You could say Osprey Backpacks was born when Mike Pfotenhauer, the company’s founder, sewed his first backpack at age 16. The backpacking pack he was using at the time had an awful fit, and he had a vision of how to improve upon the design. He asked his mother to teach him to sew, and soon he was making his own custom-fitted packs under the name Santa Cruz Recreational Packs. Before long Mike opened a retail shop where backpackers and travelers, having heard his reputation, would come and be fitted. Each pack took a couple days for Mike to sew, but his customers considered it well worth the wait.
Mike officially founded Osprey in 1974. By 1976 Osprey was introducing exciting innovations in pack design, such as the breathable mesh back panel, and soon Osprey began to make a splash in the fledgling outdoor industry. Over the course of the next two decades, Osprey enjoyed industry success and accolades, as well as two relocations—one to Dolores, Colorado in 1990 and another to its current location in Cortez, Colorado in 1994 as the company grew. At first, Osprey fought the trend of outsourced manufacturing by employing local tradespeople to sew packs, but the need to stay competitive was crucial, and eventually Osprey moved its production to Korea and Vietnam. Mike, however, didn’t want to lose touch with his workers or with Osprey’s production, so in 2003 he moved his family to Vietnam, where they stayed for four years, visiting the factories daily to ensure the designs were produced accurately and faithfully.
Since the early 2000s, Osprey products have received many notable accolades, including several prestigious Gear of the Year Awards from Outside Magazine. Many of these award-winning designs span the range from backpacking packs like the women’s Aura and the men’s Aether to running and cycling packs like the Rev or Raptor series and travel options like the convertible Ozone, the wheeled Contrail, or the smaller Portal laptop shoulder bag.
One of the reasons for Osprey’s long string of achievements is its dedication to innovation in a single product group. As CEO tom Barney says “We’re a pack company, and every season we have to get it right on packs. We can’t have a good footwear year but a bad apparel year. We have to have a good pack year every year.” This dedication shows in every item that leaves the Osprey factory, its All Mighty Guarantee and lifetime warranty, and it shows in every decades-old Osprey pack that you see on the back of a rider or runner churning out the miles on the trail.