The work at One Planet goes beyond recycled materials and product focused ‘environmental’ concerns. They’re a driven, experienced and friendly team creating products for those always seeking greener pastures, be it in our national parks, or more distant exotic lands.

This brief account tells the story of a skilled backpack repairer who has now reached the pinnacle of outdoor equipment design and production. We’re talking about mountaineering rucksacks and expedition sleeping bags – serious equipment for serious people, with a few travellers sprinkled in there too.

The Australian wilderness has become a major destination for bushwalkers and other outdoor recreationists. While once the motivation was primarily to recreate, relax and worship nature, wild places have also become an important arena for testing high-tech equipment such as breathable ‘rain-shells’ made from ‘space age’ textiles with proprietary names like Gore-Tex® and Entrant®.

These rain-shells used to be known as raincoats or ‘japaras’. The trusty old Silva compass is being substituted by highly portable global positioning systems that can either successfully pin point desired destinations, or deliver you over a cliff if misused.

Heavy woollen jumpers and hats, have all but been replaced by thermally efficient synthetics such as Polarfleece®’, ThinsulateTM and Thermolite®. 

While premium down-filled parkas and duvets still dominate in certain countries and for some mountaineering clothing, it would be fair to say that many geese across China can be less anxious about the prospect of regular pluckings!

A quick scan of any serious outdoor magazine will present a high-tech, and high-thrills view of how wild landscapes are used and enjoyed. Earthy-coloured, canvas clad hikers in stiff leather walking boots are nowhere to be found – unless in a history article. 

In between the nostalgia of traditional materials and fibres, and the current obsession with brightly coloured synthetics, is the robust design activity of Melbourne based outdoor equipment manufacturer – One Planet.

The company’s range of climbing rucksacks, travel bags, daypacks and high-end sleeping bags, are regarded as some of the most intelligently designed and solidly constructed outdoor products in Australia.

One Planet is one of the only Australian adventure travel companies still designing and manufacturing locally. The vast majority of brands are produced in China, Vietnam and Indonesia.

One Planet director and designer, Andrew King, grew the company from humble beginnings repairing backpacks in a small and stuffy space in Melbourne’s Little Bourke Street’s outdoor gear precinct.

His reputation for high quality, affordable repairs was second to none. King’s direct and intimate knowledge of where and how outdoor gear failed provided him with unique and commercially valuable knowledge about the products and their users (or abusers). In addition to repairing, he began designing and manufacturing a range of well-built canvas backpacks under the name of Aiking. A twenty-three year history has seen a productive evolution with the merger of Aiking with One Planet, to create an Australian manufacturer of outdoor equipment that has few equals.

Over thirty staff at the One Planet factory create world-class products for the travel and outdoor adventure market. Their reputation for innovation and quality has also attracted several industrial clients including the Australian Antarctic Division, the Armed Forces and Australia Post.

Within the context of eco-design and sustainable product development, how do backpacks and sleeping bags shape up? The design philosophy at One Planet is driven by purpose and the need to assert product function.

The equipment is for use in wild places and subjected to the elements on a regular basis, thus performance is paramount. There is no room for trivial features or superficial objectives. In many cases human safety is at risk so the product must perform without a hitch. Terms such as comfort, quality, innovation and durability seem to be key themes at One Planet.

While some may think that recycled materials alone are the key to ‘greening’ such equipment, the One Planet approach is far more sophisticated and enduring. It’s also perfectly aligned with the need to manufacture equipment that is strong and can withstand the loads of wilderness travel or life on the road.

For Andrew King, the design methodology that serves his customers and the environment is without doubt – durability. Design for durability and longevity not only satisfies the critical views and attitudes of devoted walkers, climbers and skiers, it also maximises the product life of backpacks and sleeping bags.

While the absence of reprocessed plastic (PET) drink bottles in his fabrics might seem non-eco, King’s attention to product durability as a means of avoiding premature obsolescence and disposal demonstrates an informed response to many of our waste related consumption habits.

He clearly understands that a design which features smart and robust fixing and fastening details can significantly increase the strength and overall life span of his products – especially when they unwittingly get invited to join an avalanche or get dropped over a cliff.

Keeping products going longer avoids and defers the need for virgin materials to be consumed over the longer term. Many of the cheaper backpacks – while visually impressive with straps, clips, zips and tags – fail to assimilate the treatment which is common-place in adventure travel situations. One Planet’s product catalogue says all this in another way:

“Nobody wants a backpack that spills their undies onto the tarmac. One Planet backpacks are made strong and durable as a matter of pride. Using unique fabrics and construction techniques, One Planet packs are designed and built to withstand the elements and life on the road.”

Much of the design process at One Planet is about integrating specialist materials knowledge and equipment construction with real-world experience and customer feedback. There’s no fixed ‘stepwise’ model for design at One Planet.

It’s certainly outcome oriented with little scope for mistakes in the final article. King’s approach seems nicely suited to the purpose of his equipment i.e. a pre-planning journey to establish the concept design followed by a multi-week expedition of design development, prototyping, testing, refining, followed by more prototyping, testing and refining.

“One Planet packs feature many small details that are not obvious on first inspection. However, they vastly increase the strength and durability of our packs and won’t be found on alternative brands,” says King.

Any time spent with King leaves the distinct impression that he has an authoritative and comprehensive knowledge of fabrics, materials and construction techniques, as well as ergonomics.

Whether it’s about the difference between duck or goose down and how many times a bird’s been plucked as to its loft, or the water-repelling qualities of canvas, King demonstrates a passion that will see him designing and manufacturing outdoor equipment for many years to come.

The One Planet story is one of those classics where the leisure pursuit has become a significant business operation underpinned by a clear direction and design philosophy.

Inherent in this, is a smart understanding of how design for durability can utilise materials efficiently, avoid unnecessary production and end-of-life waste, as well as successfully meet user needs in some of the world’s most brutal and beautiful landscapes.

It’s a form of eco-design that carefully matches functionality with opportunities to minimise environmental impacts.

It’s fair to say that the combination of advanced materials and One Planet’s good design, means mountaineers, bushwalkers and skiers have never been safer in their pursuits.

Sheltered from the elements, adventure travellers can comfortably wander about the wilderness knowing the rain and cold will be kept at bay – especially if used with caution.

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