Introduction: Backpack Folders

About: I'm a professor of physics and astronomy at Northwestern University. I do a lot of hobbies, including amateur astronomy, woodworking, and Lego modeling among many others.

As a student, and now as a professor, I rely on my backpack to keep everything together as I commute from home to work and back again, or on trips. I organize projects in file folders, to keep everything together in a handy unit that I can transport easily.

Unfortunately, there is one big problem: file folders are designed to sit in file drawers, with the fold down, not on their end in a backpack! Through all the walking and jostling and moving from here to there, papers inevitably slip out of the bottom of the folder in your backpack and get mangled. AAAARGGH!

This simple instructable is my solution to this problem: "backpack folders" --- folders that are closed on two sides.

Step 1: Materials

There are only 3 materials needed for these folders:

  1. Folders -- you can use paper file folders, but I prefer to use plastic ones, as they are more durable.
  2. Regular Paper
  3. Duct Tape

Step 2: Strips

  1. Begin by cutting a strip of paper the length of the short edge of your file folder, and about half the width of your duct tape. This strip of paper wraps around the bottom edge of the folder, preventing the sticky side of the duct tape in the crease from attaching to your papers.
  2. Draw a line down the mid-line of the paper strip. This will be used later for aligning on the folder edge.
  3. Next, cut a length of duct tape that is longer than the lower edge of your folder. I find it is easier to trim the too long piece of tape to the correct length after I merge it with the paper, rather than trying to get it all the right length and lined up together at once.

Step 3: Strip Overlays

  1. Lay the paper strip down on the sticky side of the duct tape, along the centerline. There should be roughly equal amounts of sticky exposed above and below the paper strip --- this will be the binder to your folder.
  2. Snip off the excess tape at the ends, cutting the entire assembly to the length of your paper strip.

Step 4: Folder Side 1

Using your pencil line as a guide, align one corner of your folder at one edge of the tape-paper strip, with the edge of the folder along the pencil line. When you are happy with the alignment, press firmly to attach the tape to the folder (this will be on the backside of the folder from you.

Step 5: Folder Side 2

Next, fold the strip over along the folder edge, and press firmly down on the tape to secure it.

If your measurements of your paper strip were a bit off, you may have some excess tape on the open corner. If so, carefully trim it off with a pair of scissors so no sticky edge remains.

Step 6: Completed Folder

The completed folder is now a pocket, with two sides closed -- one long side, and one short side. This effectively prevents papers from slipping out of the bottom of the folder in my backpack, and has the added advantage of capturing small papers too (which sometimes slip out completely and are lost in normal folders)!

Step 7: Good Luck Backpack Filing!

I made a whole stack of these and use them all the time. They have been a quick and effective solution to a long-time problem. I hope you find them useful!

Happy commuting!

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