The History of Modern Backpacks

The History of Modern Backpacks


There is more than one theory about the origin of backpacks. In fact, backpack prototypes have been found in many ethnic groups, but the structure closer to the modern backpack should be from the 13th century in Europe. 


At that time, the European troops needed to carry some clothing, food and survival equipment to withstand the bad weather. So they designed bags that can be carried on back. They are made of hemp or cotton-linen blended canvas material with traditional back frames.


In 1874, a U.S. Army colonel, named Henry C. Merriam, designed a backpack that could transfer loads, which was one of the most important steps of the commercial development of the backpack.

What we are talking about today is the "Modern Backpack", which is the type we are seeing every day now. All kinds of backpacks, whether they are used for commuting, work, sports, travel, are actually evolved from the original outdoor and military backpacks. The most critical development for the popularity of modern backpacks happens in the past 70-80 years and has a lot to do with the University of Washington.


The two most important materials in the evolution of modern backpacks: zipper and nylon

In 1938, the American mountaineer -- Gerry Cunningham, invented the first backpack with a zipper. Before that, backpacks were mainly used for mountaineers, campingand outdoor activities.


From the 1930s to the 1960s, the most common storage bags and students’ school bags were mostly canvas or leather shoulder bags or small briefcases, like Satchel Bags.


This situation continued until 1967, Gerry Cunningham innovated the world's first modern nylon backpack. Because the nylon backpacks were more durable than canvas backpacks, they were not only popular with outdoor activity enthusiasts at that time, but also promoted the further development of the backpack industry. Various brands have followed up and launched various sizes and styles of backpacks. Among them, JANSPORT also kept up with the trend in the same year and started to build the JANSPORT backpack kingdom enterprise.

The most critical development of modern backpacks: misused by Washington college students


Although modern backpacks have taken shape and become popular gradually, turning the backpack into a popular storage bag was caused by the "improper" use by the students of Washington University.


At that time, a sporting equipment store at the University observed a phenomenon -- college students began to use these backpacks that were originally used for outdoor activities as "school bags", "sports bags", "weekend bags", and other various storage purposes. So the storekeeper strongly recommended the JANSPORT company to develop their backpacks in response to the needs of these college students.


Thankfully, the JANSPORT accepted the suggestion and launched a new modern backpack! This new modern backpack quickly set off a wave throughout the United States. By 1980, the student backpack became a must-have item for students, and its basic design structure and appearance have continued to this day.


Backpack continues to change: for more different needs, a new trend of backpacks with both fashion and taste is coming now


Although modern backpacks were originally designed and developed for the needs of students, they have been welcomed by more and more different groups, and the functions and designs of them have become more and more diversified. 


There are not only functional backpacks for more different needs (e.g. camera backpacks, computer backpacks), but modern backpacks also integrate with pop culture, focusing on the presentation of popular fashion and beautiful appearance. 


Today's backpack is not only a storage product, it is also an embodiment of modern people’s fashion, taste and their attitude toward life. For example, NayoSmart Almighty multifunctional backpack is a representative modern backpack designed to meet the needs of modern urbanites.


There are mountains of backpacks with different functions and designs on the market. If you have no idea about how to choose a suitable one, you can refer to: How to tell if a backpack is worth buying?

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