- Buyer's Guide
As you’ve noticed, we’ve been pushing hard this year to develop our collab program. Building on our years of research and testing to iterate and improve on already remarkable pieces. From anti-theft briefcases to beautiful ‘one bags’. Working with some of the world’s very best brands. And ticking off a dream list of feature and fabric combinations along the way – all undertaken with one goal in mind: to push the boundaries of brands and carry.
As we’ve moved through projects, we’ve experimented in the categories of travel, work and outdoors – but never the ultimate crossing of the three. The mythical ‘all rounder’. The ‘every pack’. A pack that can flex from city to mountain and beyond – not only with its performance but with its aesthetics. A pure alchemy of tailored and technical, function and style.
It's in the name…
Few brands achieve this like Alchemy Equipment. Crowned one of Gear Patrol’s best small outdoor brands, and winner of our Outdoor Retailer Rising Star Award and Best Carry-On Bag in Carry Awards III, the small New Zealand brand has been a spearhead for ‘crossover’ design since its inception. Building packs with a material and construction standard that performance-driven brands promise, but with an aesthetic more refined for an urban context.
So to embark on a quest to create the perfect all-rounder, we simply had to work with Alchemy Equipment.
Choosing a Foundation: From 002 to 222
When choosing a pack to work with, we went straight for the one forever on our 'Most Versatile' shortlist; the one that Carryology contributor, Jimmy Gleeson, carried it on his epic adventure from Hokkaido to San Francisco, then Yosemite and finally Austin, Texas, for South By Southwest.
Over 10 days, he snowboarded, hiked, commuted and carried it to business meetings. It flexed from adventure to city streets and back again, nailing that balance with ease. A remarkable piece. A piece that, with the help of Alchemy’s founder and super designer, Campbell Junor, and a trio of longtime users, we’d take to a new level.
A pack we’d name the AEL 222.
Feedback loops and free-for-all’ing at Carry HQ
After our design process began in meetings at OR (with Special Projects Lead, Taylor Welden), Campbell soon began building new prototypes. Addressing our notes, Jimmy’s feedback, and insights from AE users globally.
In February, Campbell arrived at Carry HQ with a new prototype slung around his shoulders. An epic version 2 of the AEL002 to further build on and refine. On deck, we had a team of trusted Carryologists joining Jimmy and me. Chris, former Carry Ninja of our Carryology pop-up store, and Kaihl, a Digital Advertising Mechanic, both daily slingers of 002, and preachers to its versatility.
Campbell, myself and the trio of Jimmy, Kaihl and Chris converged upon a desk, everyone laid out their 002s and their ideas, and we began to imagine. The brief: to attain ‘ultra-versatility’.
The result… became something remarkable.
Discovering the chameleon camo
Our first challenge was the main fabric. It had to embody ultra-versatility, moving through worlds, adapting as it went. Elegant in appearance. Durable in performance. Adaptive in its look.
Waxed canvas was on the table. UL tech fabrics too. But Campbell had another idea: he tabled a cotton and Cordura blend, in a jacquard Woodland camo we’d never laid eyes on.
Carry 101: what’s a jacquard? It’s a fabric that has a design incorporated into the actual weave, instead of being printed or dyed onto, providing beautiful and soft gradations of color tones.
We leaned in and put our hands on it. It had the natural touch of cotton but the tremendous tensile and abrasion benefits of a 6.6 nylon. And woven in a jacquard woodland camouflage (with a piece dying process that reacted only with the cotton), it created a beautiful, yet subtle pattern.
In the office light, the camouflage softened, almost disappeared. And when carried outside it sprang to life when kissed with sunlight. It was just what we were looking for. We’d found our chameleon!
A new Alchemy in leather
Once the camo was locked in, we moved to the base. The current PU-coated Kodra worked in perfect symmetry with the main Kodra body on the 002, but the handfeel and performance of the Cordura blend needed something more familiar. Something classic. Water-repellent, full-grain leather. Luxurious, timeless and durable. A perfect match.
To complement the base, we placed leather accents carefully throughout the pack. A leather collab ‘hero strip’ pieced into the lower front and the top grab handle sheathed in leather, both laser-etched with the Carryology X AE logos.
Anywhere – any weather
To ensure the 222 could dart from office to trail, weatherproofing was the next consideration. And we fused it into every element: finishing the outer fabric with a water-resistant coating and pairing that with a 2x PU inner. Sourcing the leather base in a water-repellent full-grain leather. And the zippers? You guessed it, YKK AquaGuards.
Adjusting the angle – winning on space
The silhouette of the 002 was instantly recognizable. It had an aggressive tapering of the base, leaving a sharp point. Super sexy, and a unique element. But with this tapering came a sacrifice in space and packability. Getting larger odd-shaped objects to the bottom of the pack was difficult. So we’ve squared the taper off, increasing capacity by 1.5 liters, to deliver an easier-to-pack, squarer silhouette.
Removing mesh for finer contact
You know we’re not fans of airmesh. It can grab at your clothes, and work against office environments. The 222 sports a shoulder strap inner and back panel upgraded to 70d stretch woven. It gives a cleaner look, doesn’t grab, retains breathability, and is more durable – perfect for when adventure calls.
A tuckaway waist belt for active moments
Feedback told us that the waist belt on the 002 was tricky to remove and reattach. So now the 222’s waist belt is permanently attached, but stowable behind the back panel, so it’s there when you need extra stability – think riding a bike or carving powder – and can be tucked away when you roll into the office.
Pocketing high up and high-vis
It was agreed upon by all: the 002’s two exterior pockets were nailed. On the front panel is a small one up top for access to things like sunglasses and one below for larger things like notebooks. They are both concealed by lovely folds of fabric to keep them disguised. These would remain.
But digging inside the main compartment, we decided to add a small pocket, high up out of the crush zone, and a hand’s reach from the main zipper, for smaller things of higher value.
Made with a transparent PU mesh, the pocket makes the contents inside immediately visible, and keeps them protected from the wet, thanks to its waterproof layer and YKK #7 AquaGuard zippers.
Keeping a low profile
Access to a water bottle is imperative for pack-users on the go. And so are clean silhouettes when moving through worlds. And with that considered, we developed a low-profile pocket that zips down cleanly when not in use, and expands with a stretch woven gusset to easily swallow a water bottle when you need it to.
Access is key
On the opposing side to the water bottle, the 222 features a low-volume pocket that can be easily accessed by swinging the pack to your hip. Perfect for smaller items such as phones, keys, wallets or passports.
Inside the suspended laptop compartment, AE have added a new ‘eject’ pull-tab system, making it easier to retrieve smaller laptops (11- and 13-inch), while also accommodating larger 15-inch styles too.
All metal, always
When it comes to plastic versus metal, we always shoot for the latter.
The 222 features a steel key fob added to the smaller, top external pocket. And an anodised aluminium tension hook to the sternum strap for extra durability.
Orange is our signature
It’s now become something you’ll spot on every Carryology collab – an orange pop to the interior. Why? Bright colors are always better than muted colors for seeing small items sitting inside. It’s science. It’s awesome. And, honestly, we just can’t stop.
Pre-order phase for this limited-edition begins Nov 29 (8pm EDT)!
So, when will you receive your order? Well, if you're quick to order, you could receive it by Christmas. If you miss the first lot, you'll get it early in the new year.
How does that work?
1. An extremely limited ‘early bird’ release will be offered exclusively to the Carryology community starting on November 29. If you order your AEL222 before December 1 in our ‘exclusive community window’, you should receive it in time for Christmas. These orders will also come with a $50 credit for future purchases on Alchemy Equipment's web store.
2. Once the exclusive pre-sale period ends on December 1, we'll let the proverbial cat out of the collab bag and share the news widely.
Any orders made in this time will be sent out late December, and should arrive early January.
So mark your calendars. Get ready for the big reveal. And keep an eye on your inbox or our blog for the exclusive shop link!!
NY – Nov 29th, 8pm
LA – Nov 29th, 5pm
London – Nov 30th, 1am
Vancouver – Nov 29th, 5pm
Sydney – Nov 30th, 12 noon
Singapore – Nov 30th, 9am
Berlin – Nov 30th, 2am
Paris – Nov 30th, 2am
Tokyo – Nov 30th, 10am