The Kelty brand is a novelty for the Russian market, and we are pleased to be the first to bring this wonderful equipment. The selection is still small, but each piece of equipment is interesting in its own way. Since many people have not even heard about the Kelty brand in Russia before moving on to the review, we will briefly introduce you to what kind of brand it is.
In the USA, Kelty is almost the main veteran of the tourist equipment industry, which stood at its origins. The company has been operating for nearly 70 years – since 1952! Her story began with a “garage” production. The owner of the carpentry workshop and an enthusiastic tourist, Dick Kelty, began to make tourist backpacks on his own – for himself and for sale. He personally designed and cooked the frames, and his wife Nena cut and sewed bags, belts and straps for them. After the Second World War, there were a lot of materials unclaimed by the US Army in the warehouses that poured into the civilian market – thin parachute and durable ballistic nylon, aluminum buckles, especially strong threads and so on. Before and during the war, Dick Kelty himself worked at the Lockheed aircraft factory, where he met with aluminum, which at that time was not yet widespread in civilian life. Most likely, knowledge of the properties of this metal prompted him to cook the frames of his backpacks from it.
The travel backpack industry in the USA in the early 1950s simply did not exist. In campaigns, they used either samoshiv or army equipment. Therefore, Kelti’s backpacks were a breakthrough, and each of their elements – a serious innovation. Dick manually bent tubes and plates made of aviation aluminum so that they assumed an anatomically comfortable shape, Nena tightly packed soft shoulder straps and sewed waterproof nylon with coarse threads. The output was a tourist backpack, which at that time had no analogues in the United States or the world.
Sales of backpacks increased every year at times, and already in 1956 the Kelti family completely switched to their production, selling their carpentry workshop. Later, the sales, assortment and reputation of Kelty backpacks only grew. This was facilitated by the tourist boom of the 1960s, and the company’s participation in cool projects. In 1963, their backpacks were used by the team of Jim Wittaker during the first ascent of the American team on Everest along the previously not completed western ridge. In 1966, an expedition of the National Geographical Society went to Antarctica with Kelty backpacks, and in 1975 the American team first ascended to K2 with them. It is not surprising that the Kelty brand has acquired cult status for the community of tourists and climbers in the United States. This is partly why the company still produces frame models of backpacks “like from the 1960s”.
Kelty’s family business remained relatively short. Already in 1971, Dick sold his business to a large company, but worked for another 6 years as a manager. Large resources made it possible to significantly expand the range. Now, in addition to backpacks, under the Kelty brand, tourist rugs, sleeping bags, a poncho and even membrane clothes began to be produced. The new leadership turned out to be quite perspicacious and did not derail the brand. Many well-known equipment developers in the United States managed to work on Kelty equipment in the 1970s and 1980s, bringing fresh ideas into it. This allowed the brand to maintain its high position in the American market of equipment for outdoor activities. And to do this is very difficult, because the competition there is beyond the limits. Past merits do not play a decisive role, the choice in stores is simply huge, and outdoor companies need to make a lot of effort so as not to get lost among competitors.
And there was such a risk in the history of Kelty. At the turn of the 1990-2000s, they did not join the ultralight equipment race, continuing to create reliable classic tourist equipment, which, however, quickly became obsolete against the backdrop of advanced competitors. Perhaps Kelty decided not to catch up with the departing train, but instead to occupy an unusual and interesting niche. It’s about camping equipment of a new wave. The traditional approach to camping holidays involves the recreation of home comforts in nature: huge tents, lush wide sleeping bags, folding beds, large gas stoves and certainly a car to carry it all.
Kelty argues that camping should not be limited to a campground around the car. What is much more interesting is to go where transport cannot reach, and have fun with friends in a beautiful natural location. That camping is, first of all, an accessible way for everyone to escape from the everyday urban routine through outdoor activities and communication with nature. The format of simple weekend hikes that did not require much experience and good physical preparation fell well on this approach. Short walking and cycling routes, rafting on SUP boards and kayaks, followed by long parking in a beautiful place where you can sit by the fire, cook an unusual dish and play board games or the ball with friends.
Therefore, today Kelty has become one of the main promoters of weekend trips to the USA. On its blog, the company’s team gives advice on organizing a camp, selecting equipment, relaxing with children and pets, and sharing ideas on where and how to hold official holidays in the open air.