Friday, June 27, 2014

Nothing new under the sun

Stumbled across an Osprey Solo today, a backpack that I'd never seen before yet was quite familiar:

I think I have found the ancestor of the Hill People Gear Tarahumara.
Large vertical zipper opening
Similar side panel geometry
Designed to attach to larger packs
Single piece removable shoulder harness

 (Apparently the newer version ditched the compression straps and went with a sewn-on harness)

Now I don't begrudge the Hill Brothers for borrowing from another pack, Even has often said that there is nothing new and that whether intentionally or not every designer borrows from those before them. He is also an admitted Osprey fan, and even refers to the front closure on their Ute pack as "Osprey style reverse pull." This just leaves me surprised that I'd never heard mention of this pack on their site or any of the many forums were the Tara has been discussed, they are certainly open about their inspirations and design process.

HPG certainly has nothing to hide, they have added so much that the capabilities of these two packs can hardly be compared, they added a beefy compression system, a fuller harness, dual water bottle pockets, and a host of other features, so this is not an "I caught you!" post so much as an observation on how much borrowing happens in the design world.

UPDATE 7/12/14
Found another backpack in the same genus while flipping through my old Backpack magazines, the Mountain Hardwear Riff:

no one-piece harness but the same center zip and this time with waterbottle pouches. I don't know which came first but I wouldn't be surprised if this is just an Osprey solo rip-off.

UPDATE 7/28/14
and another, this time the Lowe Alpine Moab. bottle pockets but no compression straps.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Tote handle adjustment

While my main focus is technical goods and apparel I do have a soft spot for heritage goods, including one of the cornerstones of the heritage world; the tote bag.
Most totes have a fixed strap length, and the user must choose between long handles (such as can be worn over the shoulder) or short handles (so you can carry it at your side without it dragging on the ground). There are a few examples of adjustable straps on tote bags, the best example that comes to my mind being the Duluth Pack Market Tote:

Four roller buckles is perhaps the most logical way to have adjustable leather handles but I wasn't sold on it. Unfortunately before I could think of a better system I happened across the Tanner Goods Everyday Tote:
 Note the elegant simplicity of the pocket layout, the nostalgia inducing leather diamond patches and a pretty decent strap-joiner at the top (I don't care for the zipper closure personally, but different strokes). But the real beauty is hidden inside those diamond patches:
Notice the press-studs holding the straps in place. The extra strap hides neatly inside the front pockets, and the diamond patch keeps the strap from working off the stud. Unfortunately this is not feature I can easily emulate since I a) am not that great with leather and b) can't find those stupid press studs anywhere. But regardless, this is now my favorite heritage handle adjustment system and is getting filed away in the mental library of tricks.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

eBay find: Gregory USMC prototype

Just like my last post on the FILBE prototype, this pack popped up on eBay and that is still the only place I have seen mention of this pack.
According to the seller this was Gregory's entry for the assault pack component of the FILBE system.

To my eyes it looks considerably larger then the assault pack they did choose, but it's possible this was meant as a stand alone 3-day pack and not intended to be mated with the sustainment ruck.

With the strange horse-shoe zipper access into the oversized top lid and the dual front pockets this pack reminds me of a miniaturized Kelty Gila. Also the one piece shoulder yoke isn't a very gregoryesque feature and echos an older Osprey pack or the Mystery Ranch system. The hipbelt might be the most unique feature of this pack, I'm assuming the cut-outs are for ventilation and not for MOLLE compatibility since the USMC-spec MOLLE attachment system would be brutally painful against the body. While the unpadded hipbelt might look uncomfortable it should be kept in mind that every other assault pack (barring the new MOLLE medium ruck which is barely an assault pack) has no more then a webbing belt so any amount of surface area larger then 1.5" is probably an improvement. Also a durable hipbelt like the one above isn't the worst idea for Marines since they tend to shred anything with foam or spacer mesh in short order.

I think the Marines probably made the right call with the smaller, simpler assault pack they chose.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

eBay find: FILBE prototype

The awesome thing about eBay is that tons of prototypes pop up for sale that never make it onto the internet in any other way, that could potentially disappear forever if not for attentive collectors.

 Looking closely you can see that this pack is a missing link between the MOLLE II ruck and the FILBE, It has the full MOLLE coverage like the FILBE but lacks the waterbottle pockets, it has the seam-to-seam sleeping bag zipper like the FILBE but the lid of the MOLLE II. It appears to lack the reverse pull waistbelt of the FILBE, and the shoulder straps themselves have more in common with the MOLLE II then the FILBE. This pack does use the smaller airbourne frame and attaches with the ALICE-style frame sleeve, which in this case is much longer and covers the padded panel the shoulder straps are attached to.

Always interesting to catch a little glimpse of the process.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Wild Things Tactical Anorak

The Japanese might have dubious fashion ideas but you can depend on them to take great photographs.
 On one of my many google image searches I came across a jacket I didn't recognize. Turns out Wild Things has been busy and made some garments for export that aren't available on their US site. This wouldn't be the first time the Japanese taunt us with cool American made goods that we can't even buy (COUGH, Filson) and it looks like they have made some collaborations with other companies for some fun, less technical items.

But back to the subject at hand:
Pull-over rainshells are fairly rare in the US so I usually take notice when they pop up overseas. eVent membrane with a tough face fabric is also quite rare, so when the three come together in one spot I sit up and take notes. I've been very impressed with my WT tactical hardshell (the first gen version) so I am a little biased toward products by these guys.
What do I like about it? Gorgeous arm pockets are always a plus, the fabric story as I already mentioned is second to none, and the pullover factor might be just a novelty but still cool in my book. It also looks like they replaced the obnoxious hood adjuster tabs with traditional cordlocks (one of my few complaints about the Hardshell 1.0). I also think the integrated flap over the arm pocket zipper is a better design then on the 2nd gen american market hardshell. Also one of perhaps three eVent jackets on earth available in Multicam:

What do I think is silly? The gap between the front opening and the pocket. Biggest mistake you can make with a pullover, it should either have a low hand pocket and a deep front opening for ventilation and easier donning and doffing, or it should have a short zipper and a high front pocket to clear a pack belt or harness. Any gap is essentially wasted space that gains you nothing, good examples are Kifaru's discontinued packlock praka (low pocket, deep zipper) and the TAD anorak (short zipper, high pocket).

Of course all this is moot since I'm fresh out of Yen.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Bizarre backpack of the week: Gregory

A less famous backpack from a famous brand, this abomination uses two upright metal tubes with plastic cross-pieces and mounting points, with what looks like an internal frame suspension tacked on.