Interview: A Passionate Climber on Founding The American Mountain Co. and Why "Made in the USA" Matters

Take a close look at The 907, one of two jackets
designed by Brad for The American Mountain Co.
It's not your typical shell.
Brad is originally from Michigan, but lives in Pittsburgh with his wife, one-year old daughter, and dog/second child, Moose. Despite growing up as a flat-lander, rock climbing and mountaineering are Brad's true passions. He worked at an outdoor retailer in college and started his own small climbing apparel and equipment company, which he eventually shut down as his domestic factory closed. Now, he's trying again. Through his new project, The American Mountain Co., he hopes to marry classic style elements with the ultimate in technical fabrics to create Made in the USA apparel guaranteed for life. And to make it all happen, he needs your help.

Brad: Growing up, my family was not remotely what you would call the outdoor type. My parents took me camping once and I ended up sleeping in the tent alone with my dog as they sought shelter in the car from a storm that rolled in during the night. It was completely my choice. Despite their lack of understanding, they were always encouraging of my outdoor pursuits. I think it was me wanting to find something thrilling or the adventure of it all that drove me to climbing. As I got into the sport, I fell in love with the motions of moving up the rock and the indescribable feeling the sport gives you. That first step off the ground as you adjust to the feeling of the cold rock against your fingers or the sound an ice axe makes when you strike it above your head is something you have to experience to understand the appeal.


Of any of the trips you've taken in your life, what's been your favorite and why?
Brad: Given my climbing obsession, you may think that growing up in Michigan was a disadvantage, but I think it was a good thing. It forced me to continually seek out new climbing areas and a good road trip always adds to the experience. I spent almost all of my free time in high school and college traveling around the country. The trips always seemed to begin with either a flip through Rock and Road or a copy of the American Alpine Journal in hand to provid the inspiration for the next endeavor.  While it is certainly hard to pick a favorite, Devil's Tower is great, as is Yosemite and the Joshua Tree, or Rainier and Grand Teton, but if I had to I would say the greatest trip was to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The No. 307, one of two items currently available
for pre-order. It features the most advanced
windproof fleece available.
At the time of my first trip to the Black Hills, the only guide available was an orange covered book that had been out of print since the 1960’s. Needless to say I, did not have a copy. The area itself is one of the most beautiful in the country. Spires of rock seem to shoot up out of the ground and dot the landscape, and the formations are incredible. The area has a great vintage and classic feel to it, and not having a guide book made each climb feel like a first ascent. I would walk up to a formation that caught my eye look at the line and think- that seems like something I could climb. One hundred feet up I would come to find that I could only place a single piece of gear in the wall and if it held the cheese grater like rock would surely do a number on my skin. But that danger and unknown aspect turned the trip into a true adventure. 

What inspired you to start The American Mountain Co.?
Brad: I tend to like things that are old rather than new. Old things just seem to have a different draw to them. As a climber, I need and want all of the technology and performance of gear today, but one day, I began to notice that everything being made by the big brands was exactly the same. It all looks very technical, almost to the point of being futuristic. And they all use the same fabrics, the same zippers, and the same components. No one is trying to do something new and different. So, I decided I would. I wanted to create a brand that was reminiscent of a time when climbing was in its purest form, sort of like my trip to the Black Hills, something that represents mountain sports at their core. To do this I wanted to blend all of the technology and performance needed for the most rigorous mountain sports with a classic style. Optimum performance combined with classic style, while leaving neither lacking.

The No. 907, created to meet the most extreme
conditions in the mountains
What sets The American Mountain Co. apart?
Brad: First, our products are made in the USA and always will be. This, combined with the features and design elements we incorporate, allows us to bring a level of quality to customers that no other brand can offer. While every brand out there likes to claim quality, we put our money where our mouth is and guarantee our products for life. And I don’t mean some arbitrary time frame like the “life of the product.” I mean "for as long as you own it." The second is technology and performance. We don't use the same fabrics or zippers other brands do, and we integrate them with unparalleled fit, design and features. Lastly, style. Our mountain wear is the only line out there that will give you a classic look along with all of the technology and performance you need.

Why is having your products made exclusively here in the USA so important to you?
Brad: Quality is the main reason, but it goes way beyond that. The people making our products take personal pride in what they do, so much so that our mountain wear is hand-signed by the person who made it. What other brand can say that about the people that make their products? But, also I think this is a fight we all need to take up. This country used to make things, and now you have a hard time finding anything made in America. It’s sad and we need to change it. The American Mountain Co. will demand better, and really I think we should all demand better.

If you're interested in helping support Brad and The American Mountain Co., or if you're just looking for a super cool new jacket for the upcoming season, here's your chance. Click on any of the pictures in this post, or here, to pre-order the jackets pictured in this post on Kickstarter! 

Comments

Heidi Henry said…
What an excellent idea. Props to them!!
Katie said…
agreed! can't wait until they're big enough to make women's apparel. the first thing I noticed about the 907 is the fact that the pockets sit right above where your waist belt would be on a climbing harness. so smart!
@ginabegin said…
Will be great to see some women's things thrown in the mix, for sure. Looking forward to seeing how this brand progresses. :)