Hear from Hillsound's Creative Lead, Eric Goodwin, about the design of the PackStack™ collection and the journey to finding the intersection between sustainability, durability & design.
Tell us about how the PackStack started?
From the early concepts of the PackStack design, we knew we wanted to design a product that had a practical design and something sustainable. We wanted to make sure we were thinking about the materials we would source & their environmental footprint, but also the design itself & how it would affect the packaging. A few years ago, after attending an industry trade show, we were inspired to see many other brands working toward sustainability in their product design, which kickstarted some ideas.
What was the overall process of selecting the materials like?
We really had to look for the specific fabric. It was important that we found something durable & sustainable and had the right texture & stiffness to make it smooth & slippery to work as optimally as possible in your backpack. Additionally, we knew we were creating this product for backpackers trying to eliminate weight at all costs - so the fabric needed to be light! We searched for a while to find a suitable material - and we are super happy with the one we ended up choosing. It ticks all the boxes!
Which materials did you select & why?
Often, many chemicals are used to create certain fabrics and materials, which can be harmful to the environment and the people who work at the mill. We decided that the materials we would use needed to be bluesign®certified - which is a certification a material receives when it is safe for the environment & the people who are exposed to it.
Durability was also an essential component of design for not only functional purposes but also for sustainability. Having a product that lasts as long as possible reduces the need to re-purchase, minimizing the footprint caused by the production. This led us to decide on a Cordura ripstop fabric. They are top of the line in durability & quality.
And finally, the zipper. We knew the zipper had to be tough. How many zippers have you broken in your life? We've used YKK zippers on our Gaiters, and they have stood strong. YKK has an excellent reputation for its longevity and durability. Look out for it next time you're shopping for a jacket.
How did you incorporate the packaging process into the design?
We had the packaging in mind from the early concepts of the PackStack. We wanted to make sure the design of the packsack was minimal to avoid as much packaging as possible, intending to have no plastic waste. Then we had the aha moment - why not make the PackStack its own packaging?
Can you explain how the PackStack is its own packing?
We created a small pouch that the PackStack folds up into. We wanted to make it as useful as possible & still showcase the material of the PackStack when in its packaging. That idea led to keeping one side as mesh so that you could hang things to dry inside if needed, like a utensil when camping.
What other steps did you need to take to become 100% plastic-free?
We joined PrAna's Responsible Packaging Movement with the goal of the packaging becoming 100% plastic-free. This design made it easier to be more minimal in packaging. However, not all our problems were solved. We needed to remove polybags & and find recyclable, compostable materials.
Was it challenging to remove polybags?
Historically, most retailers have required poly bags, but luckily everyone in the outdoor industry supported our decision to move away from their use. We contacted all of our accounts & they were all happy with our decision to move away from polybags.
What can still be done to improve?
One thing that comes to mind is that one giant polybag is used to protect the products from external elements during ocean freight. It's hard to avoid this because it's a trade-off between potential damaged & wasted products & using plastic. It would be great to see a more sustainable option during this process.
We know there is always something more we can do. Our goal is to constantly innovate our products sustainably. I think it's great to see other brands move in this direction and put more emphasis & pressure on the importance of sustainable practices.