A heartwarming and informational post from Slate about the early start of the backpack and the two companies that eventually had market dominance over it (JanSport and L.L. Bean). I had just always assumed that backpacks were around as long as heavy textbooks were around, but that’s not the case. It wasn’t until the mid 60s that backpacks as we know them today came about as people and companies began modifying lighter version day packs to carry the increasingly heavy books students needed for class.
Read more after the jump.
To ensure L.L. Bean’s packs were as durable as Caribou’s, Briggs also incorporated several less obvious touches. In the ’70s, she picked up extra work fixing backpacks. The most common repair, she said, was a broken zipper. But it wasn’t actually a zipper problem. It was a fraying problem. Threads from a poorly constructed pack’s inner seams tended to unravel and get caught in the zipper. To prevent that flaw in L.L. Bean Book Packs, Briggs said in an email, “We decided to bind each inner seam with a nylon binding tape (1-inch heavy duty grosgrain ribbon folded over the seams and stitched after each pack was assembled). No one else in the industry was doing this at the time so the extra cost was a risk we were willing to take. It paid off. … Our seams never frayed.” She also made sure to address the fact that students often carried their packs on only one shoulder. “Knowing that one-shoulder carrying would continue, we reinforced those points with extra stitching in the seam where the straps (both top and bottom) entered the pack,” Briggs wrote. “Putting all this extra stitching in one place, however, actually perforates the fabric so I spread out the reinforcement stitching, forming an ‘X’ at each stress point.”