°
High: °
Low: °
Wind:
Chance of precipitation:

Forecast

close
Thursday, October 18 Business

Ridgefield hiker designs hydration pack that also fits dry items

Jon Espeland followed his passion for hiking and outdoor adventure when he designed and brought to market the Eastern Highlands Pack, a minimalist design horizontal hydration backpack.

Espeland, who hiked the entire Appalachian Trail in 2002, sells the packs under the brand Ridgeback, which he owns and operates out of his home in the woods of Ridgefield. The Eastern Highlands Pack includes space for dry storage as well as separate pocket for a two-liter water reservoir with tube for easy drinking on the trail. A magnetic clip is attached to the tube, which can be fastened to the strap to keep the tube out of the way, but close enough for a quick drink.

“Initially it was just a dry pack but I decided it made more sense to sell it with hydration because that’s where it really hits its stride,” he said.

After purchasing a sewing machine and taking sewing lessons, Espeland tinkered with backpack designs and other outdoor products before coming up with the Eastern Highlands Pack. He still makes each order by hand.

“This is a start. I’m not sure if I’ll design more packs or stick on this line. I just want to create a product that people love,” he said. “My experience lends itself to that. I don’t have investors so I’m not out to make investors happy. I just want to make customers happy.”

The packs, which are available at ridgebackpack.com, are available in NeoShell or a combination of Dyneema and Gridstop. Both materials are waterproof, but NeoShell is also breathable, allowing for wet-item storage. The packs weigh eight ounces and are ideal for day hikes, trail runs, mountain bike rides or other outdoor adventures, especially those of a more strenuous nature, Espeland said.

“There are solutions to everyday problems,” said Espeland, who has an engineering degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “There are still things to be invented.”

He came up with the design in part because of his experience on the Appalachian Trail. He noticed that he took off his hydration pack for every stream and rock crossing to keep his weight balanced.

“I wanted to create something that would move in unison with me at all times and wouldn’t require any adjustments regardless of the terrain,” he said. “Due to the low profile and position of the pack, it minimizes the distance of the fulcrum point from the body, therefore minimizing the effective weight. The combination of these elements also reduces the movement response lag.”

Espeland previously worked as a consultant for the content research group at Gartner, a technology company in Stamford. He also has background in marketing and finance.

“I’ve done a bunch of things but I’ve always had that entrepreneurial spirit,” he said. “I wanted to use my expertise in hiking to create something people need.”

Read Full Article 

Espeland is happy with the size of his company now, which consists of himself and his Rhodesian ridgeback named Kumba, who is also an avid hiker. Espeland also runs two outdoor adventure clubs as part of his venture.

“There will always be a path to getting investor money, but I like the idea of bootstrapping it and scaling up in slow fashion,” he said. “The investment angle can lead to a different path that may not be beneficial. For now, I’ll keep it simple and focus on doing it well instead of doing more.”

The writer may be reached at cbosak@hearstmediact.com; 203-731-3338

loading