“We wanted to create a pack that is as feature rich as a premium pack, but has an entry-level price,” says CJ Whittaker, Cotopaxi’s VP of product and outdoor product designer of 10 years. When designing the Taboche, he researched existing bags created for novice backpackers and found them to be lacking. “As I use them, I do a gut check,” he explains. “I say, ‘is this intuitive? Is this easy? Is this something I want to do?’” The answers to these questions give him a place to start.
Whittaker’s mindset as he starts designing is simple: “Draw draw draw, have a ton of fun, and always leave room for surprise.”
Sketching is an essential part of the design process. “Sketching is like refined thinking,” Whittaker says. “It forces you to make decisions.”
“When I draw, I pretend I’m actually making or using the product. I have to physically try what I’m drawing on the paper. When I’m sitting at my desk, not only can you see me sketching, I also do ‘air-sculpting.’ I’m trying to visualize the construction using my laser eyes and hands. It involves a lot of imagination before you start prototyping—that’s when you really start bringing the idea into the physical world,” he says.
Whittaker’s personal outdoor experiences often inspire his designs. In the case of the Taboche, that influence was paramount. “I like to water ski, and there’s a really cool Velcro mechanism on a lot of water ski boots. I essentially adopted that into the torso length adjustment of the Taboche. It’s extremely strong and very easy to use. Like, so easy to use it doesn’t even need instructions, which is pretty awesome.”
User testing in the High Uinta Wilderness proved the pack’s simplicity and versatility. “It was easy to fit to my body, easy to pack, and easy to use on the trail,” one tester said.