky to wear than an add-on like the Stansport above. REI sells packs with internal frames and waist straps that you can check out so you can see what we're talking about. If you're going so far as to get something like a backpack spacer or frame, it might be time to consider buying a purpose-built bag with these amenities baked in.

Leave a Comment