2012 Melbourne Design Awards

Key Dates

Image Credit : Backpack Bed™ - Swags for Homeless



Project Overview

The Backpack Bed™ is a portable single-person outdoor sleeping unit. A lightweight, ergonomic backpack that rolls out to an all weather protected bed with built-in insulated mattress, storage pockets and mosquito protected windows.

Made from safe fire-retardant and mildew resistant materials. Meets 47 international standards for quality and safety. Initially designed for use by homeless and in disaster zones.

The revolutionary Backpack Bed™ is now available for sale to the public in several designs - profits from sales 100% support homeless projects.


Swags for Homeless


Tony Clark
Lisa Clark

Project Brief

Tonight across Australia 16,375 homeless people will sleep on our streets (ABS 2006). Up to 80% of families and 60% of individuals will be turned away from shelters tonight (AIHW 2011).

What happens to homeless turned away from shelter? Traditionally a doona or a blanket is given. However, doona’s/blankets can kill you when wet because they are:
- Not waterproof
- Absorb water
- Don’t stop a cold wind, creating a dangerous mix you may not wake up from.

Plus due their bulk they:
- Make people look homeless
- Are not easy to carry (look for the big bag a homeless person may carry)
- Quickly discarded once dirty and wet

Dignified emergency relief bedding was required that:
- Did not make the end user look obviously homeless
- Provides a good nights sleep
- Is suitable for all weather conditions
- Ability to carry other possessions
- Lightweight and tough
- Easy to use without instructions
- Safe product to use (fire safety)

The Backpack Bed™ was designed to meet all of these street sleeping homeless requirements, which are also applicable for disaster zones and camping enthusiasts.

Project Need

The Backpack Bed™ has revolutionised single person outdoor sleeping. It has won 3 international product design awards including the world’s largest, the German Red Dot ‘Best of the Best’ and now resides in 3 international design museums.

Today, Swags for Homeless partners with 200+ homeless organisations across Australia to distribute now study proven Backpack Beds to homeless without shelter.

Innovative features of the Backpack Bed™:

As a shelter
- Built-in 190cm insulated fire retardant mattress
- Waterproof fabric + tape sealed seams + water resistant zip
- Windproof fabric
- Fire retardant fabric Litetrex™ (we had to invent)
- Mildew resistant
- 3 mosquito mesh vents (head + foot + chest)
- Converts to sun shelter using built-in ropes

As an ergonomic backpack
- Portability with dignity - looks like a Backpack converts to a bed
- Built-in storage pockets (personal belongings)
- Keep shoes and belongings in the empty Backpack while sleeping
- Lockable internal pocket (with supplied key lock)
- Approx 2.9 kg net weight (inc. mattress)

Litetrex Fabric
Fabric is pinnacle to the comfort of occupants. Factors such as weight vs strength and functionality - were carefully assessed to ensure safety and durability. Litetrex is up to five times more waterproof than heavy canvas yet still incredibly light - meeting all environmentally friendly international chemical standards. Importantly it is also fire retardant.

Backpack Bed™ - winner 2011 Australian Human Rights Award, due to the dignity provided to street sleeping homeless.

Design Challenge

If it is not ultra lightweight, functional, comfortable, fire retardant and safe - then it is unsuitable for homeless. Yet, the Backpack Bed™ which meets 47 international standards for safety and quality famously excels in these challenges:

Ultra Lightweight - approx. 2.9kg
Our advanced Litetrex fabric is key to the Backpack Bed™ being so light weight and highly protective to it’s occupants. This lightweight success means users can carry the Backpack Bed™ with less fatigue and in turn allow for up to an additional 20+kg of storing personal belongings.

It’s a fully functioning Backpack with pockets. When opened up - it becomes a sun shelter, and at night it is a comfortable bed with mosquito protected windows. It is fire retardant, mildew resistant and very waterproof - making it ideal for outdoor use.

Bed Comfort
As the Backpack Bed™ is also a bed, the built-in mattress ensures comfort with safety. Comfort was created with our own unique formula to ensure the 10mm foam :
- is crush resistant
- uses environmentally friendly chemicals
- has silver foil insulation backing
- fire retardant

Mosquito Mesh
Mosquitos can kill and typical mesh is weak. Extensive testing went into finding a durable mesh that meets our strict requirements. To date we have yet to find a human that can rip the mesh with their bare hands. The mesh also has one of the finest holes per inch than any other mesh on the market.


Proven by thousands of homeless the Backpack Bed™ saves lives. The life saving and protective features also make it ideal for camping enthusiasts who prefer a simple solution - which replaces typical bulky and usually heavy camping equipment.

Charity Social Enterprise
The Backpack Bed™ is sold via the charities social enterprise - where sales convert into profits for Swags for Homeless to do more homeless projects.
This revenue stream also adds to the sustainability of the charity by providing additional income outside of the traditional fundraising and philanthropic sources.

Safe to the environment and users
The Backpack Bed™ can be imported into any country in the world. It’s meets all environmental, chemical and safety requirements of some of the most strictest areas in the world including Europe.

No heavy metals, no leaching PVC chemicals and more safety measures ensure that even kindergarden standards are met for children. Importantly the Litetrex fabric and built-in mattress are also fire retardant. If you sleep by a fire or smoke, then fire retardancy is a safety must.

This award recognises a component or overall product. Consideration given to aspects that relate to human usage, aesthetics, selection of components and materials, and the resolution of assembly, manufacturing and the overall function.
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