While attending Montana State University, Tosch Roy had a ski mountaineering race coming up and didn't have a backpack for it. He had done some sewing before, so figured he'd give making a backpack a shot.
"It was crappy, but gave me hope," Roy says. "A bunch of friends wanted one. It's more of a hobby turned business. There are a lot of packs out there, generally purposed, made in Asia, lots of bells and whistles that break. I was frustrated with the options. I wanted something clean, durable, that lasts a long time, good for specific activities. I just wanted to have one pack that's really good at what it does, so I moved into this unfulfilled niche."
For the first five years, sale of the packs by Roy's company, Free Range Equipment, trickled along. Recently, Roy started working with local artists to design the new canvas packs sold by Free Range Equipment.
"It's definitely been a game changer," Roy says. "Working with all of these artists to promote it has helped, as well. Getting to know the artists, it feels like more of a community project now."
All of the packs are made in Bend, in a shop in Roy's father's garage. A friend of Roy's does all the production sewing, while he still does the pack design, the prototyping and everything else.
"I don't really know if I could have done it in another town. It helps growing up here. There's that aspect of it, the community. It's also a good town to start an outdoor product company. The biggest take away is how big the support network is, for both a startup in general and an outdoor startup."