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Who invented the first backpack

weihanbag  November 4, 2021

When was the first backpack invented

Today we use backpacks for different purposes; hiking, carrying laptops, traveling, and so on, about is the history of backpacks, and when was the first backpack invented? Historians speculate that the invention of the backpack is closely related to the structure of the human body and human production activities, they believe that in ancient times backpacks were only used by hunters to carry their equipment and prey. Due to the limited capacity to carry heavyweights in the hands for a long time. People preferred backpacks but not handbag to carry heavy loads or carry any kind of equipment.

If the hunter didn't have room to accommodate large prey, he would cut it up and divide it among other hunters. Each hunter would then wrap the meat and carry it in the backpack. Back then, backpacks were made from animal skin. Different types were available depending on the types of animals available in a particular area. They were sewn together by animal entrails woven together to form a strong thread-like material.

Otzi the Iceman was found

An accidental discovery confirmed this speculation.

When hikers saw a corpse poking out of the Schnalstal glacier in the Austro-Italian Alps in 1991, they found the body of a lost climber. Scientists call him Otzi Iceman. After a decade of research, the researchers took a closer look and announced that the Iceman was a Stone Age equivalent of a hi-tech trooper equipped with complex weapons and survival gear.

--South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology - Ötzi the iceman

when found, Otzi's equipment included a flint dagger, a longbow made of yew, plants with potent pharmaceutical properties, three layers of clothing made from deer and goatskins, a bearskin hat, a framed backpack, a brass ax, dried fruit, and other foodstuffs wrapped in moss. for protection and a fire-making kit with flints and ores to create sparks.

Otzi, the Iceman lived 5,000 years ago. He may not be the one who invented the backpack, but he was the first person to use a backpack. This discovery allows us to answer the question: when was the first backpack invented?

Yes, backpacks were invented 5000 years ago.

Who invented backpacks

Now we know that backpacks have a long history, but in the past 5000 years, the development of backpacks has hardly made much progress. Our common backpack history is only about 250 years.

Including your simple schoolbag and the military's complicated tactical backpack, most of them are less than 50 years old. We call these school bags, hiking bags, and tactical bags modern backpacks. The inventors of ancient backpacks have not been able to verify it, but we can clearly find the inventor of backpacks through the development history of modern backpacks. It is generally believed that the following three people are the founders of modern backpacks.

  • 1877: Henry Miriam developed a backpack with metal plates for the United States military, Henry Merriam filed a patent in 1877 and received the world's first backpack patent in 1878.
  • 1908: Ole F. Bergman made a backpack with a wooden frame. These bags are made of birch bark. It also uses soft material to compress the bag easily.
  • 1938: Gerry Cunningham created the first zippered backpack. He didn't like how other backpacks slipped around his back, so he used his dad's sewing machine to make a nylon zippered bag instead.
  • 1952: Dick and Nena Kelty Using parachute fabric, buckles, and other items leftover from World War II, the couple transformed the industry and brought the backpack into the modern era. Dick shaped and welded the suit frames by hand, while Nina sewed each suit.

Over the past 200 years, the history of backpacks has not been plain sailing.

Norway backpack

when we talk about the modern backpack, the first clear, widespread, and well-preserved occurrences of a framed backpack occur in Norway in the late 1800s. But there is no exact concept of an inventor. Historians don’t know who was the first person to invent the backpack.

US military Haversack

From the history of the late 1800s, the needs of the US military made outstanding contributions to the development of backpacks. The bad backpack situation during the Civil War was dire. Supplies like canteens and first aid kits were designed independently, with no thought toward how they would be carried. Soldiers had no choice but to wrap them in a blanket and haul them across the American countryside on their shoulders. These improvised bags were fittingly named hobo blankets. They were neither efficient nor comfortable. (How to choose the best backpack)

-Soldiers wrap their equipment in a blanker

Henry Merriam

1878 that the backpack saw some innovation. Colonel Henry Clay Merriam of the Seventh Infantry, a Civil War veteran, patented a military knapsack with an intricate frame, straps, and buckles that were cumbersome but allowed soldiers to lift heavier loads. It was poorly balanced and worked better than a blanket roll.

-Henry Merriam patented the ‘knapsack’ in 1878.
-Merriam backpack

Ole F. Bergman

A Norwegian inventor. In 1908, Berganman returned from a hunting trip with sore shoulders and a determination to make his backpack more comfortable. He bent a piece of juniper wood to follow the contours of his back and created an ergonomic design to hang his soft cloth bag. Bergan later replaced the wooden frame with light steel tubing and this version of the backpack remained popular - and patented for 25 years.

The M1910 Haversack

It was 1910 when the U.S. Army rolled out the first definitive replacement for the Merriam: the M1910 Haversack. It was a disaster.

-U.S. Army M1910 Haversack

This backpack was so complicated that it came with a four-page manual. None of the many compartments were accessible without unfolding the entire package. Worst of all, each M1910 Haversack hung 70 pounds of weight over their shoulders. The poor weight distribution exhausted soldiers and the design made it difficult for troops to find supplies in a pinch.

Lloyd Nelson

Not much later in 1920,  Lloyd Nelson redesigned his backpack post a visit to Alaska. The locals of Alaska used wood and sealskin bags that later became the inspiration for Nelson’s model. Canvas bands were attached to a wooden frame on which hung cloth bags. Steel pins were used as attachments, making the bag easy to detach. This was known as the ‘Trapper bag’, which went on to become one of the first mass-produced bags in the world.

Gerry Cunningham

In 1938, Gerry Cunningham introduced the first backpack with zippers. Until then, packs only used buckles and straps. Remember, at this point in the backpack's history, its primary use was for hiking, camping, and climbing. As a frequent mountaineer, Cunningham's introduction of the zippered backpack was exactly what the outdoorsman needed: keeping his load as light as possible and the contents easily accessible. However, it really only started after the Second World War with Gerry's backpacks. In 1945-46 Gerry and his wife started making "Gerrys", well-designed backpacks and climbing backpacks for skiers and mountaineers. They had a thriving mail-order business and opened their first brick-and-mortar store in Boulder in 1958, constantly improving Gerry's model, focusing primarily on outdoor sports. By 1967, when the company pioneered a sturdy, feather-light, teardrop-shaped nylon backpack, Cunningham had revolutionized the modern backpack. If you want to hand over backpack credit to a single inventor, Gerry Cunningham is the closest.

Ake Nordin

Tired of the low-strung weight on his back, Ake Nordin, one day in 1950, returned from a mountain trek and built a canvas bag that was to be worn high and close to the back. He utilized his mother’s sewing machine to build the prototype. It was built with a wooden frame and leather straps to fasten it. 

Alice backpacks: 

This backpack was born out of the Vietnam War. The heavy-duty bag was durable and reinforced with metal straps.

Transparent bags: 

These transparent bags also called a clear backpack, entered the scene in the 60s. Nowadays, they have become a must-have for several sporting activities and a fashionable carry-on for women.

Dick and Nina Kelty

-ick Kelty & family hiking in the Sierras. 

Around the same time, in 1952, Dick and Nina Kelty used leftover materials from World War II and revolutionized backpacks forever. Large, lightweight frames were made from surplus aircraft aluminum and parachute material was sewn into soft packs. The pair introduced contoured frames, padded shoulder straps, and hip straps, propelling us to the modern backpacks we wear today. The new design worked so well that an American Everest expedition used Kelty packs during a successful climb in 1963.


The first backpack with an internal frame came out of Greg Lowe's garage in 1967. Lowe acknowledged that external frame packs weren't well-balanced for rough terrain, but unstructured backpacks weren't stable enough for large loads. So he created a backpack that was flexible enough to conform to the user's back, but stiff enough to handle the load — even transferring weight to the hip belt. He then added side compression straps and a sternum strap, completing this practically modern package.


At the same time, Lowe was developing internal frame packs and sternum straps, and Gerry Cunningham was at it again - this time with the first lightweight nylon daypack. Gerry Outdoors released its "Teardrop" backpack in 1967. Three years later, JanSport released their own lightweight nylon daypack, the "Ski and Hike" bag. Outdoor enthusiasts loved the small, lightweight packs — and they weren't alone.

MOLLE backpacks

-Mollie backpack system

Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment (MOLLE) bags were introduced in 1997. They were designed for carrying large military supplies at go. Many of the backpacks that were made during this period are still made and sold to this day.

The early 2000s

Advancements in technology also affected backpack features and production.

-Fashion backpacks on street

Fashion backpacks came to light for teens and adults. Little school kids had their cute rolling convertibles, and the heavy-weight manufacturers began exerting their dominance.

When did backpacks become popular

In 1938, when Gerry Cunningham invented the first backpack with a zipper, backpacks were still primarily in use for hiking, camping, and alpine recreation. But now backpacks have many uses. We can divide common backpacks into:

  • School backpacks

  • Laptop Backpacks

  • Leisure travel backpacks

  • Tactical backpacks

  • Drawstring backpacks

So what development have these backpacks gone through, and when did they become popular? The history of travel and hiking backpacks has already been mentioned in the above detail, the backpack was invented initially for the purpose of travel and principle, and the drawstring backpack is not important in daily life due to its simple structure and single function. Today we mainly talk about the history of school backpacks, laptop bags, and tactical backpacks.

When did school backpacks become popular?

Between the 1930s and ‘60s, some kids also made use of canvas or leather bags with a single strap, and miniature briefcases that were usually called satchels, for trips to and from school. Some students could also be seen carrying their academic luggage on their backs in squared leather bags, fastened shut with buckles.

But by and large, students were stuck toting their supplies by a strap or by hand.

--"students had no choice but to tote their textbooks and notebooks around campus with their hands. Some tied a belt around them or clutched them to their chests as they walked.”

In the book, The Hippie Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder and Other Mountains: How JanSport Makes It Happen, the original JanSport salesman Skip Yowell wrote that in 1972.

But it wasn’t until 1969 that, in an outdoor shop located on the University of Washington campus, books and backpacks became one. Students started buying the meant-for-hiking backpacks and putting their books in them instead in an attempt to keep them dry from the frequent Seattle rains. Word slowly got around that students were using backpacks as bookbags and by the early 1980s backpacks grew from novelty to necessity on school campuses in no time. By the 1990’s bookbags in schools were a given and the only thing left to do was appeal to the demand by making the backpacks bigger, and stronger and infusing more personality into the bags to help each kid feel unique.

When talking about When and how did backpacks become popular for school use.

A netizen from quora said: I grew up on the east coast (Connecticut) and graduated from high school in 1973.

When I was in elementary school in the 1960s no one had backpacks. A few kids carried kiddie briefcases, but most of us used a book strap for whatever books and notebooks we carried to and from school. In junior high, it was the same. Textbooks weren't as thick and heavy as they are now.

It was when I was in high school in 1970 or 1971 that the backpack thing started. There were no backpacks made specifically for students back then, so we got ours from the army-navy store. My first backpack was canvas, army green. Only some kids used backpacks. The preppy kids definitely did not; nor did the greasers. My friends and I were more hippy wannabes, and wearing a backpack was less of a convenience and more of a fashion statement.

I don't remember anyone using backpacks in college, and it wasn't until I was out of school that I started seeing backpacks made for students. I suspect that what was once a hippie fad gradually became a necessity because the size and number of books a student was expected to carry increased in the 1970s. By the time my two sons started school in the 1990s, every kid carried a backpack.

When did Laptop Backpacks become popular?

The notebook computer is a modern product, and the notebook case is a product serving notebook computers. According to a report commemorating the 20th anniversary of the birth of the PC, the Journal of the American Computer Association wrote that "Toshiba launched the T1000 in 1985, which was the first time people brought the concept of a laptop."

When it comes to the history of computer backpacks, we have to name a brand, Targus

TARGUS is a name that sounds unfamiliar to you. In fact, most of my friends who use laptops have dealt with it directly or indirectly, especially those who bought laptops from internationally famous brands such as IBM, TOSHIBA, HP, FUJITSU, or ACER. Since most of the bags supplied with these notebooks are provided by TARGUS, you will most likely see a TARGUS OEM label or similar certification when opening these bags.

Targus Group International Inc. (Targus) was founded in 1982 in Anaheim, California, USA. After the notebook formally appeared in 1985, when people started using the notebook, they soon realized that there must be a special bag to hold it before they could run around with it, and this kind of bag is different from ordinary handbags, it must With sufficient protection for this valuable electronic product, there was a demand for professional laptop bags. Realizing this was an excellent opportunity, TARGUS immediately joined the production ranks and became the first professional laptop bag manufacturer. One of the manufacturers.

The company was originally based in the United Kingdom and expanded to the United States in 1988. In 1995 it was renamed TargusGroup International, Inc. As a truly multinational company, Targus has 45 offices around the world, with direct distribution systems in over 145 countries/regions.

The tactical backpack history and when did tactical backpacks become popular

We mentioned above the important contribution of the U.S. military in the history of the world's backpacks. For a century, the U.S. military has also occupied an absolute contribution value in the improvement and development of tactical backpacks.

According to the tactical backpacks equipped by the US military in the past war, we can divide its history into the four-stage.

American Civil War-World War I-World War II

-Haversacks in early U.S. military equipment

Haversacks were in use during the American Civil War, as recounted in Grant's memoirs, "In addition to the supplies transported by boat, the men were to carry forty rounds of ammunition in the cartridge boxes and four days' rations in haversacks."

In 1910, the U.S. Army adopted the M1910 haversack as the standard pack for all infantrymen. The pack is essentially a sheet of canvas that folds around its contents (clothing, daily rations, and assorted personal items), and is held together by adjustable straps that thread through loops. A "tail" threaded onto the bottom of the haversack with a leather strap is intended to hold the bedroll and can be detached from the haversack without disturbing the contents of the pack. Shoulder straps and a single rear strap are designed to attach to a cartridge belt in a suspender configuration. The exterior of the pack has grommets for attaching a bayonet scabbard, a mess kit pouch, and a canvas carrier for a short-handled shovel (entrenching tool).

The M1910 haversack continued production during the interwar years with minor modifications "An upgraded haversack was developed in 1928 that had quick-release buckles and a web strap and buckle closure on the meat can pouch replacing the metal button. However, the M-1928 haversack did not go into production until 1940, and older haversacks continued to be issued until stocks were exhausted." 

Vietnam War

-The M-1944 Combat Pack

The M-1944 Combat Pack was developed from the much lighter and user-friendly US Marine Corps M-1941 Jungle pack which was developed during the Banana Wars and required a lighter pack in the tropics. The M-1944 pack had some shortcomings and a new M-1945 began replacing earlier packs in February 1945. The two packs had incompatible combat and cargo packs due to different release buckles.

The new two-part design, based on the Marine M-1941 jungle pack, used a much smaller backpack (for rations, clothes, ammunition, and mess kit), and a separate cargo bag that attached to the bottom for extra clothes, shoes, and miscellaneous other items. The upper field pack had the same type of grommet tabs and loops as the M-1928 for attaching a bayonet and entrenchment tool plus straps for securing a "horseshoe" bedroll.

The M-1936 field bag was a copy of the British officer's Musette bag of World War I and was issued to officers and mounted personnel. It was a smaller pack lacking shoulder straps and could be attached to a set of cotton web suspenders or carried by a single general-purpose shoulder strap. It was intended to carry rations, mess gear, and other essential items. It was smaller as less essential gear would be carried on a vehicle.

ALICE system backpack

-The Alice backpack

The Alice backpack is an epoch-making product. It is called a backpack system, not a simple backpack, which means that the tactical backpack has taken a completely different path from the ordinary backpack.

The ALICE military backpack, or all-purpose lightweight specific carrying equipment, is a military backpack that was developed in 1973. The pack was a necessity for the garrison engaged in the Vietnam war. The ALICE backpack was the main pack in use by the United States Military throughout the 1970 ' s and 1980 ' s. Currently, these backpacks are no longer in end and are being replaced by the MOLLE backpack.

The ALICE pack was designed to remove some of the weight that a gi had to manage with older backpack systems. The development of this pack is moneyless the weight of the pack to 3 lbs. This higher a soldier's portability and made long patrols more comfortable for each man-at-arms. The backpack tidily used different and lighter materials than the past packs which made it successful. The backpacks that were used in WW I and WWII were made of heavy cotton and steel. While not incredibly heavy at 5 lbs. the backpack would often retain water when wet and making it cumbersome for most military personnel. The cotton in past packs was changed to waterproof, lightweight nylon and the steel components were switched to aluminum. These changes allowed the pack to be lightweight and less of a problem for soldiers.

The design of the backpack, with two wide shoulder straps and a mid-section strap, was to take the strain on a soldier's shoulders and back. This allowed soldiers to march and patrol more comfortably. The size of the pack allowed soldiers maximum carrying capability and allowed each soldier to carry a change of clothes, firearms, ammunition, and a field first aid kit. The pack also allowed soldiers to pack more specific equipment given the soldier's objectives and missions. The rucksack came in three sizes to suit the soldier's needs.

Although the ALICE back was supposed to be replaced in 1988, the popularity of the pack in the military has made this transition slow. The pack and components are easily interchangeable with the newer packs.

The ALICE pack is not only the favorite pack of soldiers but of campers and hikers as well. They are easily found in army surplus stores and are available at reasonable prices. The strap system and the lightweight components make this pack a favorite for various adventurers. Although new packs are slowly taking the ALICE backpack's place in the military it will be a long time before this backpack is no longer available.

The Mollie backpack is an upgrade of the Alice backpack

-The latest American Molle backpack

The Molle backpack was widely equipped for individual soldiers during the Iraq War. It is also the main individual backpack for the active US military. We can see him in many news reports and film and television works. Figure. Mollie's backpack is called the "MOLLE tactical gear attachment system"

The MOLLE(pronounced like the name “Molly”) system is designed for rough terrain and harsh conditions. MOLLE is an acronym for Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment. The system uses modularity with easy access points for attaching gear. The equipment is a favorite of military units, police departments, and fire departments. The design for load-bearing equipment was preceded by the ALICE system(see our article on ALICE vs MOLLE), which is an acronym for All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment.  The MOLLE system has not only been adopted by the US government for use in their military backpacks but has also become the De facto gear attachment standard for military-grade backpacks by big-name manufacturers including Blackhawk, Maxpedition, and 5.11 tactical.

Most of the MOLLE gear has webbing on each side of the equipment, such as on the vests or belts. The Pouch Attachment Ladder System (PALS) provides multiple points for attaching gear on the rows and columns of the webbing. The fabric is usually a high tensile strength denier nylon, lightweight, water-resistant, and durable. The traditional fabric colors are blacks, grays, olive drabs, sandy browns, and camouflage.

MOLLE belts are padded so that heavy gear will not cause injury. Most of the MOLLE connection points are buckles or clips. The belts are designed to stay cinched. The webbing encircles the outer side of the belt and is stitched with reinforced stitching at several intervals. The sections may be less than three inches wide and will accommodate a military T-ring, which slides into the webbing sections and exposes the ring below the webbing. The MOLLE knife sheath will easily attach to the front or side of the belt.  Spec-Ops makes a seriously nice MOLLE knife sheath and it comes in multiple colors.

On YouTube, some video bloggers commented on some excellent tactical backpacks. You can also learn more about modern tactical backpacks on this page. As a factory with 18 years of experience, the production department of Weihan also OEM and manufactured various backpacks for many popular brands. Whether it is re-manufacturing according to existing styles, or continuously improving and adding new functions, our production department can always perform well.

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