For as long as I can remember, air mesh was marketed on every backpack at the stores as a miracle fabric that's embedded with game-changing technology to help our backs breathe to avoid those embarrassing sweat marks on clothing. Through all the marketing, it became the standard feature that all bags MUST have otherwise it's deemed "sub-par" or "cheap" by consumers. I was that consumer. I always made sure every bag I bought had air mesh. When I was designing my bags, I made sure every prototype I made had air mesh. Every new bag company talked about utilizing air mesh. Air mesh was everywhere. That's when it hit me—there hasn't been a single warm day when air mesh actually worked for me. Why am I even using it?! I began to pay a lot more attention to the functionality of all materials that went into making one of my own bags. After a cross-country road trip full of bag testing, I've come to the conclusion that air mesh is terrible and I've been duped my entire life.
THE RESULTS FROM OUR VERY SCIENTIFIC* TESTS
*it's not very scientific but there was extensive use and field testing involved
- It doesn't provide any back ventilation like it's been advertised to do. Air mesh is supposed to work by creating very small passages between your body and the bag, theoretically allowing air to move through the pores to create ventilation. The reality is once you wear the bag the air mesh pores get compressed against your body, therefore closing off any possible air passages resulting in virtually no ventilation.
- It's super abrasive. Ever look at shirts and notice the little cotton balls (known as pills) on the backside? That's because air mesh is destroying your clothes by rubbing against it like fine sandpaper. It can also chaff any exposed skin it touches. Imagine going on a hike and the air mesh on the shoulder straps rub against your neck for a couple hours (yes, that happened to me). Not fun at all.
- It's not ideal in the rain or snow. Air mesh soaks up water or gets clogged with snow because of the pores and small passages. It's like having soggy socks on your back when it's soaked.
- It's difficult to clean and also not very hygienic. Imagine all the sweat that gets soaked into it. It's impossible to wipe and clean air mesh, which is crucial when you're out in the field. Now you've got to worry about odor-causing bacteria build up.
We searched and went through every material we could get our hands on and I hate to say it but a fabric that promotes back ventilation does not exist. When something is against your body, you're guaranteed to perspire there. We've looked at technical fabrics like neoprene and dri-fit fabrics to no avail. We sat down with numerous fabric mills and everything they showed us didn't work. Instead of stopping there because the perfect ventilating fabric doesn't exist, we started looking at the other problems outlined above. After weeks of testing, we decided to use 420D Pack Cloth. Pack Cloth is used extensively in outdoor products because it's durable, light weight, and doesn't absorb water.
WHY 420D PACK CLOTH
- It's not abrasive. It will not destroy your clothing or chaff your skin but it's still extremely durable.
- Pack Cloth is made of nylon fibers, which is very hydrophobic. It will not absorb water or attract snow buildup. Water will bead off of it, making it much easier to dry off.
- Pack Cloth is extremely easy to clean—just wipe and go. Grab a disinfecting wipe, give it a few passes after a day out in the field, and you're all set for your next outing.
We use a strip of air mesh on the underside of the shoulder straps for the Rollpacks and Workpacks due to customer feedback. The air mesh on the underside of the shoulder straps provide grip which customers wanted, especially when biking. We covered the edge of the shoulder straps with smooth nylon to prevent air mesh friction on the neck (or exposed skin). From our testing, the air mesh on the shoulder straps do not experience enough friction to damage clothing. We are still committed to not using air mesh on the back panels of our products for all the reasons stated above.
Please note the Ruckpack is truly 100% air mesh free for those who do not want air mesh on the underside of the shoulder straps.