Friday, October 2, 2015

Interview - I'm Spartacus : Custom Packs and Bags

 I was put on to Scott Fraser and I'm Spartacus custom made backpacks, hunting, tactical and outdoor gear from my friend Shane Marks of Rhino Ropeworks (now renamed MIG Custom Tool Makers) who had a pack custom made by him. I wanted to reach out and get some exposure to a small Australian maker, because it's always good to help out the little guy. Scott seems like a bang up fella, so have a read of what he has to say about his business "I'm Spartacus".

Firstly I am a rock climber, I started climbing in scouts back in the late 70s and went on to be a queen scout. I went through scouts with the infamous Gerard Baden clay, but don't hold that against me.

I started making gear with a sewing awl because good gear just wasn't available in Toowoomba, the regional town I grew up in. I hand sewed an internal frame pack, which took about 8 months, but it was strong, and I still have it somewhere. Sewing by hand is laborious.

Some of my friends saw my gear, liked it and asked me to make them gear. So I bought small singer machine, and taught myself to use a sewing machine.

In 1984 I was going through teachers college, and I worked a summer job on a production line for "aeronautique equipment" which had a military contract for field packs and parachutes.
Stuart pack
 The owner was a somewhat eccentric ex French paratrooper, who knowing what I know now, probably had PTSD, from the Algerian War. He used to scream at you while you were sewing like a drill sergeant. He favourite saying was "your sewing machine is your bread and butter", he sounded like the French knight in the holy grail. I named a one of my machines after him, it's Le pain et la buerre (bread and butter in French).

I made rock climbing gear, and other equipment, I even had a large contract to sew wheel chair upholstery for a  friend who had broken his back in a climbing accident. I also was the only company who repaired bush walking gear in Brisbane for years.  Repairing gear is, in my opinion, the best entree into gear design, it teaches you what works and what doesn't, it teaches you about Material properties and how to make gear bomb proof.
Panzer Jäger
I was a big fan of Macpac gear when it was still owned by Bruce Macintyre, and it was still made in Christchurch. He ran his company on ethical and environmentally sound principles. He also held out getting his gear made in Asian factories. To be competitive against gear made in low labor cost countries, he simplified his designs to their bare essentials, but was still able to manufacture, tough, practical functional gear. His designs were elegant in their simplicity, like a good Japanese haiku. I even visited his factory once. This design philosophy has been something I try to aspire to. I worked at a Macpac retail shop after production went offshore. It is hard to keep the simplicity when the public want complex, busy designs, and Asian factories can manufacture complex designs cheaply.

merkava mkII
The other thing I took from Macpac was the way the pack would work with its user,   To be comfortable, and energy saving while it was being used. I currently make each pack to fit its owner like a good tailor made suit. I have the experience and knowledge to make designs which can be adjusted between users, but I prefer to tailor it for its intended owner, I believe this is a unique niche, which isn't offered by other companies. And all my designs are customisable to suit the owners needs.

I took a hiatus from making packs in 2004 and only started up again at the beginning of this year. I still climb, but I also bow hunt, and I thought my new market would be for quality customised packs for hunters and military. Ironically I am making slow inroads with this market. Having said that, word among the QLD climbing community has spread fast that I am making gear again, and that is where I am getting the bulk of my orders from.

Merkava mkII
I was recently given a contract to supply a quantity of gear to a university climbing club, they are still using gear I made them 17 years ago, and had been used hard. I love the idea that my gear lasts and is tough. When I make gear I over build it, and put a lot of hidden seems into the packs so that it will last.

I currently have four packs aimed, no pun, for the hunting/military market;
All of the, are named after tanks,
Going from smallest to largest they are:
Stuart M3, 20 liters, it is a small tear drop day pack using tough materials, Mollie, sr25 buckles etc
Sherman firefly, is a 3 day assault pack, it is short and deep, designed to be used with military webbing and pouches, it is 30 liters
Panzer jäger, (Shane's pack) it has an organiser front pocket which is floating using stretch panels, and has a pass through option for a bow or a rifle. It is 35 liters my and has a HDPE sheet and alloy frame stave, and lastly the 
prototype Merkava
Merkava, which is 40 liters, it has a continuous zip which allows it different access options and can be zipped flat. It has an internal frame and loads of internal organisers.

The next models will be a smaller version on the merkava and a 60 l top opening internal frame pack, it will have mole and combine features of military, climbing and bush walking packs.

I use a just in time manufacturing system, which means I have small quantities of different camp patterns, rather than big rolls of one or two camouflage patterns, this allows a high degree of customisation. I currently have 16 camouflage patterns, including some quite exotic ones. I also offer some hi tech materials such as stretch Cordura, PTFE cloth, water resistant zips, xPac etc. I also have laser cut hyperlon components, and sheet hyperlon etc.

prototype Merkava
I'm having great fun and enjoying designing, testing and making gear again. I love the challenge of making gear to customers needs and enjoy new challenges, it's a huge learning curve. I make all the gear from go to woe in Brisbane and give the customer pics as I am making their gear and interact with the customer and can make adjustments to the design on the go.

Thanks again for the opportunity to review my company, which is called "I am Spartacus", I choose this name because it reflects, strength, integrity and courage, values I espouse, and Spartacus was a slave, who revolted against the system and threw off his chains, other great values.

Scott Fraser

So, there are some good looking packs being made, and Scott is more than happy to build one just for you, to suit your needs.


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