Archival Clothing - Made in USA

Posts Tagged ‘Frost River’

Rucksack Round-up

May 19th, 2010

Early next week, we’ll announce the release of our very own Archival Clothing Rucksack. Let’s take this opportunity to round up two historical examples to compare and contrast with our own. We designed our Rucksack as a synthesis of a classic canoe pack (in the Poirier/Duluth style) and the box-style Yucca pack used by the Boy Scouts. The general design and materials of these packs are wonderful, but there were a few key issues that we were eager to address in our version.


That’s me, with my Frost River Woodsman pack – a classic Duluth-style pack. Some problems are immediately apparent:
1 – Un-reinforced back panel – just a single layer of canvas. Bag lacks structure and flops when loaded. Cannot stand up on its own. Rigid items in pack dig into wearer’s back.
2 – Shoulder straps attach to back panel. Straps can’t bend around body, so dig into wearer’s back.
3 – Tump line buckles – unnecessary for daily use, dig into back.
4 – No hang loop – hard to carry pack with one hand or hang on a hook.
5 – Lack of useful and accessible pockets.
6 – Two roller buckles mean two actions every time user wants to open pack.
7 – Inside, the bag is unfinished – seams are left raw, so fabric edges unravel with time. Finish quality is functional, but crude.

Duluth packs were designed to be packed with a folded blanket to act as a padded back panel, and to spend most of their life in the bow of a canoe, not on a back. They’re wonderful for those purposes, but are challenging to use in a day-to-day setting.

That’s Lesli with her Filson Rucksack. It’s a beautiful object, but again, there are some limitations.
1 – Overall short and squat shape is awkward to load and is ungainly. Does not ride closely to back.
2 – Narrow shoulder straps dig into shoulders with even moderately heavy loads. Metal hardware on shoulder yoke digs into back. Unnecessary and abrasive.
3 – Redundant closure – a flap, two buckles, and a zipper – make for a lot of work to get in and out. Bag does not stay open for loading.
4 – Bellows pockets are useful, but not covered by the main flap. Even when snapped shut, rain can get in. Main straps interfere with loading smaller pockets.
5 – Unpadded back panel means many of the same problems listed above, though mitigated by use of heavy twill.
6 – Abundant use of heavy twill, bridle leather and brass mean that the bag is very heavy and bulky, even when unpacked.

Don’t get us wrong – the Filson rucksack is gorgeous, like most of their luggage (Passage Line not included). It’s just so overbuilt that we wondered if we could get the same level of durability while reducing bulk and weight and improving the fit.

At the end of the day, we had the goal of producing a pack that, during real-time use, would retain the gloriously boxy profile of the magazine shot.

Our results to be announced soon…

Canoe pack review

September 19th, 2009

Vintage Duluth packs

I don’t know the folks in these catalog-quality shots of Duluth canoe packs in action (more shots of Duluth packs and satchels courtesy this flickr photostream). But I love how they make real the prehistoric size of a true-to-life canoe pack. My main encounter with this style of pack (waxed or dry finish) is by way of catalog and web images that reduce everything to thumbnail scale. I contemplate buying a traditional canoe pack just for the visual punchline of wearing around a bag as big as me (tumpline in place).





Duluth Pack photos (courtesy this flickr photostream)

Speaking of canoe packs, Frost River (a former Duluth pack rival/offshoot) seems to have returned from the ashes. This week, ebay featured some deadstock items for sale by a new Frost River management group. I wanted to win this bag but die hard Frost River fans drove the auction price beyond my alpine rucksack pricepoint. For interested parties, the old FR website–with its old timey product illustrations–is back online at this new url. I’m archiving some sample illustrations in case the site disappears from view again.

Frost River Utility Pack

Frost River Woodsman Pack

Frost River Old No. 7 Pack

From Little Golden Book of Camping (courtesy thbonamici)

A & F Co. 1908 Advertisement

Tump line use illustrated

1942 updates

Guest Baggage: Frost River Canoe Packs

March 25th, 2009





Albert Dorp, who sells Frost River packs through his German web shop, Absolut Canoe, sent me some shots of his Frost River packs in action. Albert tells me that he does not have any additional news about the fate of Frost River as a company. However, his shop still has inventory of Frost River packs (including my favorite, the Vintage Pack). He also noted, in an odd twist, that he just shipped out two packs to a customer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, birthplace of Frost River.

Please send along any news, notes or waxed cotton gossip about Frost River. For example, will Frost River revive their business in 2009? Will Duluth Pack introduce their own line of waxed cotton canoe packs (no dry finish canvas, please)? Will Rivendell, Filson or Billykirk introduce a waxed cotton rucksack in the style of a traditional canoe pack? Is there a third party manufacturer out there sketching up their own design for a staple canoe pack?

For the sake of nostalgia, here’s a cameo shot of a canoe pack (by Duluth?) from the Engineered Garment’s 2005 Fall/Winter line.
On the subject of waxed cotton luggage, see Adam A/Zugster’s new waxed canvas backpack on flickr. I like the large, streamlined front pocket and webbing grid. I prefer my bags with leather straps and metal buckles, but for this type of cycling-courier bag I understand Adam’s decision to go with quick release plastic buckles and nylon straps.

Guest Baggage: Frost River Canoe Packs

March 24th, 2009





Albert Dorp, who sells Frost River packs through his German web shop, Absolut Canoe, sent me some shots of his Frost River packs in action. Albert tells me that he does not have any additional news about the fate of Frost River as a company. However, his shop still has inventory of Frost River packs (including my favorite, the Vintage Pack). He also noted, in an odd twist, that he just shipped out two packs to a customer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, birthplace of Frost River.

Please send along any news, notes or waxed cotton gossip about Frost River. For example, will Frost River revive their business in 2009? Will Duluth Pack introduce their own line of waxed cotton canoe packs (no dry finish canvas, please)? Will Rivendell, Filson or Billykirk introduce a waxed cotton rucksack in the style of a traditional canoe pack? Is there a third party manufacturer out there sketching up their own design for a staple canoe pack?

For the sake of nostalgia, here’s a cameo shot of a canoe pack (by Duluth?) from the Engineered Garment’s 2005 Fall/Winter line.
On the subject of waxed cotton luggage, see Adam A/Zugster’s new waxed canvas backpack on flickr. I like the large, streamlined front pocket and webbing grid. I prefer my bags with leather straps and metal buckles, but for this type of cycling-courier bag I understand Adam’s decision to go with quick release plastic buckles and nylon straps.

Shopping from Yurtville

January 14th, 2009



Waxed cotton shoulder bag



Custom bike luggage inspired by Rivendell Designs

The top search string forwarding people to Archival Clothing is “Frost River out of Business.” Just the other day, folks on a message board in France were discussing Frost River canoe packs and pondering their current availability.

Though I don’t mind my blog serving as a morgue for bad news about Frost River, I’m more interested in locating a new, U.S. source for top quality, semi-affordable waxed cotton rucksacks, shoulder bags and bike luggage. Rivendell makes fine waxed cotton bike luggage (the best, I think), but I’m still waiting for them to offer general purpose luggage. Duluth Pack makes bags as well made as Frost River but they discontinued their waxed cotton line (lack of a quality waxed fabric source, I’m told). I’m not a fan of untreated natural canvas bags (mine mildew and absorb water after extended exposure to rain).

One future waxed cotton bag source might be David C., whose blog, Yurtville, features a recent entry on his own, handmade waxed cotton bike luggage and shoulder bags. I emailed David to find out a little more about his bag making projects and find out whether he might willing to do some custom order work. He wrote back:

I am quietly conjuring to start a little business making stuff I think is cool. My inspiration came from wanting a Rivendell Baggins bag that they weren’t selling any more. I made a rough but serviceable bag copied from an original and totally enjoyed the process.

Since then I’ve been making bags as inspiration or requests dictate while scouring for materials and hardware. A year or so ago I bought an industrial sewing machine and I’m making headway. Its fun, but I feel like I’ve still got a ways to go. I met a guy in Maine this summer who makes beautiful handmade shoes, baggage and leather gear all in his little shop. I introduced myself and we hit it off. I am hopeful that I could go spend some time working with him sometime in the near future.

I also thought you might find this article interesting. Its an article in the current issue of Vermont Life about a venerable woolen mill/manufacturer still chugging along in northern Vermont: http://www.vtlife.com/pdf/wi08-48-51-johnson.pdf

Here’s a link as well to the website of the guy I met in Maine: http://www.travellersleather.com/

I’m hoping that David becomes one of many new wax cotton bag makers setting up shop in the U.S. In addition, we need to identify new sources for waxed cotton fabric to supply more home manufacturing projects. I know about Seattle Fabrics and British Millerain in the UK. Other waxed cotton fabric sources?

Addendum: If you’re already making your own top quality waxed cotton luggage (everyday bags or bike related), send images and production notes and I’ll feature your productions a future blog post.

Shopping from the past: Rucksacks

November 26th, 2008

Photo from a 1998 Filson catalog


Brady rucksack (Japan only)
Frost River rucksack photos courtesy Style Forum

Barbour catalog model with rucksack (make/model?)

If I lived in Japan I’d be president of a regional Filson “going outside” club. We’d take pictures of ourselves wearing full Filson outfits and go on Filson themed camping trips (ala Snow Peak).

My club would write yearly letters to CC Filson petitioning them to bring back clothing and accessories that had been discontinued from their original product line. This year, we would write a letter requesting that Filson reintroduce the nice box style rucksack w/a simple cinch top pictured (in postage stamp scale) in their 1998 catalog. We would request that Filson have the bag made out of the original tin cloth from the Martin company and launch the rucksacks as part of a larger “heritage” line of luggage and clothing based on historical patterns, materials and catalog images.

Archival News: Frost River

October 15th, 2008

7/26/2010 Editor’s note: this post was originally written in 2008. Since that time, a new ownership group has purchased Frost River and brought back its line of waxed cotton canoe packs and shoulder bags.

The new site can be found here:

http://www.frostriver.com/

I’m leaving the original post up as a historical marker of outdoor bag manufacturing in the U.S. I am editing title so folks do not confuse current customers searching on Google for Frost River goods.





After a post about Frost River a month or so ago, I received email inquiries about whether FR was still in business. A quick check on their site directed me to this link. Since FR is such a small shop, I figured that they might have gone on an August long canoe trip and forgotten to renew their site license. However, recent emails to the company have bounced back to me and I just saw a notice on the Northwest Woodsman site announcing the closure of FR. I’m trying to collect additional info on the matter (why, closeout sales, future product developments, recommended vendors) so please post any news to the blog (or contact me directly if you work for Frost River and can place a “Vintage” model pack on reserve for me).

Of course, the FR closure furthers my buy-now-because-the-product-may-not-be available-next-Fall-or-next-Month approach to purchasing decisions. I know that Duluth pack offers a comparable style/type of canoe pack (w/a dry canvas finish) but I’m not aware of any company other than CC Filson manufacturing the style of super sturdy waxed canvas and leather rucksack sold by FR (as if I needed four more super sturdy rucksacks before the apocalypse approaches).