Using a Book Bag as a Daypack
Kevin Felts 05.08.18
Believe it or not, a book bag can make a great daypack. Here is the great thing: if you time it right, sometimes China-Mart stores will mark down book bags shortly after school starts. Sometimes shoppers can find great deals on Amazon, Ebay, Goodwill, and garage sales.
Sometime around 2003, I walked into a Wal-Mart in Montgomery, Texas. The store had these huge boxes full of book bags. The bags normally cost around $15, but were marked down to around $3 – $5 each.
The deal was too good to pass up, so I dug through the boxes and found some green and black book bags. I bought several for my kids to use for day hikes.
Before the deal at Wal-Mart, for years I’d used a Jansport book bag as my warm weather hiking/overnight pack. When my buddies and I would go camping near bayous, bogs, or sloughs, the medium or large ALICE pack was used. (This is because I used a tent in low areas where the cottonmouth is common.)
Carried in the Book Bag
- Mesh hammock
- Poncho liner
- Water filter
- Either a canteen or a one liter bottle of water
- TOPO map, compass and GPS
- Change of underwear and socks
- Mosquito repellent
- Main entree from an MRE
- Breakfast bar
- Toilet paper
In other words, just the basics for an overnight warm weather camping trip.
The mesh hammock would leave marks on my skin, so it was replaced with a parachute hammock.
What about a knife? A pocket knife is part of everyday carry, so that is a given.
Book bags are not designed for hiking. They are meant to carry books around school, and when they wear out, throw them away.
One of the problems I noticed on these book bags was the zipper may work loose. This has happened on several book bags. On one hiking trip, the zipper on my son’s pack worked its way loose and came unzipped, some gear fell out, and he lost a camera. It was a cheap point-and-shoot, but he still lost something that was important to him.
With heavy use the stitching may tear. One one bag, the stitching on the outside finally tore after almost a decade of use.
The shoulder straps are not designed to carry a lot of weight. Eventually, the stitching holding the shoulder strap to the pack may tear.
After reading how the zipper may come unzipped, the reader may be having second thoughts. Take a snap ring, put it through the zipper pulls, and the zippers should be held in place.
Keep in mind we are looking at low-cost options. When these packs can be found for less than, $10 they are a cost affordable option to more-expensive backpacks.
Keep an eye on the local China-Mart shortly after school starts, and sometimes stores will mark book bags down to clear them out.