You’ll probably find a Kelty pack or tent at every trailhead and campground in the 50 states, from Alaska to New Mexico. They’re one of the biggest and best-loved US outdoor gear brands. In fact, American entrepreneurial spirit is in Kelty’s DNA. Just as Henry Ford is forever associated with the Ford Motor Company, Kelty is closely associated with its founder, Asher ‘Dick’ Kelty. A tireless inventor and passionate outdoorsman, Kelty developed a host of innovations in outdoor gear, including the first aluminium frame backpack, the first waist-belt, the first padded shoulder straps and the first zippered pockets. Those are all design elements that are still found on almost every quality trekking pack sold today.
In the 1960s and 70s, these technical advances were so ground-breaking that Kelty packs were carried on expeditions to Everest, K2, Cholatse and Antarctica. But just as importantly, Kelty’s affordable and widely available packs encouraged thousands of Americans to explore the backwoods and mountains of their own country. National Geographic Explorer Nick Clinch even wrote that he blamed Kelty for overcrowding the wilderness. “By taking the weight off the hiker’s shoulders and putting it on the hips, he took the misery out of the sport”, he explained. “[Kelty] made it enjoyable for people to go backpacking.”
Today, Kelty is still dedicated to getting everyone outdoors, with a wide range of sleeping bags, tents and other outdoor equipment – including, of course, its iconic packs. Even today Kelty still manufacture traditional external-framed packs, based on original Dick Kelty designs, alongside their modern internal-framed rucksacks. It’s a little nod to their founder and his part in America’s enduring love affair with the great outdoors.