Expanding on a Carry Icon: the Arc’teryx Arro Collection
We interviewed Ryan Hetzel, lead designer at Arc’teryx, about redesigning one of the most iconic packs the carry world has ever seen. Namely, the unmistakable Arro. And not just tweaking the backpack, but also building out an entire family around it. Ryan breaks down the process into four key design considerations…
The original Arro was a great form study in the backpack space and we wanted to build on that in our expansion of the range. A balanced and well composed aesthetic would be key to having any additions look like they related to the original, which, as we all know, is so iconic. It’s a pack that’s been a staple for us for over 20 years. So it was a super important process.
The original has a strong but smooth angular shape. A clean and minimal exterior. There’s also a balance of the negative spaces (big blank areas of the matte fabric), layers of textures through use of Hypalon and mesh, definite hard constructed parts (think bar tacks and visible top stitching), and ease when it all comes together, so there’s no disharmony with seam lines, fabrics, or overall size/shape/form. And the basics are that it has two areas for packing gear into. One larger, one smaller. We drew inspiration from all of this and used it to explore other forms, which resulted in the two new styles.
The Bucket Bag and the Shoulder Bag both stay pretty true to the Arro family aesthetic. On the Bucket you see large areas of blank matte material with the iconic darts incorporated to both visually relate as well as add volume to the front pocket. The same can be said for the Shoulder Bag. Again, there’s two distinct zones in each bag, one main pocket and one smaller pocket. This division of interior space provides great organization and yet it also drives the exterior aesthetic. It was a matter of balancing the good usable internal space with the resulting external space still looking balanced.
And as for changing the Arro Backpack, we changed a few things which we thought could be evolved a little further. All the zipper pulls went to custom designs, including the main front pocket zipper pull. We improved the stretch mesh for the side pockets, we improved the harness fit (tweaked the shoulder strap shape), cleaned up the top zipper garage aesthetic, and changed the inside pocket to now fit a laptop.
The original Arro Backpack encompassed a certain amount of utilitarian core function, and did little in prescribing use of the spaces. The approach instead is to offer ‘zones’ for packing and organizing contents, keeping its function universal by doing away with a bunch of unnecessary pockets and features, which we kept as a theme for the Bucket and Shoulder Bag.
They both have two different internal zones that provide plenty of basic organization, making access to key items easier and offering gear separation, like keeping your smelly climb shoes or chalky dirty harness away from your Gore-Tex jacket.
Access of these spaces was another key point to investigate, and we brought something new to both a cinch-top backpack and a shoulder bag that should be really intuitive to the users.
The new bags all have more than one closure method, which lends itself to the individual’s needs. Our approach is to keep the packs versatile enough to work for different use scenarios. The Bucket has a single entry that then opens into two spaces via a dividing wall that helps split your gear up. You can cinch the Bucket closed for a real secure closure, or simply use the hook to loosely close (and potentially overload) the top of the pack.
The Shoulder has a zippered front pocket in addition to the main roll-top zippered pocket. It’s also possible to use the main zippered opening without closing that zipper, as the roll-top seals the opening sufficiently.
Both the new forms are also fairly secure (both for theft and weather) when considering access points. Because we wanted these products to be great for travel and urban use, and these environments often come with their own set of challenges. Security and great access aren’t always easy to have together on the same product, but we think we’ve found a good balance here.
Please note, we are not touting these as the most secure bags on the market, but instead let the form and function lend itself to being more secure. The Shoulder Bag’s main compartment zipper is not visible when the bag is on, and the Bucket’s closure method is in a location where it would be hard to get into while worn.
Use of contrasting textures and rich visual appeal in materials (that are also durable and have body) were combined successfully in the original, so we re-examined these materials looking for ways to improve upon the platform. The fabrics needed to hold up to a lot of daily abuse, be it from a commuter on a bike or a climber on approach. In addition, they also needed to have some structure to them so that the bags held their shape regardless of contents. For each piece the visual form is fairly consistent regardless of whether the bag is packed to the brim for a big day out, or lightly packed for a quick jaunt across town.
We also improved the main coated fabric (matte front pocket on Arro), so that it’ll be more stable and more durable over time, and changed some of the main body fabrics so there was a more uniform look (around the side pockets).
For our custom parts we focused on the touch points, where people directly interact with the bag. On the Arro Backpack, we added custom angular zipper pulls with lines that mimicked the silhouette, matching the overall ‘bag look’ much better. We also refined the top front zipper garage.
With the Bucket, we drew on the angular influence of the zipper pulls, so we created a top cap closure system that is a custom molded part. The faceted look also helps to seal up the cinch-top opening. The closure and opening method itself came from something we have seen work in many of our other packs, where instead of fighting with a cord lock and then wrenching the cinch-top aperture open, you can instead do it all in one movement for both opening and closing the bag. And finally with the Shoulder, the roll-top and zipper closure made for a great combo where you can either just roll it down or zip and roll it. This allows for great on-the-fly access or a more secure zipped up closure.