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survival backpack ideas and suggestions - our middle school project


Our names are Jack, Jayden, and Luqman. We are middle school students in Massachusetts. In science we are doing a science project that we have identify a problem and come up with possible solutions to the problem.  The problem we came up with is homelessness and the lack of tools/equipment that people have available to them. We have decided to try to create a survival backpack that is lightweight, easy to carry and affordable, and water-proof. We need to have solutions for shelter, food, and water. We think we'd also like to have the use of solar panels and insulation to keep food and water cold/hot but we need some recommendations and/or suggestions for this project.  If anyone has ideas and suggestions or can direct us to valuable websites we would greatly appreciate any help.

Thank you,

Jack, Jayden, and Luqman

4 Replies


Hi Jack, Jayden, and Luqman - Thanks so much for reaching out! We love the sound of your school project and are excited you brought your questions about backpack design to the community. 

For the solar power feature, we think that Luci Lights might be a great option. These are inflatable lights that have a small solar panel on top. You can hook the strap to the outside of a backpack so its in a good place to gather sunlight throughout the day. They are lightweight, serve as a standalone light, and a cost effective option. On some models, like the Luci Pro 2.0, there is also a port for charging small electronics. 

Insulating a portion of the bag for food storage is also a great idea! We think you might find this guide on how to make an insulated snack bag useful. 

For waterproofing, you will quickly find that many waterproof and water-resistant fabrics are quite expensive. If you are making a small number of these bags to start, it might be more cost effective to add your own water resistant coating to a less expensive fabric. You can read about how to apply new durable water repellent in our Expert Advice article on caring for rainwear.

You may also find this article about designing a 21st century backpack from the Chicago Architecture Center helpful. While their designs are not specifically for the outdoors, there are a lot of insightful questions that could help guide you all in your project. 

Feel free to come back with more questions as your work unfolds and we will be happy to respond with our ideas. We would love to stay updated on your project and see what you end up with! 

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

I can’t offer much in the way of specific gear you could use but I can offer my sincere gratitude for choosing this issue to work on!

It’s a noble pursuit and I’m ecstatic to see members of the next generation trying to tackle this problem. 

“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” (John Muir)

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Congratulations on a great concept.  I agree that Luci lights are going to very practical for your purpose; we have used them in recent power outages, especially the models that can charge other electronics, like cell phones.

I would not make waterproofing a requirement for your backpack.  The very design of a pack works against waterproofing.  Even if you have a 'waterproof bag, the coating on the faric will begin to degrade quickly.  I have quite a few packs that have lost their waterproof coatings entirely and they still carry quite well.  The key is to waterproof all the interior contents that must stay dry, like sleeping bags and clothing.  A rain cover or poncho will also help; in fact, a poncho is amazingly versatile, shielding the pack and owner from rail and also useful as a shelter.

Pay attention to the climate in which the pack will be used;  what works in southern California might not be suitable for Chicago.

Best wishes and smooth sailing!!

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Good morning, streamline it down to requirements you must have to survive as that is the subject.  Adding Solar is more of a need than a must have item to survive.  The Luci light recommendation is solid, light weight and affordable.  Also waterproof backpacks are much more expensive, it could be as simple as adding a compactor trash bag to the inside of the backpack to make it more affordable.  Things you could consider requirements:

1.  Backpack
2.  Water holder and filter
3.  Shelter (Depending on location, potentially a Tarp)
4.  Heat source (how to on starting a fire without matches)
5.  There are multiple Youtube "How to's" on how to make a kuzy:
6.  First Aid information

Good luck and hope these help 🙂

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.
In this video I show how to Make a DIY Cozy for your Pot/Cup & a Cook pouch on the Cheap!
Easy and effective way to make water filter in emergency situations of just for fun.You have to boil filtered water if you want to drink it .I hope you will ...