Rucksack Brands and Reviews

Rucksack Brand History and Evolution

Backpacks have long surpassed their original function as mere utility items for hikers and soldiers; today, they’re a staple in the fabric of our daily lives. With over a decade’s experience delving into the outdoor gear industry‘s historic tapestries, I’ve observed firsthand how something as simple as a backpack has evolved to meet the demands of modern life.

From primal man’s first pouch to today’s smart-carry solutions, backpacks reflect our constant pursuit of convenience and mobility.

Did you know that the concept of carrying essentials on one’s back dates back thousands of years? Unraveling this journey reveals an intricate chronicle tied to innovation and human progress.

This article unpacks that history, offering insights into how rucksacks became pivotal in our day-to-day existence—a testament to human ingenuity. Stay tuned as we explore this transformative pathway stitched together over time.

Key Takeaways

  • Backpacks started as simple bags made from animal skins thousands of years ago and have evolved into the modern, feature-rich packs we use today.
  • Changes over time include the use of zippers for easy access, padded straps for comfort, frames for better weight distribution, and special compartments for school supplies or technology.
  • Popular brands like Trapper Nelson and Gerry Outdoors played big roles in improving backpack design with durable materials and new features that helped people carry things more easily.

History of Backpacks

The journey of backpacks begins thousands of years ago, as early humans crafted simple bags from animal skins to transport their possessions; over time, these primal designs evolved into the elaborate haversacks and knapsacks used by travelers and military personnel.

The advent of education’s more formal structures catapulted school backpacks to prominence, adapting to meet the needs of students burdened with books and supplies. This history reflects a tapestry woven with the threads of necessity, innovation, and human endeavor.

Early origins

People have been carrying things on their backs for a very long time. Long ago, they would use animal hides to make simple bags. These bags helped them carry food and tools as they moved from place to place.

Around 3300 BC, a man we call Ötzi the Iceman had a backpack with him in the mountains.

Back then, there were no zippers or buckles like we have today. Folks would tie their belongings up with leather straps or just wrap them in cloth. They needed something to hold all their stuff while they walked through forests or climbed hills.

Each bag was unique because everyone made their own by hand to suit what they needed it for.

Carrying items this way was important for survival and adventure. Hunters, gatherers, and travelers all relied on these early knapsacks and haversacks during their journeys. They figured out different ways to pack smarter so that heavy loads wouldn’t wear them down too much as they trekked across lands.

Travel backpacks

Travel backpacks have become a must-have for outdoor enthusiasts. They are designed to hold everything you need while keeping your hands free. In 1938, Gerry Cunningham made the first zippered backpack.

This changed how we carry our stuff for adventures.

These bags often come with special straps, lots of pockets, and space to carry water bottles or even a sleeping bag. Travel backpacks are built tough so they can handle being out in nature.

They make it easier for hikers and campers to take what they need without feeling weighed down.

Backpacks now also adapt to different kinds of travel. Some have wheels and handles; others can be changed based on what you’re doing that day. The rise of school backpacks is next, showing how these packs work in daily life too.

Rise of school backpacks

As books got bigger and heavier, students needed a better way to carry them. That’s how school backpacks started to take over in the 1960s. These bags had to be strong enough for lots of heavy textbooks.

They became more useful too with special designs that made it easier for kids to wear them every day.

Soon, the first real student bag came out about 50 years ago. Now, they are super important for students all the time. They have places for laundry, laptops, and other school stuff.

School backpacks changed from just some straps on your back to something you need to learn well today.

The Evolution of Backpacks

Throughout the decades, backpack design has transformed dramatically, reflecting advancements in ergonomics and aesthetics that cater to an array of individual needs and tastes. From the introduction of lightweight materials to the development of specialized compartments, these portable storage solutions have evolved to become both a fashion statement and a practical necessity for modern living.

Innovations such as compression straps for load management and water-resistant fabrics have enhanced functionality without compromising style. Today’s backpacks come equipped with dedicated spaces for technology, highlighting their role in accommodating our increasingly digital lifestyle while maintaining comfort and durability.

The cultural impact is undeniable as well—backpacks are not just gear; they’re an extension of personal identity in today’s highly mobile world.

Design over the decades

Backpacks have changed a lot since they were first made. Every decade, new ideas and materials made backpacks better.

  • In the 1930s, Gerry Outdoors made the first backpack with a zipper. This was big news because it let people get to their stuff faster and easier.
  • The 1950s brought a huge change with Kelty Backpack’s new frames made of airplane metal. They also added padded parts for shoulders and waists. These changes helped make carrying things less painful.
  • During the 1960s, school backpacks became popular. Kids needed something strong to carry their books in, and backpacks were perfect.
  • In the 1970s and ’80s, people wanted to take trips with just one bag. Backpacks got more pockets and straps that could be pulled tight to hold everything in place.
  • By the 1990s, having a nice – looking backpack was as important as its use. Brands like Eastpak made bags that looked good and lasted long.
  • The early 2000s saw tech taking over our lives, so backpack makers started sewing in spots for laptops and headphones.
  • Recently, rolling backpacks came around for those who don’t want to carry heavy things on their backs all day.
  • Today’s backpack designs often include hydration packs like CamelBak. This type of pack helps you drink water without using your hands when walking or biking.

Functionality enhancements

Over time, backpacks have seen more than just style changes; their features have been upgraded to meet modern needs. Let’s dive into the ways backpacks have become more useful:

  1. Secure padding – Bags now often come with padded sections. This keeps laptops and tablets safe while on the move.
  2. Water resistance – Designers added materials that keep water out. Now, rain doesn’t soak through to the stuff inside.
  3. Hydration packs – Some bags come with built-in water systems called Camelbak hydration packs. This lets wearers drink without stopping to pull out a bottle.
  4. Reflective strips – For safety at night, backpacks may have shiny stripes that reflect car lights so people can see you in the dark.
  5. Multiple compartments – Modern bags have pockets and slots for everything like pencils, keys, and phones. Each item has its own spot.
  6. Adjustable straps – Shoulders are all different, so now straps can be changed to fit just right and feel comfortable.
  7. Lightweight materials – New fabrics make bags much easier to carry because they don’t weigh much on their own.
  8. Internal frames – Some hiking bags have frames built inside them which help distribute weight evenly across your back.
  9. Modular designs – Certain military gear like modular lightweight load – carrying equipment lets you add or remove parts as needed for different trips or jobs.
  10. Eco – friendly options – More companies are making bags from recycled materials to help protect our Earth.

Cultural significance

Backpacks have grown with us, from ancient times to modern days. They held tools for Otzi the Iceman 5,000 years ago and now carry books for students worldwide. We see backpacks in history and art, showing how people lived and moved.

They tell stories of adventurers climbing mountains and soldiers fighting wars. Backpacks aren’t just for carrying things; they show who we are and where we’re going.

They started simple but grew into symbols of freedom and exploration. For many, a rucksack is a trusted friend on life’s journey, helping climbers reach new heights or students learn new things.

With every strap sewn and pocket added, backpacks embrace our need to explore the world around us while holding onto what’s important.

Moving from cultural impact to materials tells another story about backpack evolution.

Material and design choices

Materials for backpacks have changed a lot over time. They went from using canvas and leather to stronger stuff like nylon. This switch made bags lighter and easier to carry without breaking.

Designers also started thinking about how people use backpacks every day. So, they added things like pockets for water bottles and special sleeves for laptops.

The designs of backpacks keep getting better too. They now come in lots of shapes so everyone can find one that fits right. Some even have frames inside to help keep your back happy when you carry heavy loads.

The look of these bags has become important as well, with colors and patterns that show off your style while you’re on the move.

Next up — let’s see which brands have made a big splash with their awesome rucksacks!

Popular Backpack Brands

Diving into the realm of iconic backpack brands, we encounter trailblazers like Trapper Nelson, whose eponymous pack carved a niche in outdoor gear history. Moving through time, innovators such as Gerry Cunningham revolutionized portability with lightweight designs, while Dick and Nena Kelty’s commitment to durability fused comfort with adventure-readiness.

The collegiate landscape was forever changed when JanSport unveiled their functional yet fashionable daypacks, becoming synonymous with campus life across the United States. Alongside these titans stand an array of influential names like Fjällräven and Duluth Pack, each contributing unique design philosophies that continue to shape our carrying experiences today.

Trapper Nelson

Lloyd Nelson changed backpacks forever with his Trapper Pack. After hiking in Alaska, he saw an Inuit pack and made something even better. His new design had a strong frame, making it perfect for outdoor lovers.

This was a big step up from what people used before.

He sold his idea to Trager Company, who then made the canvas bags. Soon after, the Forest Service bought 500 packs from him! The Trapper Nelson became so popular that it was in REI’s first catalog in 1939.

People called Lloyd Nelson the father of outdoor sports because of his great work. His ideas helped make fun outdoor trips easier for everyone!

Gerry Cunningham

Moving from the rugged designs of Trapper Nelson, Gerry Cunningham brought a new twist to backpacks in 1938. He was the first to use zippers instead of buckles and straps on his packs.

This change made backpacks easier to open and close, helping rock climbers like himself carry gear more efficiently. His brand, Gerry Outdoors, became known for these zippered closures that would later influence school bookbags and functional backpacks used by hikers around the world.

Cunningham’s ideas didn’t stop at zippers; he continued to innovate. The lightweight materials he chose, like nylon daypack fabrics, changed how people thought about carrying their belongings outdoors and for everyday use alike.

From making packs more comfortable to adding pockets for better organization, Cunningham played a big role in shaping modern-day backpack design.

Dick & Nena Kelty

Dick & Nena Kelty turned their love for the outdoors into a backpack revolution. In 1952, Dick invented the first modern external-frame backpack right in his own garage. His design made carrying heavy loads easier for hikers and campers.

Together, they started making these new backpacks by hand. They focused on creating packs that were comfortable and strong.

The Keltys used their firsthand experience to improve their designs. With each pack, they aimed to help people enjoy nature without hurting their backs. Their Kelty brand soon got famous among outdoor enthusiasts for its quality and innovation.

This husband-and-wife team brought the joy of hiking to more people with gear that could stand up to the challenge of wild trails.


Moving from the pioneering designs of Dick & Nena Kelty, we turn our attention to another icon in backpack history: JanSport. This company jumped into the scene with a passion for freedom and exploration that has lasted over 50 years.

They made their mark by crafting bags that adventurers, students, and everyday folks could rely on. What started as a small operation is now part of VF Corporation, one of the biggest names in apparel.

JanSport’s story began near the University of Washington where they noticed more people wanted good packs for their outdoor fun. They quickly became famous for creating backpacks that were not only tough but also had style.

From comfy shoulder straps to smart pockets for laptops, these bags have evolved to meet everyone’s needs.

They proudly celebrated half a century of success showing how their backpacks changed through time. Today, JanSport continues to inspire people around the world – whether you’re going off on a hiking adventure or just need something sturdy to carry your books to school.

Their bags are about making sure no matter where you go or what you do, you’ve got something reliable with you every step of the way.

Other popular brands

While JanSport has made a big splash with their stylish packs in the ’70s, other brands have been busy creating their own unique mark in the backpack world. Kipling is one such brand known for its wide selection of bags.

They make everything from handbags to luggage, perfect for many occasions like work or a night out.

Some rucksack makers focus on adventure and outdoor gear. Brands like Osprey and North Face create tough backpacks ready for mountains and trails. These packs often have special straps and pockets to carry everything you need outside.

Backpacks from companies like Herschel Supply Co. blend modern looks with classic designs. They are great for city life but still strong enough for a quick hike or weekend trip. With so many options, everyone can find something that fits their style and needs.

The Future of Backpacks

Looking ahead, backpacks stand at the threshold of innovation, with technological integration promising to revolutionize their functionality. As we venture into this new era, expect smart features like built-in charging ports and GPS locators to become standard.

Advancements in ergonomic design will continue to prioritize comfort and health, while cutting-edge materials offer durability without adding weight.

In the sphere of sustainability, up-and-coming brands are expected to lead the charge in eco-friendly production practices, utilizing recycled plastics and biodegradable fabrics to reduce environmental impact.

The style quotient of backpacks is also set to soar as collaborations between tech companies and fashion designers blur the lines between tech gadgetry and high fashion accessories.

Moreover, cultural trends indicate that backpacks will evolve beyond mere utility items into expressions of identity – a canvas for individuality where function meets form. With these developments on the horizon, it’s clear that the future of backpacks will be as multifaceted and dynamic as ever – keeping pace with our evolving lifestyles while setting.

Technological advancements

Backpacks are getting smarter and more secure. They are blending new technology with their core functions.

  • Anti-theft features: Some backpacks now have locks and materials that are hard to cut through, keeping your stuff safe.
  • Built-in chargers: Many backpacks come with a place to connect a power bank, so you can charge your devices while on the go.
  • Light-up strips: For safety at night, some bags have strips that glow in the dark or light up, making the wearer easier to see.
  • GPS tracking: Lost your bag? Some modern backpacks can tell you where they are with built-in GPS locators.
  • Wearable computer integration: Backpacks may soon carry wearable computers like EyeTap, letting users interact with their devices hands-free.
  • Eco-friendly materials: Companies are making backpacks out of recycled or plant-based stuff. This is better for Earth.
  • Water-resistant tech: New materials keep your things dry inside the backpack, even when it’s raining outside.
  • Smart storage: Backpack designs include special pockets for things like tumble dryers and webbing loops to hang gear.
  • Comfort advancements: Straps and backs are being designed to better fit your body. This reduces strain and increases comfort.

Sustainability efforts

Backpack makers are changing the way they create their bags. They aim to help the planet and make backpacks that last longer.

  • The IET created a school backpack that won’t harm the environment. This bag can break down naturally.
  • Brands like Burton think about speed and how making a backpack affects the world.
  • Companies use materials that don’t hurt nature. These include recycled plastics or organic cotton.
  • Better design is also key. Makers want to ensure backpacks are useful for many years.
  • Some brands offer to fix your bag if it breaks. This means fewer bags end up thrown away.
  • Others use solar panels in their designs. These can charge gadgets while people are on the move.
  • There’s also a push for fair work conditions where these backpacks are made. Workers get treated well and paid fairly.

Impact on fashion and culture

As we look at green choices in backpacking, it’s clear fashion and culture also get a big shake-up. In the 1970s, stylish backpacks hit the scene and changed how people dress. Today, young folks know brand names early on because of how they shape style.

Backpacks are now more than just bags for carrying things. They’re part of who you are. You can see this as urban packs become popular and some turn into fashion icons. Trends in what we wear affect what kind of backpack designs come out.

We keep finding new ways to mix looks with practical use. The rise of biodegradable backpacks from groups like the IET shows that cool can still be kind to Earth. These new designs might lead us to rethink how we pick our next pack—not just for school or hiking, but as a statement piece too!


Backpacks have come a long way since their simple beginnings. We’ve seen them change from basic packs to modern must-haves. Brands like JanSport and Gerry Outdoors made backpacks better over time.

They used new designs, zippers, and materials that improved how we carry things. Now, backpacks are not just for carrying stuff; they show our style and matter in fashion too. Let’s keep an eye on how they will grow smarter and more earth-friendly in the future!


1. Who started making rucksacks?

Henry Miriam and Lloyd F. Nelson are known for their early work in creating rucksacks. They made designs that have influenced the backpacks we use today.

2. What’s an internal-frame backpack?

An internal-frame backpack has a support structure hidden inside the bag. Greg Lowe invented this to help it fit better on your back.

3. Have any famous people made rucksacks?

Yes, Skip Yowell is one of the well-known people who helped make popular rucksack brands.

4. Are there special kinds of rucksacks used by students?

In Japan, kids use a special kind of schoolbag called “randoseru.” This bag looks neat and keeps papers from getting lint or crumpled.