- Buyer's Guide
Designing the EVERGOODS CTB40 Travel Bag
Last year EVERGOODS strode boldly onto the carry scene with their crossover backpacks that expertly fuse outdoor and urban design. Now they’re back with a new addition to the family: the EVERGOODS CTB40 Travel Bag. We asked EVERGOODS co-founder Kevin Dee to share his design insights on bringing this meticulously considered carry-on to life…
Visualize your happy place
Before Jack and I decided on EVERGOODS’ first product developments two and a half years ago, we built out an imaginary calendar of four years’ worth of product releases in order to help us visualize what we wanted the brand to look and feel like down the road. This was a valuable exercise, and of course, some sort of travel bag was an obvious addition to this imaginary product catalogue.
Priorities from 30,000 ft
We’ve gotten our fill of overseas business travel this past year. It’s really a great test bed for travel-related product. The sheer duration of international travel coupled with time changes and foreign surroundings can bring on a physical and mental fatigue that magnifies a test product’s minor annoyances and discomforts. Long lines, long layovers and long airport terminals make that neck strain you get from carrying a heavy shoulder bag start to feel like something that might actually kill you. This exhaustion helped bring the priorities of a “travel bag” into sharper focus for EVERGOODS. Above all we wanted our bag to be simple to use, keep things securely organized but easily available, and fit where you need to put it, whether that’s a vehicle trunk, an overhead bin, or on your back.
“The sheer duration of international travel coupled with time changes and foreign surroundings…magnifies a test product’s minor annoyances and discomforts.”
Pockets galore vs the big dump
Some gear haulers are what I refer to as “big dump”. Just a single huge, undivided cavity. You can sure cram a lot in this type of bag without overthinking it, but staying organized and finding things can be a challenge. The opposite end of the spectrum is what I like to call “pockets galore”. These designs feature toothbrush slots, shoe compartments, phone holsters and removable ditty kits. There’s definitely a place for everything (as long as your packing list mirrors the designer’s). Each of these approaches has its advantages and shortcomings and we wanted to strike a careful balance between the two.
Our CTB40 has a clamshell opening that runs around the center line of the bag so that the two halves rest flatly on whatever surface you’re working from, allowing you to pack, organize and inventory. One half is an open main compartment with a collar extension that serves to increase its capacity, contain the load, and compress it prior to closing the bag. This portion of the bag is wide open to accept whatever you’re hauling, whether it’s business attire with some workout shorts and a pair of running shoes, or larger items like a rope, rack and helmet. The other half of the bag keeps track of the smaller stuff with two mesh pockets for quick visibility and an opaque security pocket for more sensitive items like cash or medication. This pocket panel is set back into the clamshell, so that the perimeter wall creates a catch area for sorting or swapping your bits.
“One half is an open main compartment with a collar extension that serves to increase its capacity, contain the load, and compress it prior to closing the bag.”
This layout is intended more for use at your destination. But it seems there’s always a few items that make sense to keep handy during transit or sometimes it’s nice to offload something to free up hands or pockets without blowing open the whole bag. So we developed several external pockets for the CTB40. The first is a long sleeve with a rather flat volume. You could stash a light jacket or something here if you wanted, but mostly it’s for documents and a laptop computer. The laptop sleeve is set into the center of the dividing panel and held securely with a strap. This suspends the computer in the center of the pocket with space around all sides so that it won’t make contact with the ground regardless of which way you set the bag down. A second pocket at the top of the harness features a key leash and holds other small essentials like sunglasses or snacks. It’s also a great place to dump your wallet, phone and wristwatch prior to going through airport security.
Lastly there’s an ID pocket just inside the main zipper. The clear window displays a business card, ID, or similar sized note. So if this bag ends up in Lost and Found, it can be identified without opening the entire thing. This two-step access also makes it a handy place to keep a passport or cash. Smaller items that you want to keep secure, but may need to get at relatively easily.
85/15 feels more like 50/50
A travel bag probably spends 85 percent of its time in a cargo hold, luggage rack, or open on a floor or bed. So of course the layout and organization are very important. Actually lugging the bag from A to B makes up the remaining 15 percent of a travel bag’s life. However, when you’re 19 hours into your itinerary, standing in a foreign language security line and hoping there’s something decent to eat before you board again, that’s when you know without a doubt that this last 15 percent is just as important as the other 85. This kind of travel is already an endurance test. Getting your bags to the next station shouldn’t be the thing that breaks you.
I think a stowable harness on a travel bag could be a great feature. But honestly, if it isn’t dead simple and lightning fast, I don’t fuss with it half the time. Nobody wants to hold up a line of people while they thread shoulder straps onto their luggage. But even more disappointing is when the convertible aspect of a harness compromises its ability to carry comfortably. It might look cool in the marketing materials, but if it’s fiddly to use and uncomfortable to carry, what’s the point?
The CTB40 comes with the same level of harness as all of our other products. Same curves and contours, same fit, same foam. Same solid carry. Cinching the straps all the way down pulls them flat to the back panel, reducing the profile and getting them out of the way. Elastic keepers are available to manage the excess webbing if desired, and the harness is effectively “stowed”. Letting out the webbing puts the harness back in play.
Now, 40 liters is a size where most backpacks start to benefit from a hip belt. This is where the initial product brief is important. It reminds Jack and I during the development process that this is primarily a travel bag, NOT a thru-hiking pack. That while comfortable carry is a priority, it has to be balanced with a low profile and simple stowability. The result is that we identified an expected carry range of sub three miles for this product, and did not give it a hip belt to keep it streamlined and uncomplicated.
Top and side handles round out the carry, to allow pulling, picking, lugging and shoving in a variety of ways. The double side handles are designed for solid, balanced carry, set over the center axes of the bag and long enough to overlap in the hand. The 7075 aluminum stays in the body of the bag help it keep its shape when carried this way. Placing these handles on either side of the zipper means that when the bag is open flat you have a handle at each end, so you can quickly pick it up and move it without having to pack and close the main zipper.
“We identified an expected carry range of sub three miles for this product, and did not give it a hip belt to keep it streamlined and uncomplicated.”
Earlier I mentioned “developing” the external pockets. It’s true. This stuff does not spring forth in a singular and final flash of realization (at least it never has for us). What started as basically a carry-on compliant sized box had to go through round after round of slicing, dicing, re-working and adjustment to come out the other side as the CTB40. Something as mundane and un-sexy as the assembly turned out to be one of the most challenging aspects of the design. It’s great to build a bunch of pockets and structure, but without careful sequencing and inventive patterning the thing would get half finished and then no longer fit under a sewing machine. For me, the turning maneuvers at several key stages of the build are some of the most beautiful parts of this design that no one will ever witness. The idea and the vision are critical, but the engineering makes them possible. The successful marriage of these things is Design.
Really challenging projects require the designer to balance opposing forces. To make things lightweight but strong, versatile but intuitive, powerful but efficient. This bag ultimately required a delicate balance of many different concerns. In the end, we hope we’ve been able to move the needle slightly, making a product that balances suitcase with backpack, travel with sport, storage with carriage. We’ve tried to keep a clear perspective and build from that place forward. Ultimately, Jack and I want this bag to be a complement to your activities so that you can focus less on your luggage, and more on having fun and getting the job done, however that’s defined for you.
Today EVERGOODS launched their second Kickstarter (YES!) and to celebrate Jack and Kevin have been super generous and offered – if the KS campaign funds that is – a first run MQD24 and CTB40 as prizes to two lucky winners.
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