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What Is a Duluth Pack?

By B. Turner
Updated May 23, 2024
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A Duluth pack is a rugged travel case that was traditionally used in camping and outdoor adventures. It consists of a simple backpack with an envelope-style design. The top of the case folds over like the flap on an envelope to secure the objects inside. These bags typically feature straps or buckles to hold the flap in place, with none of the typical zippers found on modern backpacks. While the Duluth pack was once exclusively used by trappers and other outdoors men, it has become more mainstream, and can be used as an everyday carryall for work, school, or fashion.

The first Duluth pack was patented in 1882 in Minnesota. This bag was inspired by the bags worn by trappers in the Minnesota wilderness during the 19th century. In 1911, the Duluth Tent and Awning Company of Duluth, Minnesota purchased the patent for the bag, and continued to make the Duluth pack for more than a century. Any bag of this style may be referred to as Duluth pack, though the Duluth Tent and Awning Company still holds the original patent, and serves as one of the best-known manufacturers of this product.

The classic Duluth pack is made from very strong, durable materials to help it hold up against heavy use. Many consist of canvas with leather straps, though more modern units may be constructed from nylon or other synthetic fabrics. They feature shoulder straps as well as a carry handle along the top of the unit, and some newer models also come with a waist strap. Many Duluth packs include a tumpline, which is a strap that allows the users to carry the bag on the head to take pressure off of aching shoulders. These bags come in a variety of sizes, though the majority are square or rectangular in design.

One of the primary advantages to the Duluth pack is its small size and light weight. Unlike many camping packs, these bags do not include a frame, which helps to reduce weight and pressure on the back. Their square shape allows them to fit snugly in the base of a canoe, and makes it easy to stack multiple packs on top of one another.

While the Duluth pack is an effective and lightweight means of transporting small loads, it is not designed to handle as much gear as a full camping pack. Models made from canvas and other traditional materials are vulnerable to moisture and rain, which can leave gear soaked. Some modern makers may treat these bags with chemicals or line them with special materials to help keep moisture out.

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