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Interviews

Studio Visit :: Boreas and Alite

by , July 17, 2014

San Francisco and the Bay Area is approximately the centre of the universe right now when it comes to carry, so we’re trying to drop by at least once or twice a year to soak up the vibes and catch up with some great crew.

So who did we have on our radar for rad carry crew during our latest visit? Step up Boreas Gear and Alite Designs, who have continued to spread their wings since our last interview and are really making a name for themselves in the San Francisco carry sphere. Here are some of the highlights from a great afternoon spent with these awesome folk…

Boreas & Alite packs on wall

Product

If you’re keen to bag yourself some new Boreas packs, you don’t have long to wait. Set for a release in Fall ’14, the Monterey and Echo bring a water-resistant approach to the Boreas lineup. A suspended liner is a new thing for Boreas, but a great thing in our books. The packs feel really good and resolved.

Boreas backpacks

Boreas have also been busy on the collaboration front. Their Boreas Mash collab has just dropped, and this partnering brings their awesome Erawan duffel format into the world of cycle racing. Working as a haul bag for the Mash racer’s kit, it also doubles as a stand-in change station. Plus, there’s also a Larkin Daypack in the collaboration. Boreas want to use collaborations like this to expand on the stories of particular bags and how they can be used.

When the Kezar dropped, we were stoked to see a more tactical vibe creeping into the Boreas lineup. Apparently customers agreed, as the bag sold out fast. While most bags in this vein are in matte fabrics with a bit more weight to them, the Kezar features shiny nylon and reduced weight. It also fits the Modular Super-Tramp suspension from their Bootlegger system.

Modular Super-Tramp Suspension and Kezar

Speaking of the Bootlegger system, it’s been just over a year since it launched on Kickstarter – a launch that far exceeded what Boreas had hoped to achieve. Any fears of not reaching their $10k target were unfounded, as they eventually raised $145k. Beyond the financial confidence this provided for Boreas, it also helped to introduce the brand to a new audience that love fresh and innovative ideas.

Folks have since returned to get new modules, as they seem to be buying additional suspension systems to unlock more of their packs. Boreas have also recently released the Women’s Modular Super-Tramp suspension, a tweaked version of the Modular Super-Tramp suspension that is designed to provide a better fit and more comfort for female users. Currently the folks at Boreas are designing for 2016, and while we can’t yet show you what’s in the works, there are some nice evolutions and great new fabrics that we’ll be stoked to see coming through.

Alite has also been up to plenty of exciting new things under the guidance of lead designer Elizabeth Clark. One of the most intriguing developments on its way this Fall is an Alite DIY backpack-making kit (with instructional videos). Alite will be partnering with Workshop SF to teach classes using this kit. It’s a simple pack, but when you’ve been actively involved in making it there will be loads of added warm fuzzies.

Alite interior

Liz Clark Alite Designs

From the sounds of things most Boreas fans connect through geeking out on the bags, whereas Alite fans generally talk of being inspired to go places and get outdoors. That’s a nice mix for the two brands, and the new Alite developments will continue to push the playful and approachable side of things.

Alite sign

Interestingly, when asked about what bag Tae would most covet, he responded that a simple paper-sack style bag works fine. He’s around bags so much that he likes to almost go anti-bag.

wall images and lunch tote

People

Since we last caught up with Boreas and Alite there’s been a bit of movement on the people front, as tends to happen when ‘adventure travel’ is your reason for being. So there are some new faces, but still lots of familiar ones too. Todd Wilkinson is the lead designer for Boreas, while Liz is Alite’s lead designer. Design creativity also stems from assistant designer Luke Matthews, while Tae Kim works to keep things fresh and foster new ideas and developments through innovation projects.

Boreas and Alite people

Todd Wilkinson and Luke Matthews

Processes

Every brand we caught up with in the Bay Area spoke of how expensive developers are up there. That means that after hugely expensive quotes for a new website, the guys balked and found a friend to build it for a tiny fraction of the cost. But that also means they’re much more willing to dive in and change it, which is why we’re starting to see lots more updates.

Alite bags

One of the best parts of this website liberation is that both Boreas and Alite are now sharing sketches, development and the tools of their trade with an appreciative audience. Check out their sites for lots of neat stories:

Muir Woods Process
Durkopp sewing machine
Design Process: Bike to the Beach

Boreas camo packs

Thanks again to the guys for a totally fun afternoon. We’ll keep you all updated as the fruits of their labor come through.

ocean

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