Brand Close-Up: Kush Climbing
The outdoor industry is starting to embrace sustainability, recycled materials, and environmentally friendly manufacturing techniques. Denver based Kush Climbing was founded by husband and wife team Kyle and Kim Vines to produce hand-made crash pads and climbing bags utilizing 100% organic hemp fibers and recycled deep-sea fishing nets. The pads also feature high-quality custom graphics printed directly on the hemp canvas. “We’ve always imagined a bunch of pads together and create one big piece of art.” Says Kyle. Along with their sustainable manufacturing, the Vines have also taken a page from the Patagonia playbook, donating 2% of their sales to environmental and non-profit causes. They recently launched a Kickstarter to boost their rapidly growing company.
Featured Product: The OG Kush Pad
The OG Kush Pad is the first crash pad made of lightweight, durable, and sustainable hemp, a manufacturing process that drastically reduces CO2 emissions, sources all materials locally, and creates a fabric that is tough, yet also easy to carry, weighing at only 13 pounds. The foldable multi-layered open and closed-cell foam pads are completely customizable utilizing digital printing techniques, to create unique designs in collaboration with local international artists.
Interview With Founder Kyle Vines
Gearographer: What are the goals that Kush Climbing wants to achieve?
Kyle Vines: We want to bring sustainable gear options to the climbing community. We’d like to keep wild places wild for a long time to come. We also like seeing art installations in the outdoors. Giving back to the community is a huge part of why we started our own company. We give 2% of our sales to charity: 1% for the environment and 1% to social causes. Only in starting our own business are we capable of making the type of impact that we’ve always wanted to.
Gearographer: What advantage does the company have over its more famous counterparts?
KV: We have a direct line of communication with the people we serve. We are dirtbags. We park near crags and at gyms with the community that we are producing gear for. We listen to their wants and needs, which are usually the same as our own, and work hard to make it happen.
Gearographer: How do you market your brand without a large advertising budget?
KV: We use the hell out of Instagram and most of our first customer came from IG. We showcase our brand and ethos in a visual way. This is perfect since we make products that are graphic intensive. We also had a booth at the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail. This was huge for us. We were near the World Cup wall. There we were able to connect with folks in person, allowing those who had seen us online to interact with our products. We also give out a ton of stickers and are always down to talk shop or share stories. By far the most important and biggest thing has been being a part of the community that we serve. We live it every day and spread the word as much as possible.
Gearographer: How do you inspire your users not only to purchase your product, but also to venture out and use it?
KV: We have a unique product. We are the first crash pad made of hemp and the first to allow fully custom printing. We hope that our passion for climbing, lowering our environmental impact and love of creative pursuits speak to members of the climbing community. And we hope that people are inspired by the opportunity to showcase art in wild spaces. We can’t wait to see photos of real works of art stacked under boulders, ready to catch your falls.
Gearographer: How can a company make gear more affordable without sacrificing quality?
KV: Taking the time to figure out the most efficient manufacturing process has been huge. By front loading the work and testing assumptions about the process we have been able to whittle away at cost before getting to bulk ordering and full production. When you’re a team to two dirtbags on a shoestring budget, intricate planning and testing is the most affordable and efficient option.
Gearographer: How can the company appeal to casual outdoor enthusiasts as well as niche users?
KV: We make goods that are multifunctional. Gear is an investment, so we want it to be used as often as possible. We want you to sit on our crash pads at home and around campfire. We want our pads to be shoved under tents on camping trips for more comfortable sleeping situations outdoors. People who don’t boulder have stated that they want to use our pads for a range of purposes from camping mattresses to dog beds. Boulderers know that this would be the case anyways. We also make chalk buckets that act as fanny packs, and duffel bags that are perfect for the gym and beyond. All of our products are designed to meet our sustainability and creative standards and made to be used every day.
Gearographer: How does Kush Climbing maintain environmental ethics?
KV: We’ve walked this path from the beginning. Using the most sustainable materials available, sourcing locally to avoid products being shipped over long distances, and using our scrap materials in producing other products are a few of the ways we achieve our standards of sustainability. There is alway more that we can do and we strive to lower our environmental impact and carbon footprint every day. We also volunteer for trail maintenance at local climbing spots and always stay on trail and pack out any trash we find while exploring wild spaces. It is a constant work and totally worth the effort.
Gearographer: What is the best way for consumers to interact with Kush Climbing?
KV: Hit us up on Instagram (#climbkush) we’ll put an animal head on you, if you’re into that type of thing. Or come say hi when you see us at the crag or an event. We are always down to swap stories and talk shop. If you see our big orange 1976 RV (Big Bertha) knock on the door. We usually have cold beer and at least a few stickers to share. And the door of our shop in Denver is always open. If you’re in town and want to see where we work, come on in.
Gearographer: Why do you think indie outdoor brands are becoming much more common now?
KV: In a sharing economy it is much easier to visualize the success of your endeavors. People understand that they have to be the change they want to see. The hard part is having the drive and determination to make it happen. Entrepreneurship is a constant grind and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Gearographer: What is your company planning in the next year?
KV: We are working on bringing a full line of products to market. We want to let everyone in the climbing community know that we are here to do some good. We’re scaling up and building our business. We also want to get to Outdoor Retailer next summer. We’d love to show the big boys in the industry what we are all about. But mostly we are here to spread good vibes, climb hard, and make quality gear. We’ll be doing those three things all year.
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