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Our Story

When it comes to our brand, we want you to know that we stand for excitement. For adventure. For products that live up and stand up…because your good times depend on it.

Our goal is to deliver up proven gear that’s innovative, uncomplicated and built to last. We’re there for those of you seeking good times, adventure and gear that brings it all together. We hope to empower and inspire you to get outside… create memories and fulfill the passion for adventure that we all have.

Because no matter what you’re doing. We will be right there with you… Adventure after Adventure. That’s #KeltyBuilt

Built for the journey.

Built for the moment.

Built for the wild.

Built for explorers.

Built for greatness.

Built for generations.

Built for life.




Kelty Heritage

While spending time outdoors has always created lifelong memories, we’ve been creating gear that lasts for life since 1952. That’s when the Kelty journey began—in our founder Dick’s garage, actually. It’s where he hand crafted and welded the first backpack of many more to come, using aircraft aluminum for frames and wool carpet as shoulder straps. 

Our enduring products have come a long way (thanks to innovation and technology) in the past 60 plus years. Even so, the idea of designing gear that doesn’t just last—but helps everybody enjoy every moment more easily and effortlessly—is still at the heart of what we do. It keeps us going, creating, pursuing and evolving so that every journey you take can be as fun and carefree as the last.

2013: DriDown™ & AirPitch™

DriDown™, the game-changing hydrophobic down insulation, is used for the first time by Kelty in the Ignite DriDown series of sleeping bags.

Kelty introduces the first inflatable tent with the launch of AirPitch Technology , making setup and takedown of tents lightning fast.

2012: Trekking Poles

Offering shock absorption for comfort and telescoping length adjustment for a perfect fit, Kelty enters the trekking pole market with Upland and Ridgeline trekking poles. 

2011: Lighting

The unique and highly functional LumaTwist and LumaPivot lanterns highlight this complete line of camp, outdoor and multifunctional lighting.

2005: Camouflage

We add camouflage fabric to internal, external, and daypacks.

2002: 50th Anniversary Pack

We commemorates our 50th anniversary with a special-edition frame pack. The KIDS line introduces a completely redesigned line of kid carriers and accessories.

2001: Hydration Packs and Jogging Strollers

Our first hydration packs are produced. These new packs come with bladders included. The KIDS line is expanded with three new models of jogging strollers.

2000: Clothing

We introduce a new complete line of clothing including mountain wear, rain wear, wind wear, down-filled and fleece.

1999: Kid Carrier expansion

The Kid Carrier line is expanded to six models plus a complete assortment of accessories including a kid’s play tent, a sleeping bag, and travel gear.

1998: Pangaea Travel

The Pangaea line of travel packs, luggage and accessories is launched. We move our headquarters to Boulder, Colorado.

1996: Grateful Dead

Through a licensing agreement, we produce a line of Grateful Dead products, including a day pack, a fanny pack, and a leather briefcase. A diaper day pack and accessory items are added to the KIDS line.

1994: Kid Carriers

The child carrier line expands to three carriers. The Panda, Koala and Kangaroo all featured Safety, Comfort and Ease of Use.

1992 Kelty KIDS Introduces Child Carriers

In 1992, we entered the kid carrying business with the "Kelty Child Carrier". This iconic pack was built around a tubular aluminum frame. This kid carrier was based on the classic Kelty pack design proven in 40 years of wilderness use.

1990: Family camping

We enter the family camping business with rectangular sleeping bags and family-sized tents.

1988: Radial Pack

We proudly introduce the radically designed Radial external frame pack and the Windfoil series of tents. The 1988 catalog was produced in support of the World Wildlife Fund.

1987: First women's catalog

Wanting to deliver up products and fit that are specific to women, we launch our first women’s-specific catalog, highlighting internal and external packs, along with sleeping bags designed for women.

1982: Dick Kelty's Signature 30th Anniversary Pack

An anniversary pack is introduced, featuring Dick’s embroidered signature on the label, complete with rain cover and fanny pack. The first Kelty travel-pack series, synthetic sleeping bags, and tents are all introduced.

1981: Kelty Luggage

Eleven pieces of luggage are introduced. Now six styles of internal frame packs and eight styles of external frame packs are in the Kelty line. The color blue is added to the pack line.

1979: American Recreation Products

American Recreation Products purchases Kelty. Additional pieces of men’s and women’s Gore-Tex clothing are added to the line.

1978: Waterproof/breathable clothing

We produce our first Gore-Tex clothing. Introduction of six new models of daypacks and the first adjustable-frame kids’ packs, the 4/C and 4/D.

1977: 25th Anniversary

We celebrate our 25th anniversary and introduces the Sonora frame pack, a full-feature pack featuring a front- and top-opening main compartment.

1975: First Kelty clothing

We introduce down-insulated jackets and special-make-up, Kelty-labeled down sleeping bags.  Kelty packs are used on the American ascent of K2.

1974: Internal frame pack

We introduce our first internal frame packs, the Ruck Sack; the Haul Pack; and the "Tour Pack," which sells for 49 dollars. Down booties and dog packs are also added. Standard D-4 and A-4 external frame packs get padded waist belts.

1973: "Full-feature" packs

Kelty introduces the Tioga and Serac packs, the first new designs since the early 1950’s.

The new packs feature a fully padded, one-piece waistbelt, larger-capacity bag, covered zippers, waterproof fabric, and a new cam-lock buckle. The Serac features a covered sleeping bag compartment. Additional daypacks are also added to the line.

1972: CML, Inc.

Boston-based CML, Inc. purchases Kelty, and Dick remains chairman through CML’s six years of ownership.

1971: Daypacks

Kelty produces two models of daypacks.

1970: First quick-release buckle

Dick Kelty designs and produces the first stainless steel, quick-release waist belt buckle used on a back pack.

1969: Non-green packs

The new BB5 pack is introduced in red with a large main compartment and five outside pockets. Kelty also brings to market the air mattress, camp pillow, nylon-covered sleeping pad, and rain poncho.

1968: New factory

Kelty's production facility is moved to a new factory in Sun Valley, California.

1966: Antarctica Expedition

Kelty packs are used on the National Geographic Antarctica expedition.

1965: Rain covers

Backpack rain covers are introduced.

1963: Mt. Everest expedition

Kelty packs are used exclusively on the first American ascent of the West Ridge of Mt. Everest.

1962: Retail and mail order

Kelty’s retail and mail-order divisions are moved to a larger building on Victory Blvd.

1956: Kelty, full-time

Dick Kelty quits his carpentry business to focus on Kelty Packs full-time. He buys an old barber shop and opens his first retail store and "factory" in Glendale, California.

1954: Sales more than double

Sales increase to 220 packs this year.

1953: Sales triple

Kelty sells 90 back packs.

1952: Kelty Pack is born

After several years of making packs in his home garage for friends, Dick sells 29 packs in his first year of business for 24 dollars each. Dick hand-forms and welds each of the frames, and his wife, Nena, sews each of the pack bags. Kelty packs first include aircraft-aluminum contoured frames, padded shoulder straps, waist belts, clevis-pin attachment of pack bags, nylon pack cloth, zippered pockets, hold-open frames, and nylon back bands. The first shoulder straps were produced using wool carpeting for padding. The original clevis pins were made from aircraft rivets.


When it comes to supporting those who encourage outdoor adventure or preserving our natural space for exploration, we can’t help ourselves but to get involved… in a big way.

There a many amazing organizations that we are proud to be part of, and here are a few that you may be interested in learning more about:

The Conservation Alliance

The Conservation Alliance is a group of outdoor industry companies that disburses its collective annual membership dues to grassroots environmental organizations. All of their funding works to protect threatened wild habitat, preferably where outdoor enthusiasts recreate. As founding members of The Alliance, we continue to do everything we can to encourage participation and exploration of nature.

As of 2015, The Alliance has helped save more than 44 million acres of wildlands; protect 2,945 miles of rivers; stop or remove 26 dams; designate five marine reserves; and purchase 10 climbing areas. We’d like to encourage you to support and learn more about The Conservation Alliance.

Big City Mountaineers

Big City Mountaineers transforms the lives of under-served urban youth through wilderness mentoring expeditions that instill critical life skills. We are committed to gearing up these youth with Kelty Built equipment so that they are left with great memories. BCM trips have been proven to improve integrity, self- esteem, responsibility, decision-making abilities and communication skills in close to 1,000 youth annually. Exposing at-risk youth to the outdoors provides a foundation that serves to help them thrive.