Why is KAVU’s rope bag so popular?

Ballardite Barry Barr built on KAVU’s Seattle tradition of leisure-oriented functionality: a Tevas-inspired (bear with me) hat designed to stay firmly in place in choppy winds and waters, a sturdy canvas bag that won’t fall apart during hike.

But it wasn’t hard-nosed adventurers who made the brand’s rope bag one of the nation’s best-selling outdoor bags. “College girls found it in some of our outdoor stores” near campus in Alabama and Mississippi around 2010, Barr says, and sales catapulted to thousands of bags a month. Now the rope bag is at the top of KAVU’s best-selling list.

This pack fits into many overlapping Venn diagrams. The climbing rope strap appeals to outdoor enthusiasts and those who like to appear outdoors. The polyester exterior of the rope sling version keeps socks after hiking or library books dry. The casual messenger bag style can replace a purse or backpack (or even an airplane neck pillow, per Barr).

And even though the drawstring bag is very popular, you probably won’t encounter a Who Wore It Better situation: each of KAVU’s unique patterns and colors only lasts six months. “There’s always something wacky,” Barr says, from the “fuzzy” pineapples to an incoming fungus imprint.

It is sold at Free People and Urban Outfitters, Backcountry and REI. You can find it on trendy Southern sorority girls, experienced cyclists, and intrepid travel bloggers.

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

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