Reuse, upcycle, recycle … whatever you call the craft of making something useful out of someone else’s trash is a trend worth embracing. Not only do you get the holistic satisfaction of not adding more stuff to the world, but often times these products feel
more realized (and a lot more stylish) than that which came before upcycling. The products also carry an interesting tale beyond how good they look or well they work. “This bag? It’s made from old seats from Southwest Airlines.” As we start into a brave new year of travel and travel-related gear consumption, this handful of companies show how to flex your more eco-aware side.
1. Rareform, starting at $20; 2. Alchemy Goods, starting at $20; 3. Uncommon Goods, starting at $38; 4. MapleXO, starting at $28; 5. EQO, starting at $109; 6. Loopworks, starting at $20; 7. Keen Harvest Series, starting at $50.
Top photo: Flip Nomad, CC-BY
Nathan Borchelt is a gear-obsessed travel writer and adventurer whose collection of shoes, backpacks, jackets, bags, and other “essential” detritus has long-outgrown his one-bedroom apartment (and his wife’s patience).
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Bold, bright graphics define the fashion-forward world of Rareform, who craft their products out of repurposed billboards. They create these striking patterns by carefully cutting the 12-foot-by-28-foot adverts to mix a dynamic mixture of elements—think playful typography, colors, and abstract shapes—and then sew everything together, paying attention to the small details. They are shockingly durable, and a policy of free shipping and exchanges provides peace of mind. Products vary, with everything from surfboard bags to duffels and totes to sleeves
for your smart devices, but go big and bold with one of their backpacks like the Ace ($65), which includes a padded laptop sleeve, mesh organizer pockets, and a front-zip exterior pocket.
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Any urban cyclist knows that flats are inevitable—and more often than not, patching is a fool's errand. Which means lots of tossed rubber tubes. Alchemy takes those discarded tubes and crafts everything from wallets to belts to bags. As you'd anticipate, most products are black, but they've integrated fantastic pops of color and loads of smart features to make the packs more than just something made from discarded bike tires. Check out the Dravus Messenger Bag ($178), with a recycled inner-tube outer surface, burly nylon throughout commuter-friendly reflective
elements, a padded laptop sleeve, and a padded shoulder strap.
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Offering both a mixture of upcycled lifestyle goods and travel products made from repurposed materials, Uncommon Goods sells things you probably never thought existed: totes, belts, and toiletries bags made of fire hoses, cuff links crafted from old sport stadium seats, and wood-and-metal bottle openers constructed with bats that were actually used in major league games. But for something more travel-centric, turn to the Upcycled Truck Tire Toiletry Bag ($38), which…yep…is made from recycled truck tires.
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Like Uncommon Goods, MapleXO makes a variety of lifestyle and travel accessories, but they source their materials from one place: skateboards, both from old boards and from wood leftover from the manufacturing process. Based in Portland, OR, they make jewelry, furniture, planters, and one particularly awesome desk lamp. But skate-loving travelers will likely gravitate toward their custom-engraved bottle opener ($30), which can carry the silhouette of any state—or any other custom art you desire.
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EQO also uses skateboards as their central material—except you can send them your old board, and they'll use it to make you sunglasses. Just ship them the deck and work with them to craft a pair of custom shades based off a handful of different models. You can also buy from their standard line; the wood all comes from retired skateboards, and each pair of sunglasses boast polarized lenses, spring hinges, and
seven-ply maple construction build by hand by Colorado skateboarders.
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One of the pioneers of the upcycle movement, Loopworks has recently expanded into an impressive line of products, rolling out very fashion-forward leather and felt bag collections. Take the Alaska Airlines Carry-On series, which are crafted from the discarded leathers seats from Alaskan Air. Bags like the Crossbody ($140) looks so plush and high-class that you'd never guess its origins, complete with fold-over closure, brass hardware, and a zippered internal pocket.
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Harvest Bags has been a staple in Keen's line for a few years now, and with good reason. They routinely source materials from spent elements (sacks that once held rice, neoprene cast-offs, etc), but the bag quality and design has always been top notch. Just look at the spunky Harvest IV Daypack ($85), which comes in two bold colors, carry-over aesthetics original patterns and stitching of old paraglider wings. It's compatible with 15-inch laptops, with two exterior water bottle pockets, internal organization, and twin zipper pockets.
Keen, Harvest Series