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Camping accessories: Attention shifts to smaller designs

Models ranging from 20 to 50L take the spotlight, as companies hold back on exports and R&D in the large-capacity line.

China suppliers of camping and hiking backpacks are devoting their energy to smaller designs following changes in consumers’ outdoor recreation patterns.

Still cautious with discretionary spending, many end-users have been taking shorter trips, usually only one to three days, in view of last year’s economic crisis. Others are foregoing excursions altogether and turning instead to other activities such as cycling.

Camping accessories Demand, as a consequence, has been moving away from large backpacks for long expeditions toward small and midsize models that are used with day, overnight or weekend outings.

At the outset, this shift affected China’s export business negatively. Because of dwindling orders for large designs, sales in the category declined 20 to 30 percent last year. Ranging from 55 to 80L in load capacity, these products accounted for 35 percent of the industry’s total outbound shipments.

To protect against further losses, suppliers are turning the situation into an opportunity to boost sales and have, as such, been adjusting their sales mix accordingly.

More than half have put on hold the development of new models exceeding 60L. Some have even discontinued shipments of the line, exporting only small and midsize backpacks since January.

Resources are being diverted mainly to 20 to 50L designs. Guangdong Winpard Industry Co. Ltd, for instance, is focusing production on 25 to 45L models.

At Quanzhou Xinghai Bags Co. Ltd, marketing efforts center on hydration backpacks with a capacity of below 40. These are suitable for cyclists.

Small and medium models, in fact, have become the primary drivers of exports in the camping and hiking backpacks sector. From 65 percent in 2008, the categories now account for 80 to 85 percent of China’s total shipments.

Products are exported mostly to the US and the EU. The majority target the midrange segment and are under OEM contracts.

Design upgrades

Keen on maximizing growth opportunities that smaller models have opened up, suppliers are offering better coating, fabric and design options.

Among the new alternatives is a special urethane-based coating that was previously seen only in large models. Although 20 percent costlier than regular PU, this variation has a softer feel and is more water-resistant. Companies such as Guangdong Winpard have started adopting the finish in 25L designs.

Meanwhile, makers that are reluctant to follow suit have been enhancing water repellence by applying double coats of PU.

To ensure durability, 400 or 420d ripstop fabric is being tapped for 25 to 35L models. Featuring reinforced fiber woven in a crosshatch pattern, this variation resists fraying and tearing better than ordinary nylon or polyester oxford.

For designs with a capacity of at least 40L, hardwearing jacquard fabric is becoming a popular choice alongside ripstop. The standard density rating is 600d.

In terms of suspension systems, suppliers are coming up with more ergonomic solutions. Straps, for one, are being made wider and thicker to help distribute weight evenly between the shoulders and hips.

Another upgrade enables users to adjust not only the length and tightness but also the positioning and height of the shoulder harnesses depending on their needs.

For optimum comfort, breathable mesh and foam are utilized for the back panel and padding, respectively. They promote air circulation and consequently help prevent heat and sweat buildup.

Products & prices

China-made camping and hiking backpacks range from $8 to $25 or more. Models come in 210, 420, 600, 900, 1000, 1280 and 1680d polyester or nylon.

Of these, the 210d variation is commonly used as lining. The 420 and 600d types lead choices for the body shell, while the 900, 1000 and 1280d configurations are adopted only in the high end.

For stress points, options vary from 600 to 1680d polyester or nylon to synthetic leather, depending on the capacity of the model.

In terms of weave pattern, designs are made mostly of oxford, ripstop or jacquard. Surfaces are coated or laminated with PVC or PU for water resistance and durability.

Cordura is being utilized as well, although its steep cost is limiting applications to the high end. Developed by DuPont, it goes for approximately $3 per yard, 40 to 60 percent more expensive than regular fabric.

Performance-wise, Cordura is highly resistant to abrasion and tear. It is said to be twice as durable as nylon and three times more than polyester. Further, constructions in this material are lighter and have a softer feel.

Quanzhou Haiheng Sports & Tour Goods Co. Ltd uses the 1000d version in some of its military-use releases to reduce infrared signatures from radars. Models are priced at least 50 percent higher.

Another emerging alternative for special-purpose designs is solar fabric. Often sourced from South Korea, this can store PV energy during the day and generate power by night.

As regards backpack construction, basic models from China have a main compartment and one front and two side pockets.

Those with a capacity of 50L and above are designed with top, middle and bottom compartments and specialized holders. In some releases, side pockets for water bottles are even detachable. Versions with built-in hydration pouches or water bladders are available as well. These reservoirs are fitted with leak-resistant drinking tubes and may be insulated.

Standard suspension systems consist of waist and shoulder straps and a back panel.

Sternum, hip, load-lifting and belt-stabilizer harnesses, ladder suspension, mesh covering for the back panels and aluminum frames are integrated in midrange and high-end models.

Upscale products also feature high-grade hardware accessories. Nylon zippers, for instance, are preferred for their flexibility, durability and low-temperature tolerance. These are usually procured from top-brand manufacturers such as YKK.

A range of value-added features can be incorporated in designs, with hydration pouches, shovel pockets, lash points, extendable collars, ice ax loops, daisy chains and crampon patches among the most common.

Industry snapshot

China has 300 to 800 manufacturers of camping and hiking backpacks. The majority are privately owned and run small or midsize operations.

Makers tend to specialize in bags, offering more than three types. Selections usually include luggage sets, school backpacks and handbags.

Factories are based mostly in Guangdong, Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, with well-established networks of auxiliary industries supporting production.

Suppliers in these locations enjoy convenient access to manufacturing inputs, including textiles, trimmings and zippers. There are also nearby clusters of metal-processing, embroidery, printing and packaging service providers.

Within Guangdong, the cities of Dongguan, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhongshan and Foshan are the key hubs.

Zhejiang enterprises are scattered throughout Wenzhou, Dongyang, Yiwu, Jiaxing and Ningbo.

Production in Fujian is common in the cities of Xiamen, Quanzhou and Fuzhou.

This article "Camping accessories: Attention shifts to smaller designs" is originally posted in Global Sources.

Contact suppliers in this article

Guangdong Winpard Industry Co.Ltd
Quanzhou Haiheng Sports & Tour Goods Co. Ltd
XingHai (HK) Industrial Limited/Quanzhou Xinghai Bags Co.Ltd
Meixin Industry Trading Co.,Ltd
Sunknife Industrial Co.Ltd
Wenzhou Chinalight Hardware Knife Co Ltd
Yangchun Silver Star Trading Co Ltd
Yangjiang Homestar Co., Ltd
Yangjiang Jinlangda Hardware & Plastic Product Co Ltd
Yangjiang Precision Industries Co. Ltd

Note: All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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