The back(pack) story

(5 minute read)

I am Matt Crack, founder and sole maker at crackpacs. I make colourful bags and backpacks from repurposed materials, mainly retro canvas tents. 

I grew up in the heart of England on the Malvern Hills, where outdoor adventure flows like the water. I was lucky enough to have the space, my own little makers shed, to store things I had collected, and to make, break, dismantle, mend and reimagine these old things into new. So, it was clear from the start I was destined to make something for adventure.

After completing my design degree, I started making adverts. I worked for 10 years in London as an Art Director in creative advertising, but always had my own ideas and wanted the freedom to create on my own terms. I had a love-hate relationship with the city, and although my time there proved invaluable for the creation of crackpacs, I was always looking for the opportunity to escape. It took being made redundant (twice) for me to take the leap out and start crackpacs in 2017.

Plenty of time was spent plucking up the courage to go it alone, leaving the safety of the monthly salary is one of the most difficult parts. There’s been a couple of false starts along my journey – I love to make furniture, but it became apparent, I really didn’t have the space to get this started in London. The search for something creative I could do with what I had, and where I was, led me to the sewing machine. 

It all started with an Ikea shopping bag and an old pair of trousers. Using an 80s Singer sewing machine I cobbled together a backpack. From then on, the sewing machine became my weapon of choice. I discovered that sewing is one of the most practical skills a person can have, it gives the power to mend and make so many different things with one machine. From mending a hole in a fleece jacket, to creating a backpack that will carry all your adventure essentials.

The idea of crackpacs came shortly after my parents were trying to get rid of the old family tent. We were a family of six, so it was a pretty big metal frame style canvas tent. Sadly I wasn’t in a position to take the tent off their hands, so as painful as it was, I had to let this one go. It wasn’t until a few months after it dawned on me, I could have used the material to make bags. Their troubles getting rid of it made me think there must be loads of these tents packed away in sheds and garages, ripe for reincarnation. 

“To the naked eye, I am a hoarder who keeps things others deem to be skip-worthy. I believe everything has many more uses than their intended purpose, and that waste isn’t waste until you waste it.”

crackpacs still lives at home with me, but now in Sheffield with a good-sized studio and purpose-built garden shack for all the messy stuff. It’s small-scale and intended to support my small family. It’s not intended to grow into something huge, because that’s part of its charm and would go against the founding principles.

I am passionate about sustainable, simple living and caring for our environment. These are considered in all aspects of my business model and what I make. Every bag is designed and created by me. Every last detail is scrutinised to get the perfect balance of form, function and sustainability. Materials are sourced as locally as possible, using as much reused and recycled as possible. They have been designed not to lose sight of their original purpose, to help keep the era of camping under canvas alive. They retain that lovely smell, the big white zips and bright colourful canvas. The carry handle is a piece of aluminium tent pole cut and polished by hand in the garden shack. Colourful retired climbing rope adds another echo of adventure. These things combined to create a truly unique backpack with many stories to tell, and many more to live.

Running my business helps me live a different and more sustainable kind of life. I can be more flexible, juggling my work and life – for instance, I spend more time than most renovating my house, growing vegetables and doing things by hand. I might earn less, but I save in other areas, and put greater value on my own time. Shifting perspective from the thought that earning a big salary equals success hasn’t been easy. 

crackpacs wouldn’t be what it is today without persistence and self-belief, but also the support and encouragement of my life partner Sara. Making something that interests you and those around you, and encompasses your passions is the perfect way to keep the idea alive. Make what you want and you’ll always want to make it.


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