This backpack is made from paper. Well, apart from the zips, but you get what I mean.
Paper Bag Co, who are a Wiltshire-based company specialising in wholesale paper bags for retail (as in the bags you’re given when you buy from Schuh or Converse), have made a backpack from paper, to encourage people to give more thought to the principles of leave no trace.
Designed with festival goers in mind, this paper backpack has an eye-catching design on the front, and is made to be sturdy, waterproof, and kind to the environment. It’s for people who love attending festivals, travelling, or camping, but also want to keep their impact on the planet to a minimum.
Costing just shy of £40, it comes complete with a bunch of camping-inspired necessities made from natural and biodegradable materials to continue the leave no trace theme. There’s a foldable wheat cup, bamboo compressed face towels, dissolvable body wash, toothpaste tablets, natural wax earplugs, a biodegradable corn starch poncho, bamboo toothbrush, biodegradable glitter and eco-toilet roll. Not a bad selection of useful goodies.
Paper Backpack by Paper Bag Co
It all sounds great, and I’ll come onto the leave no trace parts of this in a bit, but first I wanted to give the bag itself a proper test. I took my paper backpack with me to CarFest over the Bank Holiday weekend to see if it was up to the job of being a festival backpack.
To be honest, my hopes weren’t terribly high. The bag certainly feels well-made and reasonably strong, as far as bags made from paper go, but the forecast was not looking kind and I had clear visions of my bag disintegrating (not to mention the colour running) and me being left with big holes by the end of the three days.
My paper backpack attracted a lot of attention. People I knew – and people I didn’t – asked me about the bag. “Is that made of paper?” followed quickly by “that’s so cool”. The design is certainly very striking, and the bag worked very well, fitting into the festival vibe very well.
Large Pocket for Everything
The zip and Velcro-sealed flap closure provides access to a large pocket in which I could easily fit everything I needed for a day away from my tent. There is also a smaller zip pocket in which I kept essentials such as my Kula Cloth and hand sanitiser. The paper backpack was comfortable to carry, those two shoulder straps are nice and wide and slightly padded so the bag sits well on your shoulders.
The only thing missing from the pack in my opinion, is a water bottle pocket. I didn’t much like having to carry my bottle most of the time, as leaving it inside the main pocket did not make it accessible enough for me. Although I’m not sure how you’d make such a thing out of paper – a challenge for a future version of the bag, maybe!
Over the course of the long weekend, as anticipated, my bag started to soften up quite considerably compared with the stiff and sturdy bag I started with. This was no problem, if anything it improved the look and feel of the bag, and made it easier to pack and use. It became more like a bag made from a thick canvas – soft and smooth to the touch – than one made of cardboard.
Thankfully for me, although perhaps not for a thorough test, I also managed to just about avoid the rain. It did rain, and my bag did get a bit wet from a couple of light showers, as well as the general dampness of living in a field for a few days.
After a weekend of putting this bag through its paces (I abused it as much as I would have any other bag I might have taken), I would say the paper backpack from Paper Bag Co worked and lasted well. It’s definitely a little battered looking; there are a couple of small holes where the straps are stitched on at the bottom of the bag, and the bag is definitely a lot softer than it started out, but in all I think it fared well.
It exceeded expectations in that sense, certainly, and such I can say I recommend this paper backpack to people looking for a usable bag for their next festival. A great option, which looks good, carries the stuff you need, and will surprise people.
Leave No Trace
Let’s talk leave no trace, as that’s the marketing message behind this paper backpack.
I mean, buying a new bag as your festival accessory isn’t really leave no trace. The best way (by far) to practice the principles of leave no trace is to use a bag (and cup, waterproof, toiletries, tee, etc) you already own – don’t buy anything new at all.
I mean, it should go without saying, but there are manufacturing processes involved in creating this paper backpack; processes that wouldn’t be needed if you didn’t buy it.
And if you do have to buy a backpack for your festival or camping trip because you don’t already have something suitable, then getting something second hand is the next best thing.
But I get what Paper Bag Co are trying to do here, and I am supportive.
Festivals – and camping in general – generate an awful lot of rubbish. There is a terrible throw-away culture linked with such events, a lot of people think it’s easier to chuck away rather than take home and mend (or even take home good working stuff!). It was great to see a drone shot of the campsite at the end of CarFest showing it was left pretty clear of trash, but even with that, I noted the bins were full (including of tents, cheap chairs, and random other things) as I left late on Sunday night.
What this selection of goodies does, and how it aligns with leave no trace, is introduces you to use low-waste products, and gives you an easy way to try them out.
This is especially true of the little wash kit included with the paper backpack – a bamboo toothbrush and toothpaste tablets, body wash sheets, and compressed bamboo wipes. You can recreate this wash kit very easily, so once you’ve enjoyed this easy introduction, you can find products which will make any future travel wash kit as kind to the environment as you want to. For example, this is my current wooden toothbrush, I rather like these toothpaste tablets (I choose ones with fluoride), and I carry a (slice of a) bar of Friendly soap in a tin instead of body or face wash along with some solid shampoo (in the same tin!) when I go camping. These are just examples, but you get the idea.
I very much see this kit as a starter for ten. Living – and attending festivals – in a sustainable way is not difficult, especially these days. If you want to leave no trace, start with what you already own, buy things second hand, and choose consumables based on real environmental credentials.
I do really like my paper backpack, and think it’s a fantastic idea executed well. The bag is really cool (it attracted a lot of attention!), I love the striking print, the fact that it has zipped pockets (even if they’re not paper…) which keeps the contents secure, and how it has a slightly aged look after my weekend at CarFest.
I’m off to Comms Unplugged later this week and will be taking it to that event too; and I’ll keep using it until it can be used no more. I’ve honestly no idea how long this thing will last – keep an eye on my weekly blog series and I’ll let you know there!
With thanks to Paper Bag Co for sending me the Festival Bag (the Leave No Trace version). While this item was gifted, this is not a sponsored post, and I have been free to say what I like about it 🙂