Outdoor Research

Outdoor Research is a Seattle-based manufacturer of technical apparel and gear for outdoor sports, including alpinism, rock and ice climbing, backpacking, paddling, and backcountry skiing and snowboarding.

Outdoor Research
Private company
IndustryRetail
Founded1981
FounderRon Gregg
HeadquartersSeattle, Washington
ProductsApparel, Accessories, and Gear for Outdoor Recreation
Websitehttp://www.outdoorresearch.com/

Company History

Ron Gregg was a nuclear physicist and mountaineer who left his science career in 1980 in order to join an expedition up North America’s highest peak, Denali. [1] After enduring an open bivouac at 12,500 feet with temperatures reaching -20°F, Gregg’s climbing partner suffered from frostbitten feet and was subsequently evacuated by helicopter. [2] This event inspired and challenged Gregg to find a solution to cold, wet, and exposed feet in precarious mountain environments.

Gregg founded Outdoor Research the following year and released the company’s first product; the X-Gaiter[1]. In 1982, REI placed the Outdoor Research First Aid Kit on the back cover of its catalog. Within days, all 1,000 kits of the first order sold out[2]. By 1984, Outdoor Research had evolved into the space of protective handwear with the Modular Mitts™, one of the first gloves utilizing a layering system with a removable inner liner and external hard shell [2]. Today, the Mt. Baker Modular Mitts™ continue to be one of the company’s best-selling and most popular products.

In 1986, Outdoor Research was included in Inc. magazine’s annual list of the 500 fastest-growing, privately held companies in the country. [2] The business explored new territory in 1993 with the production of their first apparel product, a pair of soft shell pants inspired by Gregg’s ascent of Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in South America[3]. Outdoor Research expanded even further in 1995 with the acquisition of their current headquarters at 2203 1st Ave South in the SoDo district of Seattle. [2]

On March 17, 2003, Gregg was killed in an avalanche skiing in the Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park near Nelson, British Columbia, Canada[4]. This same year, Dan Nordstrom purchased the company with the intention to “build the company while at the same time retaining its reputation as an innovative maker of mountaineering equipment.”[5]

In 2007, Outdoor Research began its first foray into adventure culture community events with the sponsorship of Vertfest in nearby Snoqualmie Pass, Washington. [1]

In 2014, leading global manufacturer of outdoor and athletic clothing Youngone Corporation acquired a strategic equity investment in Outdoor Research.

Products

Outdoor Research offers an Infinite Guarantee®, a product warranty that covers manufacturing defects for the lifetime of the product. [6]

The company uses the real-world testing of a group of professional outdoor athletes and ambassadors to design their gear. In 1997, the company began its ongoing product testing and development relationship with the American Mountain Guides Association.

Since 2011, Outdoor Research has received 23 awards from Outside Magazine, 21 awards from Backpacker Magazine, and numerous Gear of the Year and Editor’s Choice Awards from publications like National Geographic, Runner’s World, and Backcountry. [7] [8] [9][10] [11]

Athletes and Ambassadors

Outdoor Research sponsors athletes and brand ambassadors that are professionals in the company’s core sports. Examples include rock climber Beth Rodden, who is best known for her numerous first female ascents throughout the Yosemite Valley, including a redpoint of the 5.14c Meltdown. Hans Florine, also an Outdoor Research Ambassador, is one of the most accomplished rock climbers of his time, holding various speed records as well as over 100 ascents of The Nose on El Capitan.[12]

Also on the Outdoor Research Ambassador roster is professional skier and host of the hit TV series Tiny House Nation Zack Giffin, alpine and ice climbing guide Sarah Hueniken, and Swiss ski mountaineering guide Martin Volken.

Non-Profit Alliances & Partnerships

Outdoor Research supports various environmental preservation, climbing access, and accredited outdoor guiding organizations. Example partnerships include those with the Access Fund, American Mountain Guides Association, Leave No Trace, The American Alpine Club, among others listed on their website [13]. The company is also known for its work on gender diversity, collaborating with groups like Women’s Wilderness and Camber Outdoors.

References

  1. Donahue, Topher (2011). Designed by Adventure: 30 Years of Outdoor Research. Victoria: Rocky Mountain Books.
  2. "International Directory of Company Histories". International Directory of Company Histories. 67.
  3. Lustigman, Alyssa (February 1993). "Spandura Collection Passes Rugged Test". Sporting Goods Business: 24.
  4. Castro, Hector (March 19, 2003). "Two Local Skiers Swept Away; Outdoor Gear Company Founder, State Attorney Die in Avalanche". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
  5. Cook, John (June 3, 2003). "Dan Nordstrom Buys Outdoor Research, Leaderless Company Gets Fresh Start". Seattle Post-Intelligencer: E1.
  6. "Warranty". Outdoor Research.
  7. "Outside Online".
  8. "Backpacker Magazine".
  9. "Gear of the Year - Spring/Summer 2012".
  10. "2015 Runner's World Gear of the Year".
  11. "2018 Editors' Choice Awards: Apparel and Accessories".
  12. "100 Ascents of The Nose". Climbing Magazine.
  13. "Non-Profit Alliances".
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