According to Granite Gear’s General Manager and Partner Rob Coughlin, the brand’s hometown of Two Harbors, Minnesota, nestled on the shores of Lake Superior, is one of the best outdoor secrets there is.
“It’s an amazing place to have the headquarters of our company and is an important part of our heritage. We’ll always stay in Two Harbors,” Rob said.
Born in the Boundary Waters, back in 1986, Granite Gear is the creation of two University of Minnesota college buddies, Jeff Knight and Dan Cruikshank, who loved to paddle. They’d embark on multi-day canoeing trips involving lots of portages and loads of gear.
Back then, they found the standard canvas and leather portage packs to be both heavy and uncomfortable. There had to be a better way, right?
Using lighter materials that were also abrasion, tear and puncture proof, Jeff and Dan bought an industrial sewing machine and started making their own canoe packs.
They cut and sewed, and … even pioneered a 3D-molded, internal pack frame that was not only strong, but comfortable, too. Their rugged and pristine backyard provided them a testing ground like no other.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Granite Gear still manufactures those perfected portage packs today, and they’ve also gained a reputation for their comfortable, lightweight and tough-as-granite backpacks designed for backpacking and long-distance hiking.
Granite Gear builds quality compression sacks, dry sacks, stuff sacks, and zip sacks too; along with an entirely different line of tactical equipment purchased by the US Department of Defense for Navy Seals.
“With 36 years of load-carry equipment, we have a pack for everybody!” Rob said.
Concentrating on what they know and what they do best, Rob believes Granite Gear offers hikers not just a quality pack, but an affordable one too.
“What sets us apart is our price point combined with our weight vs load carry ratio — it’s the best in the business. There’s nothing out there like it.”
Rob has been in the bag-selling business for most of his adult life, but there’s something special about selling bags made specifically for the outdoors.
“I love selling products that people are so excited to get and are going to use to do something fun and amazing. Business travel, not so fun,” he laughed. “But these are literally trips and adventures of a lifetime.”
Even with its OG credentials, Granite Gear is constantly innovating. Recently, Granite Gear began offering their two-pound flagship pack, The Crown3, in an undyed ‘color’. “It’s not white,” Rob teased. “It’s undyed.” Skipping the dying process preserves the fabrics durability while reducing water waste by 55%.
The brand even launched a design contest encouraging artists to “channel their inner Bob Ross” and color their own undyed Crown3 for a truly one-of-a-kind backpack.
As patrons of the nearby Boundary Waters, running a sustainable and environmentally conscious brand is of utmost importance to Granite Gear.
“Being in the core outdoor industry, you meet the most amazing people who make a huge impact on your life,” Rob said. “This makes me want to be a better person. I have more understanding and more self awareness and my responsibility to do the right thing.”
One way the brand is doing the right thing is through their Grounds Keepers Program, which launched in 2015. After meeting some Granite Gear devotees who were picking up trash as they thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, Granite Gear was inspired to create an official program for this effort.
To assist, Granite Gear and other team sponsors outfit Grounds Keepers with packs, shoes and even backcountry food. Since its inception, dozens of Grounds Keepers committed to “Leave it Better” have packed out a whopping 35,000 pounds of trash along our trails, parks and waterways.
Granite Gear is also encouraging more diversity in the outdoors. “How can we get more people out on the trail?” Rob asked. One avenue is through hosting “A Hot Minute” on Instagram Live every few weeks. What started out as a way for the brand to connect with customers during the pandemic evolved into a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion in the outdoor industry.
“While backpacks are important,” Rob said, “they’re not as important as the work people are doing out there in our industry to make it more diverse and equitable."