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Carryology x Topo Collab


The First Ever Carryology Collab: a Story of Sub-Zero Hikes, Geek Speak and Butterflies

by , November 14, 2017

For months now, we’ve been sharing geek speak in whispers, watching craftsmen and makers maintain the mystery, and hiking sub-zero temperatures with a secret pack on our back. A Carryology collaboration has been in the making, and we’re excited to finally let the cat out of the…you know what. Our first collaboration project is with a brand that’s been nailing bomber-built, heritage-inspired carry since ‘08: Topo Designs.

We’ve seen Topo Designs united with some big gear brands – Chaco, Danner, Kammok, Howler Brothers, Woolrich, Salomon, Opinel, Monocle, Uncrate, and many more. And to have Carryology join that list is a thrill. But, collaboration is about much more than placing a couple of names side-by-side. And this is the first time we’ve really had to sit back and think, What would Carryology be if it were a bag? How might we take all our years of geeking out over performance, hardware and fabrics, and laser beam them into a single pack?

Topo lay the challenge on the table. And “let’s do it” was our response. So, I headed to Topo Designs HQ in Colorado to work with the team and watch our design come to life. Here’s how it went down – sub-zero hikes, geek speak and butterflies included.

Bound for Topo World

I arrived in Denver International Airport and headed to the Topo Designs retail shop in Fort Collins (with a detour to The Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs along the way…because, Colorado). The shop was an overwhelming introduction to the full Topo Designs range – overwhelming mostly because I’d never seen their full range concentrated in one place. The brand is growing rapidly, and you can really tell by the breadth of products they’re offering – from apparel, to camp gear, EDC accessories, and more. While I wanted to stay there and drool over everything for the remainder of the day, I had work to do. At Topo HQ a few blocks down the road, I met with Jedd, Becky, Rick, Scott, and Lee, the creative team behind TD. It was time for the fun to begin.


Getting from A to X-Pac

First up, we selected the Klettersack backpack as our blank canvas for the collab. It was an obvious choice, it’s so classic in function and in form.

A more difficult decision was next: what fabric? While we are huge fans of CORDURA® fabrics (the fabric that Topo Designs already uses), we wanted something unique, and explored dozens of ideas in the process…

Dyneema fabric had a strong stance, but in the end, X-Pac was the winner. X-Pac is a bit burlier, giving the back some structure without modifying the pattern. Where Dyneema can be found in a dark heathered gray color, X-Pac was available in the best color of all: black.

We also agreed to use some ballistic CORDURA® nylon for the back panel, for superior abrasion resistance on such a high-wear area, and also to keep the cost a little more modest.

Topo Designs x Carryology collaboration


The Cobra strikes

Hardware was a fun one. We love our Duraflex and ITW plastic buckles; they’re proven, durable, lightweight and easily accessible. But, again, Topo Designs already uses this type of hardware on their packs, so we needed to push the needle. Fidlock was the next suggestion. If you’ve ever had the pleasure to play with some Fidlock buckles, they’re fun, functional, and unique. And then, the mighty AustriAlpin Cobra buckle was introduced into the conversation. It was almost instantly unanimous, despite the weight and cost penalty. We’re huge fans of both Fidlock and AustriAlpin, but at this point, we started to see the direction of the pack…bombproof. This was a dream project, so we decided to go for the insanely tough Cobras. X-Pac and Cobra buckles is a killer combo.

Hi-vis pop and Hypalon

We opted for a tried and true favorite…CORDURA® nylon. But where it gets interesting is the color. As our regular readers will know, we love bags with bright interior lining. It helps you visually locate the small items dropped down into pockets in low lighting. We were looking at bright neon yellow/green, an electric yellow, and hi-vis fluorescent orange. While they all work equally well for their intended purpose, we had our first aesthetics decision to make. Ultimately, we opted for the orange, as it echoed the Carryology branding. And, let me tell you, this stuff is so vibrant it basically creates its own light.

"What would Carryology be if it were a bag? How might we take all our years of geeking out over performance, hardware and fabrics, and laser beam them into a single pack?"

Enter Hypalon. We love Hypalon, it’s extremely durable, wildly strong, waterproof, and has a sleek aesthetic. We opted to use Hypalon in place of the leather lash tabs (AKA pig snouts) for that extra bit of technical appeal.

Topo Designs x Carryology collaboration

How long’s a length of cordage?

And lastly, as a nod to the urban bicycle commuters on the Carryology team, the Topo Designs team, and our readers, we wanted this black-on-black murdered out pack to be visible on the streets. How? Black 550 paracord with super reflective elements in it. I believe the term “excessively long” is how I’ve described my preferred length for paracord cinch cord and zipper pulls. For two reasons: first, I always loved The Brown Buffalo’s pack designs from the past with their long zipper pulls. So this was a nod to him. And second, the additional length of reflective cordage blowing in the wind while cycling in the dark will make you even more visible (fun fact: human eyes see non-moving reflective items at night as static objects, so greater attention is given to moving reflective elements).

The first test passed at 10,500 feet

Decisions made. We slapped the table, shook hands, and celebrated at the epic New Belgium Brewing Company’s headquarters located only a few blocks away from the office. Here, I was joined by the entire team for some sours and seasonal stouts.

The next morning I woke up early to meet Becky in the mountains of Nederland, Colorado – with the first prototype of the pack in all its glory; my first peek at the beauty. We met at a coffee shop in the tiny town and set off for a hike up to the glacially-carved alpine Brainard Lake near Indian Peaks Wilderness. Even loaded with water, extra layers (it was below freezing, 10,500 feet of altitude and very windy), snacks, and photography equipment, the pack hauled the load really comfortably. After our five-mile round trip, we hopped into our vehicles and made the 45-minute drive down to the factory.


It’s alive. It’s alive… It’s alive!

Here, I got to meet the brains behind the cut and sew operation as well as each of the incredibly talented sewers who bring these products to life. Without hesitation, they begin making the very first Topo Designs x Carryology pack, from start to finish. They cut the fabrics into their shapes for the pattern using a special saw. Then, they sewed these panels together individually. As a full-time softgoods industrial designer, I was in heaven. But the real moment came when they stitched the Topo Designs x Carryology woven label onto the front panel. Butterflies.

Topo Designs x Carryology collaboration

After several more processes, they started sewing on the Hypalon lash tabs, used for attaching additional gear if needed. The X-Pac and the Hypalon really complement each other with their technical performance characteristics, as well as their good looks.

"Even loaded with water, extra layers (it was below freezing, 10,500 feet of altitude and very windy), snacks, and photography equipment, the pack hauled the load really comfortably."

Once the X-Pac panel with the Cobra buckles, collab woven label, and Hypalon lash tabs were all in use, the pack started to resemble its final form. The sewers manipulated this fabric and hardware into a thing of beauty – switching from one station to another, to another like a choreographed dance. Becky and I followed the first pack through every single step until it was finished. Which brings us to the most exciting part – the reveal.

The great reveal…

On November 17th, we’ll be unveiling the pack you now know so much about. It’ll be one for the collectors. And you guys, our readers, will have exclusive first dibs, three full days before the public. These packs are limited edition – only 100 pieces available – so make sure you’re one of the lucky ones!

Mark your calendars. Get ready for the big reveal. And join in on the high-fives we’ll be throwing around, too.


(Photo credit to: Becky Day, Daryl Love, and Taylor Welden)

  • Tony Cobb

    Can’t wait to see it!

    • TeamCarryology

      Thanks @tonycobb:disqus! That means a lot coming from a maker such as yourself. 😉

  • Andrew Do

    Seriously, first Bellroy and now this?! Decisions, decisions. I’m looking for a new bag and this one seriously piques my interest. The amazing fabrics and hardware choices seem like they might drive the price fairly high. Is there any sort of estimate for the price of the bag as of right now?
    Really excited for this bag!

    • TeamCarryology

      Heya Andrew, stoked it’s piquing your interest! We didn’t hold back on this, that’s for sure. We only wanted the best. And it had to be 110% bomber. So it’ll be on the premium side of things… although we can’t reveal the price tag just yet. All will be revealed Nov 17th, so stay tuned!

  • Jonas Hanna

    At first I was a little disappointed that yet again the Klettersack was going to be the base. It seems that this is the go to for collabs. BUT – with ALL the different material choices I have to get yet another Klettersack! The mix had me thinking more about the TAD azimuth (which I also own and love) and less about the White X-Pac model that topo already has which I didn’t love because of the leather accents on it. The mix to me just wasn’t right. Really looking forward to this one!

    • http://mytinypants.com Tinypants

      +1 to the water bottle pockets question

    • TeamCarryology

      Hey Jonas, we did have some bold ideas on changing the patterning of the backpack (extra pockets, small tweaks etc). However, the realities of doing so were tricky. First, even a simple change in the construction requires the skilled factory workers to relearn their process, which can sometimes take months. Additionally, though it may seem minor, a change in the patterning can alter the way the pack functions and wears. A seam might get stacked with too much material or a critical stress point could be compromised. Without months and months of real world testing it could actually fail the customer. So long story short, we didn’t mess with the pattern. 🙂

      • Jonas Hanna

        I figured. Still looking forward to it though. Thanks for the response.

    • BortLicensePlatez

      Is the TAD Azimuth worth buying? I always almost buy, then don’t see a need for it.

      • Jonas Hanna

        Hell yeah! I love that bag. I was trolling their site for a while too before pulling the trigger. I just wasn’t 100% on the looks. The bag in person looks really good. My wife who usually couldn’t care less about the bags I use commented on it after sharing it on a recent road trip in Iceland. It’s minimal and very technical all at once. Makes for a great day pack especially on vacation. Did a lot of hiking with it and it worked out fantastic. Only minor gripe that one may have with it is that the fabric makes it sound a bit like a brown paper bag (not as loud though) I personally don’t mind the sound at all but it’s something to be aware of.
        The price point of it is also killer for the design, materials and company. Loved it so much I ordered the Azimuth duffel which I’ve also been trolling. Figured it would make a great travel combo by packing the backpack in the duffel until I reach unto the plane or my destination.

        • BortLicensePlatez

          Thanks for the detailed reply! Sounds nice.

          • Jonas Hanna

            no prob

  • http://mytinypants.com Tinypants

    oh dear god i cannot wait!! i have the white x-pac and now i can complete my yin and yang obsession.

    • http://mytinypants.com Tinypants
      • TeamCarryology

        Bwahaha! Soo good.

      • http://Carryology.com/ Taylor (Carryology)

        Hahahahha! YES!!!!

    • TeamCarryology

      Oh yeh! If you complete the yin and yang family, you’ve gotta post a pic and tag us! Please, please.

      • http://mytinypants.com Tinypants

        🙏 absolutely!

  • Bernardo Tribolet

    Looking forward for the news !!;)

    • TeamCarryology

      Thank you, @bernardotribolet:disqus! Hope you DIG.

  • Theo Gregoire

    May I ask what capacity size the bag will be?

    • Jonas Hanna


  • niico100

    I can only imagine how much of a nightmare that beard is – dude, sunk cost fallacy – shave it off – you’ll feel so good 😀

    • http://Carryology.com/ Taylor (Carryology)

      I’m good, but thanks.

  • irrg

    Any hints at a price point, so I can start weeping uncontrollably early instead of when I miss out on the run?

    • TeamCarryology

      Ha, not yet @irrg:disqus. You’ll have to wait for the 17th. We’re hoping you’ll have tears of joy instead!

  • Brad

    Not pointing fingers at Topo; their gear is solid and they seem like an ethical brand, but is this what a collaboration amounts to? You change the color of the webbing and add a woven label and suddenly it’s a collectors item? I get that ALL the materials are “new” here but it remains simply a klettersack with a different colorway and some neat textures. I guess you might call this a ‘greatest hits’ bag as far as the materials used; Cobra buckles, x-pac, hypalon…. I just hoped that with all of Carryology (and Taylor’s) wealth of knowledge, experience, and appreciate for material, technique, the originality that a bag can posses when given the time and energy to bring it into the world, that we wouldn’t end up with something so obvious. So I ask: IS this what Carryology would look like if it were a bag? I guess there is that woven labe so….

    • Jonas Hanna

      Completely agree with you Brad. I happen to be a HUGE fan of Topo Designs (their Travel Bag is easily the most slept on “one bag travel bag” out there) but over the years when I see a collaboration from them I just think it’s a little comical as it’s just a re-branding of sorts with label and colorway. Where exactly is the collaboration???

      • Brad

        Ya, it is a bummer. I will concede Taylors point about the effort and labour involved in repatterning a bag BUT, if you truly want to make something special, take the time to do it. THAT is a collectors item. This just feels lazy. Did it even require a design meeting? Certainly that is part of the PR campaign; this could have been created with a couple short emails.

        • Jonas Hanna

          Your’e hitting the nail on the head man. I’m still interested in the bag BUT it really depends on the price. Dropping two Cobra buckles will likely add around $60-$80 on the bag by themselves. Add that the the $189 “collabo x-pac” base price and we getting up there! Totally guestimating obviously.

          • Gregory House

            Oh the price is actually $350, 2x the cost of the regular bag…..guess that was WAY out of bounds of your guestimate.

            Yea, as a first collab..this isn’t a consumer centric bag…more of a collector’s item.

            It is LITERALLY the same cost as the AXIOM X25 ….which I think I’m going to just pick-up. Sorry Carryology, but the value here just isn’t there.

          • Jonas Hanna

            Yeah I was $80.00 off. I wasn’t expecting the $350 at all even with all the upgrades. I guess the gap has to be chalked up to exclusivity. (Which some will find zero value in). Carryology did warn that it was more of a high end piece which primed me for sticker shock.
            Having said that I still pulled the trigger on it even though I still feel it’s too expensive for what it is. For me personally I know that I’ll be enjoying using this bag long after I forget about “this price is too high” feeling.
            Based on my experience with T.A.D. gear you will the thrilled with the Axiom X25.

        • http://Carryology.com/ Taylor (Carryology)

          Trust me and trust us… this is highly unlikely that this will be the last time we do a collab. And while we are SUPER incredibly proud of the result of our first collab, repatterning was just too time consuming and difficult. Once we knew the scope we could work within, we pushed all the boundaries and went as far as we possibly could. And man, this thing is mean. Definitely a “greatest hits”!

  • Dave Casey

    Looks great!!

    Any chance of a heads up of a time to keep an eye out for the EDM? Do I need to set my clock for 2am Sydney time to get my greasy mitts on one??

    • TeamCarryology

      You bet @disqus_itQjyIR9hI:disqus, the EDM goes out at 7am EST on the 17th!

      • Alex h

        Did I miss the EDM???

        • Mike

          Hey Alex, no sir, the EDM goes out at 7am, EST (New York time). Hang tight!

        • Dave Casey

          17th 7am EST US time.

        • TeamCarryology

          Heya Alex, Dave’s spot on, 7am New York time. Here’s a good tool to work out what time that means in your neck of the woods 🙂 https://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter-classic.html

  • Sunny

    Thanks for sharing the process behind this joint venture. I have 2 questions: #1)Why was there only 100 pieces made? Is that the standard set collab unit amount? #2) Is the color on the inner fabric all black as well? My Hundreds x Topo Collab Daypack is all black on the inside, and I find that smaller items get lost without the brighter contrasting color like in the original packs. Since the Klettersack has a deeper frame, I’d imagine packers will need to take a second glance not to miss a small item. Looking forward to see the full details on the 11/17

  • Gregory House

    May I ask…why is this more than twice the cost of the regular Klettersack? Cobra buckles don’t cost that much ($25-30, IIRC) a piece and here’s the cost of the fabric:


    A bit disappointed in this one. Yes we get it, it’s a limited run. But without changing the design (which is literally what Carryology is about), I’m not sure if many people are willing to pay 2x the amount of the regular bag.


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