Shifting some of the structure off the poles and into the fabric, new tents from San Francisco-based Boreas are using design innovation to keep weight off your back and a roof over your head.
Boreas is a new Bay Area company that's shaken up the backpack space with drastically simple and lightweight trekking packs that combine strong, structural fabric "rib cages" with unprecedented comfort thanks to flow-through foam frame plates that keep the wearer cool, while supporting heavy loads. This summer, they plan on launching their first tents. Inspired by the work of a Spanish architect, the new Trava and Tiago mimic the packs in the way they shift some of the mechanical load off the traditional frame and into the fabric. This should lead to tents which are very light, but also very strong.
We talked to the tents' designer, Todd Wilkinson about where they came from and how he hopes they'll perform.
Part of Boreas' modular Bootlegger pack system, this Hopper daypack highlights the structural "rib cage" seems in orange. We're giving one away! Click here to enter.
IW: Who are you and what's your background?
Todd: I used to work as a drum tech for my friend's metal band. We travelled the world, living on tour buses and flying all over the place. I too have played drums in numerous bands, including a Faith No More tribute band and my current metal/funk/jazz band, Cutupfaceguy. There are a lot of parallels between working with a music group and a product design team.
I learned about Boreas while I was still in graduate school at San Francisco State University for Industrial Design and I interned here over the summer. That was almost two years ago and now I am part of a great design team; we're always out testing gear and going camping together.
IW: Where'd the idea for the tents come from?
Todd: We were really inspired by the bridges of Santiago Calatrava (above). They're so beautiful and we wanted to bring his aesthetic and structural combination to our tent design. Since we already use a ribcage seam structure to reinforce our packs, we knew we could utilize this on the tents as well.
IW: Explain those ribs.
Todd: They allow us to create a reinforced canopy and fly that acts much like the striated supports on Calatrava's bridges. They're functional, but we really like the way they look, too.
The use of our reinforced ribcage structure allows the materials on both fly and canopy to be stronger at tension points and have increased durability.
IW: What else makes the Trava and Tiago unique?
Todd: We created Trava and Tiago to break away from conventional tent designs and offer a new structural application of materials. You can see that both on our canopy, with that ribcage seam, but but also in the integration of the pockets into a material structure that works together with the poles. Also check out the two "lotus" windows on the vestibules and reflective patterning on the door flaps for increased nighttime visibility.
Our goal at Boreas is to create products that allow people to travel the world with ease through uncomplicated, clean and simple gear.
Todd, sitting inside an early prototype held together by duct tape and string.
IW: What's the biggest challenge in designing a tent?
Todd: Working out the patterning and pole structure was the most challenging part of the design for me. We did numerous prototypes with duct tape, makeshift hubs and string for seam lines. This was also the most fun part of the project. Multiple iterations and fast prototypes allow us to work out all the problem areas.
IW: What use are these tents designed for?
Todd: We envision our tents being used everywhere from beaches in Southeast Asia to backpacking in the Sierras. Our latest photo shoot was down in La Paz, Mexico and both tents were right at home on the sand. We also created a footprint that provides a floor for the vestibule, so you won't have to kneel or put your gear on wet ground while backpacking in bad weather. They're pretty versatile.
IW: Why white?
My goal was to create something that would stand out from other tents. The result is a completely white fly and full gray scale canopy and pole system. I asked myself: what would look awesome both in MOMA and on a mountainside?
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