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Outdoor Retailer

15 big birthdays celebrated at Outdoor Retailer

Some of these brands have been around as long as you have, if not longer.

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At every Outdoor Retailer, attendees find reasons to celebrate: new products, the gathering of friends, new seasons. Anniversaries are also another reason. Here are a dozen-plus brands that marked monumental birthdays at the show last week.

Nalgene is 70

Nalgenes at Outdoor Retailer
Mady Koller

Nalgene was founded in 1949 by a chemist who developed the first plastic pipette jars. More than a decade later, scientists discovered that the laboratory bottles worked well on backpacking trips in the Adirondacks. The brand took off in the ’70s, when conservationists discouraged campers from burning and burying disposable containers. To this day, Nalgene is a household bottle name.

To celebrate its 70th, Nalgene created a limited-edition commemorative bottle that brings back the “Mountain Lion,” its first logo. Nalgene also offered a limited-edition bottle at Outdoor Retailer as part of the plastic-free movement at the show (pictured above).

Mountain Safety Research is 50


In 1969, Larry Penberthy started MSR as a newsletter to improve mountain safety. Members paid $3 to cover printing and mailing costs. He tested stove fuels, ropes, pitons, ice axes, and more, and he offered third-party gear to pay for his crusades. And as time went on, if companies weren’t making the best gear, Penberthy developed it himself.

To mark the milestone, MSR is holding a video contest, which closes on Aug. 17. Learn more about the contest and submit video here.

Title Nine is 30

Title Nine

Missy Park founded Title Nine in 1989 in Berkeley, California, to build athletic gear specifically for women. She was invigorated by the Title IX legislation from 1972 that paved the way for women in business. You could say sports bras started it all.

Park and about 50 women celebrated Title Nine’s big 3-0 during Outdoor Retailer. The birthday is also in conjunction with the brand’s inaugural Pitchfest, which is a mentoring and marketing sales support program for women-led brands, and is currently open for submissions.

Grassroots Outdoor Alliance is 25

Grassroots 25th anniversary photo booth
Grassroots Outdoor Alliance

OK, so technically Grassroots Outdoor Alliance celebrated its 25th anniversary at the Connect Show in Knoxville, Tennessee, the week before Outdoor Retailer. The alliance has become an important group in the outdoor industry for vendors and retailers, now with a network of 70 retailers with 130 storefronts across 37 states. A photo booth and a full day of education marked the day.

Dick Kelty would have been 100

Undated photo of Dick Kelty

Kelty celebrated its late founder’s 100th birthday last week. Dick Kelty, nicknamed the “Henry Ford of backpacking,” is known for creating the external frame back and committing to customer service. There are stories of him lending packs to last-minute buyers before waiting for their checks to clear. 

At the show, Kelty offered a special, limited version backpack, previously known as the Mockingbird Park. Priced at $50, proceeds went to the Sierra Club.

The Conservation Alliance is 30

Conservation Alliance

In 1989, Patagonia, REI, The North Face, and Kelty founded The Conservation Alliance out of a shared belief that the outdoor industry needed to do more to ensure that wild places are protected for their habitat and recreation values. In 30 years, the organization has given more than $21 million to protect 51 million acres of land and 3,107 river miles; stop or remove 34 dams; purchase 14 climbing areas; and designate five marine reserves.

Mountainsmith is 40

Mountainsmith tripster

Mountainsmith began four decades ago in Golden, Colorado, where it’s still based today. A group of rugged outdoorsmen were in need of durable gear for their backcountry pursuits. The first product was a sled, followed by the first patent for a lumbar pack. 

The brand celebrated 40 years of fanny packs at the show with a party at Odell Brewing, donating $1 of every pint to the Colorado Mountain Club. They also released a collection last year.

Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is 25

Leave No Trace logo

Back in 1994, Leave No Trace was finally incorporated as a nonprofit, even though the concept is more than 50 years old. The center has been leading the charge on backcountry ethics ever since.

Leave No Trace celebrated its quarter-century with a happy hour on Day 1, and also partnered with Primus for a Campfire Cookoff event.

Big City Mountaineers is 30

Thermacell and Big City Mountaineers

It all began in 1989, when Jim Kern bought an extra child’s plane ticket to take one of his son’s friends on backpacking trip in Montana. Drew couldn’t find a friend to go, so Jim decided to use it for a kid who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to explore the American West. Since then, Big City Mountaineers has been instilling instills life skills in under-resourced youth through transformative wilderness mentoring experiences.

Numerous events and sales at the show benefited BCM.

Adventure Medical Kits is 30

Adventure Medical Kit
Adventure Medical Kit

Under Tender Corporation, Adventure Medical Kits has supplied outdoorists with first-aid kits for three decades. AMK sold medical kits and donated proceeds to Big City Mountaineers during the show.

Smokey Bear is 75

Troy Wong with Smokey the Bear
Courtesy of Troy Wong

For 75 years, Smokey Bear has been the friendly figure for protecting forests and fighting wildfires. His message is the center of the longest-running PSA campaign in our nation’s history. 

Smokey made an appearance at the show for photos and cupcakes on Day 2.

CamelBak is 30


CamelBak was born in 1989 when competitive cyclist Michael Eidson needed a way to hydrate during a 100-mile bike race without aid stations. Eidson, a medical technician by trade, attached a small hose to an IV bag, filled  it with water, slipped it in the pocket of his racing jersey while securing the hose over his shoulder with a clothespin. 

On Night 1, CamelBak hosted a party in downtown Denver, giving President Greg Williamson and one of its first employees the chance to tell their stories.

Chaco is 30

Chacu Tegu

In 1999, a Colorado rafting guide was making “Gecko” sandals out of his house—named after the animals’ suction-padded feet. The invention turned into Chaco, and the sandals have been protecting outdoorists feet ever since.

Chaco unveiled its 30 Anniversary Collection, all of which use the e.dye waterless dye process. The collection includes the Tegu, a style they brought back from the archives.

Thermacell is 20

Thermacell Repeller

Thermacell has a strong history in global repellent markets rooted in a relationship built with the U.S. Department of Defense in 1999. The brand started with hand-held appliances and expanded to include a line of lanterns and torches. Products have no open flame, are nearly odorless and fully portable, and create a 15-foot by 15-foot zone of protection.

Thermacell celebrated the birthday alongside Big City Mountaineers with a party on Day 2 of the show. They also celebrated the sale of the 10 millionth repeller.

Outdoor Industry Association is 30

Outdoor Industry Association

Outdoor Industry Association‘s nonprofit status was official in 1989, and during its first few years, it entered into an exclusive endorsement agreement with Outdoor Retailer. Early on, groups visited Washington, D.C., to lobby for various recreation issues. Leave No Trace, the Climbing Gym Association, and more specialty groups grew from it. Now, OIA is one of the most recognized national outdoor groups.