If you’re an avid hiker, you know exactly what you want in your gear, whether it be pack size, strap length, or even the little things, like muting the sound of that zipper bouncing off the seam when you walk. And, when your appetite for experiencing the great outdoors is big enough for thru-hiking, you know exactly what you need in your gear to succeed under endurance-heavy conditions.
Ultra-light hikers Brandon and Ashley weren't impressed with the customization options and overall mechanics of the available backpacks on the market, and they certainly weren't willing to settle. And so, in the heart of southeast Michigan, Superior Wilderness Designs was born.
“We started up the company in early 2016, then decided to put everything on pause and go hike the Pacific Crest Trail shortly after. Our time on the PCT gave us some great insights into our own gear and what thru-hikers and backpackers in general really need. We had done quite a bit of backpacking before that, but thru-hiking is just a different animal. Hiking big miles day in and day out is very demanding on your gear, and you really find out what works and what doesn't on a thru-hike.”
Brandon and Ashley have used their extensive hiking experience to develop a keen intuition on what a quality backpack should provide for its user. After months of trial-and-error, they crafted the perfect balance between overall design and room for customization on a per-customer basis:
“Designing lighter, more functional products is almost an addiction for us. We love being able to work so closely with our customers, and to be able to bounce ideas back and forth from us to them and vice versa. We’ve had some really cool gear come out of customer collaborations," they said. "We try to offer a lot of ways for our customers to really design a pack that is unique and hyper functional for their own personal needs on the trail.”
Although Superior Wilderness Designs is a strictly online business, Brandon and Ashley have turned a potential road bump into a road map—using the internet as a means of navigating through the needs of customers from all around the globe:
“You wouldn't necessarily think that running an online business could provide such interactive and personal experience with customers, but the hiking community is such a tight knit group that most of the interactions with our customers are that way. Doing as much custom work as we do ... I definitely feel like we develop a certain relationship with them. For example, in October, we had a fan on Instagram post a picture of our logo carved into their Halloween pumpkin, which was really cool.”
Working exclusively through online transactions also allows Brandon and Ashley to base their company near their home:
“We are currently located in rural southeast Michigan, which isn’t a hiking mecca by any means. . . . [But] it has made us hungry to get out and see what else the world has to offer.”
And for whatever the world may offer, a specialized ultralight backpack doesn’t hurt to bring along. Made by real hands for real hikers, Brandon and Ashley strive to create high-quality gear that carries out its job seamlessly, without distraction, so that the customer can focus on what makes hiking such a worthwhile and enriching experience.
Superior Wilderness Designs packs are available through Garage Grown Gear. You can request personalized customizations in the notes section at checkout or follow up with an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Just put your order number in the subject line.