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The story behind the MATRA

In keeping with our yearly tradition of ignoring consumerism totally, we asked Balázs our co-founder to share the inspiration and story behind the MATRA:

YKRA MATRA backpack on KEZEMURA mountain climber on the LUGAUER peak in AUSTRIA


"As a child I was really impressed by mountain climbers, who summited peaks high above the clouds. Later when I decided to design a backpack for myself, it was a natural step to look at the gear they used back in the days, before the plastic revolution of the 70's and 80's.

Walter Bonatti, one of the world’s greatest mountaineer on K2

I was really surprised to see that Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary climbed the worlds highest peak with simple canvas backpacks. That really made a mark on me, that you could essentially scale the worlds highest peak with rudimentary gear like that.

The other thing that really influenced me was the Swiss army backpacks. I had a really cool climbing backpack during my university years, but once the plastic parts got old, the elastic cords loosened, the backpack was unrepairable, and I was sad that I had to throw it out after just 4-5 years of use.

Meanwhile I had friends use these Swiss army canvas backpacks from the 1960's that were still going strong, with leather parts that aged beautifully and had patina, and if it ever needed you could repair the bag yourself with a needle and a thread. Sure it wasn't super light, but it was comfortable, and these bags were still around after more than 50 years.

Think about it, what product can you buy today, that will last for that long? This was my main inspiration for the MATRA and the MATRA MINI backpacks, to create backpacks, that would endure, and could be repaired, so they could last for years and years. The MATRA took more than 11 years to perfect, and it went through multiple iterations before we arrived at it's current form. I wanted it to be rugged and durable, but also comfortable and modular, in case you wanted to detach those side pockets during every day use.

After multiple rounds of prototyping with the help of Franciska our design assistant, we arrived at this version which got really good reviews from our testers. Like all of our products, before actually starting to sell it, we test it ourselves. For me that meant climbing a Mountain with the MATRA, if it could do that, I would be satisfied with it.

So we set off to Austria to a small village at the end of a mining valley, at the foot of the Lugauer, with two good friends Pavel and Gábor. As usually we were in a rush and had no time to wax the backpacks. But being outdoors, in these majestic mountains you forget quickly about testing a backpack, and you go into climbing mode, by the time we reached the peak at 4pm and the sun started to set, my legs started to hurt from my shoes. And that's when I realized just how comfortable the MATRA turned out: I didn't even notice it was there!

YKRA MATRA vintage style climbing backpack on a hiking trip in Austria

The side pockets served us well for storing water bottles and cameras, things you want to access quickly without necessarily starting to dig around in your pack. This is what I really like about the MATRA, that it works not only as a vintage style everyday backpack, but would have served those climbers back in the day equally well!"

YKRA MATRA Tricolor vintage style climbing backpack

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