December 29, 2021

Production & Design Notes: Zeitgeist and Paradigm

Tom inspects the front pockets on a Paradigm backpack.

The Paradigm and Zeitgeist are two smallish backpacks that share many features, yet each also has its own personality. The Paradigm is elegant and rocks a relatively complicated (and we hope super-useful) three-compartment front pocket; the Zeitgeist is simple and svelte with a bit of a retro thing going on.

Because they are small backpacks that are intended to be worn by adult humans, they require longer shoulder straps than one might think. Think of it this way: the actual body of the backpack itself is shorter than most packs, so the straps need to be longer to make the bag adjustable enough to fit a wide variety of folks.

Folks had been asking us to offer a smaller backpack design — a pack around the size of The Sprout, which, being that it was originally designed for children, had straps too short to fit a wide range of adults. Going through a box of vintage TB designs, Tom found a small vintage pack design from the 1990’s — it wasn’t anything like The Sprout, though it was simple, straight-forward, and classic in its design, something that some folks in particular appreciate. So, what to do? Reissue the vintage pack, or design something new that offered a more modern aesthetic and organizational features, more like The Sprout? The obvious answer is: both! And why not? That way, people who prefer a simple design like the Daylight Backpack could have the option that’d make them happiest, and those who wanted something more along the lines of The Sprout or more recent TB designs would (hopefully) have the pack of their dreams. Some folks might even opt for both, carrying one or the other for different adventures.

We combined the PPB meetings for these two bags, as a substantial part of the construction and materials are the same. Everyone notes that the “domes” (the panels that create the 3D depth of the bag, the part with the main zipper sewn in) and the back panels are very similar to the full-sized Paragon, including the scaled-down version of the padded device sleeve. So, we’ve already got that down.

Speaking of “covered”, there’s discussion around putting weather flaps over zippers or leaving them exposed — it’s a trade off either way, and like many things in life, there’s some folks who prefer flaps and others who prefer exposed. A flap over the zipper does keep out more water, but also makes the zipper a bit harder to open and close, unless one adds cord pulls to the zipper pulls. We note that we’re using YKK Racquet Coil with a Durable Water Repellent, which helps an exposed zipper still be weather resistant. Noted too is that both the Paradigm and Zeitgeist are small enough that they’re more apt to be protected by the user’s umbrella, and some folks might choose to actually wear their raincoat over them… or at least Tom thinks so. In the end we decide to mix it up: the Zeitgeist gets a slightly longer main compartment zipper with a weather flap (adding to its retro gestalt), while both the pocket and main zippers on the Paradigm remain flap-free and easy access.

We set out to make our new Contour Straps with the idea that, while our Edgeless Straps are super comfortable and quite popular, they just seemed too bulky for lightweight and smaller backpacks like the Zeitgeist and Paradigm. Yet the simple 2” / 50mm webbing straps as found on the Daylight Backpack were a bit *too* simple, lacking as they do any padding or curvature whatsoever.

We experimented around with several iterations before landing on what we think is a pretty darn nice shoulder strap. Our Contour Straps consist of a .25” / 6mm core of closed cell foam, wrapped in 525d 2x2 Ballistic fabric and finished on one edge with wide fabric binding; the binding runs off the lower extreme of the strap and is folded back on itself to retain the adjusting buckle.

After that, the discussion focuses on the front panels / pockets — the big differences between the two backpacks.

The Zeitgeist has a simple flat exterior pocket that has a diagonal zipper. Tom notes this was a very common design element back in the 1970s — he shares that many designers and manufacturers shared this design back then, and it remains a useful and aesthetically pleasing way to access a pocket. Plus, we like the way it grooves with the our new/old Moon Label. Inside, we added a simple zippered pocket for stashing any secrets you may have.

The Paradigm’s 3D front pocket is worthy of its own post. Tom has actually been working on-and-off on this pocket design for over a year now — it’s based on knowing that folks appreciate pockets that offer effortless organization (as seen on the Synapse and Synik) and that they also appreciate being able to easily see what’s inside of those pockets, making it easier to retrieve that necessary thing at the right time with less effort. He also wanted to add a water bottle pocket that’d keep the bottle (often one of the heavier objects in a pack) in the CG (center of gravity.) Always good if the pockets look good completely stuffed full or relatively empty. But how to achieve all of this without it looking too… fussy? Here’s how: one pocket divided into three compartments, each with their own depth, are accessed via a long zipper with two sliders. This allows the end user to access whichever portion of the three different compartments that they need to, or just unzip ‘em entirely to see everything at once.

Fong and Lisa realize that sewing and finishing this slightly complex-to-manufacture pocket will require some re-routing through the factory, but we all agree the end result is worth the trouble.

What makes the pockets a bit complex to manufacture, you may ask? Because the dividers that create the three unique compartments are attached to the front of the backpack before the remainder of the pocket is fully constructed, executing its assembly requires some retrograde movement through the factory. It’s “sew, bind, sew, bind” — a somewhat inelegant process that results in a very useful and, we hope, elegant pack. And everyone likes the two little “pockets within pockets” for smaller stuff like a wallet, phone, or flashlight, so the inelegance of the process is forgiven.

Of course we do the usual wrap up, discussing how many O-rings we can possibly squeeze inside both bags and laughing as we arrive on the usual answer: “More!”


Jennifer - December 30, 2021

I test packed a Paragon and it’s too tall for me, unfortunately. How about a Paragon with a Paradigm pocket and it’s 16" tall like the Synapse 19?
TOM BIHN replied:
We are discussing how tall such a pack might be. Thanks for your comment!

Citydog - December 30, 2021

Yes! Paragon with a Paradigm front would be brilliant.
TOM BIHN replied:

Kelly - December 30, 2021

Paradigm is now my EDC and I love it! The front pocket is so useful after we form the habit of knowing where are the stuff. While I don’t carry any iPad in it, the foam sleeve inside is stiff enough to keep some softer items neat, eg, envelope, masks or folded papers.
TOM BIHN replied:
Great point about the multiple uses for the foam sleeve. Also helps the back of the pack be that much more comfy!

G42 - December 30, 2021

These design blog posts are fun; the extra insight behind the Contour straps and the Paradigm pocket is interesting to read about, thanks.
TOM BIHN replied:
We realized we hadn’t really gone into what it took to design and make the new Contour straps, or really that much about how they are new! Glad you liked the post.

Jennifer - December 29, 2021

I love my Paradigm and would love one sized to carry a 13" laptop.
TOM BIHN replied:
Like a Paragon with a Paradigm front?

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We're the TOM BIHN crew: we design bags, make bags, ship bags, and answer questions about bags. Oh, and we collaborate on blog posts, too.