The Pack Report

Camille Poirier: The Visionary Behind the Tumpline Patent and Duluth Pack

In the realm of outdoor gear and backpacking equipment, few names resonate as strongly as Duluth Pack. Known for its sturdy craftsmanship and iconic American Made designs, Duluth Pack has become a symbol of quality and endurance. However, what many may not know is that the founder of Duluth Pack, Camille Poirier, played a significant role in patenting the tumpline—an invention that revolutionized load carrying. Join us as we delve into the fascinating story of the company’s founding father, Camille Poirier, and his contributions to outdoor gear innovation.

The Early Years: Camille Poirier was born in Canada in 1852 and moved to Duluth, Minnesota, in the late 19th century. His experiences as a fur trader and outdoor enthusiast led him to recognize the need for a more efficient way to carry heavy loads during wilderness expeditions and for the professional industries in the northland, including the shipping, timber, railway, and mining enterprises. Drawing inspiration from indigenous cultures’ tumplines, Poirier sought to refine and perfect this ancient method of load-bearing.

The Patenting Process: In November 1882, Camille Poirier applied for a patent for his unique tumpline design. His invention aimed to improve upon the traditional tumpline by incorporating leather shoulder pads for enhanced comfort and a buckle system for adjustability. On December 12, 1882, Poirier’s invention was granted U.S. Patent No. 268,932, marking a significant milestone in the history of load-carrying equipment.

The Birth of Duluth Pack: With his tumpline patent in hand, Camille Poirier established C. Poirier Pack Sack with the tagline, ‘Buy the bag with the little brass tag.” However, in 1911 due failing health, Camille Poirier sold the pack portion of his company to 5 brothers, who ran and owned at the time, Duluth Tent and Awning, now recognized as Duluth Pack. Duluth Tent and Awning initially focused on producing tents, awnings, wagon covers, and other canvas products. However, it was Poirier’s vision to incorporate his patented tumpline into backpack designs that would set Duluth Pack on a path to greatness and dominance in the outdoor industry.

Legacy of the Tumpline: Camille Poirier’s innovative tumpline design quickly gained recognition for its comfort, durability, and load-bearing capabilities. Outdoor enthusiasts, explorers, and traders flocked to Duluth Pack for their reliable and efficient backpacks. Poirier’s invention allowed users to distribute weight evenly across their bodies, reducing strain and improving overall comfort during extended journeys. The original designs that Camille created are still available for purchase at Duluth Pack and include the Original #2Original #3, and Original  #4. If you want to see some of Camille’s packs on display, you can visit the Duluth Pack flagship store in Canal Park. 

Enduring Impact: The tumpline patent marked a turning point for both Camille Poirier and Duluth Pack. Poirier’s dedication to innovation and his commitment to creating practical, high-quality gear set the foundation for Duluth Pack’s success. Today, more than a century later, Duluth Pack continues to thrive, preserving Poirier’s legacy as a pioneer in load-carrying technology. Duluth Pack is the oldest canvas and leather bag and pack manufacturer in the United States of America. Proudly, only, and continuously Made in the USA since 1882. 

A Symbol of Quality and Tradition: Beyond the patent and technological advancements, Duluth Pack embodies a spirit of ruggedness and craftsmanship. The company’s commitment to handcrafting each pack, using time-honored techniques, ensures that every Duluth Pack product carries a piece of outdoor heritage. The tumpline, a crucial element of Duluth Pack’s designs, serves as a reminder of the company’s roots and commitment to quality and roots in the outdoors.

Camille Poirier’s patenting of the tumpline and the subsequent establishment of Duluth Pack forever transformed the world of load-carrying equipment. Poirier’s innovative vision and commitment to creating practical, reliable gear laid the foundation for a company that remains a pillar in the outdoor industry. As we venture into the great outdoors with our Duluth Pack backpacks, let us remember the pioneering spirit of Camille Poirier and the enduring legacy of his tumpline invention.

To learn more about Duluth Pack’s French-Canadian founder, Camille Poirier, click here to read a more in-depth story. 

Read about our company’s leader, Tom Sega and what he has done to make Duluth Pack a world-wide shopped and respected company and brand. 

Happy adventuring, friends!

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