In 2013, Dan Sedlacek (the co-founder and CEO of Uphill Designs) set out on a trek to hike from Mexico to Canada. He was unsatisfied with conventional equipment that added weight and detracted from the clarity of the experience. Dan teamed up with Mounica Sonikar and David DeBey (who I interviewed last week) to start Uphill Designs, where they design hiking equipment using sustainable, natural materials. Their first product is a bamboo trekking pole that is both stronger than aluminum and as light as carbon fiber. These trekking poles are made from close to 95% sustainable materials and in the spirit of giving back, a percentage of sales will be returned to the communities.
Trekking poles are not a new invention. Currently, the majority of trekking poles available in the market are made from aluminum or carbon fiber, which are heavy or expensive. Uphill Designs is entering an existing market is gaining attention by presenting a sustainable alternative. For consumers who care a lot about the outdoors and value a clean, uncompromising design, Uphill Designs is one of the few innovative companies that provide equipment that combines the simplicity and today’s best engineering. This is because Uphill Designs uses simple raw materials and only what is necessary for the functions that the gears are serving.
In late 2014, Uphill Designs launched the “Walk With Nature” campaign on Kickstarter. Over the course of 30 days, they had over 120 backers and successfully raised 150% of their goal. They then talked to local retailers and won the interest of REI to put their poles in their stores. In the meantime, they are focusing on manufacturing the 100 pairs of trekking poles pre-ordered through Kickstarter. The majority sales are from Seattle, but they also have a lot of sales from other regions, including China, Korea, Singapore, Australia, Germany, and Finland. It seems people all over the world are excited about the product.
The products that we bring with us to nature are reflection of who we are. There are a lot of options for outdoor activity consumers in terms of sustainable apparel, but less choices for sustainable gear. Uphill Designs’ vision is to allow people to explore the outdoors with sustainable gear and add to the legacy of innovative outdoor companies born in the Pacific Northwest.