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What is the origin of the backpacks?

The backpacks are one of those elements of daily life that we have so incorporated that we take for granted.

There are many types of backpacks: for professionals, for travel, for mountain, school, baby carriers … and could continue listing.

All the cultures and countries of the world probably use some kind of backpack today. Even the most remote aboriginal tribes.

The origin of the backpacks goes back to prehistory. The human being has always needed to transport his tools or food. Carrying the weight on the shoulder allows you to carry larger volumes, be more agile and carry your hands-free for other needs such as climbing difficult terrain.

In 1922, Lloyd F. Nelson, considered the father of the mountain sports industry, patented his unique design called “Nelson’s Indian Pack Board Trapper” which would be considered the first backpack with a mass-produced external frame. His design was thought because of the pain he experienced loading his things on a hiking trip he made in Alaska in the year 1920.


The conceptual advance was to create an external wooden frame on which a canvas jacket (to protect the back) and a canvas sack (to contain supplies and belongings) would be attached to the frame with long steel pins. The invention was held close to the body with two strips resting on the shoulders.

In those days, hiking in the mountains was not as practical as it is today, so the sale of his backpack was for a very small market, which later expanded into the United States military force.

16 years later, in 1938, Gerry Cunningham, of the famous brand Gerry Outdoors, invented the first backpack with zipper. His backpack had two zippered compartments to keep the load light and with quick access while practicing climbing.

Until the 60s, backpacks were used above all for trekking, camping and mountaineering.

evolución mochilas

Some children, to and from school, used canvas or leather bags with a single strap and miniature briefcases that used to be called Satchels. But in general the students carried their books in their hands, tied by leather straps.

The world of backpacks changed completely when the first backpack for daily use was launched on the market in 1967. Gerry Outdoors calls himself the inventor of the modern nylon backpack. That same year JanSport (the world’s largest manufacturer of backpacks) opened its first store with its own lightweight nylon backpack design for daily use.

mismochilas origenes de las mochilas

These smaller and lighter backpacks became immensely popular and, eventually, evolved into backpacks as we know them today.

Students from the University of Washington began using the JanSport backpacks for trekking to load their books and school supplies. Noticing the trend, the company began to manufacture backpacks designed for the needs of students.

By the 1980s, school backpacks were fully integrated into society and met the needs of their users perfectly.

Although the school backpack emerged as to satisfy a need of the students, it has evolved over the years not only to expand to all areas; business backpacks, travel backpacks, fashion backpacks … But as an element of expression of identity.


A few years backpacks, began a new great process of evolution thanks to the change in its use.

The backpacks were used daily for students and athletes to be part of the day to day of almost everyone on the planet.

With the advent of laptops, professionals began to need a way to transport their work tools. While at first the briefcases were the most used accessory, over time and as its use became more widespread, the companies developed specific backpacks to carry laptops that were much more practical and comfortable than the briefcase.

The digital age in the backpacks not only hit hard in the professional world but in the school as well. Students no longer carry books to school, but the computer, the tablet and all kinds of electronic devices.

Brands did not take long to expand the business with accessories to charge electronic devices such as cable charging, laptop case and something else.

The evolution of the backpacks from prehistoric times, through the pre-digital era until the current times makes us eager to see what this extraordinary artifact shows us in the future.