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Humble duffel bag gets reinvented for modern, tech-savvy business travelers

The duffel bag is one of those things that, seemingly, do not need fixing. It’s simple in design – typically soft fabric that packs down when you don’t need it – yet effective and essential in its job, whether it’s carry-on luggage for a short trip or a bag to haul gym gear. But, because the traditional duffle is so innocuous, a Los Angeles design firm, Keep Pursuing (KP), is looking to do just that: reinvent the duffel for today’s needs, and make it sleek.

“Duffel bags basically come in two shapes – cylinder and rectangular – and we thought to ourselves, ‘Why is that?’” says Bryan Kinney, KP’s marketing director. “If bags are fashion accessories why can’t we make them in more unique and interesting shapes that catch people’s eye? We thought to ourselves, as guys, what kind of design makes us turn our heads and our jaws drop, and the first thing that came to mind were sports cars.”

One look at the KP Duffle and it’s clear it’s like no gym bag that’s come before. The rigid construction gives it a shape and lines that’s sports car-like, recalling bag designs from Tumi’s Ducati series.

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“Why can’t the same design ideas that make us love and admire Lamborghinis and Ferraris be used to design bags?”

“When you see a Ferrari driving through downtown or a Porsche speeding down the highway you always look and say, ‘Damn, that’s cool,’ and so we wanted to try and create a bag that evoked the same emotional response,” Kinney tells us about the design approach. “Cars are beautifully designed because of their lines, contours, and form. They make you turn your head when you see them speeding down the road. Why can’t the same design ideas that make us love and admire Lamborghinis and Ferraris be used to design bags? This was our design challenge in creating the KP Duffle.”

While many products have a “form follows function” design, KP took the other approach.

“The design did come prior to the function,” Kinney says, in addition to researching existing bags on the market. “If we focused on function first, then the KP Duffle would probably look like every other bag. Removing the blueprints of other bags and their function, we began to explore ways to make ours different.”

“Our designs really focus on people who love tech and gadgets.”

That means, in addition to a main compartment, there’s a “utility hatch” on one end for quick access to things like chargers, cables, battery pack, and other accessories. This is clever in that when the bag is stored in an overhead compartment, you could easily reach those items without needing to pull the whole bag out and rummage through it to find them. On the other end is a feature we love, and wish more duffels had one: a ventilated shoe compartment. There are dedicated pockets on the side for a phone, pen, and additional accessories like a water bottle, and there is also a secret compartment that’s only revealed to owners. The KP Duffle also uses water-resistant zippers and zinc alloy for other hardware, making it more like well-built luggage than.

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For travelers, the KP Duffle meets carry-on size limits, but it’s on the small size – smaller than a typical “small” Adidas or Nike duffel bag for the gym. What the KP Duffle lacks in capacity, it makes up for in style, but if you plan to travel for more than a couple days, you may need to bring along another bag or pick a bigger one instead.

“KP’s motto is, “Outfitters of the Modern Adventurer,” so basically people who are urban dwellers and want to use the bag for a weekend getaway or a business trip,” Kinney says. “Our designs really focus on people who love tech and gadgets, and the “Utility Hatch” was specifically made to keep all your cables, chargers, and gadgets organized and separate from the rest of your stuff.”

In keeping with the tech focus, KP also designed a companion accessory for the Duffel – the KP MultiPen. The matte-finished and copper tool, which fits neatly into the bag’s pen pocket, has a stylus tip on one end that removes to reveal a ballpoint pen, and a laser pointer and LED flashlight on the other end.

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“The idea came to be because we thought this bag would be great for a business trip,” Kinney says. “I used to be in advertising sales myself and you always need a pen, and because I’d do presentations with clients I also always needed a laser pointer as well. It got the wheels turning and made us think how many gadgets/devices could we put into one pen. So we thought of a bunch of ideas and needs and finally decided on pen, tablet stylus, laser pointer, and flashlight. That way, instead of carrying four different things you could have it all in one.”

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Since KP launched the Duffle on Kickstarter, it quickly surpassed the $15,000 goal (with still 28 days to go, as of this writing, KP has already raised more than $300,000); the modest pledge goal suggests KP was testing to see if there would be an audience for this bag, and it would seem to, with more than 1,700 backers. Optional is the Dopp Kit, a toiletries bag that you can also use for other items. With the successful funding, KP has met several stretch goals to add additional features and options: besides black, there will be a blue-and-orange version; gray-and-orange version; a version with an orange interior and custom pattern; toiletry bottles for the Dopp Kit; and a compartment for a tablet. Many of the stretch goal ideas, Kinney says, came from feedback from backers.

The Duffle’s success will surely bring KP additional recognition. The company had created a following after launching a previously successful crowdfunded bag, called the KP Sling. Kinney tells us this is just the start, as we’ll see more bags.

“After the KP Duffle we’re looking to expand our product line with potentially a backpack or a laptop messenger bag, but we don’t want to put out new bags just to put them out,” Kinney says. “We first want to make sure that the product is unique, one of a kind, and different than anything else out there in the market, because we don’t want to be just another bag company.”