Our Storied Past


The trail that's led to here


As Mountainsmith approaches its 40-year anniversary in 2019, we celebrate not only the gear that has led us here, but the stories, adventures, and experiences that have defined the rugged, Colorado-grown, no bullshit lifestyle we continue to share.

 
 

The man that started it all

A legendary outdoorsman and mountaineering guide, Patrick Smith needed seriously durable gear that could withstand the rigors of his backcountry pursuits. As his expeditions became longer and more remote, he realized that commercial gear couldn’t keep up with his adventures—so he built his own. In 1979, he founded Mountainsmith (Golden, CO) and began his designing legacy. Smith spent a third of the year in the middle of nowhere, and many more days exploring and testing gear in the Colorado Rockies. With weeks at a time in the woods, he’d come up with new ideas and prototypes built out of any materials he had on-hand. Nicknamed the “Mountain Smiths” by his family back East, Patrick didn’t just build gear, he built a lifestyle and brand that is still rooted in his connection to the Rockies.

Innovation & Inventions

The first Mountainsmith product, the Smith Sled, is a backcountry sled that thousands still use today. Not long after the sled, Smith built the first lumbar packs and released the Delta Load Compression system, an innovative design used in Mountainsmith’s initial backpacking packs and still used in many of our packs today. The Delta Load Compression system’s unique ability to shift weight away from the shoulders allows for larger, heavier loads with less strain on the body. To this day, Patrick Smith has 13 patents and a passion for innovation that continues to live on alongside the 40 years of experience engrained in the Mountainsmith brand.

 
 

The Firsts Continue

The firsts continued for Mountainsmith in the Tyrol, one of the industry’s first sidecountry ski packs, and the K9 Pack. The Alouette Dog Pack of the early 1980s was built from heavy Cordura and reinforced with rugged vinyl-covered nylon brush guards. It combined certifiably tough construction with veterinarian-approved design. The ingenious “Y” yoke was a safer, healthier solution to the traditional “saddlebag” style of other makeshift packs. Co-designed with a Golden, Colorado sled dog veterinarian, the 2015 K9 pack only builds on its innovative heritage.

Crafted in Colorado

The first Mountainsmith product, the Smith Sled, is a backcountry sled that thousands still use today. Not long after the sled, Smith built the first lumbar packs and released the Delta Load Compression system, an innovative design used in Mountainsmith’s initial backpacking packs and still used in many of our packs today. The Delta Load Compression system’s unique ability to shift weight away from the shoulders allows for larger, heavier loads with less strain on the body. To this day, Patrick Smith has 13 patents and a passion for innovation that continues to live on alongside the 40 years of experience engrained in the Mountainsmith brand.

 
 

The Past Drives Us Forward

In 2006, Mountainsmith partnered on the industry’s first recycle PET pack cloth, originally labeled “Redura” and later “ReForge.” The brand’s environmental innovation continued into 2008 with the Phoenix internal frame backpack. The high percentage of recycled PET combined with eco-friendly foam, and corn resin hardware earned the pack an Editors; Choice Green award from Backpacker Magazine.

Recognition & Partnerships

With awards from Backpacker Magazine, Outside Magazine, ISPO and more, Mountainsmith’s reputation for innovation continues to come to life through creative collaborations. In 2013, Mountainsmith teamed up with Andy Mann (National Geographic photographer) to co-design camera bags built and tested for the elements. 2014 brought a collaboration with fellow Colorado-Native Icelantic Skis, leading to a USA-made ski pack line. Two years later, we sought out Chris Burkard, legendary adventure photographer, to create what he calls, “the most universal camera system on the market.”

 
 

Paying Tribute to the USA Tyrol

While looking forward in design, the Mountainsmith team continues to carry on the heritage on which the brand is built. In 2016, we reintroduced the USA-made Tyrol as a limited edition. Made from 100% up-cycled material, the Tyrol packs were hand-built in Boulder, Colorado under the oversight of Ron Simonds, one of the original Mountainsmith designers. Patrick Smith’s right-hand man, Ron recreated the original silhouette with his team at Boulder Mountain Repair. Each pack is numbered 1-20 based on where it falls in the line and is dated/marked with the initials of the person who made it.

The Backcountry Lounger is Re-born

In 2017, we introduced the new, heritage-inspired Slingback Chair when an old friend came across a vintage Mountainsmith logo buried in a local yard sale. An unrecognizable fabric, he dropped it off at the Mountainsmith Headquarters for more clues. Digging through 35 years of records, we finally came to the Slingback Chair in a catalog dating back to the early 80s. We packed the chair on our own adventures and after a year of playing and testing, we decided to have some more fun with it. Today, at less than 5 oz., it's a light, packable backcountry lounger for added comfort around the fire.

 
 

40 Years in the Front Range

Though production has since been transformed, Mountainsmith is approaching 40 years in Golden, Colorado, still designing testing and living out the brand only miles from where Patrick first opened his doors. Nestled in the Front Range of the Rockies, we are right in the thick of the changing outdoor world. Patrick Smith’s heritage—his passion for smart, durable gear and wild adventures—continues to drive the Mountainsmith culture.