Load-bearing students reveal contents of bulky backpacks

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College is a reason to break your bank; it shouldn’t be a reason to break your back.

Students around campus heave their heavy backpacks to and fro on a daily basis. But some students may be carrying more than the necessities, making achy backs and long-term difficulties a reality they may not be aware of.

It’s not all textbooks and calculators weighing Dixie State College students down. Some students unveiled what excess belongings—dull and exciting—they bring to campus with them, some realizing maybe it was more than they need.

Jordon Polatis, a junior accounting major from St. George, opened his loaded backpack, revealing a set of gym clothes, two packs of gum, and an empty Gatorade bottle in addition to his school essentials.

“I don’t really notice the extra weight,” Polatis said. “I guess it’s there, but it seems like the stuff I do need (books) are the majority of the weight.”

Haley Jeffery, a freshman general education major from Delta, unzipped her backpack to find a few things she didn’t even realize she was carrying: some candy wrappers, old birthday invitations, a half empty bottle of water, an old notebook, and her iPod touch.

“My backpack is normally not very heavy or exciting,” Jeffery said. “A few times I have considered those backpacks that roll, but I just don’t think I would ever buy one of those. But it probably would make it so I could carry more stuff.”

Backpacks that roll may not be the best solution for all, but some students are in constant pursuit of a way to lighten their necessary load.

Maddy Harmon, a junior health-science major from Mesa, Ariz., packs only the items needed for her daily class schedule and still finds the weight on her shoulders hard to manage.

“Books, notebooks, pens, highlighters, stethoscope and cuff are the only things I normally carry,” Harmon said. “It’s unreal how much it all weighs, but I need it all, and it’s easier to have everything with me instead of needing something and not having it.” 

Harmon said she tried leaving a few items in her car to lighten the load, but after too many forgotten essentials, she went back to her ways of carrying it all—all the time.

Gym clothes, stethoscopes and candy may seem like a priority now and not a significant amount of added weight. However, Scott Jeppson, director of nursing at Sterling Court Assisted Living Facility, said students tend to think short-term instead of long-term when it comes to packing around extra weight on a day-to-day basis.

“Students need to be careful and really think about what excess weight they choose to carry,” Jeppson said. “They may not feel the effects of it immediately, but just because they don’t notice it, doesn’t mean the damage is not being done.”

There are a number of things that may add to back pain, and carrying a heavy backpack should not be one of them.

“Trust me, just because you don’t notice it now doesn’t mean you won’t be kicking yourself when you’re 80 years old, wishing you’d left the extra stuff at home,” Jeppson said.