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.
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.