Can you design a sustainable pack that makes no performance compromises?

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The Challenge BACKPACKER wants to do its part to encourage more sustainable product development, so today we're announcing a contest for pack designers to create a midsize backpack whose materials and manufacturing process have minimal environmental impact. We want you to design and produce one prototype for our editors to test. We'll take these packs into the field, then celebrate the top three performers in a special feature in next year's Gear Guide. To qualify, your pack must be 3,500 cubic inches or larger, and it must be a viable product that could be regularly manufactured by your company.

The Deadline One prototype designed to fit a medium/regular torso length must be delivered to Backpacker headquarters by October 15, 2007 (ATTN: Zero Impact Challenge, 135 N. 6th St., Emmaus, PA 18098).

The Judging Criteria We'll look closely at your use of recycled/renewable materials and overall sustainability, taking into account both the initial impact of fabrics and manufacturing as well as the pack's durability and end-of-life recyclability. Each pack should be accompanied by a document explaining and substantiating your pack's carbon footprint, with a detailed list of materials and an explanation of each material's positives and negatives. (When we say “carbon footprint,” we're looking for the best estimate you can give us on the net greenhouse gas emissions that would be required to manufacture this pack if it were to go into production.)

When we field-test the entries, we will also take into consideration more traditional performance characteristics such as comfort, fit, stability, weight transfer, ease of use, and versatility. It's important that your pack is not just green, but also a trail-worthy performer!

The Award We will tell our readers about this challenge in this September's special Global Warming issue. We'll announce the winners next year at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008 and in our Gear Guide (March) or Editors' Choice Awards story (April).

Questions? Contact gear editor Kristin Hostetter at khostetter@aol.com or (617) 298-7670.

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