In the Greater Yellowstone, we like to get after it. But the mountains, rivers and forests in our fine corner of the world aren’t just a playground for these nine intrepid gear manufacturers—they’re also a wellspring of inspiration, an R&D testing ground, and a source of community.
Although companies like Mountain Khakis, Mystery Ranch and Red Ants Pants have a national following, they’re also very much rooted in their respective communities, suggesting that perhaps it is possible to build a brand with both roots and wings after all. – The Editors
STIO / JACKSON, WYOMING
Former Cloudveil cofounder and president, Stephen Sullivan, founded Stio in 2012, “to inspire connection with the outdoors through beautiful, functional products infused with mountain soul,” according to the company’s website.
Headquartered in Jackson, Wyoming, Stio employees live and breathe the mountain lifestyle. With values based in sustainability, appreciation for nature and life balance, the company is dedicated to bringing the inspiration they receive from the adjacent Teton Range to consumers’ lives in and out of the mountains. Products are offered via the website, catalog, and the Mountain Studio retail locations in downtown Jackson and Teton Village, at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
RED ANTS PANTS / WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, MONTANA
In 2006, Sarah Calhoun founded a company dedicated to making work clothes for women. She committed to manufacturing her apparel—durable workpants designed for a woman’s curves—in the U.S. and then did one better by locating her headquarters in rural White Sulphur Springs, Montana.
Five years after launching her company, Calhoun started a multi-day music gathering. Now the Red Ants Pants Festival draws 16,000-plus to hear the likes of Merle Haggard and Lucinda Williams. Last summer, in a prime example of “doing well by doing good,” the festival generated $19,000 for the Red Ants Pants Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering self-reliance in women and promote rural communities.
CREEK TO PEAK WEAR / BOZEMAN, MONTANA
Frank Gazella Jr. founded Creek to Peak Wear in 2016 after arriving in Bozeman during a month-long road trip. A natural entrepreneur, he formerly ran a successful pierogi (dumpling) company in Kansas for nine years after leaving the Marines.
The simple and smart Creek to Peak logo is offered on apparel from T-shirts and hoodies to beanies and trucker hats. The company also partners with other brands on its website to encourage an eclectic mix of small businesses to market their products directly to consumers. Oh, and they also host Montana’s first mountain Soap Box Derby in Livingston every April.
MYSTERY RANCH / BOZEMAN, MONTANA
The history of Mystery Ranch runs deep, both in Bozeman and in backpacks. Dana Gleason started his first pack company in the ‘70s called Kletterwerks—since resurrected as a Mystery Ranch line—and went on to found the iconic Dana Design with Renee Sippel-Baker in 1985. They sold the industry standard brand in 1995, but couldn’t stay out of the business long.
In 2000, they began Mystery Ranch with a focus on durability, comfort and weight bearing—ask any hunter who’s hauled a quartered elk out of the backcountry with one of their packs. With an emphasis on innovation, the company is beloved by wildland firefighters, hunters, soldiers, backpackers and skiers.
MOUNTAIN KHAKIS / JACKSON, WYOMING
It started in 2001, as a concept drawn onto a bar napkin when co-founder Noah Robertson and Ross Saldarini were sitting at the Shady Lady Saloon in Jackson. Mountain Khakis has since evolved into an internationally acclaimed lifestyle clothing brand with the mission to “outfit and inspire the outdoor enthusiast.”
Keeping recreation and functionality in mind, Mountain Khakis makes threads for everyone from the diehard skier to the hardworking rancher, and also has corporate uniform programs. It even has a “starving student special,” a discount program for university campus clubs.
ROSCOE OUTDOOR / RED LODGE, MONTANA
Named after the tiny town of Roscoe that serves as an access point for attempts on Granite Peak, Montana’s highest, Roscoe Outdoor was founded in 2010 by Montana-native Hans Howell in nearby Red Lodge. A voracious rock and ice climber, he realized there wasn’t a highly durable synthetic pant on the market—so he decided to fill that niche.
They started with a pair of pants called the Washakie, named after the 19th century Shoshone chief, which is still their flagship piece. Roscoe apparel is developed and tested in the rugged Beartooth Mountains above Red Lodge and is meant to stand the abuse of mountain enthusiasts.
LIVINGSTON ROD CO. / LIVINGSTON, MONTANA
Founded in 2015 by Livingston, Montana, local and avid fly-fisherman Dusty Smith, Livingston Rod Co. specializes in crafting graphite and fiberglass fly rods for fishing the waters of the Greater Yellowstone. Sold direct online, or in fly shops located across Montana, Wyoming, Utah and New York, each rod is completely unique. Depending on your fishing style and preferences, Smith will craft any length, weight and number of rod sections, whether you’re casting from a raft or wading in tailwaters.
SPARK R&D / BOZEMAN, MONTANA
When Spark R&D brought the first ever splitboard- specific snowboard binding to market in 2006— revolutionizing the industry—riders were hungry for a lightweight and efficient backcountry setup.
Prior to this innovation by Spark R&D’s founder and chief designer Will Ritter, snowboarders had limited options for uphill travel. You could snowshoe with your snowboard strapped to your pack, or use the existing splitboard touring setup—this required you to mount your bindings onto an elevated and heavy metal plate, resulting in an unresponsive board feel on the way down.
INCLINE GOGGLES / BIG SKY, MONTANA
Every startup company faces a tough choice: spend gobs of money on flashy marketing, or spend it on product research and development.
Matt Brown and Jason Meyers at Incline Goggles chose the latter, and after founding the company in 2016, the result is one of the most cutting-edge goggle companies out there. Combining the best technology behind optics and lens development—including a permanent anti-fog infused into the lens—and a sturdy frame, Incline gives you the proverbial “quiver-killer” setup.