The world is crazy over backpacks. You see them everywhere. Kids, students, professionals, and adventurers all use them. It's no wonder. Backpacks are useful, practical and are more stylish than ever.
There's something about a backpack that we love. Maybe it's the sense of independence that we feel when carrying stuff on our back with free hands. Perhaps it's the security of having all that we need right with us. Whatever the reason, few realize that the backpack revolution is relatively young. The modern messenger bag backpack is less than 100 years old.
So, let's take a quick look at the intriguing history of the modern backpack.
It's likely that backpacks have been around since man began to roam the earth. The earliest backpacks were made of various materials including animal skins. Most early packs were small compared to those we have today. The weight of the leather and a lack of support were likely the influencing factors in the small size. Later on, they added wooden frames to earlier backpacks to make them more stable.
Some cultures also wove large basket-like packs. They secured them to their waist, shoulders and even their head for stability. These are still evident in various Asian and South American cultures today.
In the American Civil War, troops had to carry their essentials for extended periods. Even so, the packs used at that time were generally small in size and had little, if any, frame to distribute the load. A change of clothes and a bedroll were about all a man could fit in his pack.
It was not until the 1920s that an American named Lloyd Nelson improved the American design. His method used seal skin and willow branches to form a sizable backpack. Nelson came up with a much-improved pack and soon mass-produced it. The modern frame backpack was born. He called his invention the Trapper Nelson.
The popularity of the Trapper Nelson snowballed due to many factors. America was becoming more mobile. Roads were being built, while State and National Parks were being opened. America was discovering its vast natural resources and people wanted to explore. The modern frame backpack made it possible for Boy Scouts, and campers to walk long distances. So they could travel to secluded wilderness areas.
Innovations in backpacks continued, as durable, lightweight, synthetic materials came on the scene. That happened in the 1960s and 1970s. With more people wanting to "get back to nature" manufacturers responded. They produced backpacks with super-lightweight and internal-frames.
In the 1980s, backpacks got another boost in popularity. Students needed to carry larger textbooks and other gear back and forth to school. The result was an explosion in new backpack designs.
In the 1990s, many other bags were no longer suitable to carry comfortably. People needed to keep laptop computers and other electronic devices safe during travel. So pack designs evolved. They incorporated pouches for computers and other personal electronic devices in their design.
Today, backpacks continue to rise in popularity with 50% of Americans owning at least one. Students of the 1980s and 1990s are now professionals. With "casual" being the trend, many white-collar workers are tossing their briefcases and reacquainting themselves with a dear childhood friend... the backpack.
If you like the style of earlier backpacks, you will love our top selling vintage design backpack.