Editor Note: IanUrban designs amazing backpacks. He’s one tough customer and I am proud to call him a friend. I approached Ian a while ago about writing a column for the blog and he asked me what he should write about. After some debate we decided to start off with what he does best, making backpacks and go from there. His first post follows and is the beginning of a series on a backpack we are prototyping for production later this year. -DAVE BLASFOME

Urban Mountaineering is a custom backpack brand based out of Pittsburgh and part of the Blasfamily. Our commitment is durable, logical backpacks, created for the rigors of adventure, in urban and non-urban environments. This week has kept us grinding, wrapping up a couple projects that have been slated for a while, as well as heavy amounts of research and development. This is really my favorite part of building backpacks, because I get to take some time off from robotic production mode and use the creative portion of my brain that I tend to forget about. UrbanMtrg has used this design silhouette for a minute but I still felt there was room for improvement when it came to features, so we’ve been prototyping a number of rucksacks, putting them through the paces and working out the kinks. Needless to say, I’ve been assembling a lot of one-off backpacks lately, but my pet project has been a prototype I have been designing with Dave Blasfome. Naturally I was looking forward to piloting a pack with him.

In the past, UrbanMtrg bags have been decidedly simple and streamlined. For this particular bag we wanted to create something that would work equally as well walking into your favorite streetwear shop to pick up some new gear as it would crawling through a fence to explore an abandoned building. We decided we wanted something more technical, with a variety of internal and external organization and more intuitive adjustability. In addition to the “Up-To-Tighten Quick Release Shoulder Straps” and new sternum hardware, we wanted to submit a few specific features to field-testing.

The first necessity was to add pockets for things like a passport, a canned beverage and various items you might need throughout the day. This gave me an opportunity to use some concepts I’d been waiting to prototype, like more secure closures and easier to access organization. I always have a gang of ideas for pockets, so this was a breeze. The second necessity was a laptop slip, a detail I hadn’t implemented in a couple of years and that kept me up till about 4am prototyping and refining. It was a learning experience and I look forward to standardizing a design, if only for the fact that I don’t want to endure the annoyance of returning to the drawing board.

This has brought me to the third and possibly most important conception; because of the bulk added by the sleeve, I needed to create a little flexibility in the shell to turn it right side out after assembly. I altered the dimensions of the shell enough to allow the liner some freedom of movement, which coincidentally also fixed an issue of material bunching in the bottom corners. Now the pack feels more supple and natural while still retaining it’s signature shape and resilience.

The sophistication of this backpack is unrivaled by its predecessors, and marks the beginning of a new era in UrbanMtrg’s product line. Dave and I have already began our back and forth about product design and I am excited to see what changes need to be made before we take this bag to production. Below are some photos of the bag during the assembly process. Check back next Thursday for photos of the completed bag and follow us through the process of revisions to production. For more from Urban Mountaineering check out www.UrbanMtrg.com

This is before assembly. This bag took about 35 individual pieces.

Shoulder strap bases, featuring quick release buckles.

Prototype laptop slip, designed for a 17" MacBook.

35 pieces into 4 panels for the final assembly.

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