There isn't a graveyard for brands, but they do die. They fizzle out, go bankrupt, get sold off to equity firms and are subsumed by other companies. Such has been the fate of many outdoor gear companies — even ones prized by adventurers, beloved by amateurs and now fondly remembered by people who grew up camping in the '70s and '80s.
The historians keeping the names of these brands known — brands like Cloudveil, Camp 7 and Moss Tents — don't work at museums. They write blogs in their basements, where they might also keep a stash of jackets and backpacks that were once high-performance but are now vintage.
The closest thing we have to a memorial for these companies might be Utah State University Library's Special Collections, where a team has recently made it their project to collect old outdoor gear catalogs and digitize their covers for the Internet and for Instagram. The images are a visual tribute to many of these now-defunct brands; they depict the history, but they don't tell all of it. Keep scrolling for the stories of 11 companies worth eulogizing.
The story of Chouinard Equipment is really the prologue to the story of Patagonia. The founder of that company, Yvon Chouinard, got his start in the gear-making game by hand forging pitons and other rock climbing hardware. Originally it was just for fellow climbers he met at the crag, but word got around, and demand was significant enough to make the business legit.
It endured as a sister brand to Patagonia until 1989 when a surge of personal injury lawsuits attacking climbing gear makers forced it into bankruptcy. It didn't completely die, though; a group of employees bought it, moved it to Salt Lake City, and renamed it Black Diamond.
Founded in 1997, Cloudveil would've been young compared to the outdoor industry's heavy hitters had it survived. Stephen "Sulli" Sullivan and Brian Cousins started the company in Jackson Hole after the former discovered Schoeller's softshell fabric, and within 13 years, its technical apparel was in over 600 retailers around the world.
Money problems arose, and Sullivan and Cousins were compelled to sell the company first to Sport Brands International, then to Spyder and finally to a private equity firm. Curiously, the Cloudveil site is still online, though it lists no products. Sullivan used his hard-earned knowhow to start Stio, an outdoor apparel brand that is in business.
Snow Lion's Polarguard Mummy Sleeping Bag was the first to employ synthetic insulation in an efficient enough manner to make it a functional alternative to down bags. When it came out in 1976, it was truly innovative, as was the brand's overall product design philosophy. The introduction to its catalog that year asserts where the brand saw itself at the time: "Snow Lion was formed by an independent group of mountaineers with no commitments or allegiances to conventional design or construction methods." A year later, the company filed for bankruptcy after a deal to sell it failed.
The last of a string of brands started by George Lamb that includes Alp Sport and Alpine Designs, Camp 7 should be familiar to anyone who lived in Boulder during the 1970s, though Lamb sold much of his gear in Japan.
Abercrombie & Fitch
Abercrombie endures today, but its current state would be unrecognizable to the hunters who knew it as a reliable outfitter at the turn of the century. Catalog covers dating up to the 1950s portray scenes of camping, dog sledding, canoeing and fishing that are a far cry from later issues — particularly those after 1988, when a company called Limited Brands acquired A&F and steered it toward clothing basics. The name lives on, but the original brand does not.
Latok Mountain Gear
Latok produced equipment and apparel for the most daring outdoor pursuits, such as scaling the 23,442-foot peak in Pakistan's Karakoram range that it's named after. Its founder, Jeff Lowe, attempted to climb that mountain in 1978 and started the company shortly thereafter. Before it was incorporated into Lowe Alpine, Latok produced two items that made Outside's list of the 100 most influential outdoor gear pieces: a tubular belay device and a softshell pullover.
Equip Outdoor Technologies — the same company that owns Rab and Lowe Alpine — acquired this tent, bivy and shelter maker in 2010. Rab still produces many of its items, and the original Calgary-based production team stayed on to make non-consumer tactical outdoor gear under the name Integral Tactical.
The backpack company Dana Design is still well-known amongst outdoor enthusiasts because its founders, Dana Gleason and Renee Sippel-Baker, are still at it, making packs and bags under the Mystery Ranch moniker. They brought Dana Design to life in 1985, guided it through a decade of success and then sold it to K2. According to Mystery Ranch's website, the pair had their hearts set on early retirement but soon found it wasn't as fulfilling as bringing highly reliable backpacks to the masses.
Fed up with the heavy canvas tents that hadn't changed since the Civil War, Bill Moss devised the Pop-Tent in 1955. The design is familiar today because its principles are still the same: a skeleton made of curved poles covered in lightweight, weatherproof fabric.
Moss was more designer than mountain climber — he didn't found Moss tents until 1975 and left in 1983 — and outdoorists of all types sleep more comfortably because of it. The company shared the fate of many here: it was eventually acquired, and its designs sold under another brand (MSR). His wife, Marilyn, published a book about his life and work, and this YouTube video provides additional context.
Depending whom you ask, Early Winters is either best remembered for its pre-Amazon era catalogs, which proffered all kinds of gear and gadgets, or its house-made tents. In 1976 it became the first company to purchase a then-new waterproof-breathable fabric called Gore-Tex, which it used to make the Light Dimension tent. It wasn't long before the company also used the material to build the first Gore-Tex rain jackets, along with lots of other waterproof gear.
Before Orvis bought the company in 1984 and subsequently sold it off — it was eventually rebranded as Sahalie — Early Winters made another historic order when it agreed to purchase Tim Leatherman's first multi-tool.
You won't find much information on the Internet about Mother Karen's, a little Utah-based apparel company best-known for its boxy, high-waisted two-tone Powder Jacket. That's about to change though — the brand, which was founded in 1973 and had its heyday in the early 1980s, is about to be resuscitated. Russ Moorehead, a former executive in the beauty industry, maintains such fond memories of the brand that he bought it and believes the once-iconic pullover can earn that status once again.