Terra Rosa Gear founder Evan Howard had absolutely no sewing skills and even less business experience before launching his Australian-based outdoor gear brand back in 2010.
But as they say, necessity is the mother of invention, and that’s exactly what led Evan to sew his first backpacking tarp over a decade ago.
Unable to find and afford a tarp tough enough to withstand the extreme elements of the Australian wilderness, he decided this was actually something he could sit down and make himself. “I’m sure I can do it,” he told himself. “And I just decided to give it a go.”
He gave it a go, and before long, he was making gear for friends, too. Using his girlfriend’s sewing machine and learning the craft from YouTube, he set out to make high-quality outdoor gear built to tolerate the most remote and rugged Australian terrain.
After a few years of doing this, “I just decided it was something that I really wanted to give a red hot go,” Evan said of Terra Rosa Gear’s official launch. “I wasn’t a great sewer,” he admitted. “I’m still not a great businessman,” he joked. “I had to learn how to do all that sort of thing.”
The brand name, Terra Rosa Gear, not only gives a nod to the red earth of the Australian landscape, but it also pays homage to Canada, Evan’s birthplace. Terra Rosa is a glacial complex in British Columbia where he learned to climb and first experienced mountaineering.
“It’s a bit of a double entendre, and having something that’s linked so closely to my two countries is really something that’s inspiring. Every time I sit back and think about it I can picture myself or Terra Rosa Gear on the glaciers or the red earth dirt roads or in the desert. It’s quite neat that just a single name can transport me to so many places.”
In the early days, Evan felt his brand was filling an empty niche. “I saw what was happening in the United States with the cottage industry, and how it was really springing up for outdoor gear builders,” he said. “I saw that that hadn’t happened yet in Australia.”
Soon, Terra Rosa tarps led to shelters, sleeping quilts, and a variety of bags and sacks — all of them made with superior grade materials designed for the hardiest of conditions.
And, Terra Rosa doesn’t just craft gear for hikers and backpackers either. For those like Evan who enjoy packrafting, bikepacking, canyoneering, and ski touring, Terra Rosa designs unique gear to meet these specific demands.
“In the early days my workshop was literally the back closet, it was hardly big enough for a domestic singer sewing machine and a table.” Even with no room for materials of any sort, Evan said it suited him just fine back then. “It was a dream that was slowly building.”
After a few more workspace evolutions, Evan set up shop in rural Melbourne in a place he shares with a custom furniture woodworker. “I have the loft and his machines are downstairs, and it’s just a wonderful creative spot where your creativity really has no bounds. It’s really a great space to thrive.”
Occasionally Evan will enlist a friend or two to help with the sewing. But, other than that and the shop dog Whitaker, Terra Rosa Gear is solely run by Evan.
While he’s certainly honed his sewing skills, Evan admits the business side of things remains a challenge. “I have no desire to be a businessman. I just want to build my gear and go hiking and biking and climbing and just strive to be the best kind of builder of gear that I can be. I’m not really interested in the paperwork.”
Between the designing, crafting, shipping, and even the bookkeeping, Evan welcomes the demanding schedule. “I’m very lucky that my days are full. Every day I get up and I enjoy going to the workshop. There’s always something fun and exciting to be done. These things keep me going and keep me motivated.”
He seeks inspiration from his fellow adventurers and his customers as well. “They keep me up to date with fresh ideas, and they’re always challenging me with what they want built into their gear. Your eyes are open to a whole new idea and it’s just a fantastic thing.”
Evan said owning a brand like Terra Rosa Gear holds so many rewarding aspects.
“Some of the best (aspects) are the satisfaction I get when I finish creating a piece of gear that I’ve sat down and drawn, then measured, cut, sewn, then taken the product to the field and set it up. You actually see something go from a picture in your head to a picture on paper to the raw materials to the actual item. That’s a satisfaction I don’t get from many other things.”
Evan has built some great friendships with his customers, and loves seeing where the gear travels. While his main focus is the local Melbourne market, Terra Rosa Gear creations have been shipped across the globe, and are available with free shipping through Garage Grown Gear. “It’s so much fun to see where this stuff is going.”
He went on to tell the tale of one such order. “The latest cool thing is some of my bike bags just arrived in Loch Ness, Scotland”, a place Evan’s always wanted to visit since he was a child. “I’m planning to go at some point in the future, but it’s quite neat to think that some of the gear that I’ve built has beaten me to something like that.”
Evan recalled that first tarp he created over a decade ago. “Golly, when I look back and I see some of my early creations, it’s really neat to see where I’ve come from to where I am now. I hope that in ten years I can look back and have that same feeling.”