The Evolution of the Backpack

The 1980s was full of fashion trends – like parachute pants, leg warmers and shoulder pads – that quickly became the epitome of fashion “don’ts.” Yet during this daring decade, one item that came onto the scene has stayed a “do” ever since – the L.L.Bean Book Pack.


Boy with Pack


Perhaps you know it as your “first backpack with initials on it,” or as your trusty accessory on the yellow school bus. Either way, the L.L.Bean Bookpack has been a student’s staple for years.


A fan is quoted in “Guaranteed to Last” as saying, “The year was 1991. An L.L.Bean Book Pack was the ‘in’ pack to carry, and I had to have one. I had no idea that twenty years later I would still be using it.”


Other fans had even more to say.


“When my son started kindergarten we bought our first L.L.Bean Book Pack, a little red one, the small¬est you sold at the time. He used it for a little while, then went to the next size. Four and a half years later, my first daughter used it. Then two years later, my second daughter used it. When they all outgrew it, it went to Mom – that’s me. I used it for cross-country skiing for years. It was just the right size for a light lunch and something to drink. My baby grew up and moved away and wanted to borrow the little red book pack. A few years down the road and a new little one comes along, and guess who is using the little red book pack to go to day care? That pack will be thirty-four this September.”—grandmomkat


“A year and a half ago my daughter, son-in-law and four grandchildren moved from New Hampshire to Texas. We live in Vermont and are a very close family, so it was a very hard change for everyone to be so far apart. In the fall of last year the two oldest children started school. Grammy and Grampy wanted them to have something special for school, so we bought them new L.L.Bean Book Packs. They loved them.”—biker2011


The L.L.Bean Book Pack was one of the first of its kind to strike the balance between hiking pack and flimsy, breakable nylon packs. Though it took some time to find its audience, once it did, it was here to stay.


We get a lot of love for our backpacks, indeed. So much love that we even decided we might need a size upgrade…


Kids and Pack


Just how is it made? Jim Gorman tells us in Guaranteed to Last:


“The building block of the Bean’s Book Pack (now known as the Original Book Pack) was a new nylon fabric called 420-denier packcloth. On the continuum between superlight para¬chute cloth and heavy-duty ballistics cloth, it falls in the middle, a perfect balancing of weight, strength and abrasion resistance. Coated with urethane, it’s nearly waterproof. By heat-cutting all of the pack parts, Bean could prevent the packcloth from unraveling and fraying. Where the pieces joined, the seams would be bolstered by double-needle stitching. The all-important junction between shoulder straps and pack body – the failure point on most packs – would be reinforced with a “backtack,” a process in which an industrial sewing machine reverses direction numerous times.”


Now we’re introducing the next generation of backpacks. Don’t worry, your old favorite is still around, but we wanted to mix it up with a new design. The North Ridge Backpack has all the features of our trusty hiking packs, but in a versatile school-worthy backpack.


New Bookpack


In addition to introducing our new packs, we’re offering you the chance to win a $250 gift certificate. Just visit our Facebook contest page and share a photo or video inspired by your new L.L.Bean backpack, like these fans did:


Girl and Pack


Girl and Pack


If you have an L.L.Bean backpack, what’s your favorite backpack memory?


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