FUTURE GEAR ARRIVING THIS SUMMER
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    The SPECTRA® FIBER Project

    The SPECTRA® FIBER Project

    We’re excited to share more of our studio ideas with the world through our new PROTOTYPE PROGRAM.

    In addition to our proven and tested mass-produced gear, we’re going to begin showing  more of our experiments that don’t always make it to large-scale production. Our first endeavor is the SPECTRA® FIBER Project. Even though our bread and butter is making the best gear we can imagine and getting it into your hands, sometimes we take on a side project that can make for some fun design challenges, even if it will only exist as a “concept car”. Right now that means we’ve been waist-deep in SPECTRA® FIBER.

    Spectra fiber fabric

    The proposition: take a few rolls of their new, experimental textiles and make something special.

    A few months ago, we were approached by Honeywell SPECTRA® FIBER. The proposition: take a few rolls of their new, experimental textiles and make something special. We’ve admired products of their R&D in the past and couldn't turn down the excuse to play with these amazing materials.

    So what is this stuff? SPECTRA® FIBER is a proprietary Ultra-High-Molecular-Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE). This material is popular among gear enthusiasts and is known for its amazing tensile strength and resistance to abrasion.

    Spectra fiber fabric, technical textiles

    It’s hard to talk about UHMWPE without mentioning DYNEEMA®, another brand, which makes some amazing composite textiles and reinforcements with their own proprietary fibers. Both DYNEEMA® and SPECTRA® FIBER incorporate UHMWPE fibers but with their own distinct approaches. While we love this material by any name, SPECTRA® Fiber, stands apart by their openness to help create custom textiles that that suit a range of applications. During this project, we’ve been able to play with textiles that range from apparel-weight knits, to MicroGRID™ laminates and heavy-duty composite wovens. Their openness to incorporating their tech into such a wide range of fabrics has made this sheer fun in the studio.

    Spectra fiber fabric

    One of SPECRTA® FIBER’s creations is SPECTRA® MicroGRID™: a latticework of SPECTRA® FIBER that can be laminated to a textile to greatly increase the tensile and tear strength of the composite fabric. Once laminated, this combined multi-ply material relies on the yarns in the outer face fabric to stand up to abrasion while the underlying grid adds exceptional tensile and tear strength with minimal weight increases.

    SPECTRA® FIBER can also be woven directly into a textile to increase abrasion resistance and tensile strength with the UHMWPE fibers also serving as “rip stoppers” if the material gets a puncture or tear. This sometimes shows up as a white or black grid interwoven with a dyed nylon.

    Spectra fiber fabric

    Late last year, SPECTRA® sent us a batch of some of their developmental materials that were made in a small run for prototypes and evaluation. Upon unboxing, we were blown away by the strength, light weight and look of that MicroGRID®. With some fresh bolts of this fabric, we set out to create a pack that would harness the light weight and strength of these textiles and discover a design that would complement the technical roots of these materials.

    Concept sketches

    We settled on a rucksack, which we like for its dynamic format that can cinch and compress down to a minimal size but also expand upwards.

    We started to look at daypack and scrambler pack formats as these have a range of technical needs to perform in the field while staying light weight. Additionally, the relatively small size of the pack would not overrun our bandwidth (we wish we could also do a 50L concept but there are only 24 hours in day). We settled on a rucksack, which we like for its dynamic format that can cinch and compress down to a minimal size but also expand upwards. Rucksacks feel like they're really using the flexibility of fabric, compressing and pulling loads into a minimal size to stay close to the body.

    3d modeling, computer modeling

     We have seen rucksacks in the past with “forward-facing brains” but always on larger packs. We think the forward-facing format would work even more smoothly on a small scrambler pack where one is more likely to access the bag while on body and the top brain will stay relatively small and compact.

    Sewing, spectra fabric

     

    Spectra fiber backpack

    Our finished bag for SPECTRA® FIBER is a compact, 18 liter scrambler made to be minimal and sit close to the body. The main body fabric is a three-layer material comprised of a 200D nylon face for strength and abrasion-resistance, a SPECTRA® FIBER MicroGRID® reinforcement to add a world of tensile strength and a TPU backing for water resistance and durability. We also used SPECTRA® FIBER reinforced 400d nylon for the side pockets. This material is perfect for handling hard or angular objects (and everything else) that get stuffed in to side pockets.

    Spectra fiber backpack

    While we don’t have any plans to produce this concept, the learnings and ideas that live in this pack will certainly filter down into our product plans.

    Spectra fiber backpack

    Looking forward, we are working on some new gear for this summer. We still have a lot of work to do but can’t wait to share this new equipment with you.

     

    Chase Reeves Goes In Depth With The ALPHA 31

    Chase Reeves Goes In Depth With The ALPHA 31

    Part of this business means occasionally sharing our gear with press so everyone can get different takes on our gear. Long before starting this company, we've been fans of Chase Reeves. If you don't know Chase, he has always been a bag head and what slowly started as a fun side-project of reviewing bags, has now made him a go-to guy for great feedback. Chase always brings great insights into the products he reviews and really thinks about how each bag can affect someones experience working, traveling or just as an everyday bag. But the reason we're glued to his YouTube channel is that this guy mixes humor with an in-depth analysis that makes us feel like we're in the room with him! 

     

    Why Development Matters

    Why Development Matters

     

    Almost all product companies have a distinctive design process to create strong concepts, but no product you have would be worth its weight without development, the unsung hero that makes everything you have worth owning. If you ask three different people, you’ll probably get three different answers, but in short, development takes a great design and makes it a great product by translating a designer’s vision into tangible instructions for the manufacturing partner. This role exists in almost every product space, but we’re going to focus on softgoods in this post.

     

    Fabric swatches and samples

    Softgoods designers start with some functional goals and a general idea for the look and feel of a future bag before setting to work, researching, drawing and making mockups. Usually by the end of the design process, they have created a set of technical drawings that show every detail about the bag (a spec or tech-pack). At this point, a designer could hand off the drawing to a factory and get a very disappointing sample. Instead, to create the strongest products, designers collaborate with developers. Developers vary in approach and skillset, but generally a developer is expert in all aspects of material, construction and performance of the bag. Before the the good is ever made, they can identify where factories will have trouble with construction or where the design might have functional shortcomings. For example, we had a zipper sticking on our roll top because of the stiff fabric used for the rain flap. After four tests with different zippers and fabrics, we found that edge binding the flap instead of folding the fabric created a thinner, more flexible flap and the low friction of the binding helped the zipper run more smoothly against the flap edge.  While maybe not fascinating work, this one day of testing saved us weeks of back and forth with a factory.

     

    Backpack Rain Flap


    Designs that are shared with talented developers are revised so textiles match product needs, sewing operations are clear, and the bag functions as the designer intended. After all these details are resolved, a full spec and construction samples are sent to a factory for sampling. It’s clear that all the groundwork for a good factory samples needs to be laid out ahead and that design is only as good as your development.

    Product Timeline

      

    Bag paper patterns

    As we prepare to launch our Roll Top, we’re proud that almost all development happens in-house (we still definitely take feedback from factories). We internally pattern, sample and test our bags, working out plenty of kinks before the factory even sees it. We’ve found it’s far more efficient to fail early and often, than to wait till your bag is in the market to find shortcomings.  Though this process takes time, we revel in understanding and resolving every detail so our users can just enjoy performance.

     

    July Update

    July Update

     

    Our roll top is taking form, and we think this will be the best bag for everyday with flexibility for hiking or even minimal travel. Our pack is designed to be at home in a range of environments from subway platforms to trail heads, and for that reason, we're keeping it simple and function-first.

     

     

    We're borrowing some methods that originated in the marine industry.

     

    We’ve had the benefit of doing all design and development in-house. That means, starting with the initial sketches, we have personally worked through every construction detail. This includes testing a dozen different shoulder strap profiles and variety of foams from different suppliers. For design and patterning, we're borrowing some methods that originated in the marine industry. Using 3D modeling, we create an accurate master design of each bag variation to ensure the accuracy of our patterns and to give us a “digital master.”  Using this approach, when we make alterations, we’re amending the 3D model instead of adjusting pieces of the 2D patterns. We're not saying this way is always better, but it works really well and gives us the results we want.

     

    Backpack, shouder, straps, sewing, machine

     

    We use production spec fabric, thread and hardware for all internal sampling and testing to make sure our evaluation is as accurate as possible. This also limits surprises as we get ready for production.

     

     

    Our samples have been tested over and over again and we get plenty of gritty feedback that we gladly (after a good night's sleep) direct back into the design process. Above is a fellow baghead putting a sample through its paces. We don’t believe in perfection (we're human), but we think we’re making a really strong, enduring pack that our future customers will appreciate.

     


     

    We count 54 different types of components (55 if you include thread)

     

    We’re now considering the design process complete and are in the process of identifying the right production partner and sourcing all the materials. So far we count 54 different types of components (55 if you include thread) to make our roll top a reality. From suppliers across the US and around the world, we're gathering fabrics, foams, trims and hardware to make sure we have a supplier network that will be able to provide us with production quantities.

    In the meantime, we’re headed to the Outdoor Retailer Show this week! This is a great show to see new trends in design and materials as well as to see some old friends. It’s the perfect time to connect with vendors and talk one-on-one with some of the icons of the industry.

    As always if you want to stay in touch or learn more, sign up for our newsletter below or follow us on Instagram!

    Why We Sew

    Why We Sew

     

    In this post, we're focusing on a fundamental and disappearing element in the design process: making. For us, this is the critical step that connects our craft with industry.

    We start our process the same way many designers begin: with observation. We learn about what people love and the problems they encounter. Then we begin drawing up some solutions. With this approach, we quickly run into the limits of two dimensions. Drawings are great to rapidly explore ideas, but it's nearly impossible to verify if the design works.  This is where the sewing comes in. We can quickly go from idea -> design -> pattern -> bag. This way we can put our creations to the test with different users and and see if our ideas sink or swim.

     

    Backpack paper patterns

    While outdoor packs don’t have to be complicated and technical, we would like our bags to be outstandingly comfortable and functional. There are a lot of nuances to getting a bag right and ideas that look good on paper don’t always work as planned in the field. Sewing up rough samples to test for a few hours or few days can totally changes our outlook on a design solution.

     

    Bag sample with sewing machine

     When creating a new collection of gear, we will inherently make mistakes. It’s our goal to make all these mistakes quickly and cheaply, learning the valuable design lessons without losing too much time in development. So in the long run, all the sewing will make a better pack in a shorter time-frame, and by making these mistakes now, we’ll save valuable and expensive time down the road when we start sampling with a factory. We will know what features test well, what fabrics hold up to our abuse and even know the length of each piece of webbing.

     

    Backpack samples

     We now have our first round of samples out being tested and can’t wait to learn about the weak points in these designs so we can make them better.

    We’re moving towards our goal of a Kickstarter campaign, and it’s important that we have a compelling product that really works. We want this to be the first of many bags so we feel it’s infinitely important that we start with the right set of values.

    Kickstarter timeline
    We're taking the right steps towards our goal and still have plenty of work ahead of us. We think the journey is as important as the destination anyway, so we're savoring the process until this first bag is in the hands of our customers.