Oi Polloi

Introducing Millican

Published: Tue Oct 17 2017

Millican is a new addition to the proverbial Oi Polloi stable.

Taking their name from a forward thinking adventurer called Millican Dalton, this lot make ultra-tough, super-useful rucksacks and duffle bags ideal for everyday outdoor life.

We pestered main-man Jorrit Jorritsma to find out more…

First things first, what is Millican? When did it start?  

We see Millican as a collective of conscious travellers, based on a farm in the Lake District.

We’ve made sustainable bags and accessories for travel and outdoor use since 2008, using creative storytelling to stir the maverick inside us all. 

What made you want to start a ‘baggage’ company? 

I’ve always loved bags. To me they’re a symbol of freedom — always ready to go out. A bag holds everything you need on any journey, long or short. And somehow, over time, becomes a friend – scuffed by experiences, personalised en route, a quiet companion.   

The name comes from a man named Millican Dalton. What’s the story with him? What was it about him that inspired you? 

Millican Dalton is a bit of a local legend here in the valley. He moved from London to Borrowdale Valley in the early 1900s, initially living in a self-made tent, later on in the Cave Hotel on Castle Crag. He called himself the Professor of Adventure, offering hair-breadth escapes while guiding people in the Lakes and the Alps, and made most of his own clothing, sleeping bags and rucksacks. 

A very self-sufficient maverick who lived simply in nature, while inspiring others to explore what the outdoors could mean to them — perfect inspiration for us! 

From what I read, he was a bit more low-key and slow-paced than most adventurers. Do you think people get the wrong idea about outdoor activity due to its occasional ‘extreme’ aura? 

I think his, and our point, is that everyone has their own inner maverick that needs feeding – and outdoor adventures, big and small, are a perfect inspiration for this. Travel means stepping into the unknown every time, a great test of independence and resourcefulness. 

Travel and adventure are also about connecting with others, the planet and ultimately with yourself. For some, this means extreme adventures. For most, this is more low-key, yet equally important. 

I’ve always liked how Millican Dalton just made adventuring his own, and accessible to most – Millican the brand follows the same inspiration. 

Going back to the rucksacks, what makes a good one? 

A good pack fits its intended purpose – the more activity-specific, the narrower its use often is. It can be more challenging to create multifunctional packs, still stripped back to essential use. 

What sets your bags apart? 

I’d say our choice of sustainable materials and a unique design concept sets our bags apart. 

How do you lot make your rucksacks? What fabrics do you use? Where are they made? 

Our Maverick bags are made by our partner based in Vietnam, using a combination of weatherproof, largely sustainable fabrics, combining wax-impregnated cotton and recycled polyester. 

Part of the polyester used in our Bionic® Canvas comes from marine and coastal clean-up programmes. They are designed from only a few panels of very strong fabric, reducing seams and therefore maximising strength and weatherproofing.

The results are minimalist bags, using the few seams for hidden pockets and easy-access laptop sleeves. 

Being into the outdoors and all that, it makes sense to think about the environment a bit. What do you lot do in that respect? 

Never enough! We’re currently working with organic cotton, recycled polyesters and veg-tanned leathers, and we even use local Herdwick wool in some of our products. 

We’re also trialling recycled nylons, while still searching for more eco-friendly leather options. 

Ultimately though, I think that all of this is about the right mindset — innovation requires new solutions, which in turn require doers. People who try, fail and try again. That’s us and that’s what we hope to inspire in others with all we do.  

There’s maybe a bit of a movement at the moment of people getting back into nature a bit. Hiking and camping and all that. Why do you think that is? 

Without sounding too philosophical, all ways seem to lead back to nature somehow. In tougher times, as in the past 10 years or so, people look to simplify their lives, and the outdoors allow you to do that. 

Life also often seems to be about opposites, balancing out somewhere in the middle – technology connects us with each other on a permanent basis, which in turn makes people appreciate the analogue connections more too. 

Hiking, camping and being out there does that for you and forces you to be in the now more, to enjoy where you physically are. Combining that with the micro-adventure thing, makes the outdoors much more accessible to a new generation of enthusiasts. 

How come you lot ended up in the Lake District? And where are your favourite spots there? 

Ending up in the Lakes was a typical ‘I only came for a week’ moment. The Lakes is one of those places where you simply feel at home. I love cities, yet turning off the M6 into the Northern Lakes always makes you breathe out. It feels like coming home. 

Despite the 16m annual visitors, there are many places to escape to and find peace. The old adage of getting off the beaten track is very true – trundle up into Newland’s Valley, Ennerdale, or Wasdale and you’ll find all sorts of hidden treasures, without the crowds. Or paddle onto Crummock Water, lie on your back and absorb the peace. 

What do you get up to in Keswick? You ever go to the pencil museum? And were you annoyed when the Caterite supermarket got turned into a Booths? 

Haha – the Pencil Museum is a must! The local graphite was of such amazing quality, they made both pencils and the most accurate cannonballs in the 1700s… 

Keswick is often described as the ‘adventure capital of England’, so we get up to all sorts here in the hills and on the water. That’s when we’re not shopping in one of the 20+ outdoor shops of course, or Booths (Caterite has continued further down the road, all good!). And then there’s the Square Orange, where many a team-night has been spent with amazing music, beer and pizza. 

You got any words of wisdom you’d like to add? 

Chase that inner maverick and let it out – as often as you can.  

See the bags here.