The Last Backpack You’ll Ever Buy

And the globe-spanning adventure that created it

January 30, 2017 9:00 am

WD-40 got its name because it was the 40th iteration the inventors tested.

Moral: trial and error is the cornerstone of a perfect product.  

When the product in question is built for adventure, that means hiking. Biking. Surfing. Roaming foreign streets.

So that’s exactly what the creators of this superlative large-format backpack did. And the travel log of how it got here is an itinerary worth repeating.

BE Outfitters is headed by two brothers who moved to San Diego to surf and take advantage of our region’s abundant outdoor splendor. They wanted a single backpack they could take surfing, hiking and traveling. So they developed the Tahquitz, a soft-shell roll-top pack that has a compartment for wet clothes, a sleeve for hydration and an accessible dry pocket for a camera — all while being rugged enough to scramble over boulders and up mountains.

Getting all that right wasn’t easy. Below, they tell us how the pack evolved through a series of globe-spanning adventures.

San Diego to Orange County Coastline
Surfing, hiking, photography
Lessons: “Our first priority was to have it hold a camera. Transitioning from one place to another was key, so we made it removable and large enough so that the consumer could fit an entire wetsuit [inside], or take it fishing. The seam taping and the fabric choice on the inside allow it to be completely waterproof, and wet clothes can be separated while the rest of your valuables are protected. We decided to have the hydration sleeve double as a laptop sleeve, and it’s located against the back panel of the pack. Then the tube comes out through a small slit over the shoulder and snaps into the available chest strap. We took cues from regular trips to REI, not to replicate other bags, but to examine and figure out positive attributes of bags we liked and how they could be incorporated for that transition from work to the outdoors.”

New Zealand
Climbing, hiking
Lessons: “Traveling throughout the islands, we found that things such as the closures to the rolltop, volume and back panel/shoulder straps needed work. We also realized with the amount of photos we were taking that removing your camera out of the bag, only to take it out of its own camera bag, was often a waste of time and the moments passed. Following our trip we decided to incorporate the dry/bag camera access for the future.”

Tahquitz Peak, CA
Lesson: “Our first multi-pitch climb with our own pack, a huge milestone in our lives, and seemed so fitting for the naming behind the pack. We found that the hip straps needed to be longer, and the comfort while wearing the bag needed to be dialed in. Unfortunately, just the one photo of Rory climbing here [see below], but it’s really where we realized the quality value of the bag — doing a significant climb with our own gear with no signs of durability issues.”

“Tahquitz is one of the birthplaces of modern climbing. Despite being in Southern California, it’s often forgotten compared to Yosemite, so we wanted to pay our respects to a place that has influenced modern-day exploration — seemed the right parallel for what we are trying to accomplish with our pack. In the bag we carried jackets, hiking boots for the approach and getting down (after the rappel), camera, Clif Bars, PB&J sandwiches and water. Pretty Significant amount of weight to carry for four pitches. And then an additional rope and carabiners on the hike to and from the climb.”

Flights to Maryland and Louisiana
Urban travel
Lessons: “This proved to us that the Tahquitz needed to be fashionable to the point where we didn’t look like backpackers walking around the city. Also, incorporating the side zip was a huge plus for not struggling to get reach gear at the bottom.”

Lessons: “We traveled up to Mammoth to meet a couple buddies and made the trek into Yosemite for a backcountry hike. Dragged the bag through a 13-mile hike the first day, Rory carrying the Prototype stuffed with the same amount of gear as we did with our Osprey and Arcteryx.”

Nicaragua to Patagonia with Abe Ramirez
Biking, photography, video
Lessons: “If you talk to anyone that bikes often, carrying a backpack is possibly one of the most frustrating things to take on long distances. Abe Ramirez is cycling and climbing his way from Nicaragua to Patagonia. We don’t have the money to pay ambassadors, so we gave him our prototype to support him and get feedback. He’s been helpful in dialing in the camera access and the shoulder straps/back panel as well.”

Mammoth and Alabama Hills, CA
Hiking, Photography
Lessons: “We organized a photoshoot to gather some content with our second sample (looks the same as the finalized product, just with some improvement functionally), but just as much a chance to get out and do tests on what we had. The intention was to shoot without the setups and the props, but for what it was, just some friends getting out exploring and enjoying the outdoors. Still, adjustments needed to be made on the bag. The opening to the dry bag integration wasn’t wide enough, making the camera access difficult. Then the magnetic closures for the roll top weren’t oriented in a way that would keep the top closed.”

Urban travel
Lessons: “Our trip to meet our to-be manufacturer a year and two months from our original product test trip to New Zealand (sampling had been done in Seattle up until this point). Our latest sample had been sent prior, so the manufacturer could replicate the design so we were anxious to see the result. We tell everyone Vietnam felt like two different trips. Before we went to Ho Chi Minh to visit the manufacturer, we traveled up to Hanoi and Sa Pa in northern Vietnam. We were introduced to the food, stayed in a homestay in the rice-paddy covered villages in Sa Pa, and dodged a ridiculous amount of mopeds. From there we met in HCMC, BE’s first international business trip. Visiting a manufacturing facility was a huge eye-opening experience for us and we were amazed by the processes of how gear is actually made. There we dissected the samples, went over colorations and spent three straight days cracking down and making edits to where we are now.”

BE’s Tahquitz Bag is available for pre-order now, with an anticipated summer delivery.

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