This post was sponsored by Millican, all thoughts my own.

The way we think about adventure is changing. Collectively, our worlds have been smaller these past few years; we have sought out exploration in our own backyards, and in a landscape of changing work, many have been inspired to try and slow down and rebalance priorities.

But, before all of these modern realisations, came Millican Dalton.

A local legend and self-styled ‘professor of adventure’, Millican Dalton moved to the Lake District in the 1920s. He made his home in a disused split-level quarried cave on the side of Castle Crag, where he lived for nearly 50 years. The life he pursued was frugal and simple among the wild natural landscape; baking his own bread, sewing his own clothes, and leading groups on adventures through the fells. 

Visitors often spoke of the sense of peace and relaxation that they felt after spending time with Millican. Embracing relative solitude in his cave, he became ever more attuned to nature. In an interview with a newspaper in 1941 at seventy three, he commented, “Well, I don’t sleep much, and while I am awake I lie and listen and think. There’s a lot to think about just now, isn’t there? All the sounds of the nights, the roar of the mountain stream, the barking of our dogs and foxes, the cries of birds, how can I be lonely with such company?” Until the very end of his life, he remained wedded to the outdoors, only moving into a hut during cold winters. 


The Core Roll Pack 15L in colour Sunset. Use the code UNICORN15 for a discount at checkout.

These days, the name Millican is more likely to be recognised as the brand producing sustainable bags for conscious adventurers, but Dalton’s spirit can still be found woven into their ethos.

Millican wasn’t designed to completely emulate Dalton’s life (none of the staff members have moved into a cave, for one), but it was the spirit of his story that has always helped them remain true to their inspiration. Dalton’s cave represented a space to escape to, a haven containing a simpler, slower way of life, and it’s this vision that Millican carry into everything they do. Founders Jorrit and Nicky found themselves in a similar place to Dalton, who moved to the Lake District later in life himself. Both of them had worked exclusively in corporate, urban settings while harbouring desires to move to the countryside. Dalton’s story brought them to the area, then gave them the idea for Millican as it looks today. They relocated, started building Millican, and the rest is history.

Valuing responsibility 

Millican itself is a small operation, housed on farmland and surrounded by rolling green fells and the occasional wandering cow. Over the years, the team has grown organically, described to me as ‘finding like-minded people who are passionate about doing things differently’. But they’re also clear about what this means. They don’t care for a mentality of forever hustling, pushing consumption, or constant drops of new products disguised as innovation. They look for people who are passionate about finding a new kind of balance. One where work and life can feel healthy; where people can enjoy being outdoors, experiencing all it has to offer while prioritising natural protection.

This core ethos runs deep through all Millican operations. Though sustainable from the beginning, Millican have never used this as their USP or tagline. The founders just always wanted to run things this way, while ensuring they’re making something that people will actually want to use.

Recognising that sustainability has become a buzzword while remaining an unregulated term, Millican instead prioritises the notion of responsibility. This is applied to design, processes and manufacturing, choices of fabric and components, how the team is managed, how everyone works together, and how people look after themselves. It is interwoven into every decision and is constantly reevaluated to find room for improvement, including creating a work culture that prioritises wellbeing, harmony, and environmental stewardship.

Now, more than ever, this is a concept that resonates with people. With the pervasiveness of hustle culture and hyperconsumption, the idea of slowing down and prioritising connection with the natural world is a new type of minimalist aspiration. Rather than sleek white walls and constantly buying the latest technology, it’s about tapping into human desires for community and green spaces. A kind of minimalism rooted in connection to the earth, stripping back excess and living in harmony with nature’s natural rhythms. These are the ways Millican operate, and the people they create for.

The Core Roll Pack 15L in colour Sunset. Use the code UNICORN15 for a discount at checkout.

When it comes to the details, everything is created in an ethical factory that Millican has worked with and visited for over six years, which is also externally certified and audited to ensure a living wage, no sub-contracting and safe working conditions. Their materials include GRS certified 100% recycled polyester fabric made from post-consumer waste, keeping plastic bottles out of waste streams and cutting energy by 50%, saving 20% on water and reducing air pollution by 60%. Their dyes are all Bluesign approved, and water is collected and cleaned after dyeing to prevent water pollution. 

When thinking big picture, Millican discarded the idea that either trends or constant growth should be the main goal. Products are never released seasonally, instead there are two collections of bags. Occasionally a new style or colour may be released, but this doesn’t even happen annually. They do, however, focus on constant improvement, for example working with a field mat company to upcycle their waste offcuts into another useful outdoor product. They also offer repair services (if needed) and you can re-home backpacks and messenger bags with them too. 

All Millican colours are inspired by the everchanging but durational landscape of the Lake District, and all designs are functional and long-lasting, highlighting how the responsible choice is to reduce consumption and keep things in use for as long as possible. They believe that building something to last is a way to encourage people to think about the way they purchase. In a sea of fast fashion brands throwing the word ‘sustainable’ around, using some slightly better materials while remaining functionally the same, Millican instead ask how long does this last? How many ways can you use it? Will it help you reduce your consumption? It’s not just about the customer, they care about the culture they contribute to.

Use is everything. We dress too much, we eat too much, almost everything we do is too much. Put a man to it and see what he can come up with.

– Millican Dalton 

Designing for every day

In the outdoor adventure world, there has also been a distinct shift in recent years towards finding items that have multiple uses. People value being prepared and safe, but in a way that is multifunctional, sustainable and manageable.

This is reflected in the Millican design approach. Everyone on the team passionately encourages appreciation and care for the outdoors. With that comes the inherent responsibility to produce things that are functional and useful, rather than just taking advantage of an aesthetic or trying to sell a dream to make money.

Every Millican bag is designed to be multipurpose and truly useful, whether you’re on a day trip or long trek. It’s one bag for everything, and it’s made to take you anywhere. I’ve had one for a few months now and can attest to this, it’s as easy to use for a day of walking around the Lake District (which I did) as it is to use it to commute to work or move around a city (which I also did). While I have had other sustainable bags that work well for city life, Millican’s is genuinely the only one I’d also take on a hike. Their designs sit right at the midpoint between urban lifestyle and natural living. Just like outdoor gear that’s created for longevity and lifetime performance, these bags are made to work and made to last. They’re incredibly roomy, both able to hold walking gear or a laptop and phone, thanks to specific pockets. They’re also hardwearing, secure, and lightweight but, for me, the stand out is the straps. Soft and slightly rounded, they’re designed to be ergonomic and comfortable, making them particularly great for walking even on a long, hot day.

The Core Roll Pack 15L in colour Sunset. Use the code UNICORN15 for a discount at checkout.

Rethinking adventure

The Millican team are experts of modern adventure, (and some of the nicest folks you’ll meet) so I knew it would be remiss to not ask their advice on what responsible adventure can look like. They gave a wealth of answers including a love of travelling by train, allowing yourself to slow down and see a variety of different landscapes, as well as biking adventures (such as the sea to sea cycle route) that can take you to small towns you’d never intentionally stop in, discovering local business along the way.

The team is aware of how lucky they are to have the Lake District on their doorstep, as it offers such a strong sense of community, local businesses, great food and people who give their life and soul to their passions. But they also emphasise the variety of landscapes the UK offers in a relatively small space. From Cornwall to the Peak District to Dunkeld, which fills with trees bursting with gold leaves in Autumn, there truly is so much to see. And on each of these trips, a Millican bag would hold all you need.

So what advice did they have for me? Overall, it boils down to the idea of rewiring our approach to travel for a more sustainable future. Rather than viewing travel as what happens in a location between two huge flights, alternative routes offer the chance to embrace the whole experience; watching the world go by and embracing long journeys with multiple stops. Taking longer and slower trips and, as the nature of remote working continues to change, perhaps going somewhere for longer than a week, spending the time working there, experiencing culture and truly becoming involved in life. Engaging meaningfully and making connections, rather than experiencing things at surface level.

This can take multiple forms. It’s unrealistic to say all flying should, or could, stop tomorrow, but alternative approaches (such as the Green Party frequent flyer levy) can combine with perspectives that view massive international travel as a luxury rather than something to do twelve times a year. Buying sustainable products usually requires valuing quality and paying a little more, and perhaps it’s time for this approach to be applied to cheap flights too.

After all, if there’s one thing this past year has taught me it’s how much I had yet to discover on my own doorstep. I found nature reserves I’d never been to; hidden walks, beaches and incredible food a stone’s throw away. As the world continues to change around us, Millican is here to encourage everyone to find pockets of time in everyday life, asking what you can explore and how you can get outdoors.

All the while, as any Lake District resident will tell you, they emphasise the importance of remaining responsible for the environment you’re going into. Being safe, doing your research (which will uncover hidden gems along the way), learning the rules of the area, and even hiring a guide, which will help you see things you’d never find alone while also supporting local industries. 

True adventure, reverence for the landscape and responsibility for nature are inherently connected, and all can be found in the world Millican want to continue building.

Heading back to school/uni? Learn more about Millican here, use the code UNICORN15 for a discount at checkout for a responsible alternative to the bag on your back for work and play!