A brief history of backpacks

What are backpacks?

A backpack is a type of bag that is typically used to carry items such as books, clothes, and other items, and is typically worn on the back. The word “backpack” is derived from the German word “Rucksack,” which literally translates to “carry sack.” Backpacks are typically made from a variety of materials such as canvas, leather, nylon, and polyester, and are designed with a variety of features such as zippers, pockets, straps, and compartments.

Backpacks are used by people of all ages for a variety of purposes. They are particularly popular with students, who use them to carry textbooks, notebooks, and other school supplies. They are also popular with travelers, hikers, and campers, who use them to store and transport their gear. Backpacks are also popular with sports enthusiasts, who use them to store and transport their sports equipment.

Backpacks come in a variety of styles, sizes, and colors. They range from small, lightweight daypacks to large, rugged backpacks designed to carry heavy loads. Backpacks can also be divided into two main categories: internal frame backpacks and external frame backpacks. Internal frame backpacks are designed with a flexible internal frame that cradles the user’s back and helps to distribute the weight of the load evenly across the back. External frame backpacks feature an external frame that attaches to the backpack and helps to provide support and stability.

In addition to their practical uses, backpacks are also popular fashion accessories. Many brands offer stylish backpacks in a variety of colors and patterns, which can be used to make a fashion statement.

Overall, backpacks are a versatile and practical accessory that can be used to carry items, store and transport gear, and make a fashion statement. They are popular among students, travelers, hikers, campers, and sports enthusiasts, and come in a variety of styles, sizes, and colors.

History of Backpacks

The history of backpacks can be traced back to ancient times, when people first began carrying items on their backs. Back then, these items were mostly necessities like food and water, as well as other items that were necessary for survival.

In the late 19th century, backpacks were developed for use by military personnel. These backpacks were made of canvas and leather, and were designed to carry supplies, weapons, and ammunition.

In the early 20th century, backpacks began to be used by schoolchildren and hikers. The early backpacks were made of canvas and leather, and had straps that went over the shoulders. Over time, they evolved to include additional features such as pockets, zippers, and adjustable straps.

Backpacks have come a long way since then. Today, they are made of a variety of materials, including nylon, polyester, and waterproof fabrics. They come in a variety of designs and sizes, and have become an essential part of everyday life.

Backpacks are now used for a variety of purposes, from carrying books and supplies to going on camping trips. They are also used for travel, allowing you to carry all of your essentials in one bag.

Prehistoric backpacks

Prehistoric backpacks are an important part of history, as they are one of the oldest forms of carrying items from one place to another. Prehistoric backpacks were made from materials such as animal skins, bark, and plant fibers, and were the most common form of carrying items during the Stone Age.

The earliest known use of backpacks dates back to the Mesolithic period, which began approximately 10,000 years ago. During this time, people used animal skins to create backpacks that were used to carry items such as weapons, tools, and food. These backpacks were usually made using the entire skin of an animal, with the fur being used to line the inside of the bag. The straps were made of plant fibers or animal sinews, and the bag was usually secured by a knot or a drawstring.

The use of backpacks continued to grow during the Neolithic period, which began roughly 12,000 years ago. During this time, people began to use different materials to create backpacks such as bark and plant fibers. These backpacks were often decorated with symbols that held spiritual or cultural significance to the wearer. They were also often adorned with beads, shells, and other decorations.


Backpacks continued to be used throughout the Bronze Age and Iron Age, but their design and use changed significantly. During the Iron Age, people began to use metal buckles and straps to secure the backpacks, and the bags were often decorated with elaborate designs. During this time, backpacks were also often used to carry weapons and armor, as well as other items.

Ancient Backpacks

Ancient European Backpacks

Backpacks have been used for centuries by Europeans for carrying goods. The oldest known example of a European backpack is from the 4th century BC, found in a grave in Germany. This backpack was made from leather and was used to carry tools and supplies for the traveller.

Today, European backpacks are typically made from canvas, nylon, or leather. They are designed for everyday use, with straps to carry the bag on your back and a variety of pockets and compartments to store items. The straps are adjustable, allowing for a comfortable fit.

European backpacks are often decorated with traditional designs, such as floral motifs or Celtic knotwork. These designs are often combined with bright colors and decorative stitching to create a unique and eye-catching bag.

Ancient Asian Backpacks

Asian backpacks have been in use for centuries, with the oldest known example dating back to the 11th century. This backpack was made from silk and was used to carry books, scrolls, and other items.

Today, Asian backpacks are typically made from cotton, canvas, or nylon. They are often decorated with bold, colorful designs, such as dragons, flowers, and geometric shapes. Asian backpacks are usually constructed with a drawstring closure and multiple pockets to keep the items inside safe and secure.

Asian backpacks are designed to be comfortable to carry, with adjustable straps and a padded back panel for added support. They are often designed for outdoor use, with water-resistant materials and durable hardware to ensure that the bags can withstand the elements.

Medieval Backpacks

European Medieval backpacks, the most common type of backpack was called a “knapsack”. Knapsacks were typically made of canvas or leather and had a drawstring closure. They were usually rectangular in shape, but could also be triangular or cylindrical. Knapsacks were usually carried with a shoulder strap, although some had two straps for a more comfortable fit. Inside the knapsack were pockets or compartments for holding items. Common items stored in a knapsack included clothing, food, and personal items such as a knife, mirror, or book.

Knapsacks were used by both men and women during the Medieval period. They were particularly popular with travelers and merchants, who used them to carry their supplies. Some knapsacks were even designed with extra compartments for carrying coins or documents.

In Asia, backpacks were also widely used during the Medieval period. Most Asian backpacks were made of woven bamboo or rattan and had a drawstring closure. These backpacks were often decorated with intricate designs, and could be quite large. They were usually carried with a shoulder strap, although some had two straps for a more comfortable fit.

Asian backpacks were commonly used by merchants, travelers, and soldiers. They could be used to carry food, clothing, and personal items. Some backpacks even had special compartments or straps for carrying weapons.

Overall, backpacks were an essential part of life during the Medieval period. They were used by both men and women, and could be found in Europe and Asia. Backpacks allowed people to carry their supplies and personal items, which made traveling and trading much easier.

Modern Backpacks

In the 19th century, backpacks were mainly used for carrying goods, supplies and travel items. Backpacks of this era were typically made of canvas, leather or wool, and featured straps and buckles for securing the load.

A typical 19th century backpack


In the 20th century, backpacks began to become more popular, as they were adopted by the military and other organizations. Backpacks of this era were usually made of nylon or other synthetic materials and featured adjustable shoulder straps, multiple compartments and pockets, frame systems and compression straps. This allowed for easier carrying and weight distribution, making backpacks more comfortable and practical.

In the 21st century, backpacks have become increasingly popular, with a wide range of designs and features available. Modern backpacks are usually made of lightweight materials such as nylon or polyester, and feature multiple compartments and pockets, adjustable straps, waterproof zippers, and padding for added comfort. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, and are designed for a variety of purposes, such as hiking, school, travel, or everyday use.

Modern backpacks also often feature additional features, such as laptop compartments, USB ports, charging ports, and even built-in solar panels. They also come with a variety of additional accessories, such as bottle holders, rain covers, hooks, and straps for additional items. With so many features, modern backpacks are incredibly versatile and can be used for a variety of activities, from everyday commuting to outdoor adventures.

A modern backpack

Source Wikimedia

Overall, modern backpacks have come a long way since their 19th century counterparts. With a wide range of features and accessories, modern backpacks are more comfortable, versatile, and practical than ever before. They are perfect for a variety of activities, and can help make any outing or adventure more enjoyable.


Today, backpacks are used for a variety of purposes, from hiking and camping to commuting and traveling. The design and materials used to make backpacks has also changed drastically, with modern backpacks often made from synthetic materials such as nylon, polyester, and canvas. Despite this, the basic design of backpacks has remained largely the same, and they continue to be an integral part of our lives.

In conclusion, backpacks have been around for thousands of years and have been used for a variety of purposes. The design and materials used to make them have changed drastically over time, but the basic design has remained largely the same. Today, backpacks are an essential part of modern life, and they will likely continue to be so for years to come.

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