The Topo Guys Weave Together Form and Function
A look at how their Of a Kind pack kicks ass on both fronts.
When Mark Hansen and Jedd Rose of Topo Designs craft a bag, it has to be aesthetically sound, and it must work. But nailing this combo is harder than it might seem—here, Mark and Jedd highlight a few key (good-lookin’, hard-hittin’) features. —seth putnam
Click here to nab one of the bags the guys at Topo designed for us. They won’t be around long.
Their trademark leather diamonds:
“They’re not just cool; they actually work. They’re for accessory straps that feed through those slots and can hold a bedroll or a jacket or a yoga mat.” —Mark
“We use Cordura fabric, which is milled in Connecticut. It’s nylon, but it almost feels like canvas.” —Mark
“Even better than that, when it’s wet, it doesn’t stretch or pucker like canvas would. It’s abrasion-resistant and holds its shape.” —Jedd
The diagonal front zipper:
“We made it diagonal so there’s a little more zipper. It creates a bigger opening than if it went straight across the top.” —Jedd
“We use a really bright yellow, and we do that with a specific purpose in mind: The bright color actually makes it easier to see and find things. Jedd took a simple thing—colored lining—and made it practical.” —Mark
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Why “Made in the USA” Matters to Topo
How the Topo guys show America some love.
“We’re global citizens and enjoy things made all around the world, but we’re very proud to be making and producing things in the country we call home,” Mark Hansen says. He and his cohort Jedd Rose design the sort of gear—cross-body backpacks and wooly camping blankets—that begs for a hiking trip to Joshua Tree or, okay, a Saturday morning jaunt to the Boulder County Farmers’ Market. Here’s how and why they keep the Topo Design focus on the U.S. of A. —seth putnam
Jedd: We go to Telluride for the film festival every year, and we see people there dressed to a tee with retro jackets or hiking boots they’ve had for 25 years. That’s the culture we’re surrounded by, and that translates to the gear we make.”
Mark: We get as much as we possibly can from the U.S.: Our Cordura fabric is milled in Connecticut. Another thing that’s a big feature in my mind are zippers, and we specifically get YKK zippers, which are made in the U.S. They adds a premium to the price, but they’re part of what’s important to us.
Mark: The building where our products are made is LEED-certified. When we’re creating things, we want them to have a responsible nature about them. Both of us are interested in not just green buildings but also green products, and that’s what we strive for.”
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Meet Topo Designs
It was a ski trip that started the line.
There’s a funny dynamic between Mark Hansen (left) and Jedd Rose, the two masterminds behind the Colorado upstart Topo Designs. Both men are the products of active families—the kind of adventurers who spent their childhoods outdoors every weekend, hunting and fishing and camping and skiing. But when it comes to what they look for in outdoor performance gear, they couldn’t be more different. “I’m a thrift-store and flea-market junkie—constantly looking around and collecting things I find. I’d use something that didn’t work so well as long as it looked cool, and Mark is the opposite,” laughs Jedd. “I was always saying, ‘I’d like this bag if it only had this one thing, so I’m not going to buy it,’” Mark chimes in. “I was the guy who would never buy anything.”
A few years back, the Topo guys were in the car on a ski trip, thinking about their pack obsession. What they’d collected over the years was either too retro to be functional or too performance-oriented to have the throwback aesthetic they loved. They started talking about what kind of bag would satisfy both desires. And when they got home, they decided to make the thing themselves. “We bought a sewing machine, and the rest is history,” Jedd says. “It’s a great balance for us, because I can check my wildness against his sanity.” Sounds like a good—and useful—match. —seth putnam