It started with a simple question from my wife- What do you want for Christmas? When I couldn’t find a backpack I liked and heard from previous backers that they were also looking for a minimal backpack, I decided to make one.
After 2 years of designing and prototyping, I launched the campaign and the response was fantastic. But while folks loved the concept, there were also lots of suggestions for additional features and design elements. One of the great things about Kickstarter is that it facilitates a discussion directly between the customer and creator. When you walk into a department store, you can’t know who the designer behind a brand actually is, much less have a conversation with them.
The first suggestion was to add just a bit more color… but not enough to distract from the minimal style. So I added two main elements: A bar tack accent stitch on the bottle pocket and some top stitching portions on the shoulders of the bag.
On the black bag, these top stitches are also black so it makes it more of a textural element than an overt color contrast.
The next main suggestion was to consider a charcoal backpack. As it so happened, I was already imagining this as a potential possibility down the road. It’s kind of a big deal to make a new color of Soft Shell since it needs to be custom manufactured and color matched, but I thought that our previous gray wouldn’t look as good for a backpack. So during the design phase of the Slim Pack, I defined a new darker gray and had already ordered it. It came in during the campaign, so I created a prototype Slim Pack. It looked so good, I decided to make this available during the campaign so folks would have the bag they most loved. And the Charcoal/Orange color combination ended up being incredibly popular.
There were also several functional elements that entered into the discussion… is there a clip for keys? What’s the handle like? Based on this feedback, I added a highly functional key clip with a rotating head so it doesn’t get tangled up and long leash so you can unlock a door without actually unclipping it.
I also upgraded the handles to use an overmolded rubber grip, which is super comfortable in your hand.
Lastly, folks asked about the stability of the bag if they were active, such as while hiking or commuting on a bike. Some wanted a chest strap but others implored me not to add one since they hate how they dangle. So I came up with something I call Minimal MOLLE, which leverages the spacing of military webbing and allows things like a sternum strap to be added. Other things such as sunglasses or small pouches can also easily be attached.
By the end of the campaign, we had over 1,000 backers… which meant 1000 bags to make! This has been by far my most challenging project yet, from both a design and logistics point of view. Each bag ended up taking three times as long to make which also made the cost much higher. Even though we did all we could to make the process efficient, they’re made in a very small shop in San Francisco so are still essentially hand crafted one by one.
The project has had more ups and downs than previous ones, but I can definitely say I’ve learned the most from this one. Sometimes I guess you learn more when things don’t go that smoothly. One of the things I learned was how supportive and understanding my backers have been throughout the process. With all the behind the scenes updates, folks began to feel like they were on the journey with me… and it was their comments along the way that encouraged me as well.
It took a bit of help from everyone to get the project done...
But when folks got their bags, the positive feedback made it all worth it:
"Just wanted to send a quick thanks/kudos for the slimpack…. the air pressure from the plane popped open the person's water bottle…n Everything inside the other bag (nothing important fortunately) was also soaked. Slimpack contents though, including my laptop, were bone dry. So, thanks! Sure glad it arrived before my trip. :)"
- Nathan (Canada)
"This backpack feels like the last backpack i'll ever own. Its attractive and understated, and i get compliments from people regularly, only to wax "and it's totally waterproof!” Anyway, i just feel like this is an incredibly functional object that makes essentially no compromises. Its the perfect backpack for me. Thank you so much!!"
- Greg W (Brooklyn, NY)
"My wife and I both love our backpacks! Mine works great when on my motorcycle, too. Love the fact that it rides high, not down on my waistline. Whatever difficulties you had in producing this project, just keep it up. This is the best minimalist backpack on the market, by a long ways!!"
- John M (Hixton, TX)
"Hi Dave: I don't like my bag. I absolutely LOVE it. It's so incredibly thoughtful in its design. Minimalist in appearance, but so functional, so light. Beautifully designed with function at the forefront, and yet so robust in its material and construction. You've done a marvelous job. I'm so impressed. This thing is beautiful. I was at the Airport earlier today, and I had 5 different people walk up to me and ask me about your bag. I unwittingly became a Slim Pack evangelist."
-Pablo (Durham, NC)
"Hello! I took my backpack to our Canada Day Celebration in Ottawa and it poured rain all weekend. Everything in the backpack stayed dry as promised!"
"Hi Dave, I got your backpack and its amazing. Very light and stylish. Thanks a lot for this beautiful bag."
-KLEOPATRA V (Greece)
"Hello Dave, Just want to say, thanks for the bag and wallet, great products."
Alex A (Netherlands)
"Dear Dave, I just wanted to say thank you for creating the SlimPack.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that it has changed my life for the better: Since it’s arrival in late May I’ve used it as a daily commuter pack, used it as an on-board pack on international and domestic flights, used it as a conference bag, and it’s held up brilliantly—including soakings in foul weather where the contents remained toasty dry! I’m carrying both a Macbook Pro and a large iPad with far more comfort, and better posture, than with my previous backpacks."
-Andrew W (Australia)
"Will say, have never received so many compliments on a backpack before!"
-Amanda H (Massachusetts)
Now that the kickstarter bags have shipped, it’s a great feeling to have the project complete but I’ll also miss the process of creation.
Which leads to another question… what should I make next?