Duluth Pack

A Duluth pack is traditional portage pack used in canoe travel, particularly in the Boundary Waters region of northern Minnesota and the Quetico Provincial Park of Ontario. A specialized type of backpack, Duluth packs are made of heavy canvas and leather or cordura nylon, and are nearly square in order to fit easily in the bottom of a canoe. These packs are portaged, along with the canoe, between lakes on wilderness canoe trips. The typical Duluth pack consists of a single large envelope which is closed by leather straps and roller buckles rather than a zipper. The pack is carried by two shoulder straps, and the patented tumpline to be worn over the top of the head. They are made in several sizes, traditionally referred to by numbers (such as #2, #3, and #4). While Duluth Pack is the name of a specifically branded product the term "duluth pack" has become commonly used to refer to any pack of the same or similar style used in canoe travel.

Their key attributes make them well adapted to wilderness camping where travel is largely by water (where the packs and gear do not need to be carried) punctuated by portages where the packs and gear need to be carried over land:

  • They are generally larger than other packs, accommodating a quantity of gear that is on the "larger quantity" end of the pack-based camping spectrum.
  • They must be built strong, carrying heavy loads even when exposure to the elements can weaken certain pack materials such as by saturation of leather.
  • Their shape accommodates large volumes while remaining compact, and their design has few protuberances. This allows better fitting into canoes, less snagging making removal difficult, and packing lower in canoes to lower the center of gravity to enhance canoe stability.
  • The are not tall above the wearer's shoulders (such as backpacking packs typically are) allowing the wearer to also carry a canoe.
  • Some have a tumpline which assists weight distribution with heavy loads.

Conversely, they lack many features and attributes of long distance backpacking type backpacks, and so are generally not used for such.

The Duluth pack has its roots in a French-Canadian named Camille Poirier, who made his way west to Duluth, Minnesota. Arriving in 1870 with his "little stock of leather and tools", he began a small shoe store and quickly made a go of it in this booming frontier town on the shores of Lake Superior. Out of his small shoe shop on the waterfront, Camille began building a new style canoe pack with a tumpline, sternum strap, and umbrella holder. Patented by Mr. Poirer in 1882, the original #3 Duluth Packs have changed little since they were first introduced.

In 1911, Camille sold off the canoe pack business to Duluth Tent and Awning on West Superior Street in Duluth, MN. Headquartered at this location for the last 100 years, and now known as Duluth Pack, they have been building a wide range of products. In the 1920s as America began its love affair with the automobile, so Duluth Pack built "auto packs" that would clamp to the running boards of the car to hold extra gear. Auto camping was becoming all the rage and Duluth Pack was helping to build the forerunner to the first RV in America. The Duluth Pack company now makes a wide variety of products which are not packs. The one and only flagship Duluth Pack store is located in Canal Park of Duluth, Minnesota at 365 Canal Park Drive. They also build American Heritage products such as purses, briefcases, backpacks, iPad cases, luggage, gun cases, and a variety of accessory items. This updated look of the classic company includes joint ventures with companies such as Barney's in New York and Urban Outfitters. New products lines in addition to the traditional canvas and leather include a line made from American Bison leather grown in North Dakota and tanned in St. Paul, MN. Also new to the myriad of 14 canvas colors is a line of camouflage bags and accessories using Mossy Oak® New Break Up® canvas. Duluth Pack extends a lifetime warranty for craftsmanship and hardware on all products built in Duluth.

The woodsmen and women of the 40s and 50s needed a pack they could take into the trees, but wouldn't snag on branches like the canoe pack. Thus, the Cruiser Pack was born. These packs were narrower, but still as tough as a canoe pack, and they could sneak between the trees. The 1960s and 70s saw the entry of the age of air travel and the need for durable luggage. While Duluth Pack had been building luggage for Gokey's and Orvis since the 1950s a new line of sportsman's duffels was introduced and became popular. The most recent redesigns to the venerable pack have included padded laptop sleeves.

The Duluth Pack is named after the city of Duluth, Minnesota, where they were invented.

Famous quotes containing the word pack:

    You’re nothing but a pack of cards!
    Lewis Carroll [Charles Lutwidge Dodgson] (1832–1898)