While stuff sacks and bear bags aren’t always the most thrilling component of your packing list, Cloud Gear makes this often-forgotten part of backpacking actually fun. With customizable DCF printing, a variety of wild colors and patterns, and a percentage of profits going to charity, your stuff sack might just end up being your favorite item.
Cloud Gear Bags also gives a new meaning to “family business.” Amanda Rushing is the owner, and her husband Mark tests the bags on his backpacking trips. Children Maddie and Brooklyn both help as well, making it a total family affair.
Amanda and Mark have always been makers. Amanda started making clothing for her children after they were born — they’re now 13 and 10, so she’s been at it for a while — and Mark has been fixing and modifying gear since he was a kid. They made their first bag after a raccoon ran off with their DCF food bag last year, which ended up being a good excuse to customize it to the exact size and specifications they were looking for.
They gave away their first few prototypes to family and friends, and then decided to try printing personalized images and messages onto DCF. Before long, Cloud Gear Bags was born.
Cloud Gear offers stuff sacks, dry bags, zippered pockets, and bear bags. They are all made from Dyneema, and while they offer stock bags, Amanda’s real interest lies in creating custom-printed bags for customers. Cloud Gear Bags have been printed with images of family dogs, personal mantras, and inspirational photos.
Aside from the unique personal touches, the bags are also durable and ultralight — perfect for organizing gear inside a larger bag or backpack.
The Rushings mentioned adding reflective elements so the bags don’t get forgotten or misplaced at night, reinforcing “stress points,” and adding specialized hang loops on the bear bags for more durability.
They aim to reduce waste in their packaging and production, and use offcuts from larger bags to make rock sacks. They also donate at least 2% of their profits to diversity and environmental charities.
“In truth, we still think of it as a fun family hobby,” Amanda said. “It’s been a great way to help the kids learn about running a business and it’s been a lot of fun to work on the company together as a family.”
All Cloud Gear Bags are made right in the Rushing’s home in Texas. They source their fabric from Ripstop by the Roll, then buy the smaller parts from a variety of manufacturers.
Their best seller is the Rainbow Bear Bag, which comes with a matching rock sack. They include gear bandages in every package, which are designed to look like BandAids.
From start to finish, Amanda and her family try to make this fun, and so far, they’ve been succeeding. The packages are even held together with a Baby Yoda zipper-pull made out of paracord. Every detail is somehow creative.
The Rushings work to maintain a balance—they want to be making enough bags to keep their small business running, but not so many that they become overwhelmed. At this point, they enjoy the personalization so much that it isn’t unusual to have up to five emails back and forth to perfect a custom design. And, for them, it’s all worth it when a customer is over the moon about the results.
The family has also been thrilled to interact with other small businesses in the backpacking space, sharing techniques, ideas, and inspiration.
Setting up the business was easier than expected, including bank accounts, social media, a website, and company formation documents.
However, as is the story with many small companies, keeping up with orders and managing inventory and equipment has been challenging, but they’re getting the balance worked out ... even with the recent Texas ice storms and power outages.
The Rushing family does everything themselves, from design and production to consumer interactions and marketing.
Amanda and her family are happy with where they are, and they don’t feel the need to greatly expand. Part of the beauty of the family-run business is teaching their kids how to run a business, and right now, they are able to have the kids actively engaged while still providing an incredibly personalized buying experience for the customer.
“So much gear just looks the same, and this is something special and unique in your pack,” the Rushings said. “We love the idea that on the hardest day of your hike you can open your bag at the end of the day and see something that will help you keep going.”
Maggie Slepian is a full-time freelance writer based in Bozeman, Montana. She is the co-founder of BackpackingRoutes.com, and spends as much time outdoors as possible. You can follow her here, or find clips and contact info at Maggieslepian.com