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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.