Gossamer Gear, formerly GVP Gear, is the serendipitous brainchild of Glen Van Peski, a consulting civil engineer in Carlsbad, California. Glen Van Peski had done some backpacking as a youth, but didn’t get involved again until his eldest son Brian joined the Boy Scouts. Glen went down to the local REI and loaded up on the standard backpacking gear. After a year or two of backpacking with the troop, his friend Read Miller, then the Scoutmaster, read Ray Jardine’s book on ultralight backpacking, and started to implement some of the ideas. With Read’s example, Glen also started to pare down his pack weight. He figured out fairly quickly that a pack weighing seven pounds empty represented a great opportunity to lighten up. Glen made his first pack, dubbed the “G1” based very loosely on the Alpine Rucksack that Jardine mentions. Glen ended up using this pack for the next several years. His second attempt, the “G2” (nobody ever accuses Glen of being creative when it comes to names) was made entirely out of 1.1 oz. silicon-coated nylon. His son Brian had the misfortune to use this pack on a Muir Trail trip where it shredded. It was later reconditioned and traveled the California sections of the Pacific Crest Trail.
As they hiked along, Glen and Read kept thinking up ways to improve the packs and make them lighter. This led to the, you guessed it, “G3” and finally the “G4”. Glen provided directions for making the pack on a website. Periodically he would get emails asking if he ever sewed packs for others. Periodically he would return emails saying “no”. For some reason, the emails kept coming, and Glen finally started to feel bad about telling people “no”. So he invested the time in generating a real pattern and detailed directions, and lined up some people to sew.
Glen started by having the packs made locally, real locally, by his wife Francie, and other women in the neighborhood. The packs were custom orders, with the customer choosing fabric color and options. As the waiting list got longer, Glen decided he needed to see about getting the packs made commercially. He found a manufacturer in Seattle, and went through the iterative process of obtaining a suitable quality product. The manufacturer, who had previously made packs for major manufacturers, initially was nonplussed about making the packs. After a series of exchanges back and forth, with Glen explaining why they were still not right, the manufacturer summed it up with “These are not like other packs we’ve made…” That hurdle crossed, production started in earnest.
The manufacturer told Glen that normally his minimum order was 100. Glen figured that if he made 25, everyone who wanted one would have one, and he could get back to his family and engineering. They compromised on an initial order of 50 – Glen figured he would have the packs in his garage for a few years, but that eventually he could get rid of them. It quickly became apparent that Glen had underestimated demand. Word spread quickly on the internet, and G4 production became an ongoing reality. Glen’s son Brian put together a website to take orders. Several years later, to accommodate new products, the website was completely revamped by Glen’s sister Brooke.
In early 2004, the decision was made to ramp up GVP Gear, in an effort to generate a critical mass that would allow Glen to get back some of his life. By that time, the business was consuming a large part of his life, without contributing financially to his family. Rather than raise prices, Glen decided to increase the number of products offered to generate some synergy, and create enough volume to allow automated systems to be put into place. So the move to Gossamer Gear was launched.
With the new products, including shelters, sleeping bags, stoves, raingear and many other innovative products, volume did soar. The order fulfillment portion of the business was outsourced, which freed up Glen’s time. Shipping was eventually brought back “in-house” when Glen’s wife Francie was looking for something to do now that the kids were older. Eventually, however, as more and more ultralight enthusiasts discovered Gossamer Gear’s innovative products and reasonable prices, Glen’s time managing the business kept expanding. Eventually he was working 60 hours a week on engineering and another 30 on Gossamer Gear (still without salary). He was making a good living with the engineering, so the money wasn’t an issue, there just weren’t enough hours in the day for living.
Glen was prepared to have a big sale and close down Gossamer Gear, but a longtime customer and dedicated hiker Glen happened to talk with convinced him to bring in some equity partners who would hire staff and take the time burden off Glen. So in December 2005, the Gossamer Gear offices moved to Austin, Texas, where the new President, Grant Sible, hired staff and took over the day-to-day operations. Glen is still Chairman of the Board, and actively involved in product development, policy and vision, and of course product testing!