Over the years, the backpack has evolved slowly. It's gained new and improved features, but it's remained essentially the same: a dual-strapped sack. But a host of more substantial backpack redesigns over recent years, such as multifunctional jacket backpacks and restructured strap systems, suggest that evolution might be accelerating. The Offpiste UltraPack leaps forward a few evolutionary stages, strapping a gear-hauling triangle to your torso via a single strap for new-found athleticism.
While the traditional backpack is okay for things like walking to school or hiking a trail, it can be restricting when it comes to more athletic endeavors, such as parkour or freeride mountain biking. For these, you could use a low-profile backpack or hydration pack, but the designers of the Offpiste UltraPack still think there's plenty room for improvement.
After getting their fill of traditional packs, outdoor sports enthusiast Gil Wiener and his business partner Tal Stein Tzuk decided to put pen to paper and design something more comfortable. What that pen eventually brought to life is a modular, triangular sling pack that hugs the body more closely than the average two-strapped knapsack.
The Offpiste designers have gone with a triangular pack because they say it is the only shape that provides the freedom of movement active athletes are looking for in the chest and shoulders to enjoy jumping, flipping, spinning and carving, while allowing quick access to the contents inside. With the versatility to wear the pack on the back, front and sides, the single-strap design allows users to quickly swing the pack around front and access gear.
The ventilated Offpiste "UltraFree" harness provides the base of a modular system that's designed to work with several packs and accessories. The idea is to secure a waterproof pack to the harness for water sports, then replace it with a light, low-profile pack for running or a standard pack for other activities. In addition to different primary packs, the Offpiste includes a variety of accessory modules, such as an action camera mount, sunglasses holder and water bottle pouch.
The standard UltraPack 7+3 offers 7 L (1.8 gal) of storage, expandable to 10 L (2.6 gal). That expansion allows for storing additional gear, such as a 2 L (0.5 gal) water bladder or a tablet computer. The main compartment includes organizers and can work as an open flap for securing jackets and other oversized items that won't fit securely below the zipper. The rain cover protects from storms, and the mesh helmet holder secures a helmet to the outside of the pack.
The Offpiste designers are currently trying to raise US$49,000 in development funding on Kickstarter. The pack starts at a US$99 pledge level, which includes the UltraFree harness and the UltraPack 7+3. Deliveries are expected to begin in March 2015, if all goes to plan. The Kickstarter campaign mentions other available packs, such as the streamlined LightPack 4 running pack and water sports pack, but these are still under development and not advertised as part of any of the available packages.
We're not completely sold on the idea that an asymmetrical harness with triangular pack is a better option than existing low-profile backpacks built specifically for sports like running, climbing and biking, but the Offpiste is an interesting design that we'd like to test head to head with more traditional backpacks.
You can check out the team's pitch video below.