Our Story

Austin Gongos

 

My trail name is Catch Up but I go by Austin these days. A few years ago I went on a road trip from Michigan to go see the total solar eclipse in Grand Teton National Park. We picked up a friend of ours in Montana who had just finished a large section of the Pacific Crest Trail and was making his way back to Wisconsin. He regaled us with stories about what hiker life is like, I was enamored. Our road trip was 10 days long, stopping to camp along the way in national forest or BLM land to save money. We cooked our meals on my Coleman camp stove and drank beers under the stars. I cowboy camped in Badlands National Park and awoke in the middle of the night to a buffalo walking past. I was loving the simplicity and vagabond style of the trip and knew that I’d love thru hiking much the same. It was then that my planning started and months later that I would complete my first backpack.

I started researching the gear I would need for the trek and decided that my 4.5 lb 70 liter pack wouldn’t work for this. I searched for a backpack that would be lightweight, durable and fit me well. To me, this means the ability to customize certain aspects of the pack for how I like to pack my bag and hike. While a few different companies did offer these criteria, they were all too expensive for someone on a college budget. It was then that I stumbled upon a web forum based around making your own gear, “myog.”

I found an old sewing machine that belonged to a friend I lived with and got to work designing and making my first backpack. I found sewing tutorials online and began to modify and patch together different pack designs that I found. My bag lasted my entire time on trail (with some minor fixes needed along the way) and gave me confidence in my abilities. As I walked, I began dreaming about making bags and other gear for hikers. I held conversations and took notes with other hikers about their bags; what they liked, didn't like, and any improvements they would suggest. I was fascinated by how many different ultralight backpack manufacturers are out there and how many different packs my fellow thru hikers have tried in pursuit of one that fits them. I found that all thru hikers are different and want a bag that fits them well. One of the points that hikers discuss often is frame vs frameless. This is why our frames can be removed if desired (though our frames weigh less than 2 ounces and improve pack performance). I received a lot of encouragement from my trail family (shout out to the Foxes!) and other hikers based on my pack that I was carrying and the ideas that came up in my backpack interviews. Now I am off trail and spend my time sewing backpacks and fanny packs together, testing this gear and improving upon these designs. My partner Nathan and I apply our engineering training to these endeavors in order to make the best possible product for our customers. 

Nathan Ackerman

   

I'm Nathan but my trail name is Robin Hood, named by some Brits for the arrow in my pack and the feathers in my hat. I grew up spending a lot of time outdoors and have always had a passion for nature. Whether it was camping and hiking, or walking around our small family farm, or reading and learning as much as I could about the natural world. I spent lots of time when I was young catching frogs, snakes, insects and looking at trees and plants. I spent a large part of my summers at our family cabin in the beautiful Copper Country of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. I was always in awe of the raw nature of the area and came to love the fish, bears, bald eagles, thimble berries, pines and other wildlife that inhabit it. I enjoy doing anything outside, namely kayaking, hiking, camping, fishing, running, and from time to time rock climbing.

I also grew up making and building things. Learning from my dad and grandpa, gained experience woodworking, and fixing things on our small family farm. From helping with the addition on our house to rebuilding our tractors, I loved working with my hands and creating things. I enjoy taking on projects that I've never done and trying to make things that are better and different. I also learned basic electronics and coding by playing with Arduino micro controllers and other projects. I enjoy learning about how new technology can make our lives easier but have also learned to love the old ways of doing things. I enjoy the craftsmanship of something made completely by hand and like learning ways to do that. Things like green woodworking, homesteading, and hand carpentry have always interested me. Through this I've also picked up a little blacksmithing and leather working experience. 

After Austin started making his pack and I weighed the pack I had, I decided to follow suit and make my own backpack as well. I used my mom’s 30+ year old machine and like Austin combined designs that I had seen online with a few ideas of my own. I was lucky enough to hike out west for over a month with Austin on the PCT and in Yosemite National Park. My hike was a life changing event and when I got back I had decided to make it my goal to build a life that allowed me to continue doing adventures like this. The first things I bought were a new sewing machine and a 3D printer to help get started. I began drawing up designs and working on prototypes to help start our business. Austin and I are constantly working on gear and designs in order to create the best possible product. We strive to use our engineering and trail experience to develop products and designs that solve problems and explore new ideas. Our products aim to be versatile, durable, and of course ultralight.