Bags | A Continuous Lean.

Mystery Ranch | The Apex of Packs

Jan 9th, 2014 | Categories: Al James, Bags, Made in the USA | by Al James

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His name has been mentioned on this site before, but it bears repeating: Dana Gleason. He founded Kletterwerks in the 70s, then created (and eventually sold) the infamous backpack behemoth Dana Design. Since 2000 he’s been designing and hand-building backpacks in Bozeman, Montana under the name Mystery Ranch. They are the best packs he’s ever made and arguably some of the best packs available for purchase. Decades of research and experience go into each model and they are all absolute workhorses. Every Mystery Ranch pack is designed specifically for the unique tasks required of soldiers, firefighters, rescue professionals, hunters and mountain climbers.

This winter I bought a Mystery Ranch ASAP daypack for steelhead fishing in the Northwest. I stared into my closet full of canvas totes, weekend duffels and clever work briefcases and realized I had nothing that was suitable for hiking and bushwhacking into coastal steelhead streams with enough room for a day’s worth of extra layers, a lunch, a first aid kit, fly boxes and other fishing tackle. After a bit of research I landed at Mystery Ranch. What sold me on the ASAP was not only the waterproof 3-Zip design, but also the internal pocket configuration that takes the guess work out of accessing gear when it’s open. It has a built-in large hydration port, a grid of PAL webbing for lashing on an additional rod case and comes in 3 standard sizes and 4 colors options – multicam, black, coyote and foliage.





Kletterwerks: Resurrecting a Revolutionary Bag Co.

Nov 4th, 2013 | Categories: Bags, Jake Gallagher, Made in the USA, Outdoors | by Jake Gallagher

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In the early seventies, Dana Gleason and his wife Laura were the passionate proprietors of one of the first true dedicated outdoors shops, Mountain Man, located in the shadow of the Black Hills Forest at the heart of Deadwood, South Dakota. Unfortunately this sleepy town did not share the Gleason’s enthusiasm for the outdoors, and so with their store faltering, the coupled decided to pack up their shop and move to the bustling metropolis of Bozeman, Montana.

Remarkably, during that frantic week in 1975 as Dana trekked back and forth between Deadwood and Bozeman, he was struck by inspiration not once, not twice, but five times, completing a handful of brand new bag designs as his final act in the shuttered South Dakota studio.

Those five designs would lay the groundwork for Kletterwerks (which roughly translates to “climbing factory” in German) the bag company that Dana founded once he had officially settled down in Bozeman.





Field Testing the new Goruck Duffel.

Sep 26th, 2012 | Categories: Bags, Made in the USA, Military | by Michael Williams

Way back in 2010 when I wrote about Goruck on this blog for the first time, this is what I had to say: “These Goruck bags are some of the best things I have seen in a long time — I’m expecting big things from the brand.” It really was the truth that I was expecting big things, and it seems very clear now that Goruck was up to the challenge. The tiny bag brand has gone from maker of just a few small packs, with one ACL comment smack-down under its belt, to an esteemed outfitter and widely respected cult-brand. When I spoke to Jason McCarthy for the first time in the fall of 201o, I remember specifically asking when the Goruck duffel bag is coming out. “Be patient,” Jason said.  Well, never would I have guessed that it would have taken the this very deliberate brand two solid years to bring a duffel bag to market. But don’t fret friends, the wait is officially over. Today Goruck officially released its Mil Kit and Civvy duffel bags.

Jason and co-founder Jack Barley happened to remember my long ago interest in the duffel and were kind enough to give me one of the first bags to test out. There was no promise of a quid pro quo, but you would have to be crazy to think I wouldn’t want to get this long-awaited Goruck duffel on ACL.





Ghurka Cavalier II No. 97 for Park & Bond.

Aug 29th, 2012 | Categories: Bags, Made in the USA | by Michael Williams

There’s a powerful feeling one gets when walking through the beautiful architecture of New York’s Grand Central Station. If one was to think about that experience and pair it with a travel bag —much in the same way you would pair a bottle of wine with a meal— this special Cavalier II No.97 by Ghurka is very obviously the perfect carryall for the occasion. I don’t even want to think about the bag that would represent Penn Station, though I’m sure you all have some ideas.

Just recently, Park & Bond got together with Ghurka to create these two exclusive bags: a weekender and a dopp kit. Both of the monochromatic bags are done in the online retailer’s colors of navy and red, with a subtle Park & Bond ampersand logo embossed on one side. Ghurka, which has been going through a bit of a revival as of late, has never done a bag in navy canvas and has never used navy leather, which sets these pieces apart from the other equally handsome goods that the company turns out of its workshop in Norwalk, Connecticut.





Bags for Everyone by Tim Adams.

Aug 18th, 2012 | Categories: Bags, Made in the USA | by Michael Williams

Tim Adams makes bags for everyone. Don’t believe me? It says it right at the top of his website.

What really struck me about the bags is the simplicity of the concept and the utilitarian design. After looking into things more and thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that Tim Adams really does makes bags for everyone. Being the manufacturer (everything is made entirely by hand in his studio in Portland, Oregon) and also the seller, it allows for an affordable pricing structure at $149 for the medium bag and $169 for the large. There’s only one style available, but multiple colors and, as I just mentioned, only two sizes. No need to over complicate things — an approach that could be much more widely adopted.

These are just simple, honest, well designed bags that everyone can use and enjoy. I think the world needs more people like Tim Adams.





In the Shop | Stanley & Sons SS13

Aug 7th, 2012 | Categories: Bags, Brooklyn, Made in the USA | by Michael Williams

Stanley & Sons is an easy thing to like. I’ve been a fan since my first encounter a few years back. There’s a certain aesthetic correctness to everything they do — from the art direction of the website to the physical products — that I have always appreciated. The tiny company operates out of a basement space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that serves as showroom, factory and head office all in one. Enter through the hatch in the sidewalk and walk to the back, you can’t miss ‘em. I stopped by last Friday to see the new SS13 collection and to see what Stanley & Sons has been up lately.





Earnest Carryalls from Portland’s Good Flock

Nov 25th, 2011 | Categories: Bags, Made in the USA, Oregon | by Michael Williams

A little over a year ago I stumbled upon The Good Flock from Portland, Oregon and picked up one of their wool iPad cases. I still use that case nearly every day, it even works with my iPad2 and smart cover all together. I toss them in a bag, am on my way and don’t have to worry about it. In the past year the product line has grown and The Good Flock now offer additional items like leather goods, bags and a more complete line up of technology cases. I love the wool stuff and my iPad case always gets lots of love from people, but the waxed canvas bags are, in my opinion, really something special.

The Tokyo Bag (above) is far and way my favorite. On the surface it is a standard waxed canvas tote (of which we have seen many similar variants before), but when you drill down further you start to get a better idea of the functionality that is built into its design. The carryall has a total of eight pockets (four on the exterior, four on the interior) which come in amazingly handy. If you want to drop your keys, phone, cell phone and sunglasses all in their own compartment it’s a maneuver orchestrated with ease. I don’t ever want my keys and phone in the same pocket (because of the potential for scratches) and same goes for my glasses, which makes me appreciate the pockets on the Tokyo Bag. It’s a simple concept but one that I got into immediately after using the bag.