What’s the Best Way to Wear a Backpack While Using a Wheelchair?

Jan 10, 2019

Anonymous asks, quote:

Speaking of backpacks, I’ve always assumed it’s best to sling it over the back of the chair, but I saw another wheelchair user on Instagram actually wearing it? I guess it makes sense—there’s less chance of it being stolen—but does it effect the centre of gravity more so one way than the other?

end quote.

The only reason you should have your backpack hanging off the back of your chair is if your backrest is too high to have it comfortably rest against your back while wearing it. Otherwise, you are much better off wearing your bag on your body. Here’s why you shouldn’t hang your bag off of your chair:

It Makes Your Chair Easier to Tip Backwards

When your bag is hanging off the back of your chair, that extra weight is lifting the front of the chair upwards. This is going to make it harder for you to handle inclines and it’s going to make your chair more likely to tip over backwards.

It Pulls You Back and Forth as You Move

Your bag is going to swing back and forth on the back of your chair as you move. This movement is going to get transfered to the front of your chair, causing it to lean to the left or right randomly. Plus all of that extra weight on the back is going to make it harder for you to stop suddenly.

Anything Remotely Fragile You’re Carrying is Utterly Fucked

When you stop hard or are going up a steep incline that heavy, swaying bag of yours is bashing the shit out of whatever happens to be inside of it.

It Strains the Fabric of Your Backrest

Most modern chair backrests are just a piece of fabric between two metal posts, held in place with some tension straps. A heavy bag on your chair is going to put unnecessary tension on those straps, causing them to lose their elasticity and thus any kind of support you might need for your spine.

It Causes You to Carry Too Much Stuff

Notice how I keep describing your backpack as an overstuffed monstrosity, hellbent on destroying your chair? That’s because it is—or, well, it will be soon— because you probably have no idea how much stuff is in your bag.

When your bag is hanging off of your chair, you’re not as aware of just how much weight you’re carrying. I can’t tell you the number of times I watched tiny kids in their tiny wheelchairs struggle to move because their parents packed their backpack with everything they could possibly need that day and hung it off the back of their chair. It wasn’t until I took the bag off for them that they realized just how much easier it was to move.

Wearing Your Bag Makes Simple Things Even Easier

Having the bag against your body makes you aware of what is in it and how it affects your movement. If you’re facing a steep incline, you can quickly and easily adjust the straps so that it fits tight against your body and moves with you instead of against you.

If you fall out of your chair, you lesten the risk of losing your chair and your stuff. Wearing your bag means your movements will be smoother and more consistent and that means you’ll be spending less energy to do simple things like navigate curb cuts and hills.

Wearing Your Bag Gives You More Choices

There are only so many styles of bag that can easily and securely fit on the back of your wheelchair. By wearing your bag, you open yourself up to a lot more flexible (and fashionable) options.