Interview: JC Canfield of High Above Talks Hip Packs, Domestic Manufacturing, & Why People Don’t Put Ideas on the Table

Jan 4, 2019
by Matthew DeLorme  


We sat down with the founder and CEO of High Above, a bag company based in Bellingham, WA, to chat about the trajectory of the brand, hip packs, and entrepreneurship. In the mountain bike landscape, small independently owned companies are by far the exception and there are both benefits and drawbacks to being a small fish in an ever-growing pond. JC gives us the low down on his inspiration and creative process. While we chatted, we watched JC make one of his sturdy packs start-to-finish.



Jon likes NASA. His dog 39 s name is Space Wolf which is also the name of his coffee roasting venture. Sometimes he works in NASA coveralls. There are space exploration references everywhere. It 39 s pretty rad.
JC likes NASA. His dog's name is Space Wolf, which is also the name of his coffee roasting venture. Sometimes, he works in NASA coveralls. There are space exploration references everywhere. It's pretty rad.


When did you start High Above? Why?


Oh man. I started High Above in 2011 to make backpacks and accessories for urban bike commuters. Back then, there were a lot of companies making pretty simple bags out of 1000 denier Cordura, and we were all fighting to get our piece of the pie. My designs did okay locally, but for whatever reason sold like crazy in Japan, so for most of High Above’s existence - the majority of bags were shipped overseas. It was much later when, in searching for a straight-forward product to sell domestically, I wound up making hip packs.

Just a few of the colors available to choose from.
Just a few of the colors available to choose from.

Mesh gear pouches are another offering from High Above.
Mesh gear pouches are another offering from High Above.

Not Fanny Packs?


Ha! No, I worked really hard to change the perception of that style of bag, and it seemed obvious that the word “fanny” wasn’t helping things out. Many an Internet comment section is filled with hate for a style of bag for that reason, I’d wager. I started calling them hip packs, and after a number of other companies followed suit, I figured I had done a good job.

Parts in bulk the bits and bobbles that keep jackets and such securely fastened to your pack.
Parts in bulk, the bits, and bobbles that keep jackets and such securely fastened to your pack.

Pre-cut panels of the most popular colors are ready for assembly but you could theoretically get really weird with you color choices. Like unicorn-rainbow-barf-style weird.
Pre-cut panels of the most popular colors are ready for assembly, but you could theoretically get really weird with your color choices. Like, unicorn-rainbow-barf-style weird.

What makes a High Above bag unique?


I have some pretty basic requirements for most of the things that I choose to own. A bag needs to be made of good materials and last a long time. They need to be simple and focus on versatility. I’ve never been one of those people who needs a chap-stick pocket and fifty other near-useless features. Keep it simple, ya’ know? Our bags use the best materials that are available to us. For example, we use the very best water-resistant and US-made YKK zippers, locally made materials, long-lasting foam, repairable design, and classic colorways that you won’t want to throw away in a couple of years.

Main body panels ready to go.
Main body panels, ready to go.

Have a favorite patch kicking around but don 39 t know what to do with it Send it to Jon with your bag order and he will affix it to your pack.
Have a favorite patch kicking around, but don't know what to do with it? Send it to JC with your bag order and he will affix it to your pack.

I’m sure that contributes bigly to the overall cost.


Yep. The cost is one of those things that frustrates a lot of people, and I get it. Most folks aren’t aware of, or interested in, something like selvedge denim. From the outside, it seems ludicrous to spend MORE money on a pair of jeans that are less comfortable. But, more often than not, they are sturdier and customers are seeking that. The saying, “I’m too poor to buy cheap things,” comes to mind. As a small business whose interest is in making the very best possible product, the cost is kind of secondary. Why would we try to simply copy the competition? The responsibility is on us to create the value proposition, and I’m afraid many of us who make high-quality goods are not doing a good enough job of this. Otherwise, the comment sections wouldn’t be so full of, “I can make this with a Ziplock bag and duct tape for .27 cents!”

An extra sturdy YKK weather resistant zipper begins the build process.
An extra sturdy YKK weather resistant zipper begins the build process.

With years of pack making experience it 39 s easy to see why High Above packs are so durable. Watching Jon make a bag it becomes clear that every stitch is made with exacting accuracy. The machines never wind-up for high speeds. It 39 s always a slow paced methodical process.
With years of pack-making experience, it's easy to see why High Above packs are so durable. Watching JC make a bag, it becomes clear that every stitch is made with exacting accuracy. The machines never wind-up for high speeds. It's always a slow paced, methodical process.

Case in point that stitch spacing will never waver and it will maintain a consistent distance from the edge of the material. Perhaps Jon is actually a Droid.
Case in point, that stitch spacing will never waver and it will maintain a consistent distance from the edge of the material. Perhaps JC is actually a Droid.

What factors make a product the best it can be?


Simple pattern making, high-quality materials and attention to quality control. A great bag is long lasting to the point where the owner sort of gets frustrated. The most frequent complaint we get is that people are tired of their colors and want to get a new bag. This is high praise for us, but aside from that, we’re constantly working hard to make our designs better. You’ll see more and more of these changes in 2019.

What can we expect from High Above going forward?


The simple answer to that is, “a lot.” We need to keep pushing forward to stay relevant. There are some serious contenders (and copiers) on the market today, and we don’t want people to buy our bags simply because of the “Made in the USA” tag. We get a lot of feedback on the bags we sell and hope that every satisfied customer feels empowered to send us their wishlist of future improvements. We expect to re-launch a couple of bags and bring some new stuff to market in 2019, but the big move for us is opening more retailers and improving access to our products through retail channels. We believe in the LBS (local bike shop). In many towns, they are the heartbeat of a riding community and vital as a meeting place for the community.



Foam padding for the rear is cut without presses or punches. Just a hand-held cutting wheel.
Foam padding for the rear is cut without presses or punches. Just a hand-held cutting wheel.

You did most of the growth of High Above alone, but recently you picked up a partner?


Sure did! Her name is Mindy McCutcheon, and she’s our CFO/Adult in the Room. Bringing in a strong strategic and financial mind has enabled me to focus on growth, future design cycles, and streamlining production. Through her, much of High Above’s future success wouldn’t be possible. We also brought in some manufacturing help in-house with Max Parsons and out-of-house with a cut and sew facility in Seattle. I’m just so damn picky about my manufacturing standards, I put off using contract sewing because I thought it’d never meet muster. They’ve been super impressive thus far. I’m lucky to have them and their work keeps getting better.

Front and back panels assembled with internal pockets for keeping tools and snacks sorted.
Front and back panels assembled with internal pockets for keeping tools and snacks sorted.

The belt wings are cut from templates using the cutting wheel which is much easier to control than a pair of scissors.
The belt wings are cut from templates using the cutting wheel, which is much easier to control than a pair of scissors.

How did you learn to make bags? How do you know what “good" is?


Great question. I cut my teeth at Mystery Ranch in Bozeman Montana, under the helm of Dana Gleason (of Dana Design). The thing that most people don’t know about Mystery Ranch is that their quality control measures are legendary and learning how to sew in that environment created a strong ethic for making a damn good product, even if that meant it took longer. I still strive to meet the QC employed at the ‘Ranch.

Now the back starts to take shape. The front and back panels are joined with the main mid section.
Now the bag starts to take shape. The front and back panels are joined with the main mid section.

Belt webbing and waist panels are assembled individually before main body panels are joined.
Belt webbing and waist panels are assembled individually before main body panels are joined.

How long does it take to make a bag?


It depends, really. Cutting and stitching is something that gets more efficient the more units you make. Except, of course, when you make too many at one time and you end up going crazy doing the same damn stitch again and again for hours - then fart around on the internet because you don’t actually want to be working because it’s tedious. I’ve got a magic number that works with my apparent ADD, but working with the contract facility has allowed me to shift my attention toward building relationships, not just making bags.

Everything is sewn inside out once the main body is assembled.
Everything is sewn inside out once the main body is assembled.

Once the pack starts to take shape the heavy weight fabric becomes more difficult to handle.
Once the pack starts to take shape, the heavyweight fabric becomes more difficult to handle.


...But you’ll keep doing custom bags?


Yeah. Custom is near and dear to our hearts, but not everyone needs or wants custom colors. Through our network of dealers, you’ll be able to get a great bag without the wait, even if that means the color options are sort of limited. As a small company, we’re lucky to be nimble and offer lots of options!

Main body assembled the key clip is installed as well as the 34 Made in U.S.A. 34 logo.
Main body assembled, the key clip is installed as well as the "Made in U.S.A." logo.

This big gun is for punching through the thick webbing material. The webbing is sewn over on top itself to keep the buckles in place.
This big gun is for punching through the thick webbing material. The webbing is sewn over on top itself to keep the buckles in place.

You’re known as a bit of an evangelist for entrepreneurship. Why?


Because too many people who are smart and young don’t feel empowered to put their idea on the table. We’ve all become professional critics, and it makes me sad when so many are professionals at talking shit but don’t offer anything up themselves. Like Laura from High Fidelity says, “You’re making something. You – the critic, the professional appreciator – put something new into the world. And the second one of those things gets sold, you’re officially a part of it.” I want more people to offer up their intellect, ambition, and ideas and grab a hold of their own future. If 5 years ago someone said to me that I’d do this by making f*cking fanny packs, I’d have laughed in their face.

I chose orange for my zip pulls. You can choose any number of options including black green or pink.
I chose orange for my zip pulls. You can choose any number of options including black, green, or pink.

Now to attach the bottle holder to the main bag.
Now, to attach the bottle holder to the main bag.

Bottom panel of the bottle holder.
Bottom panel of the bottle holder.

Why is domestic manufacturing important to you?


For so many reasons: Chiefly, because it’s one of the things you can still do stateside at the same level as overseas. Technological advances and automation in textiles manufacturing never really landed on our shores, because we were so eager to ship it overseas in the 1990s - so we’re on our heels in the States. It means a lot to me to support local suppliers, so many of our materials, including zippers, sliders, foam, plastic bits, fabric, and post-treatment, are all done stateside. That means more jobs in textiles and more access to great materials from which to design and make bags.

The water bottle holder is attached via loops and a click lock strap. Thread the strap through the loop staggered loops of the bag and bottle holder and fold the strap over and lock the ends together. Simple design for easy removal.
The water bottle holder is attached via loops and a click-lock strap. Thread the strap through the loop staggered loops of the bag and bottle holder and fold the strap over and lock the ends together. Simple design for easy removal.

Water bottle holder in place and the bag is complete and ready for years of abuse.
Water bottle holder in place and the bag is complete and ready for years of abuse.

http://www.highabove.net/


163 Comments

  • + 142
 Excellent response on the question of entrepreneurship. I don’t even wear hip packs, but I’d support this company on the basis of that alone. The sort of culture Jon mentions has risen to the highest levels, where elected politicians talk shit via tweet but can’t manage to actually DO anything. I think all of us, myself included, need to be more cognizant. Less talking, more doing.

Great article, PB.
  • + 7
 Great article. Hip packs are great and their weight can be supported by sitting if you get tired without the feel of a backpack which is usually felt until you take them off.
  • + 2
 @drdirty: everyone I know in Florida who Sports a hip pack it's because they're packing heat.
  • - 59
flag AlpineNate (Jan 4, 2019 at 8:35) (Below Threshold)
 The irony of unnecessary political statements. Lets keep pinkbike about the bikes. Please and thank you.
  • - 5
flag rivercitycycles Plus (Jan 4, 2019 at 8:38) (Below Threshold)
 @stinkbikelies: When I’m riding or hiking an unfamiliar trial that’s the only reason why I wear a hip pack........because I’m packing my 10mm.

Great article PB! I like his commitment and small business drive. I will be buying one of his packs this year.
  • - 8
flag stinkbikelies (Jan 4, 2019 at 8:41) (Below Threshold)
 @AlpineNate: it's called freedom of speech in an open Forum where anyone has the right to type anything they want. If you do not like your freedoms pack your s*** and move.
  • + 4
 @rivercitycycles: it takes a big nut to use a 10 mm. I completely agree with you about small business in this country. Shred on sir.
  • + 23
 @stinkbikelies: hesitant to get into it, as going right to "if you don't like *INSERT CONTENTIOUS ISSUE HERE* then get the hell out" is usually a sign of a divide to wide to bridge but...

>> it's called freedom of speech in an open Forum where anyone has the right to type anything they want

1. Freedom of speech is not an absolute, carte-blanche freedom there are numerous exceptions on what you can say, such as hate speech, threats of violence and other limits.

2. The same freedom that allows you to voice your opinion cuts both ways; if you truly are a booster of free speech you better be prepared to defend people you don't like saying things you don't agree with.

Now back to - what's the purpose of this website again? Oh yeah, mountain biking.
  • + 4
 @stinkbikelies: Two bikers were killed last year in North Bend, WA by a mtn lion......that was the deciding point for me. I only pack when out on trails I don’t frequent.
  • + 6
 @rivercitycycles: mountain lion like don't bling round here bruv you like blat blat blat
  • - 2
 @AlpineNate: You might not agree with a statement or enjoy being blissfully ignorant does not mean that it shouldn’t be published.
  • + 5
 The High Fidelity reference was a nice touch, too!
  • + 5
 @rivercitycycles: To be fair, only one was killed. The other was attacked first, but lived.
  • + 0
 @Heckler76: You're correct, my point wasn't to mislead anyone. I wasn't trying to start a side argument about guns! Just stating why I use hip packs and throwing out support for High Above hip packs. I plan on ordering the Look Out Pack......just can't decide between Camo or OD Green. Smile
  • + 2
 @rivercitycycles:You forgot the third option: both!
  • + 8
 @blatant Thank you! Start a mountain bike business, you'll never work so hard for such little money!
  • + 2
 @Glendmcc: I'm in correspondence with Mindy and will at least get one Lookout Pack and a Duffle bag for my bike gear....my current bag is falling apart. I'm all about supporting small businesses......lots of riders have supported my tool venture so it's paying it forward and being purposeful in where I spend my money. Smile Thanks Pink Bike for featuring small businesses
  • + 4
 @rivercitycycles: do you reckon we have too many cougars, or too many mtn bikers in the mountains?
  • + 2
 @plyawn: I couldn't agree with you more sir. I might not like what someone else has to say but I will always support their freedom to say it. I would much rather someone come out and tell me how they feel to my face then have to wonder what their true feelings are. People who have no shame and speak their mind are the best. I would rather laugh with the Sinners than cry with the Saints.
  • + 2
 @rivercitycycles: a mountain lions got to eat. Just one more reason to keep up on your physical fitness and stay fast on that bicycle. I would rather be eaten by a mountain lion then killed by some pathetic excuse of humanity.
  • - 5
flag rivercitycycles Plus (Jan 4, 2019 at 16:53) (Below Threshold)
 @WildWynooche: I'm a mechanical engineer and have no expert training in the field of ecology. I just know that when I am out on unfamiliar trails I conceal carry for self protection. I do have some wilderness training from my military days and from volunteering on a waterways rescue/recovery team. Getting back to the article I am on there website customizing my new Lookout Pack Smile
  • + 2
 @stinkbikelies: lol america isn't free hahaha
  • + 2
 @stinkbikelies: fyi- if a mountain lion wants to attack, it doesn't matter how fit you are. Thankfully they generally dont want to eat you (or attack) for that matter.
  • + 1
 @drdirty: Depends how heavy the backpack. Get a lightweight climbing bag and it's like wearing nothing at all. That said I fanny pack 95 out of 100 mtb rides.
  • + 2
 @rivercitycycles: Totally agree with you about the article and in the spirit of advertising what we put in our packs (hip or otherwise) here's mine:
  • + 3
 @rivercitycycles: Totally agree with your comments about the article - and in the spirit of advertising what we put in our packs (hip or otherwise) here's mine:
- gummy bears, because it takes an even bigger nut to choke down a big mouthful of these while tackling
technical climbs;
- a few bits to fix flats and other issues;
- my phone; and
- the realization that I'm more likely to be hurt or killed by someone I know than a wild animal (and I bike in
cougar and grizzly habitat routinely). That's why I only pack my Hi-Power around the house or when I'm
meeting friends. Cheers ; )
  • + 1
 @FerrisDH: it will be soon our government has shut down. No need to pay taxes if they're closed huh and the world seems to run so much better without them
  • + 1
 @JDFF: and at the end of the day a human beings answer in solution to everything that threatens them scares them or they don't understand is to kill it or destroy it. Humanity is the problem with this world not nature and mountain lions. I would rather spray a mountain lion with mace then shoot at it with a gun. If I get eaten I guess it was just my time and I'm thankful that my body went to a good use and not cluttering up the scenery in a cemetery with a nasty-looking headstone.
  • - 1
 @stinkbikelies: not true actually, there still taking payments so you guys dont face pentalties ect. .. you can get a tax back though but dw you can still; [ay them
  • - 1
 @stinkbikelies: So, it’s conceivable that I could become “fast enough” to outrun a cougar in the mountains? C’mon, man...
  • - 1
 Why would I pay double for this over the Mystery Ranch Hip Monkey Waistpack?
  • + 1
 @stinkbikelies: my view is not too different from yours. I dont carry weapons, not do I intend to. I have had numerous cougar encounters over the years and am fine with whatever shakes out. Infact, I say bring on the wolves and let's bring in another predator to get the cougar population back in check. Right now, in many places the cougar population is higher than when they co-existed with wolves. (I acknowledge lots of folks would disagree.)
  • + 0
 @flatlandr: maybe if you had 29" wheels and a race tuned suspension. Ha ha!
  • + 48
 Now let's hear from the other Canfields in Bellingham!
  • + 12
 Agreed! Love those Canfield Brothers!
  • + 13
 Uhh, they left.
  • + 4
 @ashlemon: So are they ever going to make bikes again???
  • + 3
 Came here for this ! Hahaha. Gold. Lets see ehat comes up for 2020 season
  • + 1
 Radio silence on the forums. They moved out and on.
  • + 3
 Yeah, they're in Utah now. Still loving my Riot but I'm not sure I believe we'll ever see another new bike from them =\
  • + 4
 @bmck: lots of teases in Chris C IG account though...
  • + 1
 @Lagr1980: I feel pretty good that we will see something from them before long.
  • + 16
 How is the apparent disappearance of Canfield Brothers not a story for the cycling media/Pinkbike? At this point I doubt the bros would grant an interview but couldn't someone do some investigative reporting? Surely someone in the Bellingham cycling community knows? Doesn't Pinkbike have someone in Bellingham? Kazimer maybe?
  • + 5
 @sspiff , Lance and Chris moved their operation and haven't been in the 'ham for a bit now. I think Lance is outside Moab and Chris is back in Utah, but I'm not 100% on that.
  • + 6
 Too many of their bikes broke and they couldn’t keep up with manufacturing progress. Hard to high five your way out of warranty claims. (Sadly, I had too many.)
  • + 8
 @Glendmcc: I must ride like a puss then because I have 2 of them and they have been rock solid bashing them through keystone and the BME series for 2 years. Canfield bikes are no cannondale ( crack and fail) for me or the others I have seen.
  • + 5
 @hitechredneck:The frame was bomber as can be, I was lucky enough to go through three upper links (v1.0) and finally was told that I could wait 6 weeks for the revised one and they “couldn’t afford “ to keep giving me new linkages. They also said “oh man, we’ve never seen that, you must be putting down some real power pedaling.” And finally, “well, you’re a machinist, you can machine your own link...”. To all that, I said “give me my money back.” Still, I missed a month of riding and two Enduros.
  • + 37
 A lot of people don’t know this, but you can put your weed in there.
  • + 4
 ...and a danglebong.
  • + 5
 @sriracha: is it really a danglebong if it isn't dangling?
  • + 3
 got caught not danglin’
  • + 24
 You should put his website link at the end of the article. Thank you for this story!
  • + 1
 Yeah, duh. Basics. lol
  • + 16
 JC is a great guy and his quality of work really stands out. I’ve been wearing his packs every ride for the past couple years and they keep asking for more.
Cheers, and keep up the great work!!
  • + 4
 Yeah, same here. Been super happy with mine, craftsmanship is just very solid.
  • + 2
 Ditto!
  • + 1
 I’ll never go back to a backpack... the hip pack is the shniz, made in USA out of awesome and Sasquatch, it’s great.
  • + 1
 Agreed! Once I got my High Above hip pack I never looked back. It's indestructible!
  • + 10
 "High Quality Zippers"! I cannot stand how most newer products - even high end ones - have zipper failures -Kudos for choosing to do it right rather than cheaping out for the sake of profit.

I go through one 200 dollar computer bag a year at work. I cannot justify paying for a 400 dollar bag. I have been with the company 15 years. You do the math........ I am to poor to buy cheap stuff comes to mind.
  • + 3
 Many companies sell "high quality stuff" without ever explaining why is is what they say it is.

There are many incredible bags that will last you decades if taken care of. Check out www.carryology.com to discover some, but marketers don't want you to know they're cutting corners, so they do their best to blend in pretty well with the best of the bag makers.

Which is a damn shame. Sometimes you gotta spend $400 to not spend $3000!
  • + 1
 @oronaut: Agreed! No one at work will approve the expensive bag so this is what happens. Thanks for the website.
  • + 13
 More stuff like this please PB and Less clickbait articles about dickhead kids on rooftops
  • + 7
 I guess I don't understand the negativity about a normal riding backpack. What advantage does a hip pack offer? Is it just that some people don't like backpacks?

Of course, I also don't understand why people get bent out of shape about water bottle mounts on a frame, so maybe I'm out of touch in some way that I don't even understand.

You don't know what you don't know.
  • + 5
 Come to think of it, why do people hate front derailleurs? I've never had a front derailleur go bad. In fact, I'd say that front derailleurs are the most reliable parts I've ever had. Do people just not know how to adjust them? I've never used an SRAM front derailleur. Do they suck bad enough to cause people to hate all front derailleurs? What gives?
  • + 20
 I prefer a hip pack for a few reasons:
1) My sweaty back can breathe better.
2) Water/gear weight is lower.
3) Easy to spin the thing around to get to whatever's inside.
  • + 2
 I use my backpack for day long rides or for protection on riskier rides (extra water, hard back protector, and the ability to carry a chin bar). For shorter rides, the hip pack still lets you bring some basics and is a LOT cooler. Getting the weight off your back feels more nimble, too.

I've got one of JC's bags and it just works really well. It stays in place, keeps mud off of your stuff, and looks good. Definitely high quality all around. Even in Bellingham, I hear people scoff at the price. But the cry once adage fits this product. No regrets.
  • + 2
 @Explodo: I'd say just because they're superfluous with wide range 1X's available. Cleaner cockpit, one less cable (now replaced with your dropper post!), less muck to clean after a ride, single point of control (hey, I still occasionally cross up my road bike from little to little when I'm not paying attention!)
  • + 3
 Fanny packs are great in the bike park when you don't want a full pack but need to carry a tube, CO2, lever, multitool and your wallet. Tuck under a jersey / in your waistband and you forget it's there.

On the trail I don't see much advantage over a small pack like an osprey - slightly less sweaty maybe?
  • + 7
 @scvkurt03: you forgot:

4) lighter
5) cheaper
6) less bulky
  • + 7
 @plyawn: WAY less sweaty if you're a fountainous dude like me
  • + 2
 Wll. My frame doesn't fit a bottle so packing a backpack for a short ride is stupid, so I bought a fanny. It's so easy.
  • + 6
 I got a bag from Jon a long time ago, simply because he was making them and I wanted to support his business. Little did I know that I usually just wanted to bring the basics on a local ride and not the kitchen sink so this little bag has been pretty darn handy and gets the majority of use. The bigger back pack comes out for the epics and trail work and hiking. Squirrel Army style.
  • + 3
 Hip pack or sweaty back. When you actually need to access the gear in your pack, you just turn it around to the front and take what you need at waist level - it's all right there without having to drape your backpack over your bike or trail features. It saves you a little bit of fiddling which is cool when people are waiting for you to finish your trail-side repair. You don't feel your pack lift off your back when you jump/drop. They usually have enough space for the essentials for a typical ride of 1-3 hours. They just work great for most rides.
  • + 1
 @Explodo: Have you ever broken a chain? Less broken chains is my #1 but taking away the the front derailleur helps open options to improve frame design, Tire clearance, adds free space on bars and is more quiet not to mention it's lighter. Why have two when you can have three? Because one is better less is more.
  • + 0
 @re-ride66: Funny, I never broke a chain until I went 1x. Then again, it was also a Shimano-to-SRAM transition, so maybe the second variable is more significant...
  • + 3
 @re-ride66: I've always had solid performance from Shimano systems with 2x or even the old 3x. I've broken chains, but not really all that often. Breaking chains a lot would be indicative of a rider not paying attention to their gears and excessively cross-chaining.

I've not noticed quieter performance at all from a 1x unless you're comparing it to an old non-clutch rear derailleur. I actually think my Eagle GX is slappier and noisier than the XT 2x it replaced(not by my choice, gift from wife). Differences in bike could easily make that happen. I'm stuck riding a bike I don't really want because it was a gift that my wife put a lot of effort into.

I do understand that a lot of gear ratios would go unused in a 2x. The small ring up front was really only used for really nasty climbs or times when I had bonked but needed to keep going. It is emergency capacity, not all-the-time use stuff. It feels wrong to compromise down in ability. Either you lose the low-low gears that used to be needed in emergencies to get shit done or you lose some top end, your choice. Most folks compromise and lose some of both. I really hate not being able to get up a climb and I really hate spinning out on a fast descent.

I think Shimano has it right by not abandoning 2x. When you use your bike for lots of purposes, 2x is still unmatched.
  • + 2
 @Explodo: Really?! Yeah, I have never broken a front derailleur (maybe I broke one?), but the point was that you didn't need to break it for it not to work, a fully functional front derailleur was horrendous! When you rode down a trail that contained anything resembling a bump, your chain would immediately shoot off chainring you were in, get tangled amongst the other chainrings, and you'd have to do the weird hold-the-shifter-while-pedaling-in-a-sketchy-section-of-trail-to-get-the-chain-on move and risk your life in the process. The death of front derailleurs was one of the best things the bike industry has ever done.
  • + 2
 Yah sure a front derailleur is reliable in that it generally stays attached to the bike. I’m sorry but I can’t sit idly by and watch someone advocate for a piece of engineering that increases weight, decreases reliability, adds moving parts, requires a chainguide that malfunctions almost as often as the front derailleur, means you can’t run long tooth rings, therefore means you HAVE to run one of those 50 pound funky 2x chainguides, is dangerous at any speed over any bump, requires the rider to dismount his steed 3-5 times per minute of trail, and to top it all off really only adds the ability to nuance your gear ratio but at the expense of an insanely f*cked chain line and the sound of a chain grinding against the derailleur that likens itself to a Harley Davidson exhaust.
  • + 1
 @re-ride66: i've never broken chains with a front mech, but busted 3 without. Of course I did pin the chain together 3 times...
  • + 9
 "I cut my teeth at Mystery Ranch in Bozeman Montana, under the helm of Dana Gleason"

aaaand that right there is should be reason enough to look into them.
  • + 2
 Dana Designs made some deadly stuff back in the day
  • + 9
 "We expect to re-launch a couple of bags and bring some new stuff to market in 2019"

Like wallets???? Jon bring back our wallets! Wallets! Wallets! Wallets!
  • + 5
 5 years ago I also laughed at the idea of hip packs. High Above has changed my outlook on that. It's been entertaining to watch this change from back packs to hip packs percolate throughout the West. Just make sure to get a High Above hip pack with the extra gear attachment cords, so you can secure a shell jacket when needed.
  • + 4
 Darn, now I have to check out his site. I wasn’t even in the marked for a hip pack and now I want one of his.

I went out on my own in 2007 doing animations and still image renderings for architects. For someone that loves mountain biking in the middle of the week, it’s best to be your own boss. Of course, if I wasn’t always mountain biking in the middle of the week, someone might do an article praising my quality of work as well. Probably not though so I should keep up the biking.

Great article!
  • + 1
 @PtDiddy: if you end up purchasing one, you won't be disappointed. I did plenty of research prior to purchasing mine and settled on one from high above.

Paid a premium to get it into the UK but I'm glad I did, everything about it is fantastic. I've only had it 7 months but I'm so pleased with how it performs, especially in the Scottish slop.

I'll happily purchase another in 15 years when I eventually wear this one out.
  • + 4
 Great stuff!
I’d love more shop visits and tech articles in 2019.
I know quality, in-depth articles like these may not get the most clicks, but they’re what make you stand out from the crowd and build an engaged and informed community of riders. Nice work, Pinkbike.
  • + 3
 I love seeing small businesses like this get so much exposure. I have a @highabovedesigns bag and love it. Also, I’m super stoked to hear they’ll be selling in LBSs. I’ll talk to mine and see if they can get some in.
@mdelorme, if this is going to become a regular feature can I suggest you check out @lolo-racks. These are locally made, six-bike racks out of Portland, OR made by rad dudes who rip. www.loloracks.com
  • + 3
 This guy is doing it right! High quality, durable product made locally. Im so tired of the super marketed cheap garbage made in China. If people just focused on making a quality product instead of a quantity profit our world would be a better place! A wise old carpenter once told me: "only rich people can afford to buy cheap tools."
  • + 7
 Interesting first read of the day...goes well with a cup of coffee.
  • + 7
 Love these stories. Cool to see people out there making it happen.
  • + 4
 That's super rad that he worked for Mystery Ranch, I'm a pretty big bag nerd and love the Kletterwerks bags (their heritage line) that I own.
  • + 4
 great to see stuff like this on Pinkbike. Maybe next time, as a Canadian based website, you could do a story about a Canadian company. Scott @ Porcelain Rocket for example
  • + 7
 For what worth.......a company based out of Bellingham Washington is actually located farther north than 70% of the Canadian population. Fact. (Clearly that has nothing to do with Canadian economics and business, just thought it's worth mentioning.)
  • + 2
 @JDFF: It's probably not worth a ton, but an interesting comment nonetheless.
  • + 2
 @JDFF: True. Amazing the drop in population density above the 49.5-50 Latitude mark as opposed to northern Europe.
  • + 3
 @JDFF: Southernmost part of Ontario same latitude as Rome.
  • + 1
 I’m pretty sure we lose about 10c every degree of latitude hahaha @drdirty:
  • + 2
 What if a consumer could return their hip pack, get a small discount on a new one with new colors of their choice, and the old one shipped over to Japan to be sold at a "used premium" price? Or even sold domestically as used, but discounted.
  • + 3
 Because he wants the smell of a 100 sweaty cracks in his shop?
  • + 1
 It sounds like they produce very high quality products. It would be great if there will be a product review to read.
I‘m interested but as i live overseas i can‘t get a hand on one easy and it‘s not cheap. So a review would help.
  • + 1
 @PNdubRider: thanks bru
  • + 4
 This would be a dream job for my mother-in-law. She can't go an hour without getting a fix on a sewing machine.
  • + 3
 We'll put her to work!
  • + 1
 @HighAbove: ha ha, brilliant
  • + 1
 Have two of their packs. Well worth the money. High quality and worth it to me to support local manufacturing. Also, great to deal with.

Also, their mesh duffle bag is pretty great. Never thought I needed it, but it’s super burley and perfect for stashing stanky fear in the back of my truck.
  • + 3
 They are fanny packs. Where did this relabeling as hip packs come from?

Quality ones yes (I own one), but still fanny packs.
  • + 1
 Because "fanny" means "pussy" in most of the English-speaking world.
  • + 2
 Great to see those manufacturing jobs that could never come back to America coming back!!!! Great looking products keep up the great work. You should make the first Space Force bag since you love space.
  • + 15
 Some niche companies have little to do with large scale global manufacturing trends.
  • + 5
 "I started High Above in 2011"
  • + 0
 “It was much later when, in searching for a straight-forward product to sell domestically, I wound up making hip packs.”
  • + 3
 @krumpdancer101: He wasn't talking about products to *make* domestically, he was talking about products to *sell* domestically (in contrast to the line that he said was doing well in Japan). They were always made domestically.
  • + 1
 @MtbSince84: Right so if a existing company creates a new product line won’t you need employees to MANUFACTURE it?? Whether or not the company already existed is not the point the point is that instead of a company adding a product line and moving to another country to manufacture it he added a new product line and added potential jobs for American workers.
  • + 5
 All that and no link to the site? www.highabove.net
  • + 1
 Hip or lower lumbar packs are sweet when its freaking hot out. These in particular are so well made. Great article , great product. The brand I have gas an extra bottle holder that is a huge plus.
  • + 1
 *has
  • + 3
 It's great to see local people like this getting the exposure they deserve!
  • + 1
 I've been interested in a hip pack for those summer rides where its too hot for a backpack. I think I just found the hip pack for me! Great article about a small US-based company making high-quality products!
  • + 0
 Hip packs are great until, u add water, tools, keys, phone and whatever else then they bounce all over the place. Get busy and make some more EPO frames I have a stack of dead presidents that are burning a hole in my pocket that I want to give to you.
  • + 5
 We pride ourselves on bags that don't really bounce. At least that is what folks tell us who actually have time to go ride! That said, We're not the same Canfield of Canfield Brothers Bikes, but go ahead and send us that stack of money and we'll see what we can rustle up!
  • + 0
 If Jon Canfield is reading, a thought: a lot of the detachable face guard full face helmet threads have included comments from manufacturers (specifically TLD) that say "mountain bikers have nowhere to put the chin guard". This is mostly true- we're all improvising. I have a bell Super DH and I clip my chin guard into a ring and the squeeze my hip pack through the ring. This holds it firmly in place against my lower back, allows it to detach in a crash, and doesn't get in the way of pedaling to the top of the mountain.

As a small business/rider/innovator, I think there's an opportunity for you to figure out a good way to carry detachable chinguards. Even better if it's a modular thing that could be added to an existing pack.

I currently have an Ortlieb and love its full waterproofing and wide, molded belt. I hate its German overengineering with tons of extra straps and pockets everywhere. My 2c.

Great article
  • + 5
 I just stuff my chin bar between my fanny pack strap and waist...
  • + 1
 Thanks for the feedback! Most folks using a chin guard use the ETC Straps on the top of the bag to carry stuff that won't fit inside. Some folks even hang the bag on their bars while riding uphill using them! The idea was to make a simple product that did a lot of things well. We're always tweaking and trying to make things better though! Again, thanks so much for the feedback!
  • + 2
 My High Above pack is showing zero signs of wear or breakdown after 3 years of abuse. Thing is a quality piece.
  • + 3
 Damn, I can’t think of anything critical to say. Great guy.
  • + 3
 Who else came looking for frames and welds
  • + 1
 Very cool little company, glad to learn about them here. I would like to see hydration bladder integration designed in as an option.
  • + 1
 I often thought I should stitch my own packs just so I can make the hip/waist straps wider and huggy for guys with, shall we say, more pronounced love handles.
  • + 1
 Best hip pack for the $$$ , not cheap but not cheaply built either . I will be adding another one to my riding gear this spring.
  • + 1
 Would have been stoked to know that I could have sent up my old school Smokey patch to sew on the bottle pouch though! Awesome thought.
  • + 2
 MAIL IT TO US!

Drop me a line to:
JC@highabove.net
  • + 2
 Got a pack from this dude, it's fresh.
  • + 2
 In England, "fanny" is the pussy.
  • + 2
 Great article pinkbike. More of this.
  • + 3
 SOPWAMTOS.
  • + 2
 Great interview! love it! I think I need to pickup one and show my support
  • + 1
 Im on my second one of these bags and i love them. the new buckles are amazing!
  • + 1
 Hoped it was Canfield Brothers... whatever happened to them? But this article didn’t disappoint
  • + 1
 $90 for a hip pack with the buckle option taking it to $125...for a hip pack...riiiiigggghhhht.
  • + 2
 I can make this with a Ziplock bag and duct tape for .27 cents!
  • + 1
 Cool story bro
  • + 1
 Lol, my daughters would love to try. They make all kinds of stuff with duck tape.
  • + 4
 I think anyone down-voting you didn’t read the entire article.
  • + 1
 Perfect for the days I wear my Jesus sandals with socks
  • + 1
 also an "evangelist" in the hot tub-
Cheers!

Space Truckin'
  • + 1
 "I'm too poor to buy cheap stuff"
I'll drink to that Sir!
  • + 1
 Fuuuuck yeah JC! You guys are crushing it! Best packs on the market.
  • - 1
 Damn good article...I don't get belly bags for MTBing, but who cares, the dude sounds cool and there is a customer for everything. Well done.
  • + 1
 Give one a try, they really do free up your back and place everything at your center of rotation, which really helps for leading turns with your hips.
  • + 2
 Nice work.
  • + 1
 Awesome interview @mdelorme and @highabovedesigns!
  • + 1
 Quality products by a quality guy... way to be J.C. !!!
  • + 1
 Great article, and WELL DONE JC!!
  • + 2
 To the moon!
  • - 1
 Calling fanny packs "hip packs" does change the fact that it is still a fanny pack. Fanny packs are Uncomfortable and and have no back protection.
  • - 1
 Fanny packs are gay and always will be gay and when I see someone shredding with one I think dang that gay guy with the gay fanny pack rips!
  • + 1
 Then by default...
Enduro is totally gay
(ironic Internetz comment disclaimer)
  • + 1
 Nice looking bags you are making!
  • + 1
 Yeah buddy!!
  • - 3
 Wasn’t this tried in 80’s??? You’re weird uncle calls if a fanny pack!
  • + 2
 Get with it man. Hip packs weren't cool until they became cycling specific, boutique branded, and expensive.
  • + 1
 @bvd453: It's like he doesn't even know they're Enduro specific.

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