View Full Version : What ever happened to wilderness experience?

11-22-2013, 07:42 PM
In the late 80s I bought several of their packs for my business. I still had some until a few months ago. They lasted me what 25 years? Good stuff, why did they dissolve and vanish?

11-25-2013, 09:20 AM
Here ya' go...it is on URL: http://www.inov8.au.com/compass/wildernes***periencehistory.html

Brothers Jim and Greg Thomsen work as joint managers of The Mountain Store in Tarzana, California
established a guide service, called Wilderness Experience, taking teenagers into the Sierra's climbing, skiing, and backpacking
Jim's wife Laurie, driving force behind the kids trips is killed on a solo climb
Greg teaches himself sewing, make sleeping bag straps to sell in the store
receive order from Eiger Mountain Sports for gaiters
receive order from Eiger Mountain Sports to make replica of French Millet canvas packs, but order falls through
but Westridge Mountaineering shop takes the packs instead and the brand is off and running
launch a new manufacturing company with the same name as the outdoor courses: Wilderness Experience
rent 1,000 sq ft shop for their one sewing machine. Outdoor classes pay the rent.
Kris McDivitt, CEO of Patagonia (http://www.kifaruforums.net/patagoniaimages.html), helps create a Wilderness Experience pack catalogue
enter joint venture with Bill Simon's Snow Lion and independent sales reps, to provide packs to Snow Lion's tents and sleeping bags
use the advertising tagline "We only make backpacks and that's why we're the best."
100 employees and sales reps in 50 US states
convince retailers to switch orders from the now bankrupt Snow Lion
thus moved immediately into manufacture of tents, sleeping bags, technical apparel and sportswear
made this line of non-pack products under the Solo label for several years, before bringing them all under the WE brand
were the third company in the outdoor industry to begin using Gore-Tex
250 employees with three factories (including the 75,000 ft production plant in Chatsworth, California)
completed a public stock offering and listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange, a first for a US outdoor company
put $50,000 of R&D into their 1983 Everest Expedition Suit
Jim Thomsen leaves the company
sell 2,000 Expedition suits at $600 each
Greg Thomsen leaves the company, and later helped launch Nike's All Condition Gear (ACG) line, later as Nike's Director of Marketing
Greg sells his Wilderness Experience shares to Garry Wennick
Greg forms new company American Sports Group as a third party contract design and production facility for outdoor industry
Jim Thomsen works for Downers to consolidate their acquisition of Jansport, a brand later purchased by VF Foundation
Greg Thomsen designs a daypack for Jansport to test offshore production, Jansport subsequent move all production to China
Wilderness Experience brand bought by K2 Inc
Dana Gleeson of Dana Design (http://www.kifaruforums.net/danadesignsimages.html) (also owned by K2) has a hand in Wilderness Experience packs,
the K2 Wilderness Experience Moraine pack is selected by Backpacker Magazine for its '97 Editor's Gear Award
Jim Thomsen moves to Europe to expand VF's outdoor brands (particularly Eastpak and Jansport) on the continent
Greg sells American Sports Group to Brentwood and Associates
Greg founds new business, Pacifica, and buys the assets of pack brand Mountainsmith from Chase Bank
Jim retires from VF Foundation
Pacifica is merged with Blackstone Investment Group, Inc.
Greg sells remaining shares in Pacifica to Blackstone
Greg becomes Managing Director of Adidas's new Outdoor division in the USA

11-25-2013, 10:33 AM
Wow, That is quite the reply and history!

Thanks for the post!

11-25-2013, 12:49 PM
Wow, That is quite the reply and history!

Thanks for the post!

Not that much effort, I just did a Google search on them. There was an article in Outside magazine too...http://www.outsideonline.com/blog/outdoor-gear/clothing/from-the-lean-to-wilderness-experience.html

From The Lean-To: Wilderness ExperienceBy Cold Splinters (http://www.kifaruforums.net/blog?author=Cold+Splinters)

http://outside-blog.away.com/.a/6a00d83453140969e2016300297ea8970d-500wi (http://outside-blog.away.com/.a/6a00d83453140969e2016300297ea8970d-pi)Yes, there are many old outdoor companies that flourished in the 70s and 80s but unfortunately failed to make it to 2012. One of those companies is the infamous Wilderness Experience (http://www.tenayatravels.com/Wilderness%20Experience.html), which, to this author, is the best of the lot. Fans of the Chatsworth, CA based brand scour Ebay (http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p5197.m570.l1313&_nkw=wilderness+experience&_sacat=See-All-Categories) for coats, packs, shorts, and yes, even ski suits (http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Wilderness-Experience-1-Piece-Gore-Tex-Ski-Suit-w-Sontique-Lining-S-M-/120846385533?pt=US_Men_s_Athletic_Apparel&hash=item1c2301817d#ht_500wt_1195). For many, it's the cream of the crop, some of the best "stuff" ever made.
Is it true? I'm not sure. But it sure is handsome, and there's a pretty cool history to the Wilderness Experience's founders, the Brothers Thomsen, after the jump...

http://outside-blog.away.com/.a/6a00d83453140969e20168e6203713970c-500wi (http://outside-blog.away.com/.a/6a00d83453140969e20168e6203713970c-pi)

(Pictured above: The Taliban using Wilderness Experience sleeping bags in the 70s)Upon coming back to California from a short trip to Mexico in 1970, Greg Thomsen, who had worked for Kelty Mountaineering while attending UCLA, was offered to manage a mountaineering store in Tarzana, California called The Mountain Store. His brother Greg, fresh off the boat from an around-the-world trip that included a quick stop at Mt. Everest, joined him at the store. Along with Greg's wife, Laurie, they started a guide service taking kids into the High Sierra wilderness. (The brochure from that venture can be found here (http://www.tenayatravels.com/files/Wilderness%20Experience/Inside_First_Catalog%5B1%5D.pdf).)

http://outside-blog.away.com/.a/6a00d83453140969e20167611ec7b5970b-500wi (http://outside-blog.away.com/.a/6a00d83453140969e20167611ec7b5970b-pi)

While the brothers continued to climb and do the things that people do in the mountains of California, they bought a sewing machine and started making backpacks. (Heard that story before.) One of their earliest models, the Klettersack (pictured at the top of this post), was one of their most popular and, as I'm sure you might know, has been copied by countless companies for the last 40ish years. Stores started buying them, the company grew, and in 1978, while at a trade show in Chicago, Snow Lion, a manufacturer of tents, sleeping bags and apparel, announced they were going bankrupt. And what's a booming outdoor backpack company to do? Yes. You got it. Buy em out and fulfill their orders.
http://outside-blog.away.com/.a/6a00d83453140969e2016300298bf9970d-500wi (http://outside-blog.away.com/.a/6a00d83453140969e2016300298bf9970d-pi)
So in the late 70s, Wilderness Experience started designing the clothes and outerwear that people like me drool over. The brothers eventually left in the early 80s and they were bought out by K2. I'm not sure of the exact year that they actually stopped making Wilderness Experience, but some new versions of the old bags have been popping up in Japan (http://en.kenko.com/shop/en-us/list/br/W30007) as of late. Of course there's much more to the story than that, so if you're interested, head on over Jim Thomsen's website (http://www.tenayatravels.com/Wilderness%20Experience.html) to get a full history and see a wealth load of pictures that I didn't include here.
And hey, you've got a little drool on your chin...
Jeff Thrope is the editor and founder of Cold Splinters. For more ways to pretend you're sleeping under the stars instead of reading the Internet, visit coldsplinters.com (http://www.coldsplinters.com/) and twitter.com/coldsplinters (http://www.twitter.com/coldsplinters).