Reinventing the rucksack in the digital age

I always find that being in London in August is wonderful – no traffic, empty streets, easy to get a booking at a restaurant and even the occasional sunny day. September always arrives with a shock! Interestingly, my son started at a new high school this year and on the first day of term he went off happily with a backpack which was virtually empty, and very light. Not a text book in sight!

The school that he has joined operates completely online – they even have a Tech Manager in place for any computer problems. The only requirement is an iPad. All lectures are downloaded, while textbooks, homework and timetables can all be found on the tablet, as can correspondence and communication with parents and students alike. This is already becoming standard for university students who do not have to carry around textbooks now that most coursework has moved online. Students increasingly go back to school with gadgets instead of textbooks, and no longer need huge backpacks to haul them around. For makers of backpacks, that presents an interesting challenge.

The backpack industry in the USA alone is worth a staggering $2.7 billion – Americans bought 174 million last year – and as an industry they are having to rethink not only the lasting style of back-to-school packs, but also the fashion element that, for decades, has been an annual must-buy for students of all ages. Traditional backpacks, though, are experiencing a downturn after registering growth of 9% in the US five years ago. That figure is set to be 3.9% this year, according to Euromonitor International. After the surge in popularity in both the UK and the US, backpacks seem to have fallen out of vogue. But recently a few disruptors have emerged that are staging an impressive comeback.

In terms of the back-to school market, the purchases this time round are all about the must-have electronic gear. Apple’s new iPad Pro is a perfect example of the sort of tech that can be used for pretty much all school/office work and deserves a stylish bag to go with it. Of course, stylish bags of any sort have always existed at a fantastic intersection between fashion and practicality, and the most recent trends haven’t changed that. The latest backpacks, though, have added a third element of technological innovation to that mix, as rucksacks that can charge your devices are now all the rage. Just as the iPhone is as much a fashion accessory as it is a very usable piece of tech, so these backpacks – quite literally the latest things in wearable tech – excel at both form and function.

There’s a range of such backpacks on offer – many of them are crowdfunded projects – but they all share one thing in common: a brilliantly simple solution to a very modern problem.

Do you think we’re about to see the next revolution in wearable tech? Let me know your thoughts at and have a great weekend!