Billed as “the world’s strongest fiber,” Dyneema fabrics have found their way into the realm of fast-and-light alpinists and minimalist backpackers looking for a material that can withstand extreme abuse without reinforcement and bulk. Companies including Oregon’s CiloGear and Hyperlite Mountain Gear in Maine make sleek packs from the fabric, which is a strong and plasticy-smooth polyethylene material touted as being gram for gram stronger than steel. Long, straight polymer chains give the fabric its unnatural strength, according to DSM Dyneema LLC, the company’s domestic division. Other advantages include waterproofness, light weight, and resistance to breakdown by UV light.
Until now, products made with Dyneema were mostly limited to industrial applications, the world of sailing, and the niche backpack suppliers listed above. But this week Dyneema makes a mainstream debut in the guise of a backpack marketed to urban dwellers and hipster types. The Minimal Backpack from Outlier is a “pared-down city pack” advertised as waterproof, featherweight and “backcountry tough.”
Outlier is a small company based in New York City known most for its technical yet fashionable bike-commuting apparel. We have reviewed stealth cycling pants, the Schoeller Dryskin Extreme-based 4Season OG Pants, and merino wool hoodies from the company. For the new backpack, Outlier partnered with Hyperlite Mountain Gear, the aforementioned maker of backpacking products from Maine, to create a near-featureless Dyneema sack with shoulder straps.
Outlier says the premise of the Minimal Pack is to be the simplest and lightest pack suitable for daily use. It has no zippers. There is no hip belt or sternum strap. There are almost zero adjustments, no frame structure, and the pack comes only in one size. It seals up via a roll-top closure like what’s seen on dry bags.
As a simple sack, the Minimal Pack is waterproof and lightweight. It can be lifted up by helium balloons, but it’s still burly enough to shoulder a load of bricks (see photos below). I am not sure we’d recommend that load without a hip belt or a frame, but you get the idea.
Outlier’s Minimal Backpack is made in Biddeford, Maine. It is available now for $128, which is pricey for such a simple product. But raw Dyneema fabric is the culprit there, not hipster price-jacking. (CiloGear’s Dyneema-based packs, for example, can cost more than $1,000!)
The Minimal Pack offers 1,600 cubic inches of capacity, enough for your bike commute and more. When unloaded, the frame-less pack can be folded up and put away in a jacket pocket. Outlier sells it as “great for everyday use,” though I am already thinking up weird wilderness scenarios where I might put this airy hipster Dyneema sack to true adventure use.