Watercolor by Dan Bransfield.
Haute Americana’s interview with Tom on design, life, travel, and U.S. manufacturing is up. Excerpt:
Haute Americana: What are your essentials for traveling?
Tom Bihn: I used to manage the youth hostel in Santa Cruz — there I watched what people carried and how they traveled. I realized that the weight of a person’s bag was usually inversely proportional to the fun they were having. With that in mind, I try to travel pretty light, though I always seem to need to carry an extra pair of shoes or sandals. Otherwise I guess I carry the usual stuff – a swimsuit is surprisingly a good idea, as I try to jump into water whenever possible.”
Modestics: When did you feel like you were a “real company”?
Tom Bihn: It all felt pretty serious, though very small, when I first rented commercial space back in Santa Cruz. Otherwise, our growth has been slow, steady, and mostly self-funded. Rather than owing money to a bank or venture capitalist, our loyalty is to the folks who believe in us enough to buy what we make: still friends and family, just a bigger circle.
1000d Cordura® after test
We made mittens out of 420 HT ParaPack, 400d Dyneema®/420d nylon, 1050d Ballistic, 1000d Cordura® and 500d Cordura®.
We then rubbed each one on a volunteer office canine (we are opposed to animal testing, but he seemed to rather enjoy the attention).
All fabrics picked up fur.
But not equally so . . .
Both of the Cordura® fabrics collected lots more fur than the smooth nylons.
The difference between 1050d Ballistic, 420d HT ParaPack, and 400d Dyneema®/420d nylon; was negligible (though the fur is better camouflaged by the white Dyneema® ripstop grid.)
The bottom line? If you have pets, or work in a place where people bring dogs to work and don’t vacuum as much as they should (ahem), or simply want your bag to collect as little lint/foozles/dust particles as possible, choose our 1050d ballistic nylon, 200d or 400d Dyneema/nylon, or 420d HT Parapack fabric over bags available in Cordura (500d or 1000d).
See also: Badger’s test comparing the pet hair resistance of our 200d Dyneema/nylon fabric and 420d HT nylon Classic Parapack. Note: our results differed from Badger’s in that the difference between Dyneema/nylon and the 420d HT nylon Classic Parapack was not significant. Neither collected nowhere near as much hair in our tests as the Cordura® fabrics. Results may vary on the breed or type of animal, and probably the amount of ambient static electricity. It’s also worth noting that in our results the hair that did collect on our Dyneema/nylon was quite difficult to see until we looked really closely (hence the close-up photo).
The story behind the fabrics we use, including our 420d HT nylon Classic Parapack, told by the best textiles guy in the business.
Like lots of good stuff, it all started in a garage.
Better than leather: heavy-duty synthetic felt and nylon webbing combine in the Double Accessory Strap Holder.
#00 spur grommets, made for us in the UK. Yes, we took every detail quite seriously.
The internal frame . . .
. . . is removable.
Two pie-slice cut-outs on each edge allow the frame sheet to flex in use.
The 6061 Aluminum stay is removable. Soft plastic caps insure the rest of the pack can’t be damaged by the stay.
We pre-bend the stay to a gentle S-curve to approximate the average spinal curve.
Carefully bending the frame sheet and stay over your knee (or knees for a gentler curve), you can adjust the curve if you so desire (though you needn’t remove the frame from the pack).
The back and bottom of the Guide’s Pack are fully padded with .25″ / 6mm closed-cell foam.
Six flat pockets on the interior back panel accept the six “fins” of the frame sheet . . .
. . . firmly holding it in place against your back.
Curved, thermo-formed, die-cut, padded shoulder straps: we just didn’t have the technology to make these 40 years ago.
And who woulda thunk it: pockets for a cell phone and a GPS.
But then again, the best things in life really haven’t changed.
Thick synthetic felt reinforces the handle attachment points.
A pleated, 3D mesh pouch is divided in to three separate spaces . . .
By moving the two zipper sliders to be over the one you want to access, the other remain securely zipped shut.
Great for cables, power supplies, point-and-shoot cameras.
The handles are designed to naturally meet top dead center.
Our signature, super-tough hardware facilitates attachment of a shoulder strap.
Heavy-duty, 1050d ballistic piping adds shape and color.
The Founder’s Briefcase has many graceful yet subtle curves: a straight line may be the shortest path, but seldom the most interesting.
I’ve always tended to keep my designs as simple as possible and eschew adding features just for the sake of, well, just because we could. So, it should be no surprise that the first iterations of The Guide’s Pack had no internal frame, just a padded back panel. The idea has always been to rely on careful packing to supply the bag with form and the user with comfort. I still think there is great value in learning the artful arrangement of a bag’s contents to optimize weight distribution and therefore carrying comfort; however, as soon as I began using The Guide’s Pack with my beta version of its internal frame and frame sheet, I started to see the light.
At 35 liters (when you include the side pockets), The Guide’s Pack can definitely become somewhat heavy when fully loaded, and though not intended as a backpacking pack, it can certainly handle all you need for a very long day out (or maybe an overnight). Bending its single aluminum stay to roughly parallel my spine, I was able to comfortably lift some of the pack’s weight off my shoulders and onto my hips (yeah, with just a 1″ webbing waist belt). Combined with the HDPE frame sheet, the internal frame helps maintain the bag’s profile (read: keeps it from beer-barreling when overstuffed) and also allows one to have a somewhat cavalier attitude when packing hard objects such as a DSLR camera or a thermos: basically, I no longer need to wrap them in extra clothing or some kind of padding to ensure all-day comfort on the trail. After some further tweaks and some long hikes, I was a believer.
The Guide’s Pack’s internal frame consists of a unique, die-cut frame sheet of .060″ high density polyethylene (HDPE) and a single stay of 1″ / 25 mm wide 6061 aluminum. The stay is held in place by a strip of 2″ wide nylon webbing sewn down the center of the frame sheet; you can remove the stay if, for some reason, you want a frame sheet but no frame.
You can also remove the entire affair: six flat “pockets” on the inside back of The Guide’s Pack are designed to retain the six lobes (or fins) of the frame sheet. These lobes are engineered to relieve the torsional stresses of the pack flexing as you walk; they also facilitate the design that allows the frame sheet to be easily removed from the pack.
The aluminum stay comes to you pre-bent to approximate a generic spinal curve. If you find The Guide’s Pack comfortable out of the gate, as most folks will, you’re good. But if you need to adjust that curve, it’s easy to do — and you needn’t remove the stay or frame sheet from the pack to do it (we’re working on a video that’ll show you how — stay tuned).
A close-up view of the 3D Fabric Organizer Cube in Olive 420d HT Parapack. Note the slightly heathered appearance of the high tenacity yarns, as described in Tom’s post on 420d.
Synapse 19 (420d HT Parapack exterior/200d Dyneema/nylon lining)
In stock: Navy 420d/Ultraviolet, Navy 420d/Solar, Olive 420d/Steel, Steel 420d/Solar
On Backorder: Navy 420d/Iberian, Black 420d/Steel, Black 420d/Wasabi, Black 420d/Iberian
Synapse 25 (420d HT Parapack exterior/200d Dyneema/nylon lining)
Available for backorder, ships by early December: Olive/Steel, Black/Steel, Black/Iberian, Black/Wasabi, Navy/Solar, and Navy/Iberian
Small Cafe Bag (420d HT Parapack exterior/200d Dyneema/nylon lining or 420d HT Parapack exterior/lining)
In stock: Olive/Wasabi Dyneema, Steel/Iberian Dyneema, Navy/Ultraviolet Dyneema, Black/Solar Dyneema, Olive/Steel, Steel/Steel, Black/Steel, and Navy/Navy
Medium Cafe Bag (420d HT Parapack exterior/200d Dyneema/nylon lining or 420d HT Parapack exterior/lining)
In stock: Olive/Wasabi Dyneema, Steel/Iberian Dyneema, Navy/Ultraviolet Dyneema, Black/Solar Dyneema, and Olive/Steel, Steel/Steel, Navy/Navy and Black/Steel
Large Cafe Bag (420d HT Parapack exterior/200d Dyneema/nylon lining or 420d HT Parapack exterior/lining)
In stock: Olive/Wasabi Dyneema, Steel/Iberian Dyneema, Navy/Ultraviolet Dyneema, Black/Solar Dyneema, and Olive/Steel, Steel/Steel, and Black/Steel
3D Fabric Organizer Cube
In stock: Navy, Olive, Black, Steel
3D Mesh Organizer Cube
In stock: Olive, Black, Navy
The Guide’s Pack (420d HT Parapack exterior/lining)
In stock: Olive/Steel, Navy/Steel, Black/Steel, Steel/Steel
Founder’s Briefcase (420d HT Parapack exterior/lining)
Pre-order, ships by mid-December: Olive/Steel, Navy/Steel, Black/Steel, Steel/Steel