- Buyer's Guide
5 Key Elements :: Designing The Finisterre Waterproof Duffle
Finisterre have built up a solid rep for their gear aimed at cold water surfers, owing to key values such as responsible manufacturing and a commitment to innovative and burly kit. So when they decided to create a waterproof duffle, they were determined to protect that hard-earned reputation and do it right. Todd, Head of Product Design and Development at Finisterre, gave us the low-down on 5 key elements that were critical for bringing the Finisterre Waterproof Duffle to life…
Built For Purpose – The Need
We’ve been using duffles and packs for years for all our Cold Water Surf needs. Playing in the UK’s harshest environments means they get a lot of abuse and most of them don’t cut it. Generally speaking the ones that have remained with us are the ones that were built for the marine industry. There’s something really pleasing about the simplicity of these kind of bags, yet we found there was room for improvement. Fabrics, components, and construction being the main issues. Also from an environmental point of view we knew we could do better.
We put together a list of what was needed. Tough, fully waterproof, ability to carry in hand and on the back, removable straps, sized for carry-on travel, reliable, easy clean, low fuss, lightweight, which also looked great. We also didn’t want to go too hard on the branding, it’s just not our style. Place of manufacture and environmental issues were also discussed. To be honest, in the early design stages we felt like we had a bit of a mountain to climb to achieve everything we wanted.
Construction – components / fabrics / sustainability / environment
Building a bag like this from scratch isn’t easy. I realized we would need to source the very best components and manufacturing facilities. Having spent a lot of time (years even) obsessing over bags, I realized the outdoor industry and their factories wasn’t quite achieving the level we wanted. How many duffles have you seen that appear to be up to the challenge yet fail on the zip and add a cover for protection rather than the ultimate waterproof zip? Being specialists in waterproof clothing built for the harshest environments, we knew exactly the kind of components needed. Specialist components built for the marine world had to be sourced. Not even a coated ‘waterproof’ zip will give the protection and durability needed for the bag we wanted.
After months of research we had narrowed down our production possibilities.
What we found is the bag makers we truly respected were using their own manufacturing facilities. Big factories in the Far East were making bags for all the outdoor brands yet MOQ was exceptional but there were some grey areas I felt uncomfortable with. This was the point where I decided to reach out to those respected companies with an incredible product and specialist manufacturing.
“Being specialists in waterproof clothing built for the harshest environments, we knew exactly the kind of components needed. Specialist components built for the marine world had to be sourced.”
Knowing the bag could be made in East Germany by a company with a strong environmental stance was perfect for us. Thankfully Ortlieb were excited about working with Finisterre. We share a very similar ethos and opening up their company to a surf market was a first for them. It was a huge relief forming this relationship and finally we could begin focusing on the design and components.
We laid out our needs and a lot of initial progress was made. We chose to use non-PVC fabrics for environmental reasons whilst also opting for a more toned down and sophisticated alternative in the coated Nylon. Samples were made and tested in the field (and the water).
The test bags were thrown onto van roof racks, driven across the UK and Scandinavia in all weather conditions. They were thrown into the ocean from the Cornish cliffs and brought back to the beach with the tide. They were used as a float device whilst swimming over to small islands in Portugal whilst full of kit.
They also passed the carry-on test and made it to some remote cold surf spots on the other side of the world.
Durability – Life Span / Quality
We often find the most durable product to be the most ethical. There is no point to creating an eco product which doesn’t last. However, being considerate of the manufacturing and materials used is still incredibly important. Some of the most poisonous and polluting materials in the world are the longest lasting. Just take a look at all the rubbish which has been floating in the sea for decades! Not good!
So there was a trade-off with everything used to build the bag and thankfully Ortlieb were able to provide all the info and certifications needed.
“We often find the most durable product to be the most ethical. There is no point to creating an eco product which doesn’t last.“
We are confident that this is a bag built to last, plus all of the components are replaceable which is amazing. The zip itself is where a lot of those costs have gone, it’s the most expensive part of the bag by far but absolutely worth it. It’s also fully waterproof which most ‘waterproof’ zips are actually not.
Versatility – Easy of use / Low maintenance
After extreme testing we knew the bag would work. As far as the design goes, ‘simple’ yet comfortable was the key. Essentially it is a duffle designed for the hand and therefore most focus went into that. However, we did want to wear it on the back so a versatile strapping system was important. Ortlieb had been using something similar on their huge dry-bags which was perfect so it was easy combining these elements. However, the PU Coated Nylon which we selected wasn’t something they were using on this kind of product. We found it to be more lightweight and ethical and still incredibly durable.
“As far as the design goes, ‘simple’ yet comfortable was the key.”
The duffle can literally be thrown around. It’s easy to wipe clean and maintenance is minimal. Switching from hand to back is really easy which makes travel a doddle.
The straps are also really comfortable on the shoulders. Goes to show you don’t have to go overboard when it comes to designing such things. Seams have been high-frequency welded, cutting out the use of glues. Components have been bolted and welded in. For something so simple, a lot has gone into it. It also looks great.
Aesthetic – Timeless Design, Sophisticated, Pleasing to the eye
It’s really important that each product we make is also aesthetically pleasing. In most cases the ‘less is more’ rule works for us. We question every detail and its intended purpose. Avoiding trends helps create a timeless product, whether it’s a jacket, jeans, knife, or bag, everything is investigated. Sometimes too much!
“The duffle can literally be thrown around. It’s easy to wipe clean and maintenance is minimal. Switching from hand to back is really easy which makes travel a doddle.“
These are pieces of design. A good product will still be working and looking as relevant as ever in 20 years’ time. I would hope this bag can go well beyond that.
And diversity of use is really beneficial. Here’s a bag that will serve you well, wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing.
Judging by the overwhelming response and feedback…I feel we nailed this one!
The Finisterre Waterproof Duffle Bag will also be available in denim blue this winter. Plus keep an eye out for the new Finisterre + Ortlieb 20L Backpack which will be available in all black and denim blue / slate grey.