Since its founding in 1993, Mountain Hardwear has pioneered many outdoor gear designs – including tent-fly windows, the Windstopper Fleece, and welded technology in apparel. This level of innovation is the result of a rigorous and visionary approach to materials technology and testing. Early this summer MHW hosted a Design Workshop to give the media a peek into their process, and to give us a chance to pitch in.
The event happened in the restored Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant in Richmond, California – part of the oceanside Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park – which serves as MHW’s corporate headquarters.
Organizers split participants into five teams to work on several creative briefs/product categories. MHW athletes including James Heim, Michelle Parker, Ethan Pringle, and Dawn Glanc served as consultants for each team. ML Publisher Jon Burak’s team – headed by Joe Novak, MHW’s design manager for equipment and accessories – took on the redesign of a shirt and a dress.
“There is a serious technological element but the process is also about having fun,” says Burak. “We were doing our shirt and dress in the morning and when we switched briefs in the afternoon, we got the rain jacket,” Burak continues. “We were told to keep in mind the cost and I suggested using offcuts to create a multi-coloured jacket. And then I remembered the Outdoor Retailer show where MHW did a demonstration, coating kleenexes with Dry.Q Elite technology. (You’d stick the kleenex in a glass of water and pull it out and it would stay completely dry. It’s like a bar trick – ‘I’ll bet you 20 bucks this kleenex doesn’t get wet!’) So in order to reduce the costs on the rain jacket we’d include one kleenex coated with Dry.Q Elite per jacket. Then you’d do a bar trick with it for 20 bucks, and that would reduce the cost.”
The humour was leavened by healthy doses of innovation; for the dress brief, Dawn Glanc and her team made improvements to a take-anywhere dress ready for an ice-climbing trip to Greenland and nights on the town in Nuuk. “I added my two cents about different fabrics and different weaves, though obviously there’s a lot of tech stuff that those of us who aren’t designers don’t know about,” Burak adds. “But it’s all about the process of spitballing back and forth.”
The tent team proposed a floating-platform accessory for the Optic tent series dubbed the H2Optic. One of the concerns was very practical – how do you go to the bathroom when you’re stuck in a floating tent? The team proposed something called the “Poo-dini.” Is this a true prototype that might one day make it to market? We’ll have to wait and see.
Check out the latest from Mountain Hardwear here.