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Announcing: Charcoal Soft Shell

For a lot of materials, color is just a matter of selecting from what’s available. Meaning, what’s already been produced and made for sale to wholesale resellers or end customers. But what if you’re custom producing the material? There are essentially infinite color choices, but that actually makes the process a lot more complicated.

The first thing you need is a good reference color you’re aiming for, but it’s way better if the reference is actually made from same material in order to get an accurate representation. Presumably if you’re custom making it, the material doesn’t already exist in that color… so you can really only hope to get close and then see how the actual finished product turns out.

Aside from black, the first new color of Soft Shell I introduced was a gray. It was really interesting to learn the process of defining the color… from learning about greige, to Pantone for fabrics, to lab dips. In the end, I was really pleased with how it came out and it quickly became one of our best sellers. So much so… that it started to run out and we needed to make more!

Around that time, I was developing the Slim Pack. And I thought, I wonder what a gray Soft Shell backpack would look like? We didn’t have the patterns to a point where I could make a prototype, but draping the material over a form study, I could tell the color wasn’t quite right. With a larger object like a backpack, the material just felt too bright.

With this in mind, I happened to notice the color of a Bose earphone case I really liked. And luckily, it was made from a material that had a similar level of shininess and texture so it would make it easier to color match. When you have to produce A LOT of something like I have to do with a Soft Shell production run, it’s nice to have a bit of confidence in what the final product will look like. And I knew if it came close to this case, it would be a nice sophisticated tone for a wallet as well as be great for a backpack.

Fast forward a few months, and the Slim Pack was launched. Originally, I was only offering it in black with orange interior accents. But almost immediately, several folks requested it in “Charcoal”. Meanwhile, based on feedback from backers, I had already added a bar tack accent stitch as well as topstitch details. When the Charcoal Soft Shell arrived, I had a prototype made from it and right away I could tell it “just worked”.

Slim Pack thin perfect light commuter backpack
While the campaign would have been simpler to run if I kept with just the black, I decided to make the Charcoal available to backers. I wanted everyone to have a bag that they loved instead of investing in something only to have a new color come out a few months later. While this probably contributed to the logistics challenges we experienced, the fact that almost half of folks selected Charcoal makes me happy with the decision.

Slim Pack perfect Backpack Bottle pocket

There were die hard supporters of both Charcoal/Orange and Charcoal/Gold but of the two options, a lot more folks selected the Charcoal/Orange. Therefore, that’s the one I’m going to bring to market.

I’ve been really pleased with the response from folks who’ve received their bags as part of the campaign and I think folks will really enjoy having the option of both a backpack and wallet in the new Charcoal Soft Shell color.
Slim Fold Thin Wallet Charcoal Orange Soft Shell
Is there a color you’d like to see me make next for either a bag or wallet? Contact us directly or let me know in the comments below.
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Creating Composite Laminate to Use for Our Wallet

I’m always on the lookout for new material to use for my products. After all, it was a high-end ski jacket I saw in Japan which led me to Soft Shell. The more I learn about modern materials, I realize that many of the key breakthroughs these days are achieved by combining existing materials in unique ways, rather than creating something that never existed before. That was the approach taken with Composite Laminate.

Composite Laminate Thin Wallet

Tyvek itself is a type of sheet plastic which achieves its incredible strength to weight ratio by being constructed from interlocking strands arranged in random patterns. It starts off as white and the colors are achieved by printing on them. Over time, they sort of wear in like jeans so don’t stay looking new as long as Soft Shell wallets, which are dyed. But what if we could add an additional layer of flat plastic on top of the Tyvek to trap in the color while providing a more abrasion resistant surface?

The concept of adding another layer was the easy part. The first challenge was that some of the best processes for permanently connecting materials are heat activated. The only problem? Tyvek has a low melt point and pretty much hates getting hot. The equivalent of putting sand in a gas tank is to feed some Tyvek into a laser printer! To overcome this, I worked closely with an experienced local shop to experiment with different techniques until we found one which would join them.

The secret was to not only experiment with the temperatures, but also the speeds at which the material was run through the machine. It turns out that you can “break the rules” for melting Tyvek, but only for a fraction of a second… so we feed it through the machine at a fast enough rate so we get adhesion without letting the Tyvek turn into a rippled mess.

The second challenge was to select the right material. There’s a vast array of colors and finishes so even narrowing things down to just the clear ones still left many options. In the first test, we used a glossy one and the wallets came out looking like patent leather shoes! We ended up special ordering the most matte finish material available, which was just released by the supplier. Even though the Tyvek beneath it is a deep black, when covered by this material the light behaves in a really interesting way which causes it to appear like a deep matte gray. You can still see the swirls of the Tyvek material underneath which is pretty cool. I’m calling this color “carbon” to convey the ultra matte effect achieved by the combination of both color and material.

Composite Laminate Thin Wallet

How Thick is The New Laminate Wallet?

When completed into a wallet, it’s just barely thicker than a normal Tyvek model. Its capacity is also slightly less… holding up to about 6 cards depending on how many bills. It’s probably good for folks who are already pretty minimal and just looking for something which stays looking new longer and is still ultra-thin.

Since this is a new combination of materials, I’m introducing it as a Beta at first… only producing a certain number and selling them for the cost of the existing Tyvek wallets even though the cost to make them is significantly more. I hope you’ll give one a try and let me know how you like it!

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Accidental Slim Pack Water Test

When I worked as a UI designer, there were several times when I had the opportunity to design for entirely new hardware devices. During the process, we would usually have prototype versions of the devices at various forms of completion. These could cost in the tens of thousands of dollars per unit and there were a handful of times when someone on the team would accidentally have one one fall off of their desk onto the ground. “Drop test!” everyone would exclaim in a half-joking, half-panicked tone. Everyone would be very happy if it passed.

Slim Pack Perfect Backpack Waterproof

Water Test of the Slim Pack Commuter Backpack

Well, a backer recently had the accidental opportunity to put our waterproof commuter backpackthe Slim Pack, through its paces during a flight. As he described:

"Just wanted to send a quick thanks/kudos for the Slim Pack. As it turned out, I received mine the day before we left for a week-long vacation in Mexico.

I had already planned to bring my laptop, so naturally took the opportunity to try out the new pack. Used it as my carry-on, with laptop and some other supplies. What happened next was great. As the slimpack was stowed under the seat in front of me, the air pressure from the plane popped open the person's water bottle sitting in that seat. She didn't notice as it slowly leaked almost a liter of water out beside the seat, directly onto the slimpack.

When I eventually reached for it, I discovered that both it and another bag I had under the seat there were drenched. Everything inside the other bag (nothing important fortunately) was also soaked. Slimpack contents though, including my laptop, were bone dry. (The exterior dried off quickly too.)" -Nathan

In my testing, I can control certain variables such as water intensity and exposure time… but in the field, conditions are more realistic. So far with rain and now this in-flight water torture test, it’s shown to hold up really well in real world scenarios.

Another backer shared his experience:

"Dave, I received my backpack in the very first batch sent. It is incredible. It was put through its paces this weekend at the NAMM show in Anaheim CA during our crazy weather. It handled the rain with no problem, and for those not in CA, this was an exceptional amount of rain. I carried my DSLR and my iPad in it with no fear. Truly impressed with the comfort." -Sam

We’re making great progress on the backorders and they’re coming out great… looking forward to getting them in the hands of the rest of the backers!

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