Early sketches of Voyager Weekender with optional WiFi.

What’s a Weekender Without WiFi?

The Voyager started off with the idea of designing a really nice duffle. That wasn’t much of a problem statement which we’ll explain later, but we did see an opportunity to apply our design love to this classic piece. We bantered a lot internally about who would carry it, when would they carry, where, etc. This was a more challenging design project because we were stepping into an area where there were a lot of other solutions. So, we essentially turned it into a nine month research project. Where we ended up solves problems we all have with space: the amount of space, the use of space, the separation of space, the space around the space, the space where the space will live, and just about everything space, and with one extra special cherry on the sundae — thanks to our friends at Karma, the Voyager is the first leather bag equipped with WiFi that you can bring with you, everywhere in the U.S.

Voyager testing began with prototype no.1, which was a barrel bag that some refer to as a duffel or gym bag. A tubular space, with a zipper, a handle and a few pockets. The problem was that it was small — matter of fact it would probably fit one shoe, a shirt and not much more.

On a deeper level, the “gym-bag” feel wasn’t really cutting it for how we would ultimately want to use it. We found the interior of the space to be limiting as our gear needed to conform to a structure similar to a can of raw Pillsbury biscuits. After feeling our way through the darkness of what we were trying to accomplish, it was clear that we were not going to reinvent the classic gym bag.

The next chapter of our research was about interviews and observation. We reached out to local photographers and frequent travelers to get a read on where they were dissatisfied with available bags. The patterns were evident and it really boiled down to space and versatility. With that in mind, prototype no. 2 was built and I jumped on a train to Santa Barbara, CA to test it out. There was one giant pet peeve — so many times I would reach in the bag and the cords were tangled or I pulled a cord out and a bunch of other stuff from my bag came out with the cords.


These comments spoke to the heart of what we are always trying to do: solve fundamental problem in elegant ways. We had identified a discrete problem that we wanted to solve with our duffle.

As the bag took form, problems still existed.

After the train trip we recognized that sample no. 2 lacked the proper spots for the tools that we always seek to accommodate. What we really wanted was the same level of cord and peripheral organization that the Mod Tablet offered without having to buy a separate piece. Some observation of what people tend to travel with clarified the gear that we needed to design for: a phone, battery pack, cords, plugs, pen, and notebook, as well as some random items like boarding passes, snacks, etc.

“Pod” inspired by the Mod.

This process led directly to sample no. 3 which, like magic, had dedicated spots for all of this gear — and more importantly, it provided a clearly defined space for our tech, separate from the main compartment. We made sure that this was easily accessible so that we could tap into our core travel gear without having to dig through our destination gear. Clear separation and specific organization — ahhhhh.. this is exactly what was needed.

Sample no. 3 was, on form alone, an A+. As a matter of fact, though we had set out to design a large bag built for a long weekend, Voyager sample no. 3 turned into an everyday carry for our staff. It has this organic quality that almost mimicked the adaptiveness of plants or animals in the wild. Because of the softness of the leathers we chose, the bag conforms to the amount of stuff inside of it and to your body. If it isn’t stuffed full, it nestles against you without becoming unnecessarily cumbersome. From a capacity and space usage standpoint, all was looking great — there was just one more problem that we were encountering.

Whether traveling or just commuting, we found ourselves living out of this bag. On the train and during frequent cafe visits, we found ourselves struggling with inconsistent, subpar internet connectivity while needing to remain productive. While there are many public WiFi networks available, the service, quality, and security of the connection is always uncertain. We noticed that a lot of our friends in SF and NY were excited about a company called Karma that offered a simple and seamless solution to getting ultra-fast WiFi internet anywhere. As we learned about Karma, we quickly fell in love with their model. Besides the reliability of the connection and the sleek minimal design of the Karma Go, what really endeared us was the community element that Karma has built into their brand. When you use Karma, your network is available for others nearby to securely access, and every time someone new connects to your network, you both receive free data — that’s why it’s called Karma. You only share your connection, never your data. Everyone picks up their own tab.

After ordering our own Karma Go and testing it out, it became clear that their love for user experience was in line with ours and we decided to test a Voyager out with integrated Karma Go WiFi.

We’ve made leather sleeves that dock in the Pod or break away for mobile use.

We fell in love with this experience. Using the Karma Go in place of our phone’s hotspot preserved our battery life and ensured we always had great service, plus we got a little thrill every time we opened the Voyager’s tech pod and saw the Karma’s subtle glow. With this addition, we realized that the Voyager was finally complete, nine full months after we made our first leather duffle.

Pod with custom leather sleeve.

The Voyager will be available very soon and we’ll be offering it with or without WiFi. When you purchase with WiFi, you will receive a pocket-sized Karma Go along with a custom leather sleeve that connects the Go with the Voyager, allowing you the freedom to bring ultrafast WiFi with you anywhere in the US. We are very excited and proud to announce that our partnership with Karma means the Voyager is the world’s first WiFi enabled leather bag.

We can’t wait to share the Voyager with you, and to see all the adventures you have in store for it.

Some more info on Karma Go:

  • Nationwide Coverage (+466 U.S. cities)
  • No contracts or hidden fees
  • Pay as you go for data that never expires
  • Share your connection: Each Karma connection is available to 8 devices, either your own or the people around you.
  • How: Each time someone hops on your network, both parties get 100MB of free data…you for sharing and them to get started. It’s a win-win.

More info on how to purchase a Voyager: http://voyager.media



CEO @groundcontrolai

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