It’s hard to imagine living with the constant fear that you or your child might be struck down by a stray mortar shell or rocket at any time. Yet for the many civilians located close to conflict zones around the world this is a daily reality.
Israeli Hila Raam knows this all too well. A bright young industrial designer and graduate of Hadassah College in Jerusalem, Raam has logged many hours interviewing those who live on the frontlines about how they feel and react during attacks.
“In my research I discovered that 60 percent of people don’t get to shelter and are forced to lie on the ground and hope to be safe,” Raam says.
Israel’s early warning and anti-rocket defense system, although fairly sophisticated, often allows less than a minute to get to safety.
Raam, who prides herself in making functional products to improve the lives of those around her, wanted to design a piece of equipment or clothing that could be used to keep civilians safe during an attack and when there’s no time to run for cover.
The result is the Rhino Skin backpack, made of bulletproof Kevlar and with special side flaps and a hood to protect the head and torso from injury.
“I aimed to create a product that will always be with you and is part of your daily routine, so when a real situation occurs it will be immediately available to use without having to think about it,” Raam says.
The backpack—which is really a vest and a pack—weighs just five pounds and has a 25-litre capacity. The pack can be unzipped from the vest and worn as a regular bag on days when there are no threats.
In the event of an attack, the wearer can pull out side flaps on the vest and link them to the bag straps using Velcro. Pulling on two togs near the top of the vest releases a Kevlar hood which will protect the head.
The backpack is currently designed to fit children and teenagers only as Raam sees them as the most vulnerable.
“Children are always outside, moving from place to place, and are a lot more active than adults. They always carry backpacks and the solution was very obvious to me.”
Raam says her next set of designs will provide solutions for other age groups too.
The 27-year-old designer hopes that customers will view her bright yellow, grey and black backpacks not just as protective gear, but as a fashion accessory. While the vest itself is pretty standard in its design and expensive to make because of the Kevlar fiber and the testing approvals it has to go through, the backpack is much more versatile and can be designed to fit different occasions and changing fashion trends.
“The detachable backpack feature allows me as a designer to offer a wide range of designs for the costumer. An opportunity for the costumer to purchase different bags colors, sizes, and designs,” Raam says.
The Rhino Skin is currently only a prototype, but could sell for around $400 or more.
“Government subsidy could help protective parents to purchase this bag for their children,” Raam says.
Asked if she plans to market the Rhino Skin outside of Israel, Raam believes that because the vest offers protection for all the vital areas—which regular vests do not—the Rhino Skin could be a great asset for the police and other armed forces and civilians throughout the world.
“Hopefully I will create a line of products under the Rhino Skin concept and brand. For the distant future I aim to keep making designs that come with a purpose – functional and innovative products that improve and even save lives,” Raam concludes.
This is the first in a series of articles highlighting the most innovative industrial designers from around the world. Stay tuned for more stories.
(Photo courtesy Hila Raam)