Who invented the backpack with wheels? Discover Now

In today’s fast-paced world, the backpack with wheels has become an indispensable companion for travelers and students alike. But have you ever wondered, “Who invented the backpack with wheels?” In this blog, I will discuss the origins of this ingenious invention that has made our lives easier. Read now and uncover the story behind the creation of the backpack with wheels and the individual responsible for this game-changing innovation.

Who invented the backpack with wheels? Discover Now

Since the early 20th century, backpacks have been around thanks to the innovation of early travelers. We can trace the history of bags back to the prehistoric icemen, World Wars, and daring mountaineers, with the first bag being discovered around 3300 BC. Today, backpacks are common for many people, including commuters, tourists, hikers, and students. The modern student bag has seen various fads and adjustments throughout its 44-year history. 

Leather or cloth straps attached around a stack of books to make them simpler to carry served as the first containers for student textbooks. Although they were used for many years, straps finally lost their appeal. The modern backpack has been around for 80 years; over that time, it has evolved from bulky, poorly fitting bags to the backpack.

Who invented the backpack with wheels?: A Brief History

Brief History of wheeled backpacks

The modern backpack celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, tracing its origins back to ancient times when hikers struggled with bulky, ill-fitting packs. Pack technology has changed over time, with ancient nomads and shepherds utilizing animal skin or woven fabric bags known as “tiklis” to transport their belongings. By the early twentieth century, canvas and leather backpacks were being created for European hikers and campers.

Brief Overview Of The Evolution Of Backpacks: Backpacks

The Evolution of Backpacks
  • 1870: Bindles were manufactured from sticks and canvas cloths during the American Civil War, providing soldiers with a lightweight, portable, and necessary tool for battlefield survival.
  • 1877: Henry Miriam designed the first usable knapsacks for the United States military, using sheet metal to save weight during missions.
  • 1878: Henry Merriam developed a knapsack pack for the United States Army in 1878, employing sheet metal to rig the bag away from the wearer’s body. Despite decreasing equipment, weight, and fastenings, they abandoned the pack due to discomfort. The knapsack helped reduce equipment and weight, but it eventually became uncomfortable for soldiers.
  • 1882: Camille Poirier of Duluth designed the Duluth Pack in 1882, a sturdy canvas bag with a head strap for canoe and kayak excursions. 
  • 1904: The phrase “backpack” first appeared in 1904, but it took another eight years for it to become a verb meaning “backpacked” or “backpacking.”
  • 1908: Ole F. Bergan, a Norwegian producer of rucksacks, blended soft material with conventional wooden frames in 1908. He created Sekk Med Meis backpacks with hardwood frames and a soft cloth for convenient compression by swapping out birch for light tubular steel.
  • 1914: Developers created new military backpacks known as Haversacks during World War I, which housed ammo, canteens, and other equipment.
  • 1922: Lloyd F. Nelson designed the Trapper Nelson backpack, a robust trekking frame composed of wood and seal skins. Two years later, it was mass-produced on canvas.
  • 1924: In 1924, Inuit-made stick-and-sealskin backpacking Nelson invented the Trapper Nelson Pack, the first mass-produced external-frame pack. It was famous for years because of its stabilizing timber frame with canvas bands and canvas bag secured with steel pins. It was available in three sizes, the largest of which cost $7.50, and it was the co-op’s best-selling pack until the 1950s.

The Revolting Evolution of Backpacks

  • 1938: In 1938, Gerry Cunningham designed the first zippered backpack, allowing rock climbers to keep their load smaller and more easily accessible. He made a nylon bag with zippers using his father’s sewing machine, replacing buckles and straps for standard backpack closures. This ground-breaking design transformed the outdoor lifestyle by making backpacks more accessible and lightweight for climbers.
  • The late 1940s: Kids wore backpacks to school in the late 1940s, with post-WWII materials improving their practicality, lightweight, and elegant appearance.
  • 1943: Military bags improved in 1943 to carry more weight, essential for transporting bulky equipment, heavy weaponry, and ammunition during World War II.
  • 1950: Fjällräven’s founder, ke Nordin, invented a timber pack for mountain hiking in 1950. He created a cotton bag with a wooden frame and leather straps, inspiring him to launch his business. Fjällräven is still selling fashionable purses like the one in the image today.
  • 1952: 1952 Dick and Nena Kelty revolutionized the backpack industry by handcrafting external-frame backpacks using parachute fabric and WWII items. Their packs featured aircraft aluminum frames, contoured frames, padded shoulder straps, and waistbelts, transferring pack load to the wearer’s hips. The Kelty Backpacks paved the way for modern backpack design.
  • 1959: In 1959, the invention of plastisol ink transformed the printing of backpacks, enabling kids to carry bags with images of well-known characters like Mickey Mouse, The Flintstones, and Bugs Bunny.
  • 1960: 1960 saw the introduction of the Alice backpack, a streamlined, heavy-duty bag with multiple departments. Transparent backpacks, like plastic Lucite clutches, emerged in the 1960s and are now mandatory at sporting events and concerts for added security.
  • 1967: In 1967, Greg Lowe, the company’s founder, created the initial internal-frame backpack. This pack resembled current backpacks because of its rigid frame, flexible form, sternum strap, and compression straps. Skip Yowell developed JanSport, a backpack company originally intended for mountain climbing but quickly became popular.
  • 1970: In 1970, Kelty introduced the first quick-release hipbelt buckle, made of stainless steel, allowing weight transfer to the wearer’s hips, revolutionizing pack design.

The Evolution of Backpacks: From 1979 to 2020

  • 1979: Lowe Alpine produced the Nanda Devi Series in 1979 to meet the needs of female travelers. These large packs could be adjusted to fit smaller bodies.
  • 1980: In 1980, According to a Harvard law student, L.L. Bean sold bulky book backpacks, which gave rise to the Book Pack.
  • 1981: Steve Mann, a high school student, used backpacks and EyeTap technology to develop a wearable computer in 1981.
  • 1984: In 1984, Deuter Aircomfort received a patent for a mesh backing that allowed for cooler airflow for hikers, inspiring other advances in pack ventilation by different manufacturers.
  • 1989: During a scorching 100-mile bike ride in Texas in 1989, paramedic Michael Eidson invented the CamelBak Hydration Pack. The pack—which was stored in a tube sock—revolutionized backpacking by offering a practical and effective means to carry water.
  • 1998: Demetri and Kim Coupounas founded GoLite in 1998, introducing the Breeze pack, a lightweight, super strong Dyneema® pack, marking a shift in the outdoor industry towards lighter materials.
  • 2000: In the mid-2000s, the military introduced the MOLLIE backpack, a standard supply for troops during the Iraq War. Fashion backpacks gained popularity in the late 2000s, featuring leather, canvas, and major fashion brands. These backpacks became functional, with multiple compartments for storage, such as a camera case and a stand.
  • 2002: B-Wap, founded in 2002, creates backpacks for needy children in Oklahoma City.
  • 2003: The REI ActivMotion Suspension, introduced in 2003, transfers pack load from back to hips, utilizing rod and extension compensation to stabilize the load and minimize swaying.
  • 2005: Osprey introduced custom molding hipbelt technology in 2005, enabling backpackers to customize their unique anatomy for a more comfortable fit on long treks.
  • 2018: REI’s pack line uses recycled fabric, which reduces environmental effects by 81% of global warming potential, 48% water usage, 72% energy consumption, and 75% eutrophication. The REI Co-op Traverse pack line represents a big step forward in the outdoor business. Jefferson County Public Schools also provided computerized backpacks for tracking student achievement.
  • 2020: COVID-19 impacts e-learning, limited travel, and backpack sales, affecting 2020.

Who made backpacks and when?

Lloyd Nelson and Gerry Cunningham pioneered the hiking industry, creating lightweight bags with straps and zippers. Nelson’s Trapper Nelson was mass-produced in 1922, while Cunningham’s Zippered Backpack in 1938 added zippers and nylon for waterproofing. Dick and Nena Kelty, known as the “Henry Ford of Backpack Design,” designed the modern backpack in 1952 using aircraft engineering and Navy veteran expertise. They sold 29 backpacks for $24 but eventually started a mail-order catalog business.

When and who created the wheel?

Sumerians were the first to develop the potter’s wheel, enabling large pottery production. The wheel evolved through Mesopotamian cultures and Ancient Greeks, reaching perfection by the 1900s. Mesopotamian civilizations used early wheels for pottery creation, while Ancient Greeks developed the wheel for carrying loads.

Who invented the backpack with wheels and when?

The wheeled backpack, invented by American inventor Bernard D. Sadow in the late 1970s, revolutionized travel convenience by allowing travelers to pull their luggage instead of carrying it. The concept gained popularity among travelers, students, and outdoor enthusiasts in the 1980s. JanSport, a prominent backpack manufacturer, introduced wheeled backpacks in the early 1990s, combining functionality with the convenience of wheels. Numerous brands have contributed to the evolution of wheeled backpacks, continuously improving design, materials, and features to cater to diverse travel needs worldwide.

For many years, backpacks have been a useful and convenient for travelers. Pioneers in the field have turned simple ideas into classic backpack styles. Today, companies and manufacturers are working to improve performance and quality as backpacks continue to advance and change. By producing items with GOTS and Fairtrade Certified materials and rain-fed organic cotton, Terra Thread, a sustainable and environmentally friendly backpack company, hopes to improve the world.


In conclusion, the question “Who invented the backpack with wheels” has a fascinating answer. This innovative travel companion that lightens our load and simplifies our journeys owes its existence to the brilliant mind of an individual who saw the need for convenience. As we continue to enjoy the benefits of this invention, let’s not forget the ingenious inventor who revolutionized the way we carry our belongings on our backs, making our adventures and daily routines more manageable.

D. A. Ritchie | Who invented the backpack with wheels? Discover Now | bestwheeled.com

Darlene A. Ritchie

Hello, I’m thrilled to welcome you to my sanctuary, Bestwheeled.com. If you’re here, you’re likely as passionate about wheeled backpacks as I am. I’ve dedicated years to researching, testing, and writing about the best wheeled backpacks on the market.
I hope you like my blog. you can find my other blogs about Wheeled backpacks here.

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