How to build better outdoor gear

Have you ever wondered how an outdoor brand goes about creating brand new kit from the ground up? What exactly is involved in moving from a drawing on the back of a cigarette packet to the finished article?

So brand new the packs still have blurry edges.
So brand new the packs still have blurry edges.

For some brands, there is undoubtedly not much to it. Find a bag/jacket you like the look of. Take it apart. Send it to China. Get a copy built in the cheapest manner possible. Not so with the guys over at Thule.

They are doing it the right way- starting from scratch using designers, developers and true outdoor gear geeks to try and make the best bits of kit they can. That’s not to say that they are really starting from nothing, they are building on a history of hauling outdoor gear that goes back to 1942. Most people know the company for their stylishly clever ski racks, and roof storage boxes and it is something of this that the team aim to bring to the outdoors world.

Back in early autumn last year we were invited out to a top-secret location in the arctic circle to meet up with the guys from Thule to take a look at some of their latest forays onto the backpack world. No doubt spurred on by the great success of it’s moves into the realm of camera and photography luggage, the Swedish brand are moving properly outdoors.

Not for them, the easy cut apart a bit of gear and get a facsimile made in China. No, they’re investing heavily in R&D to bring something a bit different and novel to the outdoors world.

We’ve been on plenty of visits to factories and product launches before, but this was something entirely different. We were to get our hands on some very early development models of Thule’s outdoor range to give them a once over and see what worked and what didn’t. Very early development models. So early we were sworn to secrecy over the whole project and so we can’t go into details about the gear we saw really. Needless to say there were a few bits that needed ironing out and a few tweaks needed here and there, but we were impressed with what we saw and the entire process that they were going through. They really want to get the product right from the off and are trying to keep the Thule concepts of design and innovation going too.

Needless to say, we can’t really show too much of the packs. But here are a few blurry photos for you to look at.

To be honest the most amazing part of the story wasn’t perhaps the bags at all, but the incredible location we were in. Deep inside the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden at the end of summer, with the first chills of autumn blowing down through the glacial valleys. A true wilderness in Europe- incredible. But more on that later.

 

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