A living pack

Above are the closest to stock packs which currently exist in our house.

At upper left is my brand new Hill People Gear Runner’s Kit bag (in foliage, which is a great color).  It costs 85 dollars, and is (conspicuously) made in the United States out of US-produced materials.  The body is entirely 500D cordura, and is a simple looking yet deceptively complex design, with at least four layers of fabric in any given plane of thickness.  The zippers run exceptionally smoothly.

At lower left is an Osprey Grab-bag.  It costs 25 bucks.  The tag inside says it was made in Vietnam.  Outwardly it seems more complex than the kit bag, but the single zippered pocket with interior and exterior stash pockets would be fairly simple to cut and sew.

In the middle is my Black Diamond Bbee (the blue daisy chains were added by me).  It retails for 50 bucks, and was presumably made somewhere in SE Asia (I cut the tags out).  The light grey fabric is 200ish denier cordura, while the dark grey is a nice nailhead weave.  There are some very well done details in this pack, which is why it remains my fav daypack, but overall the execution must be fairly simple, with plenty of big and plain seams.

At right is an Osprey Hornet 24, which is almost exclusively M’s.  It costs 119 dollars, and was also presumably made somewhere in SE Asia.  Again, I cut the tags out (freak).  The materials in both Osprey packs and the Bbee were (I assume) made in an Asian mill.  The Hornet is a complex, nuanced design with more fabric panels and stitch transitions than the other three put together.

I’m coming to an argument about global markets through the back door, because what I think first when I compare these four items and their prices is how much the person sewing them is being paid, and how long it takes them.  My speculation on this issue might be fatally flawed, as I’m a glacially slow seamstress, but once I had enough experience to begin to appreciate how complex a pack like the Hornet is, the greater my incredulity that it could be sold at its price (which is, for daypacks, rather high according to conventional wisdom).  Even with assembly line polish, mass-produced pieces, and bulk pricing on raw materials, a Hornet could not be sewn in the USA for anywhere near 119 dollars.  I cannot see otherwise.

Intriguingly, I doubt very much that the higher price of the kit bag would be commercially sustainable absent the cache generated by it being designed, parted, and made in country.  The construction quality is excellent, but not moreso than on the packs shown above.  HPG looses points for not rubbing off the chalk pencil marks in a few places, too.  On the other hand, 20 minutes of carpet testing indicate that it’s probably one of those things where the profundity of the design is not immediately apparent.  It’s true worth, and why I bought it, I’ll discuss later, but on this evening I’m happy with a neat new piece of gear which was obviously sewn by someone making a living wage.

Btw; it’s 11.6 oz with the harness, but without the elastic stabilizer cord.


4 responses to “A living pack”

  1. What happened to the ZPacks Multi-Pack? Guessing from the pictures, it looks to be about the size of the HPG.

    After a summer of fiddling with different packs, your post on the Osprey Grab-Bag still has me thinking that something along those lines is a much better than the traditional hipbelt pockets which I am growing less enthusiastic about. If I don’t sew up something similar this winter as a diversion, I may have to look at some of these options more closely.

  2. How do you plan on carrying the kit bag? As a chest bag, over the shoulder with a strap or is there another option?

  3. The stock kit bag harness seems really nice. Tight without binding, right at hand yet out of the way. I thought for sure the big 1.5″ releasable buckle on the right would chafe, but I do not think that will be the case. The wearability of the kit bag was one of the chief attractions. They make a set of straps to attach the bag to pack shoulder straps, but as I don’t plan on having too much weight in it ever, I don’t think that will ever be necessary. Their runners harness on the other hand looks interesting.

    The Zpacks multipack is narrower, taller, and most of all deeper. It lacked internal organization, and the zipper wouldn’t run one-handed. Rather than tweak and mod it to no end, I sold it. Indeed I took the opportunity to sell it after my original had a warranty issue. The seam allowance for one of the upper buckles was a little too small, and under load it unraveled a bit and ripped out. It was replaced promptly, but given that reselling a brand new item would be easier, I seized the opportunity.

    This highlights a difference: the sewing on the HPG is definitely pro. That on both multipacks was still distinctly cottage. Usually this difference is only aesthetic, but occasionally it means more than that. The two faces of domestic production.

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