You brought it to school when you were younger. You use it for day hikes, road trips, and plane rides. You throw it in the washer when it’s dirty, and you patch it up when you’ve spotted a hole. Nothing can replace the daypack and it’s practical functionality!
For a millennial like myself, my backpack has been a part of my life since I began my education. The first backpack I remember using was in kindergarten, and it sported an unusual amount of pink Hello Kitty graphics. Since then, I’ve had several other daypacks. Each trusty daypack has accompanied me on trips, to school and some of the most amazing hikes. When I must retire a backpack I do so reluctantly and in a symbolic way. The daypacks I’ve used have been a part of so many of my greatest adventures and endeavors. But do you know how daypacks became popular?
It was Seattle in 1972, and the JanSport corporation had just started taking off. Outdoor gear began selling at the nearby University of Washington bookstore for hiking enthusiasts. Among this gear was the original JanSport daypack. Thrifty college students soon saw this item as something they could get multiple uses out of—for hiking on the weekends, and carrying books across campus during the week. Books were now kept safe and dry while walking across campus during Seattle’s rainy season. Soon the trend caught on and the University of Washington was completely sold out of the original daypack.
University bookstore manager, Ed Bergan, called Powell at JanSport and explained the trend, and how students were using the daypacks to carry books across campus through the rain. Bergan offered the idea to sell daypacks in college bookstores across the U.S.
Powell and his team at JanSport altered the design of the daypacks to better support the needs of the students. After restocking UW’s bookstore, Powell listened to Bergan’s advice and reached out academic institutions across the Pacific Northwest. Soon, academic institutions across the country were using the daypack as a means to carry all of their school supplies.
Fast forward forty years, and the original back pack is still as popular as ever. Backpacks have grown from simply being an outdoor essential, to one of the most iconic items of educational institutions and schools around the world. Backpacks tell stories of trails, travel, academics, and so much more.
What stories does your daypack tell?
Read more about Skip Yowell in The Hippies Guide to Climbing the Corporate Latter & other mountains.