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< Inside L.L.Bean

Freeport, ME, May 26, 2021

From Foraging to Ice Fishing: The Historic Pack Basket Stands the Test of Time

Man Snowshoeing with Pack Basket. Date Unknown.

First introduced in L.L.Bean catalogs in 1931, the Allagash Pack Basket is a piece of iconic American history. Tracing its origins to a hand-weaving technique traditionally used by Indigenous Americans, the pack basket remains a utilitarian tool for a variety of outdoor pursuits, from foraging and hunting to fishing and trapping.

The unique design of the pack basket is what makes it so practical. Lightweight, yet structured, the curvature of the soft maple wood and adjustable straps make the pack ideal for toting bulky items. Because of its sturdiness, the pack basket contains and deflects hard spots that would otherwise poke into the back of its user. The flexibility and give of the soft wood, however, makes it comfortable and versatile.

Throughout generations and still today, the craftsmanship is intricate and done completely by-hand. L.L.Bean partner Pack Baskets of Maine weaves each pack using rock maple sourced from the north woods of Maine. Patience, skill and long-standing technique are what make these carriers true to their heritage.

Of the process, Pack Baskets of Maine says: “Using hand-selected strips of Maine maple, we delicately create each and every basket by hand in our workshop, from cutting the wood base to fastening the final length of the harness. Our baskets continue a legacy of craftsmanship with relentless attention to detail and an undeniable dedication to consistency and quality.”

Since the 1930s, the shapes, sizes and detailing of the pack basket have evolved, with new models available in various sizes – wide, tall, and even children’s sizing – heavy-duty and lightweight, leather and nylon strapping, the option for handles and more.

Today, the pack basket is most commonly used by L.L.Bean customers for ice fishing (80% in fact), as the same elements that make it ideal for foraging – lightweight, structured, breathable, durable – translate to storage needs while fishing on frozen water. However, according to customer reviews, the iconic pack basket maintains a multitude of uses, from carrying fresh catches to mushroom picking to a beautiful decorative piece at home.

Available in Regular, Large and Jumbo sizes, with the option to add a long-lasting polyester canvas liner, shop the Allagash Pack Basket for your outdoor pioneering or indoor decorating needs. Whether strapped to the front of a canoe or holding wood next to a fireplace, the pack basket is a historic problem-solver that continues to stand the test of time.

The Pack Basket was first introduced in the L.L.Bean catalog in 1931 (pictured left). It has been updated many times since, with new models introduced as they were developed, including the heavy-duty model featured in the 1984 catalog (pictured right).