Co.Design

Wanted: A Featherweight Backpack That's Stronger Than Steel

Brooklyn-based Outlier combines durability and minimalist design into its everyday rucksack.

It seems to be standard practice to ruin a perfectly good, simple bag with a conspicuous designer label (hello, Jack Spade). Here’s an alternative: Outlier’s new roll-top Minimal backpack, devoid of any distracting tags, bulging pockets, or unnecessary flair.

The rucksack is the outdoor-apparel maker’s first foray into bags, and the design is in keeping with the Brooklyn company’s “less is more” philosophy and its penchant for high-performance materials. In this case, Outlier used a nonwoven Dyneema, a featherweight polyethylene fabric whose durability makes it suitable for boating equipment and body armor—that’s right, it’s 10 times stronger than steel. “We knew when we saw it we would have to do something with it,” the company says on its website. “We just didn’t know what.” That is, until they came across Hyperlite Mountain Gear, an outfit that was already producing packs out of the material. “We became one of their very first customers and then started about what we could make together.” The result, of course, is the Minimalist, which is sewn in Hyperlite’s small factory in Biddeford, Maine.

Because the material is new to the consumer market, few companies have the ability to work with it, Outlier’s Tyler Clemens tells Co.Design: “Cutting needs to be done with special blades that don’t heat up and are strong enough to make clean cuts. The stitch requires a sailing grade thread, and the seams are finished with a special tape that locks out water. Small companies like Hyperlite are paving the way with experimentation.”

Outlier has already sold out of the first Minimal run but is accepting pre-orders for an estimated spring 2012 delivery. Available for $128 here.

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