Ben Thomson, founder of the ultralight gear brand Been Campin, is dedicated to creating lightweight gear for dogs and their humans who want to go the distance.
While living and working in the Tetons, Ben obsessively took up ultralight hiking, backpacking and climbing — and by default, also sewing. He couldn’t afford to go all-in with ultralight everything, so through trial and error, he started making his own gear.
“I learned to sew mostly because I was so obsessed with Dyneema, but also because I was kind of specific, and couldn’t always find the gear I wanted,” he said.
Ben quickly found his way around his grandparent’s hand-me-down, vintage, cast-iron Singer 201 sewing machine, which he continues to use today. “They made things better back then,” he said. “It’s a lot stronger, more consistent, and gets the job done.”
Not only did his summers in the mountains give Ben a lot of time to hike and backpack, but also to really scrutinize his kit too.
“I lived out of a tent the whole summer,” Ben said, “so I had a lot of time to think, go hiking, think about the ins and outs of what I need, then optimize my hiking gear.”
Building his own stuff sacks, pouches and even backpacks eventually led Ben to create a somewhat uncommon Dyneema-made product — ultralight dog bowls.
Soon becoming the brand’s flagship creation, Ben got the idea to create Dyneema dog food bowls after spending a bit of time in his new hometown, active and dog-friendly Breckenridge, Colorado.
“Every time I’m out, it’s dogs, dogs, dogs,” he laughed.
He tapped into this little niche, creating three packable dog bowls of varying fabric strength and weight: the superlight, ultralight, and lightweight. The latter is the heaviest of the trifecta and weighs about the equivalent of two nickels.
It was a good starting point for the brand, as the dog bowls gained traction quickly. “It was a simple first product and much easier to master than a backpack!” Ben said.
Initially, Ben didn’t think he’d turn his sewing hobby into a business, but in 2018 he did — and he had some fun with the brand name too.
One of his buddies in the Tetons would always joke around and say “I’m going campin’. Ever been campin’?” Ben, who was living out of his tent at the time, would reply, “I’m Ben and I’ve been campin’.”
Been Campin aims to stand out in the crowd of Dyneema-made gear with its vibrant and lively fabric prints.
“There’s a demand for Dyneema, but everything is kind of uniform,” Ben explained. “A lot of the Dyneema is just plain clear or grey, and most of what I use are fun prints. That sets me apart. Even when I’m making something for myself, I’d rather have a fun print, making it pop.”
Unless you count Ben’s four-legged product testers, Been Campin is made up of just Ben. He juggles his business with his full-time job as an accountant, which incidentally comes in handy as he navigates this new venture.
“I’m pretty good with the finances,” he said. “But the marketing, that’s a little challenging!”
And the most satisfying part?
“I just like having something that’s totally my own, my own thing. I get to drive everything about the business — setting the prices, building the spreadsheets, using my schooling. I like coming up with new designs and being able to see my stuff sell. It’s more rewarding than any other job I’ve had.”