how did they appear and where did the name come from

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The first backpack appeared over 5,000 years ago. Even then, people thought about how to carry loads so that their hands remain free. In the course of history, the design has changed and improved. It was adapted for peasants, military, tourists, climbers, hunters and more. Despite this, even now models are being produced, the prototype of which was a shoulder bag found five thousand years ago.

Where did the name «backpack» come from?

The modern word «backpack» came into Russian from German — Rucksack — means «shoulder bag». In the literal translation, Rücken is “back” and Sack is “bag”.

The word «knapsack», which is close in meaning, is also borrowed from the German language. Ranzen — translated as «shoulder bag» or «bag» (used when it comes to hiking accessories).

These are modern interpretations of the word. In addition to them, there are many other names in history: loculus, pester, ponyaga, chige, etc.

The first backpack in the history of mankind

In 1991, in the west of Austria in the Ötztal Alps (the federal state of Tyrol), archaeologists found a human mummy in the ice. She was given the name Ötzi, and the birth of this Chalcolithic man was dated to about 3300 BC.

Next to Ötzi found the details of the world’s first backpack. The design of the ball is framed: a thin frame made of hazel and larch, on which a fur bag was hung. Inside they found: a bowstring made of a vein, a ball of twine, the point of a deer horn, a grass net, two birch bark tueskas, several grains, a blackthorn berry and a “first-aid kit” (two mushrooms that have an antiseptic effect).

In various sources, Ötzi is called differently: a peasant, an artisan who was engaged in the production of tools from copper, and even the first climber known to history.

Scholars may argue about what exactly Ötzi did. One thing is clear — even 5000 years ago, people were developing accessories that help carry the load on themselves so that their hands remain free to solve some other tasks.

Ötzi backpack.jpg

Reconstruction of the Ötzi backpack.

Backpacks in the life of different peoples of the world

During the time of our era, designs are found around the world that, in principle, differ little from the backpack of the Tyrolean man Ötzi. They are a wooden frame with padded shoulder straps. A bag, box or bag is attached to it.

For example, in the 19th century, during field work in Germany and France, wicker baskets on a frame were actively used.

The Norwegian museum has preserved the Sekk med Meis shoulder bag, the manufacture of which dates back to the 19th century.

In Korea, such products were called «chige». They are mentioned in chronicles of the 17th century.

The Aztec fixture, cacaxtli, which dates back to the 14th-16th centuries, was fundamentally different in design. It was a traditional frame, but there was only one belt. It was worn on the forehead.

Backpack Sekk med Meis.jpg Aztec backpack — cacaxtli.jpg

Backpack Sekk med Meis. Aztec backpack — cacaxtli.

The history of military backpacks

The first army models were the same as civilian ones. Often they were a wicker basket with straps (even without a lid).

In the I-III centuries. AD in the Roman Empire, a military leather briefcase appeared — the loculus. Most often, such a backpack was worn on a camping pole. He also had one harness over his shoulder.

In the XVII-XIX centuries. in the Russian Empire, Europe and England, the military was equipped with satchels made of tarpaulin, genuine leather or cloth. Under Alexander I, satchels for Russian soldiers were made of black calfskin, and a little later, calfskin.

In the 19th century the knapsacks were replaced by a shoulder army duffel bag. It was lighter and more practical. In 1882, the Russian army began to use a duffel bag made of canvas. Unlike its predecessors, it did not get wet — the contents always remained dry. But such designs were not very convenient when you had to carry something heavy with you.

In 1866, American Colonel Henry Merriam filed a patent for an army backpack with a rigid frame and an emphasis on the lower back, which was supposed to redistribute the load. But the model turned out not very convenient. The development of the Norwegian entrepreneur Ole Bergan, which went into production in 1908, was more popular.

Ole Bergan Frame Construction.png

Frame construction by Ole Bergan.

What were the backpacks in the old days in Russia

Ponyaga and flyer were widely used in Russia. They were used mainly in Siberia.

Ponyaga is a frame unloading system: a frame curved from a wooden rod (wrapped with birch bark) on straps and with a shelf at the bottom. Hunters used it — they carried weapons, equipment, supplies and trophies.

Transbaikal Ponyaga.jpg

Transbaikalian ponya.

The flyer device is much simpler. It consists of two branches: one branch is a fork, the second is a short branch with a knot. They were tied in a special way. A towel usually served as straps, and a bale, bag or box was tied to the outside. Such a device was easy to make even in field conditions.



Mushroom pickers in Russia used a birch bark bag, which was called a box or pester. It was a wicker basket or box made of birch bark or bast. Such a body kept its shape well — the mushrooms and berries that people picked in the forest did not crumple.



History of travel backpacks

Americans know a lot about advertising and marketing. Lloyd Nelson, a climber and hunter from the USA, patented his model of a frame backpack in 1924. The bag of Alaska Indians served as the base, which was a wooden frame covered with seal skins. He replaced the skin with cloth and set up sales. The new model has become very popular with tourists.

Alaskan Hunter Nelson Backpack.png

Alaskan backpack «Hunter Nelson».

In the Soviet Union at that time, mass production of frameless backpack models was launched. They were more capacious than the usual army knapsacks. Received the name «Kolobok».

Honored Master of Mountaineering of the USSR Vitaly Mikhailovich Abalakov finalized the «Kolobok» — he added pockets on the sides, and a wide valve on top that protects the contents from rain. The improved model was called the «Abalakovo backpack» and became very popular with tourists in the 50-90s.

In the 70s, the model underwent another change — they added side lacing and changed the fastening of the straps. They began to call such backpacks «Yarovsky».

Soviet tourist backpacks.jpg

Soviet tourist backpacks.

The milestone year was 1938. American Army veteran Gerald Cunningham first suggested using zippers as fasteners. Thanks to this, camping equipment has become lighter and more practical.

In 1952, the spouses Dick and Nena Kelty began to produce backpacks of their own production. They made them from parachute fabric and lines — these materials were in abundance after the war. Aircraft-grade aluminum was used for the frame. For the first time in these models, a waist belt appeared to reduce the load on the back.

The Yermak easel backpack became a fundamentally new tourist model for the Soviet Union. It also had a metal frame and an unloading waist belt.

Now dozens and hundreds of new technologies are used in the production of backpacks. Only time will tell which of them will go down in history. Perhaps later we will write another review article about them.