Ten Unbelievable Facts About Backpacks

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TEN amazing Backpack Facts…

They’ve got to be true because you’re reading them on the internet. We searched high and low to bring you a selection of amazing backpack facts. Mostly plucked from our obscure and relentless pursuit of all that is backpack related… but also from an up and coming imaginary book Tim is writing on the history of canvas. Bathroom reading at it’s finest. 

Here you go!

Backpack, Rucksack, Haversack – call it what you like, but that thing on your back that carries your laptop to work each morning has an amazing history…

1. Lost in Space.

Like many children I always wanted to be a chiropodist when I grew up – when I realised that would just be a dream, an astronaut was the logical next best. But what are those bags? Well, they’re quite important, they’re called PLSS’s or Primary Life Support Systems – carried on the back they are a device that provides oxygen and temperature management. 

If you’re an astronaut – leaving this on the train is highly unrecommended. 

Astronaut backpack Cora and Spink


2. Haversack, rucksack or backpack?

Call it what you will, but did you know there’s a fundamental difference between each word? A haversack is considered a bag, as it has just one strap (messenger bag style). A rucksack is from the German word der Rücken – meaning back, and pack as in group of straps… But did you know “backpack” is a very modern word, 1910 to be roughly precise and originating in America. 

3. duck canvas?

Coincidences… from the famous Jack Wills, “Bromsgrove Backpack” incident in 2017, to ducks and canvas. Unbeknownst to me in the New World (America) they have taken to calling heavy cotton canvas, Duck canvas. Of course, Cora + Spink has a duck (it’s not a duck) as a mascot (logo). But why duck canvas? Duck canvas is so called as the canvas was used primarily as sail cloth and was treated with oil and wax – hence waterproofed – like a duck…

4. bags of rice…

Duck Canvas and rice sacks. In the western world (where I live) sacks of rice are not something I grew up seeing. But for millions of people large sacks of rice are an everyday commodity – and what do everyday essentials have to do? They all have to shout and claim superiority in some way shape or form, therefore, sacks of rice have become works of art… In the early days of Cora + Spink I was looking at rice sacks for inspiration, especially how they are repurposed. That’s how rice sacks (discarded) helped inspire this whole enterprise. 

Rice sacks Cora and Spink inspiration


5. heaviest weight?

Some people are stronger than other people, true fact this might be, but by utilising a backpack correctly the weight an average person can carry is multiplied by a factor of 20! Spreading weight from the shoulders to the hips enables a really comfortable and well balanced distribution of effort across the body, making carrying large weights a pinch. 

6. SherpAs.

The amazing abilities of the mountain guides commonly referred to as Sherpas – synonymous with climbing Everest ahead of their employers laden with kit, food and water. These people from the east (literal translation of Sherpa) are genetically superior for low oxygen, high altitude work – until the 1970’s the kit used to make an attempt at summit was no more technically advanced than – well – a 70’s boy scout camping kit (exaggerations here). 

7. How long does it take to make a backpack?

How long is a piece of string. The time taken to make a backpack is dependent on the number of components, and the number/type of processes involved. A Cora + Spink vegan backpack, because of it’s intentional simplicity could be made start to finish in less than 2 hours. Where as a Ruxtpin Backpack may take 4 hours to construct. 

8. the rise of the backpack?

The backpack has seen huge rise in popularity in the last 5 years or so, attributable to a global reduction of suit wearing for work, flexibility of work and an astronomical rise in the popularity of laptop computers for work. In the same time people are seeking to travel, be active and explore during free time, more so than ever before. Recreation and hobbies now take a precedent over other forms of entertainment, such as bars and pubs.   

9. first recorded use of a backpack…

Much more recent than you’d (we) expect. We’ve followed a few paths of research here, and not come up with an actual conclusion. The term backpack seems – derivatively at least to come from America, either in 1906 or 1910. The backpack as we know it today simply was known as something else. We will come back to this with a full post as too many people (companies) in history have attempted to put their name to a bag with two straps.   

10. one strap or two?

I was not going to include this number 10 for obvious reasons, but… it’s 2019, it’s nearly the roaring 20’s!

One strap or two. Now that’s a question. In days of old a sure sign your school had a contingent of French or German exchange students was their inability to look cool. At 40 paces you could single them out, for they’d all be huddled together wearing their backpack with two straps. No one growing up in the 70’s or 80’s would dream of such a faux pas.

Today two straps firmly pulling your backpack close to your back makes for two handed freedom, and a great deal of comfort. Two straps spread the weight of your luggage evenly across the shoulders and onto the lower back. Two straps is just logical… those exchange students got something right!


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