As Adam ‘Boomer’ Bruce approached the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail on his 2017 thru-hike, the immutable What’s Next? query could no longer be ignored.
After years spent working various labor jobs in carpentry, cabinet making, and most recently welding for the Union Pacific Railroad, Adam knew he wanted to take a different path once he got off the trail.
Whatever he did, he was certain he wanted to tap into the outdoor industry.
“I wanted to surround myself with these people who were going on adventures, doing the things I like doing,” said the eventual founder of the cottage brand YAR.gear. “I wanted to be in and serve in that community.”
Back home in Kingston Springs, TN, Adam and a fellow thru-hiker casually made up some patterns one day and sewed themselves a couple of lightweight backpacks.
“The first thing I ever sewed in my life was that backpack,” Adam laughed. “It took 18 hours, but I did it!”
“I actually didn’t want to make another one for a long time because it took a lot out of me,” he joked. “But through endurance, I kept dialing in patterns and making packs.”
Adam didn’t rush to start marketing the ultralight, frameless rucksacks, either.
“I was super nervous in the beginning,” he admitted. “I know what these packs go through on a thru-hike, and that was my target audience. I wasn’t comfortable selling them until I knew they were absolutely perfect.”
Finally in early 2020, after two years, nearly 50 prototypes, and miles and miles of field testing, Adam released his simplistic and aesthetically pleasing backpacks to the cyber world.
Even though he didn’t clear out his inventory in 15 seconds like he secretly hoped, he was pleased with the initial response to YAR.gear.
“In this market, there’s a waiting list for anyone who is selling these packs,” he explained.
“There are so many people that have the same idea; they hike a long trail, get inspired, and want to be in this community. The mental aspect of tackling that, knowing a ton of other people also want in, is challenging.”
“But, I got a great response and was welcomed by the community and other makers, large and small.”
Despite the competition, Adam admits he isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to his small-batch, handmade gear. “I just want to create the best wheel that’s out there,” he laughed.
“It’s not easy; there’s a lot of talented people out there making packs. But, I do everything: cutting, sewing, literally everything. It allows me to put my heart into each pack.”
Running the entire show by himself also presents the freedom Adam always wanted.
“Being on the AT really allowed me to step back and see what I want. Somewhere, I got fired up to create a lifestyle that allowed me to do the things I wanted to do. And, it’s been a ride for sure.”
And the brand name? Recently home from his thru-hike, but still “very skinny, long bearded and unmanaged” Adam was innocently mistaken for a pirate by a young tyke at a local pizzeria.
Inspired by her perception, he branded his gear using the buccaneer’s battle cry.
“In short, it just means ‘yes,’” Adam explained. “And, that’s where every adventure begins, right? You have to say ‘yes’, you have to get your ass out there.”
Adam grew up in a small town in rural Louisiana, believing thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail was reserved for sponsored elite athletes and the like.
“It took me almost 10 years to commit to the AT and say ‘yes’. Afterwards, I reaped all these benefits. I was more creative, more able. I wished I would have done that sooner. It doesn't have to be the AT, but whatever it is, make it happen,” he said.
Adam hopes YAR.gear inspires and motivates others, and ultimately gets more people outdoors.
“That’s who I want to give back to — those who don’t have the opportunity,” he said. “I want the AT to be there for generations for people to hike and find inspiration. Not enough people reap the benefits of hiking. My main motivation is to keep that alive.”