We Needed This: KAVU's Rope Bag Exports Seattle Fashion

It may have gained popularity on far-flung college campuses, but this best-selling pack is distinctly PNW.

By Zoe Sayler

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When you see a print you like, snag it: They're only here until they're not.

Ballardite Barry Barr built KAVU on the Seattle tradition of recreation-driven functionality: a Tevas-inspired hat (bear with me) designed to stay firmly in place through rough winds and waters, a sturdy canvas bag that won’t flop around on a hike.

But it wasn’t hard-nosed adventurers who landed the brand’s rope bag its spot as one of the best-selling outdoor bags in the country. “The college girls found it at some of our outdoor stores” near campus in Alabama and Mississippi circa 2010, Barr says—and sales catapulted to thousands of bags a month. Now, the rope bag tops KAVU’s best-sellers list.

Please don't pet my bag. 

Image: Courtesy Kavu

This pack fits into a lot of overlapping Venn diagrams. The climbing rope strap appeals to outdoor enthusiasts and those enthusiastic about appearing outdoorsy. The polyester outer of the rope sling version keeps post-hike socks or library books dry. The casual, messenger-bag style can replace a purse or a backpack (or even an airplane neck pillow, per Barr).

And even though the rope bag’s wildly popular, you probably won’t run into any Who Wore It Better situations: Each of KAVU’s unique patterns and colorways only runs for six months. “There’s always something wackadoodle,” Barr says, from pineapples to succulents to "fuzz."

It’s sold at Free People and Urban Outfitters, Backcountry and REI. You can find it on fashionable Southern sorority girls, experienced bike commuters, and intrepid travel bloggers

But it’ll always be distinctly Seattle. Especially in limited-edition blue tarp: “It’s kind of an eff you to what’s out there,” Barr says. “That’s kind of our style.” 

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