One of the defining points of outdoor specialty retail is that it is where customers can go to discover what’s truly new. Local shop owners are the ones who often take the risk to bring in a small, start-up brand, differentiating themselves from the big boys. In this reoccurring series, SNEWS will identify and highlight the new kids on the outdoor block vying for a place on those shelves.
There’s the outdoor market in the traditional sense of backpacking, camping, climbing, and then there’s the outdoor market that in many ways is growing a lot faster — the urban outdoors.
For Mile High Mountaineering President Jeff Popp, he already has a thriving, young outdoor pack brand, so up next came the challenge to tackle its city cousin.
For this, Popp has launched a new brand, Co.Alition, which aims to address the realities and hurdles of the urban lifstyle: carrying digital files, and charging mobile devices on the go. Co.Alition’s debut packs are equipped with a hard drive and power supply — two key features for the ever-expanding era of technology.
“The purpose is really to address modern carry needs — it’s not just physical objects [we ’re] carrying anymore,” Popp said. “People need an efficient way to organize and carry digital files and access those, even if there’s no Internet or if they don’t want to pay for the data.”
Co.Alition created two versions of its urban pack design: the Colfax (MSRP $349) and Colfax PHD (MSRP $495). Both host an integrated computerized power supply, and the latter also provides wireless mobile storage.
The Colfax PHD’s 500-gigabyte hard drive projects a self-sustained wireless network. It can connect with up to eight wireless mobile devices or laptops within a 150-foot range, simultaneously, without requiring an Internet connection. Users can upload or download files, and by keeping fewer files on their phone or tablet, those devices can operate more smoothly, Popp explained.
The wireless connection also alleviates the need to exact data from mobile devices, which is ideal for travelers that may max-out data usage while traveling abroad, or for those that can’t afford to purchase data oversees. People can simply connect to their digital files without charging the pocketbook. Plus, the need for purchasing storage space for digital files from service providers such as Dropbox or iCloud is eliminated.
“You can be off the grid or on the go,” Popp said. “You don’t need to pay any subscription services for it and you don’t need to pay for data in order to connect, so it’s of no charge. It’s your own personal file [carrier].”
As for the power supply, the packs both have a high-speed Pass-thru charging unit, which has the ability to charge USB mobile devices and the computerized power supply, at the same time.
“It’s a smart charging unit that charges as fast as it can, and knows how much power to give to your device to charge it as fast as possible, as safely as possible,” Popp said.
At full capacity, the charger furnishes an equivalent of two full phone charges. And, the power supply is rechargeable via a deployable wall outlet cord, so it doesn’t need to be removed from the pack.
A top design priority was to avoid a cumbersome silhouette and unnecessary weight. The hard drive is close to 9 ounces, while the power supply is 6 ounces, and though the battery isn’t powerful enough to charge up a laptop, that was the intention of Popp and Vice President Casey Lorenzen.
“To charge a laptop we would need a really bulky battery and it would have to be much heavier to supply the power of a laptop,” said Popp. “We thought it was overkill.”
With a streamlined contour, the Colfax has an aesthetic appeal for anyone from commuting professionals and students to international travelers. The pack is water resistant and there’s an integrated waterproof rainfly integrated to provide extra protection for the gadgets inside.
As with Mile High Mountaineering, Popp plans to get things kicked off on crowdfunding site Kickstarter later in May. Post campaign, the two are leaning towards a direct-to-consumer sales approach. Still in conversation, they would arrange an e-commerce site, and possibly open a flagship store in Denver.
Specialty outdoor retail, however, isn’t out the question.
Does Co.Alition have what it takes to make it in your specialty outdoor retail store? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page. Or, email us about another newcomer to the outdoors we should feature here.