A familiar theme emerged when we talked to eight of the people at the reins of the premier family-owned-and-run outdoor gear companies in America. "It all began as a hobby," says Hal Stephens, speaking of his father’s interest in scuba diving, the ignition for a business that early on sold a single diving flashlight – and over 35 years became now a multi-million dollar tactical lighting company the younger Stephens now runs. "It wasn't overnight, of course. there were quite a few hard knocks on the way."
In fact, each of these companies, from a bootmaker whose wares last for decades, to a paddle-crafter working in high-tech carbon fiber, in some part spun out of a free-time pursuit. These families aren’t making widgets to fill some blank space in the product universe; they’re making the gear they’d want to use go to out and explore the world in the open air on Saturday and Sunday. We talked to each of these leaders about their company’s heritage, and one product which evinces it best.
Princeton Tec Vizz Headlamp
While Princeton Tec's best lights of the 1970s were made for underwater use, one of its signature models out now is made for adventurers hoofing it on land. "The Vizz combines a bunch of technologies we've developed in-house, including everything from how it efficiently dissipates heat, to the ability to cycle through every mode we've ever done," says Stephens (that includes a high powered 150-lumen long throw spot, dimmable flood beam, and red LEDs for close range use). Three AAA batteries power it for up to 150 hours, and a compact size and weight of 92 grams make it supremely packable. When worst comes to worst: a waterproof rating of IPX7 allows the American-made Vizz to keep the trail lit even in torrential rain.