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What’s in a name?

Image of the March 2018 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
March 2018 Issue
Holly Gaskin studied industrial design at Massey University. Now she’s an equipment designer at Macpac’s head office in Christchurch.

Since joining Macpac nearly three years ago, what have you designed?

The Fiord 40 pack, the Duolight tent, the new overland sleeping bag, a new mountain bike pack which I’m really proud of – it’s just called the MTB pack which is not our finest name if I’m honest! The pack can fit a range of people – men or women – and you can wear it high or low on your back depending on where you want your centre of gravity or what kind of riding you’re doing. You can’t cater to everyone, but I gave it a good nudge.

Where do you see innovation occurring in outdoor gear?

Tents are amazing; they are all getting lighter. At Macpac we’ve had some interesting discussions because we want to remain very durable, so we’re choosing not to compromise on our floor hydrostatic head. We’re staying at 10,000mm whereas a lot of companies are going to 3000mm.

You got the Duolight tent down to a smidgeon over two kilograms – can it go lighter if you’re not going to compromise on the floor?

That’s where pole geometry comes into play. The poles are definitely going to be the heaviest component and the fun is working out the best geometry for headspace without adding too much weight. The Duolight seems to be quite popular (Editor’s note: at time of writing it was sold out) but it would be cool to look at an even lighter version. A lot of people are wanting that sub two-kilo benchmark.

Macpac is famous for its canvas packs, but with everything getting lighter, is there still a place for this material?

There will always be a place for canvas at Macpac. We still very much speak to the customer who wants something that will last a very long time and isn’t too worried if it weighs a bit more. That will always be part of our brand. It’s such a nice material too, and it looks so much nicer [than nylon] – especially the longer you use it.

What advice can you give to people to ensure their pack lasts the distance?

A lot of the canvas packs look better the more you scuff them. Keep zippers free of dirt and debris. If you’ve been for a tramp and your pack has got wet, let it dry out properly before you put it away – especially the harness.

Macpac uses the NZ Alpine Team to test a range of gear. After spending months designing an item, how well do you take negative feedback?

You need feedback to be direct otherwise what are we all here for? It won’t make a really good product. One of my instructions is to really bash it. We’re specific about wanting it to be pushed.

The gear you design needs to be named. Is this the difficult part?

Naming is really hard sometimes. You don’t want to put anyone off. You want to capture the essence of the design but not be too literal – like MTB pack. If you have any lightbulb moments let me know.