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The James Brand X Carryology: Designing the Rover Capsule

by , April 25, 2020

If you’ve been following our collab program, you know we've been playing in different realms: from travel packs to briefcases to all-rounders, but never before have we plied our design nous to hardgoods. And I’m sure as you're well aware by now, one of our mantras here at Carryology is that "carry" is both a noun and a verb. It's the products we carry, how we carry them, and what we carry them in... all working as a carry system, in harmony together.


Everyday carry (EDC) is one of the pillars to a well-honed system. And something essential to carrying better. 


For collab VII, we knew we wanted to design and build something that could ride in our packs and pockets, to make us more prepared for adventures ahead. EDC was the answer. 


But the question was with who? Who would be the first ever EDC brand to be worthy? Who had that special sauce?

The James Brand neon sign in HQ

It had to be James


We wanted a brand that easily stood out in its category, having carved out its own special corner. A brand who designed for people who live adventurously. A brand, like us, that put equal energy and passion into finding functionality and aesthetics – our design sweet spot. 


Our search was short. We all knew what brand nailed the brief, and our focus landed in Portland, Oregon, with the geniuses at The James Brand. A boutique design house headed by two former Nike design and experience wizards, who’ve stamped a whole new flavor on EDC, ever since their inception in 2011. Pivoting the status quo from tactical-vibes-only to a sweet modern minimalism all their own.


We’d found our partner. The rest, as they say, is history. 

The James Brand X Carryology (edc collection on cement block)

From community to capsule


In our early conversations with the team at TJB, we zeroed in on common ground. Our readers and fans were more alike than we expected. Folks who lived for adventure, and moved through life sucking the marrow out of the damn thing. Globe-hoppers. Roamers. People who bounced around the unsearched corners of their locales with gear in hand – and so it was this gang of awesome humans we’d design for, and more.


First, we researched. We not only reached out to our community at large but the wider EDC populace. And we asked two very simple questions: 1. What do you travel and roam with? And 2. What tools (or combination of tools) do you wish were available? Simple. And it gave us a very simple vision and end goal. And one very simple truth: one tool wouldn’t cut it. We’d need to design a capsule of tools. One capsule to cut, trim, write, pry, screw, stash and crack open a cold beer, whenever and wherever we needed it.

The James Brand X Carryology (adventurer)

What it means to roam free

The goal to create the perfect travel capsule had begun. A capsule that had to help us all roam more freely. But what did that exactly mean? 

Well, we wanted this capsule to go everywhere, including planes. So a blade was off the table. It had to pass TSA regulations.

We wanted this capsule to be strong, to be able to tackle anything we threw at it. But that strength couldn’t equal weight. No, sir. Strong and lightweight. 

And we wanted a low profile, no bulk. When you’re traveling fast and light, packing real estate is at a premium.

Go anywhere. Light. Strong. Compact.

The James Brand X Carryology (cache close up)

A metal bird to Portland (through a snowstorm) 

Oregon was a blanket of white when we landed. A snowstorm was blowing through with reckless abandon, that nearly rescheduled our design jam. But Ryan from TJB wasn’t having it… here's the exact quote from his email, ha!

Ryan Coulter, founder: “WE CAN DO THIS PEOPLE! It's going to take more than snow to stop us. We own a knife company for pete's sake! I'll slice my way there if I have to.”

By my side was our Senior Editor, David Vo. Our in-house EDC expert. If you’ve seen his stuff on pens and SAKs, you know my man knows his shit.


The James Brand x Carryology design meeting

For my and David's thin southern blood, the February morning in Oregon was not forgiving... but upon our arrival to TJB's HQ in central Portland, the warm smiles of Ryan Coulter (Founder) and Sam Amis (Director of Product Design) helped warm us right up. The blazing space heater, the coffee, and the doughnuts inside the boutique design studio might have also been a factor. Laid out across the desk were dozens of TJB prototypes, production units, and samples. All glowing with their signature modern and minimalist design. Even a few arrowheads, which we discover are constant inspiration for the team at TJB, figuring into their logo and also their naming conventions. Ryan explains they're fascinating to him and Sam as they are the simplest form of the first man-made tool – yup, then I started to like the guys even more!

We worked through the weekend, scribbling, jamming, playing with prototypes, until we'd met our brief. The Rover Capsule was born – and we're super excited to break it down for you!

The James Brand x Carryology knife, patcha and arrow

Titanium, aluminum and G10

One thing you may have learned by now, is that we have an unhealthy obsession for titanium. Well, there are plenty of good reasons why we love the stuff. It’s lightweight, strong, timeless, beautiful, and well, it just feels good in the hand. We wanted to fuse our love for this material of the gods with the properties of aluminum. The combination of the two, raw titanium and orange anodized aluminum, makes for a classic EDC that’s eye-catching and handsome.

Next we’d use G10, the new go-to material for handles, especially in blades. Why is it so awesome? Well, it’s super lightweight and strong. It doesn’t shrink or expand when temperatures change. And it provides superior grip, when wet or dry.

The James Brand X Carryology (G10)

Ellis reimagined

Of all the knives that TJB is famous for, it was unanimous that the Ellis was something we wanted to work with. Or rather…redesign to fit the needs of us and our roaming readers. While knives and planes don’t mix, especially when you’re utilizing one bag, we still wanted a tool that could slice, cut, pry, scrape, and open. So we ditched the blade and co-developed the first set of miniature scissors under TJB’s roof. Paired with a bottle/can opener and flathead driver, you get 90% of the utility of a knife while being 100% ready to board a flight.

The James Brand X Carryology (scissors close up)

A new cache (does double time)

One item had to be created from imagination and a desire for something that didn’t quite exist yet. I posted a bit of a silly question in our Carryology Classified Facebook group asking how folks carry emergency gold or silver bullion tabs. There were some great suggestions, but nothing was quite perfect. And the idea for a cache was born. A bombproof stash tool for bullion, emergency cash, medicine or anything else you deem ‘stash worthy’. 

But it couldn’t be just a cache. It had to work double time. Having some useful driver bits with you can really get you out of a pinch. So with some design wizardry (and magnets) we transformed the cache into a two-in-one solution. Bit driver and cache. WIN.

The James Brand X Carryology (cache open)

The pen is mightier… 

One item that was a must as gleaned from our research… people like to write stuff. EDC/travel pens, while quite a simple concept, often fall short. ‘Short’ being the keyword, making most options awkward to wield. These pens can also be flimsy and ugly as well. But the guys at TJB showed us a prototype of something they’d be working on – the now released Stilwell.

It was compact when not in use, but expanded to “full size” for comfort while writing. Our version would incorporate titanium, because, well, see above. Whether you’re filling out a customs form while in your cramped airplane seat or writing a handwritten thank you note once you land at your Airbnb, this titanium and aluminum pen looks handsome and comfortably gets the job done.

The James Brand X Carryology (stilwell close up)

Sheath game heightened

Now that we had the three items dialed in, we laid out three rough prototypes, then we realized that three items in a family need to stay together as a family, not just loosely floating around at the bottom of a bag or in pockets… especially as we’re always constantly changing from one bag to another. So how do we keep these three functional tools nice and tidy?


We went up to the rooftop of Carryology HQ and activated our Carry Signal to reach the superhero that is Eric Au of Skinth Solutions. His one-man brand out of Canada handmakes possibly the best nylon EDC tool organizer sheaths and pouches in the game.


Eric was stoked to get involved. He created a design that was perfect for the trifecta. Black 1000D Cordura nylon, simple, functional, and with an easy-to-use grab handle to retrieve your capsule in one quick grab when you need it most.


The James Brand X Carryology X Skinth

The James Brand x Carryology capsule teaser

Launch date

Monday, 27th of April (5pm EDT New York time)!

And you guys, our readers, will have exclusive first dibs, 24 hours before the public. Please note, this collab will be a limited edition, so make sure you’re one of the lucky ones!

Mark your calendars. Get ready for the big reveal. And keep an eye on your inbox for the launch newsletter or Carryology.com for the exclusive article and shop link published on 27th of April (5pm EDT New York time).

Global times

NY – April 27th, 5pm

LA – April 27th, 2pm

London – April 27th, 10pm

Vancouver – April 27th, 2pm

Sydney – April 28th, 7am

Singapore – April 28th, 5am

Berlin – April 27th, 11pm

Paris – April 27th, 11pm

Tokyo – April 28th, 6am

Good luck!


Note for Canadian readers

If you're in Canada you'll likely get rerouted to your regional website once you click our exclusive shop link. But stock isn't being kept in Canada. So you'll need to scroll to the bottom of the page and click the US flag icon. This will take you to the US page and will allow shipping to Canada.


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