Inside / Out at Outer Shell in San Francisco – Spencer Harding

Inside / Out at Outer Shell in San Francisco
Words and photos by Spencer Harding

When we set out on the DFL the Divide trip earlier this year I noticed a bunch of my bay area friends were rocking bits and pieces by Outer Shell. Kyle’s work continued to pop up in my world and one day I noticed that he had pretty much made my dream camera strap, I emailed him as quick as I could to get in on the next batch. Kyle has been putting his own very thoughtful twist on many now classic bike packing bags for a few years. With a background in engineering and a focus on versatility and durability, Kyle started Outer Shell.

After getting settled in up in Oakland I reached out to meet him in person and check out his workshop. I was lucky enough to catch him on the last morning before he took some time off for family and adventure. He was putting the finishing touches on a few saddle bags but other than that was wrapping up his shop for a few weeks.

Outer Shell is produced within Noisebridge, a hackerspace. For the unfamiliar, hackerspaces are, “Community-operated physical places, where people share their interest in tinkering with technology, meet and work on their projects, and learn from each other.” Basically it’s a big ole’ space with lots of tools to DIY just about anything you could want to make. Such spaces are amazing resources and a few years ago Kyle got tired of hand sewing things and came to Noisebridge to learn to machine sew.

The sewing area is tucked in between a large LED sculpture consisting of milk crates and old bottles and the laser cutting/welding room dubbed “Sparkle Forge”. The space can be rather overwhelming and is overflowing with details; electronic guts, and smalls parts meticulously organized, and all manner of past projects strewn about.

As we get to chatting about his process and workflow I am instantly stoked to find out that he does most of his fabric cutting on a laser cutter! If that doesn’t give you an idea about how particular and thought out his bags are I don’t know what will. He does the cuts in large batches and just feeds the fabric into the cutter off the large roll.

While he does not have his own space, for now, I found the most engaging element to be the possibilities that arise from such a diverse environment. Very much in the spirit of the space, many times while we chatted he was questioned about using the laser cutter by a fellow hacker and was happy to oblige.

Check out his line of bags and the cool story behind the name of company over at www.outershelladventure.com

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Follow Spencer on Instagram and Outer Shell on Instagram.

  • Hell Yeah!!!

  • Outer Shell makes my favorite bike-mounted camera bag and I’m stoked to feature this! Thanks, Spencer and Kyle!

  • Anthony M. Garcia

    I just got a roll top saddle bag from Outer Shell. Great quality and as big as you need. Mine is holding a big multi-tool, a plus tube, tire levers, and CO2 no problem.

  • bicyclecrumbs

    Yessss Kyle is the best dude!!! his camera strap is killer and so is his bar bag.

    • ncoffeeneur

      Word. I can’t say enough good things about that bar bag.

      • Evan Kutter

        I’ve loved my handlebar bag all summer, though I have one thing I need to work out before next spring’s rando series. I’ve got an xpac outer so it should be waterproof, but even with the drawstring drawn and the flap taut, I still end up with a teaspoon or two of water that eventually settles near the drawcord and works its way into the bag. Anyone else encounter this, and figure out a way around it?

        I could definitely throw sensitive stuff into a drybag, but part of the appeal of the flap & drawcord is that it’s easy to dig through for a snack while you rando.

        • Yes, unfortunately water can still get in. It is a compromise for easy access.
          However, if the bag is not overloaded, you can push the sides and back in under the flap.
          I’ve done some extensive testing this way and its virtually weatherproof

          • Evan

            Interesting, my experience has been that if I don’t have _enough_ stuff in the bag, the drawcord area has a slight inwards slope (like a drain) and that water collects on the edges of the drawcord layer, then rolls in towards the cinched drawcord and gets into the bag.

            I think you’re saying that if the bag is lightly loaded enough, you can squish everything under the top flap so that you don’t even get rain on the edges of the drawcord? I’ll have to try that out (Seattle commutering)

  • Thanks everyone!
    I actually just moved manufacturing out of Noisebridge but am super grateful for the start I got there and still use the laser cutter for rapid prototyping.
    Its all community funded and volunteer run so there’s no longer a Sewing and Crafting class since I left (in case anyone saw that flyer)
    I might start it up again once I figure out how to run my own business. Been super busy scaling up and working on new products.
    Don’t worry, I’m still super focused on high quality and thoughtful design. Thats probably why its taking so long…ha!

  • Bluejaystr

    Did you shoot that Mikkelsen?

    • Spencer did not but I will next time to see Kyle.

  • m f

    Love my Outer Shell mini kit (bar bag, stem caddy, seat bag). Very innovative design and his products stand out in this ever expanding category of gear.

  • Garrett Kautz

    Heck yeah! Kyle is the best. Good work and a total sweetheart. I’d buy stuff from him.

  • wow, Havent seen Kyle since back in 2007 la fixed days. glad to see he’s alive and his hair is fucking beautiful.

  • Dan O

    Checked out his website after seeing the profile of the handlebar/camera bag on here. Bought a rolltop saddle bag. Was not disappointed. Would recommend.

  • Ian Connelly

    Thoughtful design and prototyping going into these rad bags. Instantly loved my handlebar bag – that little hidden zipper pocket inside! Adjustable elastic strap! Radness.