Introducing North Fork Packraft straps

The astute will have noticed months ago that I’m in the process of launching a pack company, North Fork.  I’m pleased to report that it is going very well indeed, in spite of no overt public evidence of progress.   Two years ago I sketched out a detailed idea of the two packs I wanted to build, and have spent the time since making prototypes to re-examine every relevant detail.  Just because I’d spent the prior decade as a hobbiest settling on my own preferences for wilderness packs did not mean those ideas were the best way of doing things.  This experimentation and development process has been immensely satisfying, largely because I freed myself from all time constraints.  I’d make as many packs, and do as many trips, as necessary for me to be content.

That process is, for the smaller of the two packs, beginning to wind down.  I’ve refined a simple, light, and supportive suspension system that can carry 40 pounds sustainably, involves minimal moving parts, and can be stripped down to completely frameless.  A protracted, 18 month diversion into complex side pocket design brought me right back to the basic design I started with.  Features and bag design took numerous diversions, and got back quite close to my original ideas.  That part is gratifying, that the first decade of experimentation was not misleading, but the assurance I bought in recent years only makes the original knowledge shinier.

I’m aware of exactly how full my days are, and have no intention of going down the solo cottage shop road of over committing and watching the wait times grow.  Thus, the bulk of North Fork packs will be sold as stock, and in batches, which will be available when they are available.  If things go as anticipated, the first run of Tamarisks (40 liters, technical multiday backpacking or race pack) will go live in time to be a winter solstice gift.  Development on the big, UL mission pack will continue into next year.  Ideally I’d like to sell some before next summer.

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To shake out the administrative kinks, and sell a simple thing whose value I’ve tested for even longer, we’re releasing the first run of packraft straps.   A ~70 inch length of 1 inch polypro webbing with a stout ITW buckle (each straps is ~72 inch tip to tip with buckle).  I made the first versions (red, immediately above) back in the pre-cargo fly days.  They weren’t quite longer enough, so I made the second (blue, all other photos) and final version, of which several have been in use for the past seven years.

A really big, really full pack will just about max them out.  The sweet spot for the length is a full 55 liter pack, maybe 36 inches in circumference.  The poly webbing is noticeably lighter in field use than nylon.  One inch webbing provides enough friction on both the buckle and against the pack that a cobble scrapping flip will not tear your gear loose, even if that gear includes a mountain bike (been there).  I have also found out, the hard way, that just because you can fit it inside your packraft does not mean, in the name of maximized puncture resistance, you should, making packraft straps relevant for all boaters.  The straps are also handy for keeping your boat rolled tight, for tying a serious overload to your pack (bear can?  100 meter static line?), and for taming awkward loads generally.  I used one last fall to roll up a bison hide for transport, and chained three together the other week to get our new-to-us (1950s Corona, ‘natch) range tight to the dolly and down many stairs into the kitchen.

Packraft straps are shit that works.  So buy some, or make some yourself.  Small item shipping rates meant that total charges for overseas customers are a bit excessive, even with us (M and I) cutting the profit margin a good bit.  You can bartack poly webbing on a home machine, and if you do enough stitches even poly embroidery thread will hold.  I use bonded nylon tex 90, the bartacks will hold long after the buckle shatters.

This is the long-awaited second phase of what began with our stickers and guidebook 2.5 years ago.  Straps today, with stock and (occasional) custom packs to come later this year.

PS: Half the straps sold over the weekend.  Much gratitude from us for the support, and the interest in the packs to come. 


15 responses to “Introducing North Fork Packraft straps”

  1. This is great. As the proud owner of a DC custom pack (just got a compliment on it last week), I’m really excited to see this next step. I love my pack and the only faults I find with it our things I asked you to give me on it, lol.

    1. So psyched you like that pack. A big part of the full roll out will be finding out how many custom jobs I can do in a year while maintaining decent turnaround. They hugely enjoyable projects, as well as hugely time consuming.

      1. I really do love it…the water bottle pockets are so money, especially the way they still function to hold so much when I compress the pack down for summer use when I carry less. And that’s the other part I love about it, is that it’s one of the few packs I”ve had that actually compresses down well and doesn’t still seem just like a flattened huge pack.

        I’ll send you a better writeup sometime (probably over Xmas when I’m done with classes and have some more miles on it, but really the only thing I would for sure change is I would go for a square top flap. You gave me exactly what I asked for but with some more experience, despite the need for two buckles, squarer dimensions on a top pocket like that have grown on me.

  2. Yes! I will gladly be one of your first customers. I really liked the pack you took out on the hunt last year.

  3. I’d like to get my paws on one of these packs… Stoked to see this evolve. Congrats!

  4. This is great and exciting news! as I am ‘underemployed’ at the moment (i.e. unemployed) my employment status and pack availability might come together nicely — or there is hoping.

    Not really pack related, but Christopher Schwarz at Lost Art Press has a lot of things to say about making a small business viable — not just economically, but also on a personal level.

  5. Although the name “Northfork Pack” is one I recognize from years of reading your ramblings I was not aware you were going to produce packs commercially. I don’t think the consumer could ask for a more rigorously tested and affectionately tinkered-with designs!

  6. Please put me down for a small pack.

  7. Looking forward to seeing this develop Dave, I’ve always appreciated your attention to function.

  8. My straps arrived in the mail yesterday. Love the hi-vis orange, and can’t wait to try them out. I’ve gotten so much enjoyment and learning out of your blog over the years, Dave, and I’m excited for this new phase. Thanks! -Greg Pehrson

  9. Any updates on the North Fork Packs as far as release date or pack design?

    I thoroughly enjoy your blog, and I’m looking forward to seeing how North Fork Packs progress in the future!

    1. Bag is pretty much finalized, still working through more belt iterations. No firm timeline yet.

      I do appreciate the interest. Full candor is that this isn’t my first (or even third) priority.

      1. I’ve often thought about emailing to see where this was at, ask about what fabric you had in mind, etc, but I figured it’d just be a bother…but anyway the point is I’m excited about it too.

        As for the belt, some way to attach a hip belt pocket is nice in my opinion. I have some that slide on the belt of my pack from you, and that works ok, but when you unbuckle it they often slide right off the whole belt, which is annoying.
        Also, I like how you set it up to work either floating or fixed. I’d probably go a stiffer foam throughout if it was an option, but I know that’s a real personal preference, and it’s hardly a deal breaker either way.

      2. That is totally understandable. I appreciate the reply.

        Lately, I have been searching for my “Goldilocks” backpack. One that can accomodate for the various outdoor activities I do, which has been surprisingly hard to find… A durable, load hauling backpack, that can accommodate a ~55L load but still compress down to ~35L with minimal sag and flap with an upsewpt bottom (so I don’t catch it on a ledge down climbing) can’t be too much to ask can it?

        Some packs come close but none tick all the boxes. Your view on pack design very closely mirrors mine and I look forward to seeing what you come out with!

        1. I do appreciate the interest. I’ll keep everyone updated.

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