Origins of ordinary things: Backpacks

Backpacks are cool, there is no doubt about that. They ease the load and reduce the inconvenience of carrying school materials while simultaneously giving you an edge. If you have strutted around with a cool backpack, you have Dick and Nena Kelty to thank. Dick Kelty an American carpenter generated the idea in 1952 and got his wife to come on board.

Backpacks are cool, there is no doubt about that. They ease the load and reduce the inconvenience of carrying school materials while simultaneously giving you an edge. If you have strutted around with a cool backpack, you have Dick and Nena Kelty to thank. Dick Kelty an American carpenter generated the idea in 1952 and got his wife to come on board.

Dick and Nena Kelty started on a very small scale. In the article “The Evolution of the Modern Backpack”, Shawn Forno a travel specialist says that the Kelties made the bags by hand, in their home. They even improvised with material. For instance, they used leftover parachute pack fabric from World War II and wool carpet material.

 

How did Dick Kelty generate the idea of backpacks? According to Reference, a knowledge dissemination platform, Kelty was an avid hiker. However, at the time, the only bags available were army rucksacks whose straps were made of wood. They were uncomfortable. Kelty felt compelled to make bags using light material. The bags included features such as straps, padding and zippers.

 

This is not to say that Kelty is the only person in the world to have ever thought about the idea of backpacks. As the saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun. In fact, Benna Crawford, an American journalist points to an archeological find of a man from the ice age (which was 5000 years ago) who had a wooden-framed backpack made of skins. Crawford discusses this in the article: “Who Invented the Backpack?”

 

Perhaps the reason why Kelty is widely credited for the backpack is because he found a way to make bags that were very light and comfortable to use. Even still, some writers and researchers credit another hiker, Gerry Cunningham, instead of Dick Kelty for the invention of backpacks.

For instance, Elizabeth King, an American writer of political and pop culture material says that Cunningham invented the backpack in 1938. Crawford holds the same view. Cunningham’s backpacks, King says, were tailor-made for hiking and other outdoor activities such as skiing.

Regardless of who really invented the backpack, it is a genius invention, especially considering how uncomfortable it must have been for students to carry heavy books pre-backpack. In fact, students in earlier times, studies say, fastened their books with straps of leather (you might even call it a belt), to make them easier to carry.

An important feature of every backpack that most students ignore in a bid to be cool is the double-strap. When you use both straps, it results in weight distribution which makes the load easier on your shoulders and back.

However, wearing one strap, while seemingly cool, is cruel to your body because it can result in neck, shoulder or back pain and also impair your posture. Additionally, defeats the purpose of the invention. So then, make proper use of your backpack.

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