New and Noteworthy: Mile High Mountaineering
Published on 09/17/2012
By Mallory Ayres
As recent college grads, the members of Denver-based MHM looked into the crystal ball and didn’t like what was ahead for them in the white-collar world. These Colorado born and bred snowboarders decided to avoid the shackles of a traditional path and opt instead for a job that centered on what they are most passionate about: the outdoors. “We’re creative thinkers and free thinkers and we wanted to do something where we worked for ourselves and answered to no one,” said Vice President Casey Lorenzen. When they decided that it was packs they wanted to focus on, they made sure that they were starting from the ground up with a fresh view. “There was definitely a need in the market for backpacks, and a new company to come on with new innovations and a new outlook,” Lorenzen explained.
In 2011 after a lot of sketching, sewing and hard work, Founder Jeff Popp and Lorenzen released three backpacking packs in 38, 55 and 80-liter sizes. The initial reviews on the products were very positive, and a buzz about their packs began to grow. “It all happened so fast…we won awards straight out of the gate which we weren’t expecting at all,” said Lorenzen. The packs feature a unique frame system where the shoulder harness and the hipbelt are actually attached to the aluminum frame bars and HDPE sheet. They also have a dual-pivoting/adjustable hipbelt so the pack moves with you as you walk and doesn’t dig in to you. “We’ve had feedback from people that it’s that most comfortable pack that they’ve ever had. And we’ve gotten reviews from people who have tried ten different packs before and have hated all the them but love our packs,” said Lorenzen. Other unique features are the internal stuff sack compartment that can be accessed from the side of the pack, and a vertical water resistant zipper on the front of the pack so that you can get to your gear quickly and easily without having to dig down from the top.
As MHM grew, they added snow, hiking, and “urbaneering” packs to their line, and spread the word about their new brand. Their efforts paid off, and this July the guys were staring at one of their packs, the Salute 34 daypack, on the cover of the editor’s picks issue of Backpacker Magazine. “We’re definitely most proud of the cover of Backpacker Magazine. When we saw it, we were pretty elated.” The pack was also featured in Men’s Health in “a top five best gifts for men” article, which really caught them off guard. “[In the article] our pack was thrown in with things like the iPad. To have a company that is run by two or three guys in their 20’s up against mega corporations like Apple was pretty cool.”
Luckily, Active Junky has had a chance to get our hands on a couple of the packs as well. We wrote up the Salute 34 because of its unique design – it features an S-shaped zipper that allows the user to flay open the pack and use it as a ground mat for the contents. MHM calls it their “every panel loader” because you can access the contents anywhere in the pack in seconds. We also had a chance to bring another crave-worthy model, the PowderKeg 32, down to Chile this summer for our Adrenaline In The Andes Gear Test Program. This snow pack with a dual pivot hip belt was featured in the Outside Magazine Fall 2011 Buyer's Guide and awarded a perfect 5 out of 5 for most comfortable pack. Stay tuned for our review!
This year MHM has had some exciting developments in the their 2013 line including a redesign of their backpacking packs - the roll-top, under the top lid and the built in stuff sack is now waterproof and the packs are built to fit a wider variety of people. “[The packs] can now fit someone who is barely 100 lbs. to a guy that is pushing 280,” said Lorenzen. They are also coming out with a little 24-liter approach pack called the Champ. “You can actually piggy-back it right on to the back of the backpacking packs. You just unclip the buckles on the shoulder straps and it clips on the back,” explained Lorenzen. The Champ is very convenient to carry, as it only weighs a meager nine ounces and compresses to about the size of a water bottle. Plus, it has a roll top and is waterproof to keep out the elements.
But the innovative packs aren’t the only thing about MHM catching people’s eye: the Colorado flag woven into their logo pulls at the heart strings of both natives and Rocky Mountain transplants alike. “It’s a big part of who we are, so we wanted to incorporate it in to the logo, ” explained Lorenzen. “As big of an outdoor state as Colorado is, there really isn’t a lot of home grown companies [in the outdoor industry], and even the ones that are haven’t really displayed that state pride, so that was something we really wanted to do. We love being here and will probably die here.”
It’s clear that these guys have all the elements that make up an unstoppable brand: innovative ideas, award-winning design and a strong passion for the outdoors. So with all their success does MHM hope to become the next REI?
“People have asked if we are going to expand in to tents and sleeping bags and apparel, but I think for the most part we just want to stick with packs - we want to stick with one thing and be really good at that,” said Lorenzen. We can’t wait to see what they come up with next.