Summer Intern Kieran Lenssen ’18 Designs Outdoor Gear for Madden Equipment in Boulder, CO

This summer has consisted of the rebirth of an outdoor gear company, Madden Equipment in Boulder, Colorado. Established in the 1970’s, Madden Equipment became known for their high-quality backpacks that were originally created for the Outward Bound schools but evolved into everyday backpacks and gear for everyone. Lafuma, a French brand, bought the company in the late 1990s. Mike, a Madden Equipment employee in the 1980’s and 1990’s, recently bought Madden Equipment back from Lafuma; after a ten-year hibernation, Madden Equipment is prepared to return.

Although most of my work is confidential because products have not been released yet, I am able to outline little bits here. The company’s new website will launch in the next few weeks and then products will be available once again.

For a company that has been inactive for a decade, the excitement surrounding the rebirth can be felt. Every day, Madden Equipment gets emails from customers raving about their packs built in the 80’s and 90’s, wondering if they can buy a new one or replace a part. The Madden Equipment community has shown that even though we have been dormant, they are still present and proud to use our gear. It has been really incredible to see people using the timeless bags every day in Boulder; even though some bags are over 20 years old, they still are highly functional, fashionable, useable, and popular.

My main job for the summer has been designing and acting as a product manager for products that are set to be released in Spring 2018. It takes a long time for a product to go from an idea to the consumer’s hands because we have to collect materials, create patterns, build prototypes at the office (and at the factory), continue the tradition of having every pack be made in the USA, and prepare the factory for full production.

That said, this busy summer has held much more than just designing new products for next spring. My summer began with a thirteen-hour photoshoot in Denver, where we finished getting all of the product photographs for the new website (this was apparently the third day photographing). Last week we began shipping large amounts of inventory to a distributor (I can’t release the name quite yet…) along with preparing a shipment to Japan for next month. Another exciting aspect of Madden Equipment has been the large community in Europe and other foreign countries.

Overall, in the first weeks at Madden Equipment, I have come to understand how complicated the outdoor gear world is: everything we design and test has to be so deeply thought out. Every material, dimension, and limitation must be not just considered but precisely detailed. For the rest of the summer, I will wrap up a product-package to be sent to the factory in the next week, continue to work on other new products, help ship and package, take photographs of our gear to use in articles, and continue to learn so much more in the industry of outdoor equipment.

If you want to check out Madden Equipment, here is the website! Keep checking it and it will be running soon!

Experiences like Kieran’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Internship Coordinator Victoria Wolff.

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