Kletterwerks: Resurrecting a Revolutionary Bag Co.


In the early seventies, Dana Gleason and his wife Laura were the passionate proprietors of one of the first true dedicated outdoors shops, Mountain Man, located in the shadow of the Black Hills Forest at the heart of Deadwood, South Dakota. Unfortunately this sleepy town did not share the Gleason’s enthusiasm for the outdoors, and so with their store faltering, the coupled decided to pack up their shop and move to the bustling metropolis of Bozeman, Montana.

Remarkably, during that frantic week in 1975 as Dana trekked back and forth between Deadwood and Bozeman, he was struck by inspiration not once, not twice, but five times, completing a handful of brand new bag designs as his final act in the shuttered South Dakota studio.

Those five designs would lay the groundwork for Kletterwerks (which roughly translates to “climbing factory” in German) the bag company that Dana founded once he had officially settled down in Bozeman.

Kletterwerks died before it could truly take off though, as Dana sold his share so he could focus on other open-air pursuits, and it took three decades for the label to make its way back to the summit of the outdoor accessories world. The company was resurrected this past year as Dana’s son, Dana III brought the company back to life using, you guessed it, those original five designs. And while Kletterwerks’ contemporary collections pay homage to the past, they are far from outdated.

From an aesthetic standpoint you could easily picture a Kletterwerks bag in a spread from a seventies Japanese publication on all things “Made in America,” but they still remain well above par from a practical standpoint. I’ve used my Flip bag for everything from traveling, to rock climbing, to surfing, and it hasn’t let me down yet. And to think it all began with one hectic week back in ’75. –JG


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Comments on “Kletterwerks: Resurrecting a Revolutionary Bag Co.

    Benne on November 5, 2013 7:35 PM:

    The story doesn’t end there, and neither did Dana strokes of genius. He went on to start Dana Design backpacks, which included the Terraplane, arguably the best backpacking backpack ever made!

    Lars Jensen on November 7, 2013 11:39 AM:

    Looks great….a quality product with a remarkable history = good combo!
    Does anybody know of any online stores that sells Kletterwerks?

    Stephanie on November 7, 2013 5:59 PM:

    Great looking and functional bag.
    Lars, just check out their site: http://www.kletterwerks.com/

    Rob on November 8, 2013 1:48 PM:

    Nor does Dana Gleason’s pack design history end with Dana Designs. He now designs bags for Mystery Ranch, supplier of insanely-expensive-but-probably-worth-it packs to hunters, outdoor professionals, armed forces and various other government agencies.

    TH on November 12, 2013 5:47 PM:

    Indeed, Kletterwerks is but the tip of the iceberg….Dana Designs (second on the comment about the Terraplane — amazing pack, as well as their ski patrol workhorse, the Bomb Pack).
    Now with Dana’s current venture, Mystery Ranch, he has raised the bar yet again. Living in Bozeman, I have the good fortune to see/use/abuse and talk with the designers of these packs; and as an ardent backcountry hunter, no other pack currently on the market comes close to the durability, fit, form and function of the NICE Frame and pack, with the Metcalf. Check it out, along with any of the other packs, and ‘urban’ bags. All US made, and completely built for the long haul.

    michael strout on November 30, 2013 1:34 AM:

    http://www.westerlind.us is another great source for kletterworks gear and other great brands

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