Solid Gray Hardshell backpack is inspired by an armadillo

Solid Gray/Promo image

I was once on a canoe trip where a friend had a Wannigan, basically a cooler with a backpack style harness. It was such a terrific idea, being bearproof and insulated, while being transportable. But it was horrible to carry, very much like, well, strapping a cooler to your back. I became obsessed with the idea, and spent a couple of years trying to develop a comfortable, durable hardshell backpack, thinking it would be great for photographers, EMS people, and campers. (you can see me wearing my prototype here) Unfortunately it cost way too much money to make the injection moulding tool and manufacture it.

Solid gray/Promo image

Now Herman Lijmbach and Jasper de Leeuw have figured out how to do it affordably, with Solid Gray, a very clever design that is a "super strong, lightweight backpack with a unique folding structure" that makes it simple and affordable. The designers explain:

Solid Gray is made from - you asked for it - polypropene block copolymer. This is an extremely durable and lightweight polymer. In fact, it is so strong, that even after being bent millions of times it will not break or tear...The Solid Gray backpack is cut from a single sheet of polyprene, an extremely durable and hard-wearing material. Up to now, such sheets were only used for industrial purposes. Solid Gray is the very first consumer product cut and made from such sheets. After cutting, grooves are made into the sheet for the folding lines. Using these lines, the hard and inflexible polyprene is then folded into a rounded shape.

solid gray/Promo image

This is how good design is supposed to work; where my Wannigan hardback had hinges and expensive moulds and would have had to retail for close to $ 450 over a decade ago, they have managed to cut it out of a single sheet of plastic and fold it into shape. Result: they can retail it for US$ 165, which for a European product is pretty amazing. It isn't designed to be bearproof, it's more of an urban Wannigan. But it is pretty impressive.

Harry at Mocoloco says that it was "recently launched at the 2011 Dutch Design Week, the first series comes in a glossy white finish. Each backpack has its own unique serial number, with the first run comprising 90 pieces."

Solid Gray/Promo image

A very clever bit of armadillo origami from Lijmbach, Leeuw & Vormgeving, a product design agency founded by Herman Lijmbach and Jasper de Leeuw. More at Solid Gray.

Tags: Camping | Designers | Netherlands