Semi-Custom Backpacks
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Lawson Kline
(Mountainfitter) - M

Locale: LawsonEquipment.com
Semi-Custom Backpacks on 07/03/2013 11:39:40 MDT Print View

Over the last few years I have been building semi-custom packs for friends and long time customers. Within the last few months I started to receive inquires about making custom packs. So I have been giving it some more thought...

Here is a pack I made for a friend using one of my pack designs. Its roughly 35L and weighs 24oz. It uses all Xpac materials. VX21 for the front panel, VX42 for the back panel and VX51 for the bottom. It has a 1/2" closed cell foam contoured backpanel, 3/8" closed cell foam contoured shoulder straps with spacer mesh bottoms, a 1.5" webbing hip belt, and what I call a "live load lifter system". Basically there is a Y strap that goes from the load lifters over the top, to the back of the pack. This allows you to use load lifters without a frame. When you pull the load lifters tight, the load shifts over your shoulders for an even closer fit. On top of all this, the pack has a rolltop and side access zips. So it works like a rolltop but gives you the access of a panel loader/duffel bag. I only took one photo so here goes...

pack

Edited by Mountainfitter on 07/03/2013 11:52:46 MDT.

Frank Rezack
(Coinmn) - M

Locale: Twin Cities, Minnesota
Re: Semi-Custom Backpacks on 07/03/2013 12:55:47 MDT Print View

Nice looking pack! How much do you get for one of those bad boys?

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Re: Semi-Custom Backpacks on 07/03/2013 13:24:27 MDT Print View

And these are not available on your site...why?

Kevin Schneringer
(Slammer) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma Flat Lands
Why Indeed on 07/03/2013 14:06:44 MDT Print View

Nice pack! I assume you will be adding these to your site?

Lawson Kline
(Mountainfitter) - M

Locale: LawsonEquipment.com
Reasons Why... on 07/03/2013 18:07:52 MDT Print View

Up until now, I was always against selling items that were not instock.

But lately when I look at all the other cottage gear makers and their 4-8+ week lead times I think how many products this business model would allow me to offer. So I have been considering going in this route. I have tons of shelters and pack designs that I have always wanted to make and sell. This would allow me to do it.

As far as this pack goes. Not sure on the price if I were to actually build and sell it on in semi-production mode. Its a pretty unique design and the materials are not cheap. That said, what would you pay for a pack like this?

On that note, there is another pack I built that is just like this one but a little more stripped down. The only differences are it has two compression straps, doesn't have the side zips, and only has one set of daisy chains and they go up the middle. The weight is less. I think the last one I built was around 20oz.

James DeGraaf
(jdegraaf) - MLife

Locale: Bay Area
I've waited... on 07/03/2013 20:50:14 MDT Print View

I've waited for great things before. I've seen some of the things you've made. I'll wait for great stuff made by you.

Lets see what you have to offer!!!
Thanks,
James

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Reasons Why... on 07/03/2013 21:22:13 MDT Print View

Mmmmm.....maybe $130 in Xpac?

Kevin Schneringer
(Slammer) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma Flat Lands
"Semi-Custom Backpacks" on 07/03/2013 21:38:22 MDT Print View

Yep $130 maybe $150 with options-side zip and daisy chains or netting.

I certainly like the design. You can get lighter packs in same material but the options are nice +.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: "Semi-Custom Backpacks" on 07/03/2013 21:48:31 MDT Print View

I would really like a bomber 35L pack like this. I have used packs with xpac and am a big fan of the fabric. My only issue would be color. Gary or black for me....; )

Lawson Kline
(Mountainfitter) - M

Locale: LawsonEquipment.com
Sounds Good on 07/03/2013 23:06:11 MDT Print View

I have never tried this method of business before but it certainly would allow me to make and sell some innovative gear that I have been working on for years.. Especially in regards to tents and packs.

What I might do at first is build and sell a few beta test models. Basically products that are production prototypes but with some testing tweaks, missing something that is not needed, or cool hard to source materials. For instance I have two packs that are basically done but the inside seams are not grosgrain taped. Strength is the same, but during the construction process I didn't feel like spending the extra time to tape the seams because I was more interested in finishing the packs. Some people would turn there nose up to something like this. But they look awesome and are made from VX33 (330d) Xpac Multicam so I have a feeling some people wouldn't care.

That said, thanks for the feedback on the pack pricing. I really need to figure out actual material and labor costs but I can say for sure I cannot build the pack in the photo for $130. I wish I could as I would have more product demand then I could ever want, but I know that price point is not going to be possible.

I have alot to figure out. BPL members make up a good percent of my customer base so I figured you guys would be the ones to ask. I will post some more pack photos as I make them to see what kind of interest there really is. Thanks for everyone's feedback, its been super helpful.

Edited by Mountainfitter on 07/03/2013 23:09:57 MDT.

James DeGraaf
(jdegraaf) - MLife

Locale: Bay Area
Re: Re: "Semi-Custom Backpacks" on 07/03/2013 23:16:32 MDT Print View

Personally not a big fan of the zippers but I know that when you offers packs for sale you'll have one that doesn't have zippers. My $0.02
Thanks,
James

Edited by jdegraaf on 07/03/2013 23:18:23 MDT.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Feedback on Semi-Custom Backpacks on 07/04/2013 06:12:05 MDT Print View

Hi Lawson,

Nicely done!

I really like what you have done with the pack overall. The heavier materials and tough bottom make it the "tough old truck" that you just have to keep around 'cause it always gets the job done. Lighter isn't always better. 20 ounces is a really good weight for a pack like the one in the picture

" ... I have two packs that are basically done but the inside seams are not grosgrain taped. ...Some people would turn there nose up to something like this."

None of the packs that I have made up to now have had the seams taped.

The dry bag type of roll down top closure has become my go to method. I also let the Y strap hold down the rolled and snapped closure.

I like how the waterproof zippers are reinforced by the compression straps. I use a pack liner so even though I like the idea of the zippers they wouldn't be a great advantage to me. I know Xpac and a pack liner may be overkill but I HATE wet gear. ;-)

The lightweight belt is good. Recently I have noticed that I do not need a supportive hip belt. Good wide shoulder straps, padded or unpadded, with a sternum strap does the job well for me.

Custom or Semi Custom backpack prices are reflective of the time, labor and materials involved in the production of those packs. Market research is a good thing but each "customer" should be willing to work with the designer/manufacturer in negotiating a fair price. If you can't realize a reasonable profit from the making of these packs then it becomes less of a business and more of a "favor" and "hobby" for you.

Party On,

Newton

scree ride
(scree)
another pack on 07/04/2013 07:41:16 MDT Print View

How are these different? Looks like a Zimmer. I have a "y" strap on my HMG. It's well done, but the market is covered.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Covered market on 07/04/2013 10:00:25 MDT Print View

Form follows function. So as pack designs are developed, evolve and get fine tuned they would tend to all look alike to a point and have similar features.

When is a market truly "covered"?

Duck calls had been around for many years before the Duck Commander hit the market in 1972. Should the Robertson family have stayed out of the duck call business because the market was covered? Their success seems to prove the answer to be no.

True there are a number of custom and semi custom backpack manufacturers already in the market. Markets function on supply and demand. Another manufacturer increases the supply. A larger number of suppliers means that the consumer can shop around for the best bang for his or her buck.

Custom work takes a lot of time and communication between customers and manufacturers. Someone just getting started may invest more time in development of the product. This could benefit both the customer and the manufacturer.

Many of these cottage manufacturers have "day jobs" that along with their families takes precedence. Chris Zimmer does a good job of handling this balancing act and still manages to offer advice and praise to BPL members MYOG attempts at pack building.

Once a product gains acceptance and grows in popularity the orders follow and a "one man show" can quickly be swamped with more orders than can filled in a short amount of time.

We in this country have fallen into the trap of wanting quality at the lowest price and delivered in two days or less with free shipping.

Over the years I have dealt with Lawson on a customer basis first and later a friendly basis. His customer service is second to none. I wish him luck in his endeavor. He would be a positive addition to the pack market.

For the record I have conversed with Chris Zimmer on more than one occasion and have nothing but praise for his product quality and customer service as well.

I think of both Chris and Lawson as friends and I am quite sure that the market is quite large enough for both of them.

Party On,

Newton

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Covered market on 07/04/2013 13:44:59 MDT Print View

Lawson...
The pack in the photo is exactly what I'm looking for for adventure racing- color, material, everything. I like the side zipper quite a bit. I'd be interested to know what one would go for if you started producing them.

Lawson Kline
(Mountainfitter) - M

Locale: LawsonEquipment.com
packs on 07/04/2013 14:49:40 MDT Print View

Chris Zimmer builds a damn nice pack. So if the pack in the photo looks as nice as his then thanks for the compliment : )

His business model is a bit different than what I am thinking. His packs are 100% custom built. The customer gets to come up with the design and picks what type of materials they want. Basically the customers imagination is the only limiting factor. Its the reason every single pack Chris makes is different.

That said, I have no intention of building packs this way. That's why I am calling them semi-custom. Basically it will be my design and my material choices. Your measurements and your color choices. Its kind of like when you build and price a car/truck. You choose the model and then choose the colors and features that are available. This is my plan.

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
re on 07/04/2013 15:58:30 MDT Print View

I think you should start selling shoulder pockets and hip belt pockets etc first.

Stick the the small stuff, the market is covered. Where is the innovation?

You are offering a non custom pack that doesnt really offer us any benefits besides no wait time.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: re on 07/04/2013 16:20:44 MDT Print View

This coming from someone who just 11 months ago was using an off the shelf 4.5 pound pack.

Innovation?

It's all about choice.

scree ride
(scree)
Re: packs on 07/04/2013 16:20:51 MDT Print View

" Its kind of like when you build and price a car/truck."
Gotcha..Certainly looks like the quality is there.
The problem I found with Zimmer really, at least for me, was too many options. There's really no reason for most of them other than style. Color wise you're both stuck with what is available. What you have is what I wanted him to build, without the zipper, but then I got a Porter.
What it will ultimately come down to is price, unless you can cook a better pot roast than McHale.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Re: packs on 07/04/2013 16:24:51 MDT Print View

"What it will ultimately come down to is price, unless you can cook a better pot roast than McHale."

And a pot roast with daisy chains, at that.