This morning the co-founders of Denver-based Mile High Mountaineering launched a Kickstarter project for their offshoot brand CO.ALITION, taking the same technical design chops that have made their backcountry MHM packs a hit and adding integrated technology components and a more urban aesthetic for everyday use. CO.ALITION co-founders Jeff Popp and Casey Lorenzen call the concept "urbaneering."
We've been been keeping tabs on Popp and Lorenzen ever since MHM won the 2012 Something Independent Award and earned a 2012 Backpacker Editor's Choice Award, and called Lorenzen for more on the specs of the new packs.
The first pack from the line is dubbed the Colfax, in homage to the duo's Denver roots, and features a computerized power supply capable of recharging phones, tablets and other devices. An upgrade option, the Colfax PHD, adds a 500GB wireless mobile storage drive.
"We just launched it this morning and we're looking forward to seeing the response," says Lorenzen.
Both Colfax packs feature a computerized power supply developed by Joey Energy that is capable of up to two full charges on most smartphones or tablets or just about any device that can be charged via USB. It also utilizes high-speed Pass-Thru technology that allows both the power supply and any plugged-in devices to charge simultaneously.
"We don't even call it a battery, because it's really a smart charging device," Lorenzen says. "When it's plugged in, it will allot power to your devices first, and then any excess will be put into the unit itself for later charging use."
The Colfax packs can be plugged directly into a wall outlet to recharge both the power supply and any devices simultaneously, without removing any of the devices. To get a sense of the utility, think of charging up all your devices at the airport before a long flight, or at your local coffeehouse or co-op workspace, without having to hog more than one outlet.
"We were overseas on a work trip in Japan and noticed every single commuter on the train had their phones or tablets out non-stop, and the only other thing they had with them was a backpack or a purse or whatever," Lorenzen says. "It got us thinking about what we call 'The Evolution of Carry.' We'd already had a lot of success with the technical design of our mountaineering packs, and wanted to explore what that would look like for more urban carry needs."
Popp and Lorenzen knew that many of their potential customers have mobile data storage needs as well as mobile power supply needs, and added a storage drive to the Colfax PHD pack. The drive will broadcast its own WiFi network, meaning users will be able to access its 500GB of storage wirelessly and with up to eight devices at a time, without an Internet connection. The duo had young tech professionals and their needs in mind, but were also thinking of parents and commuters: With 500GB you'd be able to access a sizable collection of movies, music, photographs or other files from a laptop or other device.
"It's basically its own cloud, with a wireless range of 150 feet, so on a long road trip you could have your kids watching different movies on their iPads or iPhones or whatever in the back seat, or have access to your entire music collection," Lorenzen says. "Having access to that kind of storage, without needing Internet access, really changes what those devices can do for you."
For all that technological nerdery, the packs are actually pretty sleek and stylish.
"We've done a lot of research and we've seen projects that offer similar technology integration, but we think we're the first to incorporate the technology with good design," Lorenzen says. "We come from a heritage of making really technical packs, and for this one we really thought about how you'd want to access and charge your devices, how to pack it and unpack it and have it be really user-friendly. We added a rain fly, which we knew would be super-important for anyone carrying laptops and other devices, and three different options for wiring the charging system so that you can have devices charging in any of the pockets. And we strayed from the bright colors that have been MHM's signature and kept it to black and gray for a more urban focus."
CO.ALITION is aiming to raise $80,000 on Kickstarter by June 26, to help launch the new line. Lorenzen says he's already thinking ahead to what's next if this campaign is successful.
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"We want to expand the line to include a photo/video pack -- that's definitely been the request we get the most of -- and get into other designs," he says. "But for now the Colfax is the focus, and we're aiming to be shipping our first packs by late November, early December."