(Photos | Courtesy of Oregon Pack Works)
Since its official launch in 2010, Bend-based Oregon Pack Works has outfitted hunters with a cutting-edge pack system that founders Karl J. Findling and Dan Bray designed and developed to fill what they saw as a major gap in the market.
“There was always this conundrum,” Findling reflected. “I owned nine packs, but I could never decide which one to take backcountry hunting. I was always compromising.”
Findling searched for something versatile — for a pack that could handle all the gear and weight as needed, but could also be downsized on the spot. His exhaustive searches always came up empty. Determined, Findling decided to design exactly what he wished he could find. Not long after he’d put his ideas to paper, Findling met Bray at an archery shoot and learned that he owned and operated a sewing business.
“I asked him if he could make this pack I’d designed for myself,” Findling said. “And, he did.” The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
The two avid outdoorsmen recognized that by pooling their talents, they could create something unique that hunters everywhere would appreciate. After years of trial-and-error, Findling and Bray were ready. They equipped 12 people with their innovative packs and sent them into the wilderness to put them to the test. The response was overwhelming, and prompted the launch of Oregon Pack Works the following year at the 2010 Central Oregon Sportsmen’s Show.
Although that year marked the end of the Great Recession, the economy had been in the tank throughout the business’s concept stage. As a result, Findling and Bray had designed their pack system so that customers could purchase one piece at a time based on their own needs and means. Their signature product — the Greengate Pack System, and the patent-pending “universal” One is All suspension system — presented multiple offerings, ensuring momentum in sales and subsequent brand exposure.
That type of forward thinking, along with passion and a pursuit of perfection, led to a breakthrough design in fabric within Oregon Pack Works’ first year. Quiet, waterproof and burr-resistant, the material was perfect not only for the packs, but also led to the design of the BinoBro binocular case.
In 2012, its second year in business, Oregon Pack Works was runner up for the Economic Development for Central Oregon’s Business of the Year award. That same year, however, Bray relocated, taking his sewing business to the Philippines.
“I took over manufacturing, keeping it in the U.S., and for a while we went backward,” Findling explained. Soon, however, Findling connected with a friend in Idaho who became Oregon Pack Works’ contract manufacturer.
Findling experimented with various approaches to increasing business over the years, but as a full-time firefighter with young kids at home — who also took on work with nonprofits in the conservation sector — he was never able to give Oregon Pack Works his full focus. Even since retiring from fire service in 2017, he remains committed to giving back and prioritizes his work with nonprofits over growing his own business.
“I recognize that if we don’t have public lands and places to hunt, then I wouldn’t even have the business,” Findling said. “I have seen how much the natural resources have declined, and I feel we need to give our time to organizations that are working to leave this world a better place than we found it.”
That mindset drove Findling in his work as the Owyhee Sportsmen’s Coordinator for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and as the Lands and Conservation Director for the Oregon Hunters Association, as well as in his volunteerism for organizations including Bend’s Commute Options, of which he is a founding board member.
Despite his overscheduled life, Findling never stopped conceptualizing new products; he simply has not had the time or the means to develop them. That may change soon.
Findling is working with a potential investment group and anticipates an agreement that will carry Oregon Pack Works to new levels as soon as 2020.
“There is so much we will be able to do thanks to the expertise of the investment group,” Findling said. “With a partner running the business side of things — redesigning the website to increase conversions and focusing on digital marketing — I’ll be able to get back to the idea and design side of things.”
That’s exciting news for loyal customers such as Cam Mueller, a self-professed gear junkie who discovered Oregon Pack Works a few years ago.
“I had never been able to find the ideal pack setup before I purchased the Orion from Oregon Pack Works. This pack fits all my criteria — it’s durable, versatile and convertible, not to mention the waterproof material, which is practically a necessity when hunting the Oregon coast area,” Mueller said. “Plus, I’ve been able to efficiently pack out multiple deer without ending up with a sore back the next day.”
When he noticed an imperfection on his pack’s waist belt, Mueller reached out to Findling and was amazed by the quick response and willingness to repair it immediately.
“I was certainly happy with someone standing behind their product,” Mueller said. “And I am super excited to see what new and innovative products come from this brand in the future.”
Fans such as Mueller shouldn’t have to wait long. Looking forward, Findling aims to develop the half-a-dozen prototypes that have been sitting on the table for years, in addition to making improvements to the company’s existing products.
“There are a lot of new things coming in 2020,” Findling declared. “It’s an exciting time.”