The Inception of DOGPAK: The Inspiration to Start an Outdoor K9 Gear Company
As we begin finalizing the design features of our first backpack prototype, the Moab Lite daypack, I thought I would explain a little about the founding of this company and what inspired me to start an outdoor K9 gear company.
I suppose the story begins about 12 years ago when I met a little hound dog at a rescue center. I named him Thunder. He was just a puppy then, and I guess I was still a pup too in a way. I never could have anticipated the bond we would develop over years together, nor could I have fathomed even half of the epic adventures we would embark on.
The story of DOGPAK begins with the story of Thunder the Wonder Dog. My pup. My best friend. My hero. We have traveled the world together for the last 12 years and the bond we share is indescribable. We have been through it all: rattlesnake bites and bear attacks, barbed wire stitches and raccoon battles, two mad motorcycle rallies and countless camping trips. And too many skunk incidents. He is a farm dog, a Mountain Cur: he is happiest when he is outside exploring, and I have tailored my lifestyle to make him happy. We worked on huge cattle ranches in the American West together, and beautiful sustainable farms where Thunder would make friends with all the animals (except the raccoons, never the raccoons). I have always sought work outdoors where Thunder would be free to roam the way an outdoor dog like him should be able to. There are so many stories to tell, and I intend to use the DOGPAK blog to tell some of my favorite Thunder stories in more depth, so be sure to check back in periodically. For now, I’ll just explain how we got here.
You can imagine after 12 years, 42 states, 26 countries, and 3 continents together, Thunder and I have a special relationship. It is one of the things I am most proud about in my life, and I wanted to find a way to help other people develop that kind of bond with their dogs.
What are the building blocks of a bond like that? Memories. Memories are important, and boy do I have memories with old Thunder. Memories of what, though? Some of my favorite memories with Thunder come from our myriad adventures together. Hiking volcanoes in Nicaragua, camping in the Alps, training mustangs in the Teton Wilderness in Wyoming, packing mules through bear country in the Sierras, old cowboy ranches spanning 40,000 acres in Arizona, hidden ruins in the Huayhuash mountains of Peru. The best memories I have with Thunder are of our many epic adventures together. They come from traveling and exploring the great outdoors.
That is where DOGPAK comes in. I wanted to create a lifestyle brand dedicated to helping other people develop those kinds of memories with their dogs. I wanted to honor all that Thunder and I have shared together over the years, and I wanted to somehow help spread that spirit to other dog lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. In reflecting on some of my experiences over the years, I realized I had some insight into what makes for quality outdoor equipment, and while some great equipment does exist for dogs, I began thinking of ways to expand or improve on it.
My initial concept for a piece of outdoor K9 gear was a multi-functional harness system that would be safety rated for belays, rappels, or suspension, and also function as a backpack or walking harness with various add-ons or accessories. I was eager to use my knowledge of Skydiving and BASE jumping parachute systems and my understanding of the outdoor gear we often use and their practical applications. As an avid climber, wingsuit BASE jumper, skydiver, rigger, and mountaineer, I had a workable knowledge of certain materials, their strengths and weaknesses, and the physics of building safe and redundant harnesses and anchor systems. And where my knowledge fell short, I had friends who could guide and mentor me.
I began researching various kinds of nylons, polyesters, webbings, and rip-stops. I also researched the process of building a business. Admittedly, I knew nothing about starting a business, let alone a physical product business. I had an idea, but how does one go from concept to physical, tangible product? Do I need to buy a sewing machine? Do I need to learn to sew better? Do I need to learn CAD or coding? The more I researched, the more I realized the importance of efficiency, simplicity, and viability. I needed an “MVP,” a Minimum Viable Product. My initial product idea, it seemed to me, was overly complicated. I would be better off starting with a simpler project, at least for my first product. I wanted something that would appeal to a wide range within my niche audience, something practical that still conveyed the spirit of DOGPAK as an outdoor K9 gear company for people who loved to adventure with their pups. After some deliberation, I decided on a dog daypack, a backpack for day trips or shorter overnight expeditions. It would be sleek and slim enough for the dog to wear as a daily walking harness, yet also have the capacity to carry a few essential items on a camping or backpacking trip. I wanted to improve on the design of other dog backpacks on the market that often seem cumbersome, bulky, and lack a certain aesthetic.
So I had an idea, an MVP. Still, I had no real understanding of how to bring an idea to physical fruition. I also needed to learn more about business structure, licensing, and law, and I had to decide whether I would be based in Switzerland or the USA, or somewhere else entirely.
Due in part to the precarious COVID situation during the summer of 2020, I had time on my hands and needed to fill the hours of the day with something to prevent my impending spiral into insanity. I was stuck in the US awaiting permission from Switzerland to fly over so I could marry my fiancé. The problem was I had no idea when I might receive my Swiss visa, which made it impractical to look for work, not that anyone was hiring amidst the global pandemic. One day the light bulb went off and I suddenly had the idea to start a company that would make outdoor gear for dogs. This pursuit gave me a sense of purpose, so I sectioned my day into various tasks and disciplined myself as best I could to dive into research. “How to start a business…” Business plans, licenses, LLC’s, C-Corps, Sole-Proprietorships, Swiss Regulations, US Regulations, EU Regulations, etc. I researched the process of manufacturing a physical product, how to research and find a factory, how to design a tech pack, and how to build a website. I even studied photography and social media marketing.
It has been a whirlwind—at times overwhelming—a bit like trying to fly the plane while building it. I have learned a lot along the way, and the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. Still, we have come a long way, and now we have our first physical prototype for the Moab Lite daypack in hand and in testing. We still haven't finalized color schemes, so if you have a preference, be sure to contact us and let us know. The prototype uses neutral colors simply because they are easier to work with while we still make adjustments to the measurements and sewing patterns. While there are some small adjustments to be made, this first run seems promising and I am excited to see where the project goes from here. Ultimately, the goal is to expand to have a range of products all curtailed to outdoor enthusiasts and search and rescue teams. But we have to start somewhere, so for now, this is our first ambition: a doggo day pack/harness—ultralight, waterproof, ergonomic. So stay tuned for more updates and feel free to reach out and contact us with any questions or comments. Happy trails and happy tails.
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