In the beginning there were Bags…

Rohan Bags

Our iconic Bags are the original multi-function outdoor trousers and the blueprint for all technical trekking and travel trousers. Everything in our clothing range and, whatever they may say, everyone else’s, owes something to their design. Astonishingly, they were first introduced back in 1978. And since then have been intertwined in the history of Rohan.

To understand more, we’ve asked Rohan co-founder Sarah Howcroft to tell us how they came about.

How important have Bags been to the Rohan name?

Over the years, very important. Bags carry the Rohan lineage. Look at a pair of Bags and you will see they are timeless. Very few companies are selling a product that has such a lineage in the outdoor industry.

When did you first come up with the idea for them?

Long before they first came to market. Early Rohan was much more about fabric innovation than garment innovation. We needed a fabric suitable for a need rather than a specific design. So along came Rohan Airlight™. It’s a polyester and fine cotton woven so tightly that it could offer what we needed. Highly wind resistant, fast drying, durable, comfortable and light.

What was the inspiration behind them?

Bags came about to accommodate the clothing needs of a group of mountaineers called Alpinists  – elite climbers who carried all their kit to the high mountains rather than the Sherpa style whereby the kit is carried for you. They needed their gear to be lightweight, fast drying, easycare, durable and keep all their documents, passports and money safe. I think that sums up Bags. We worked very closely with this group during the 70’s and early 80’s. Many lived in the Yorkshire area and became our friends.

Was the fabric already proven?

Rohan Airlight™ fabric was unique to Rohan. So it was tested by ourselves and the Alpinists. Nothing went into production unless we were happy. It’s a very durable fabric. I am still wearing Bags and an Olfio that are older than my grown-up son.

How did you design all the pockets, were they for specific items?

As mentioned earlier, the pockets had to be secure. So you could hang upside down and nothing would fall out. They had to be comfortable. That’s why Mark l Bags which had a thigh pocket were soon replaced with Mark ll Bags which did not have a thigh pocket. They were not comfortable. In the early days the fact that the pockets could accommodate an OS map was attractive. There has never been a Mark lll Bags.

Were the ‘different’ colours always part of the vision?

Yes, as with all the Rohan range. Colour is important to us all. We always tried to bring other colours into the outdoor market. Rohan Keswick have a fantastic display of Bags heritage colours in the Rohan Originals collection.

Given that they were so innovative, were there problems manufacturing them?

Yes, but the manufacturing skill available to us in Leeds was world-beating at the time. Garment failure, was not an option. Read more on the story of Rohan Bags Made in Yorkshire

Did you anticipate that they would be such a success?

I would be lying if I said yes. By the time Bags came onto the market we had established a reputation for innovation. So we had a loyal following. What became very obvious was the growth of the travel market was going to have a big effect on Bags. Or Bags were going to have a big effect on the travel market. They were and still are ideal for the lightweight traveller.

Do you have a favourite Bags story?

Many of my favourites are told on Rohantime. In particular, Chris Townsend’s great walks of the 1980’s – The Chris Townsend Chronicles 1975-1985

Read more on Rohan History


Rohan Heritage

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