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< Inside L.L.Bean

Freeport, ME, July 9, 2021

The L.L.Bean Book Pack – An Emblem of the East Coast Student

Book packs in every color and every pattern dot the queue for the school bus. With the progression of years, color schemes graduate from turtles to sharks to sleek single tones. Often stamped with a signature monogram, the L.L.Bean Book Pack has become the emblem of an East Coast student.

Known for durability, organization and seemingly endless space, it’s the ultimate carryall for eager students. Safely zipped inside, it is home to heavy books and jackets and forgotten after-school snacks. It carries a sea of pencils and gel pens and a fourth-grade love note crumpled at the bottom.

And anyone who has ever owned an L.L.Bean Book Pack knows it travels well beyond the classroom, fitting in more places than just a high school locker. It scrambles up mountains and piles in the back of old family Volvos, filled to the seams with everything the trail – or open road – requires. It’s one of those unforgettable symbols of childhood that, years later, triggers the smell of your 2nd grade classroom. It’s the ultimate piece of nostalgia.

The Birth of the East Coast Book Pack

First introduced in 1982, the original L.L.Bean Book Pack was designed after a Harvard Law student wrote to the outdoor company, expressing the need for an all-purpose bag that could carry books and more. Soon after it was developed and first appeared in the L.L.Bean Catalog for just $25, it quickly became a best-seller, popping up on elementary school playgrounds and college campuses up and down the East Coast. Its original measurements were based on the size of the standard college textbook, with straps that shift weight for a comfortable wear, reinforced to be slung over shoulders for a lifetime.

As a follow-up to the 1982 model, L.L.Bean introduced the Deluxe Book Pack in 1989, designed with extra compartments and capacity to hold even more everyday essentials. And in 1992, the L.L.Bean Book Pack was renamed – rightfully so – as the Original Book Pack, with numerous variations to be created in the years to come. The bag became so popular, in fact, that it was given a namesake catalog from 1998 to 2000, published each fall with details on the newest styles and customer reviews.

The first installment of L.L.Bean's Book Pack Catalog in 1998

Durability and Nostalgia

Denise Meikle, a 29-year-old native of Westborough, Mass., got her first L.L.Bean Book Pack in second grade “when we had to start bringing more supplies, like binders and notebooks, to school.”

“It gives me such nostalgia to think back on it. I felt so cool at 8-years-old with my blue monogramed L.L.Bean Book Pack. Everyone at my school had one,” she says. “But I used it for so much more than school, from hiking mountain summits with my family at Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire to sleepovers with friends. It brings back so many feelings of bonding moments and simpler times. I’m not sure what happened to it, but wherever it is today, I’m sure that it’s still in mint condition.”

The bag is so durable, in fact, that in 2007, a young Ellie Thonnings wrote a letter to L.L.Bean asking for advice on how to wear out her book pack. She wanted a new one and just couldn’t crack the sturdy design. It’s that tough.

Ellie Thonnings' letter to L.L.Bean from March 13, 2007

A Book Pack Inspired by Heritage

Prior to the launch of the Book Pack, L.L.Bean offered customers a variety of day packs that were geared more specifically for the outdoors, including Bean’s Pack Sack, which debuted in 1934 for $2.85. Bean’s Knapsack was then introduced in 1945 with a design not so different than today’s Book Pack. And in 1980, the company released Bean’s Child Pack, tagged as a “well-made child’s day pack large enough for lunch and a sweater or jacket.”

A Lasting Childhood Memory

While it is credited as being the first book pack to hit the East Coast, it’s undeniable that the L.L.Bean Book Pack has played an indelible role in countless childhood memories. So whether it's covered in illustrations of alligators or marked with a sleek monogram, the L.L.Bean Book Pack is up for any challenge.

Key Features:

  • Made of rugged, weatherproof nylon
  • 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material on front and straps for high visibility
  • Padded, reinforced shoulder straps that are easy to adjust
  • Extra-tough zippers
  • Padded back panel for comfortable carrying
  • Large main compartment
  • Front organizational pockets
  • Water bottle pocket

(Left) The L.L.Bean Pack Sack pictured in the 1934 catalog.

(Right) Introduction of the Book Pack in the Fall 1982 catalog, listed at $25 and available in navy, gray and burgundy.