January 22, 2020

Harley working on backpack

I’m currently working on my 3rd year major project in Product Design at Cardiff Met which is focused on the design of military load carriage equipment. In particular I’m looking at bergans, which are the large rucksacks used by soldiers to carry kit and supplies.

I chose this as the subject of my project because of my own connections in the military. I’m a reservist combat engineer myself, and my father is a Regular officer in the infantry.

Harley with Dad
Me with my Dad more than a few years ago!

I know first-hand where issued equipment fails, and the factors that lead to the most complaints -most commonly poor build quality, cheap fasteners and uncomfortable design.

This picture is a bit more recent!

While beginning my design process I contacted a company called JayJays of Brecon, who specialise in making kit for military use.

Working with them has been a great experience so far, and they have been very responsive to my questions and ideas. Working with a company like JayJays really gives me the edge in my final project. It allows me access to their years of experience in making military products and working with fabric. They will also be helping me with my final presentation model, giving it that professional standard finish.

JayJay's Workshops
The workshop at JayJays – they’ve been a big help by sharing their expertise with me.

I am now working closely with them to develop an adjustable back brace system for their bergans that will be more inclusive for all soldiers – currently this area is dominated by designs suited to men, which can cause back issues for female soldiers.

The main challenges are how I’m going to create a fully adjustable back brace system while keeping the weight down so I can avoid adding to the heavy load already carried by soldiers.

This is the current, non-adjustable back brace I’m working to improve upon.

So far I have really enjoyed the challenge that this has brought me and the new skills I’ve had to learn. I’ve had to learn how to use the sewing machines from the Textiles department, and the Fashion Design department’s more industrial machines for the thicker, more hardwearing materials.

It’s also challenged me to improve my sketching skills. I usually rely on my skills with CAD software – this is great for rendering solid objects, but it isn’t as easy to achieve good results with a soft product like a bag, so this has moved me out of my comfort zone a little.

The skills I’m learning both at uni and as a combat engineer will be great for my future career.

After university my goal is a career in designing outdoor and military equipment, so this project will give me a great piece for my portfolio and really help me show my skills in that area.