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Gregory Mountain Products will debut a new line of plus-size packs in May, but the launch isn’t a one-off collection that company leaders hope will tap into some inclusivity fad and yield a temporary top-line boost. Instead, says the brand, this is a long-term play.
Gregory has fully embraced its role as the first pack maker to target hikers of diverse body sizes and shapes because the move makes business sense—and because it’s the right thing to do.
“Gregory has made a substantial investment to pioneer this category of products in a comprehensive way out of the gate,” John Sears, Gregory vice president, told Outside Business Journal. “To make good on our commitment to an entirely new category of packs, we felt obligated to make a substantial inventory commitment as well. We know it will take some time to get the word out, so regardless of whether or not we sell out this summer, I can tell you this is not a short-term commitment from Gregory.”
Salt Lake City, Utah-based Gregory, a subsidiary of publicly traded Samsonite International SA since 2014, has been working on this project for years and announced the line last summer.
The brand partnered with Jenny Bruso and her advocacy group Unlikely Hikers—a community “featuring the underrepresented outdoorsperson”—to offer packs to those who have often felt excluded from hiking and backpacking.
Bruso said the new collection means plus-size hikers will no longer have to settle for gear that doesn’t fit. Moreover, she said, those consumers can now feel more comfortable in outdoor shops and on hiking trails that haven’t always been entirely welcoming.
“For years, I just had to make it work with gear that was uncomfortable, didn’t fit, and wasn’t safe,” Bruso said. “It’s more than inconvenient; when gear isn’t made for you, you start to internalize that message after time, and it feels like you are not welcome or shouldn’t be out there in the first place. Gregory is changing that, and so far, the feedback I’ve gotten online has been amazing. People are so excited to finally have a pack that fits well and is comfortable.”
Gregory’s push for inclusive gear
The brand’s plus-size collection includes 20 different pack styles for both men and women, plus two unisex packs, across the day-hiking, hydration, multi-day backpacking, and lifestyle categories. The products “address sizing gaps and provide pack solutions for hikers and backpackers of all sizes,” corresponding to the apparel equivalent of sizes 2x through 6x.
To create the packs, Gregory didn’t just resize various existing components. The brand actually created a new fit geometry that includes wider shoulder-harness angles, extended shoulder-harness lengths, and enlarged hip belts with a 40” to 60” range. The packs also feature hip-belt pockets in the front of the body for easy access on the trail.
The plus-size collection includes models called Katmai, Kalmia, Stout, and Amber in the backpacking category; Citro and Juno H20 hydration packs; and the Miwok, Maya, Nano, and Arrio day-hiking and everyday adventure packs. The packs will be available in May at select REI stores, select specialty outdoor retailers, and on gregorypacks.com.
Sears said the plus-size line is long overdue. And because the collection is the first of its kind, the brand isn’t measuring success by traditional metrics like profit margin or units sold—at least not in the beginning—but rather by how much it can raise awareness that hiking and backpacking are for people of all shapes and sizes. Growing the sport, to Gregory, is just as important as growing revenue.
“One of our core missions, just like the rest of the industry, is to simply get more people outside to benefit from everything the outdoors has to offer,” Sears said. “This means everybody, not just most people, so it feels a bit like we’re standing on the start line more than anything else. For now, we are focused less on sales targets, but instead define success as a strong awareness of our plus-size collection and increased and more enjoyable day-hiking and backpacking participation within this underserved consumer group.”
But the cherry on top, Sears said, is about driving change throughout the industry to make gear inclusive. This launch is one of many initiatives that fall under the brand’s Gateway Program that was designed to expand outdoor opportunities for all. The company is now hopeful that its plus-size collection inspires other apparel and gear makers to follow suit.
As Sears explained, Gregory wants to “motivate more brands to join us to make this a broader movement across all gear categories.”