It started twenty years ago—while backpacking, of course. Glen Van Peski, a consulting civil engineer in Carlsbad, California, joined his eldest son, Brian, on backpacking trips with the Boy Scouts. As he began to learn more about the power of lightweight backpacking, he quickly realized that their backpacks—which weighed seven pounds empty—simply would not do. He began constructing his own, starting with the “G1,” then the “G2,” and so on, until he was pleased with the outcome. Today, Glen celebrates the 20th anniversary of Gossamer Gear as the Founder of what has grown to be an incredible team and movement.
20th Anniversary of Gossamer Gear: Where We’ve Been
“I never really saw it as ‘getting a company going,’” Glen reflects. “I was sure that once I figured out a way to make 25 of the G4 packs, everyone who wanted one would have one, and I could go back to my engineering. I’ve never taken a salary from Gossamer Gear. For me, it was just about showing people how they could take less, so they could do more—and creating gear that facilitated that.”
When Glen first started, the nascent company was named GVP Gear and the packs were made by Glen’s wife, Francie, and other women in the neighborhood. However, as the customer waiting list got longer, it was time to send the “G4” model off to a manufacturer for the company’s first large order of 50 packs. Word only continued to spread about the packs, and Glen’s family helped him get a website together to manage the growing business.
In early 2004, GVP Gear became Gossamer Gear, and new products, such as shelters, stoves, rain gear, and more, were offered. However, the company’s growth was weighing on Glen’s work-life balance, and he began to consider having a big sale and shutting down the operation. Instead, a dedicated customer and hiker suggested bringing on some equity partners who could hire staff and take the burden off of Glen.
Cue Grant Sible who joined Gossamer Gear in December 2005 as the company’s President. Grant is an avid outdoorsman. Originally from the Midwest, Grant lived and traveled all around the world before finally calling Austin, Texas home in 1992. An Appalachian Trail thru-hiker himself, Grant brought not only a business background to the company, but also the passion for the trail the company’s entire community shares.
At this point in the story, Gossamer Gear’s offices moved to Austin, Texas, and Grant took over the day-to-day operations, while Glen stayed on as the Chairman of the Board to assist with product development, policy, and vision.
“I’m amazed at how the company has grown, and how many people we’ve been able to help get out and enjoy the backcountry with less weight and more fun,” Glen shares. “I’m proud the company grew slowly and organically, in response to satisfied customers telling their friends. I never had any idea it could continue this long, and grow so large. I’m excited to see how things continue to grow and develop for the brand and hiking community in the coming years.”
20th Anniversary of Gossamer Gear: Where We Are
After Grant took over as President of Gossamer Gear, he hired a small number of staff to help. One of these hires was Jon Schmid, today’s Head of Product & Marketing, who acts as a secret weapon, of sorts. He connects with customers and shares Gossamer Gear’s lightweight movement with an incredible hiking community.
“The Gossamer Gear community is so special because our customers really take ownership of our gear,” Jon explains. “They constantly share their trips with us and provide critical feedback. All of our packs live, in large part, thanks to extensive field testing done via our customers and ambassadors. We have grown so much from that lingering excitement that they have when they get off the trail. They can’t help but tell all their friends and family how great their gear was.”
And that praise has made it beyond just friends and family. By the 20th anniversary of Gossamer Gear, the company’s lightweight, innovative products have been featured in Backpacker Magazine, National Geographic Adventure Magazine, Wirecutter, Outdoor Gear Lab, MSNBC, the New York Times, and more.
Gossamer Gear’s fabrics are all custom-made and custom-designed with a keen eye on minimal weight and maximum comfort. The company has released new daypacks, shelters, trekking poles, and even wildly popular bamboo spoons in the past 20 years. That innovation continues every day.
20th Anniversary of Gossamer Gear: Where We’re Going
In the next 20 years, customers can expect to see Gossamer Gear continue to be at the forefront of the ultralight hiking and backpacking world. The 20th anniversary of Gossamer Gear would not have been possible without the support of the hiking community, and the company is dedicated to continuing that partnership.
“Twenty years from now, the advances in construction and materials are going to be mind-blowing. I think you will be able to buy one pack for life,” Jon shares. “I also look forward to seeing the creative ways our customers combat the overuse of the big trails and wilderness areas. Many of our ambassadors and customers are developing exciting new routes and mini-adventures that let us all enjoy the finite resource that is wilderness.”
As we all work to protect and treasure our beautiful public lands, Gossamer Gear will be there, reminding us to tread lightly, so that we can continue to do more.
Happy 20th anniversary of Gossamer Gear to all those with dirt on their shoes, and, as always, happy trails!