GEORGE LAMB is the man behind all three companies. He is seen here in a July, 2008 picture taken by John Rutkowski; the occasion was a conference about the classic gear companies held in Boulder, Colorado on July 18-19 (more material about this important conference will be included later, some on this page, some on the pages about others relevant companies that were represented, such as Holubar, Frostline, GERRY, Forrest, Neptune Mountaineering, etc..
Mr. Lamb was a very major gear pioneer who did work for several of the early pioneering companies from the Boulder area. References firmly place him connected to the early days of GERRY, Frostline Kits, and Holubar, and also with Wiggys (a company still existing that is one of the world's largest sleeping bag manufacturers)....Like the founders of most of the other Boulder pioneering companies, Mr. Lamb was a climber in his own right; one of his most memorable ascents was a first ascent of the Pigeon in the Bugaboo Mountains of Canada.
OUTDOOR RETAILERS PIONEERS AWARDS, 1992
And let's not forget that Lamb was selected as one of the distinguished group of 12 greatest gear pioneers, honored at the 1992 Outdoor Retailers Pioneers ceremony in Reno, Nevada (This was very special, not an annual event). The other luminaries of gear included Alice and Roy Holubar; Mr. L.L. Bean; Jack Stephenson of Warmlite; Lloyd Anderson, REI founder; George Rudolf, Ski Hut/Trailwise; Dick Kelty, of Kelty Packs; Colin Fletcher; Eddie Bauer; Jim Whittaker, Everest climber; Al Steck, Ski Hut designer/climber. (many of these names and their companies are covered in more detail; see my main page here)
SKI CLOTHING skiwear
PIONEER in skiwear, 1959. Most of the founders of the early companies were climbers and backpackers, not downhill skiers. And the earliest founders grew up in times/places before there were downhill ski areas. Gerry Cunningham was an exception; growing up in Upstate New York, which was one of the earliest places in America to have any downhill skiing, Gerry famously invented and sold crude climbing skins in 1938 to help the slidding-backward downhill skiers of that distant time, who had, at best, clunky rope tows.
So in 1959, put together three mega-talented designers in the design room of Gerry Mountaineering Co. and watch downhill ski clothing be born. It was the team of George Lamb, Gerry Cunningham and Dale Johnson. Gerry told Julie Johnnson in a 1986 interview, regarding a product picture in his Summer/Fall 1959 catalog: "That is the first quilted ski jacket that Dale [Johnson] and Goody [George Lamb] made me produce. If Dale and George hadn't gone into the ski jacket business, I'd never [have] gotten into it." By the time the1964 Olympics in Innsbruck rolled around, a bright-colored GERRY "Slope Coat" ski parka was seen everywhere in the TV coverage because the American Olympic Committee had selected it for their own use. It was a unique design, extremely long in length and with unusual fasteners where you'd expect a zipper to be.
Please Note: All Material on this page, and in all my "History of Gear" webpages, is copyrighted, and no usage of my material is permitted unless explicit permission is granted by me, Bruce B. Johnson, owner of OregonPhotos.com. Much of the material below is derived from interviews and/or correspondence with George Lamb, founder of all three companies. Other of this material is from Gerry Cunningham and Julie Johnson, the wife of Dale Johnson of Frostline. Also included: some ex-Holubar employees, and from Mr. Jerry Wigutow of Wiggys...... Editors: Please contact me at oldgear@Oregonphotos.com --if you have interest in publishing....Others: if you were involved with one of the old-line, vintage gear companies and have a story to tell in these pages, please contact me soon.
Alp Sport was the first of the companies Mr. Lamb created, and that was in about 1960. At the time he was a poor college student with his first child, living in a mobile home. The business was located in a lean-to affair on side of the trailer. He had formerly worked for Gerry Cunningham as a pack maker because he had the area's only Pfaff walking foot sewing machine, great for sewing gorgeous leather pack bottoms, for example. Later, Lamb became Mr. Cunningham's "Factory Manager."
After several years of success with Alp Sport, the company was renamed into "Alpine Designs" when it was bought up by Jon Hinebauch and partner Rick Jay, with Mr. Lamb becoming a sort of high-level employee. (Hinebauch later owner of Altra Kits, and Mr. Jay got the patent for "LangeFlow.") ...The 1978 Alpine Designs catalog sport a nice lineup of "Alpine Designs" down garments, with available Goretex shells, and with an address still in Boulder, Colorado
Camp 7: Later, after the sale of Alpine Designs to a corporation called General Recreation, Inc. of Ithaca, New York, Mr. Lamb rested for a moment and then created his final company, Camp 7, in the very early 1970s....During this time frame, Holubar's leader, Jim Kack, built a new manufacturing plant right next to the existing Alp Sport plant and some interesting stories resulted. The Alp Sport label picture is probably the first, original company label design.
In my conversations with Mr. Lamb, he is especially proud of the sleeping bag designs he created, "We made the best-designed down bag in the business, the most creative, the most functional." In 2008, Mr. Lamb was still alive and living in Colorado, although he reports he has been disconnected from the outdoor gear industry for some 15 years....On a related note, some of Mr. Lamb's designs live on. Mr. Jerry Wigutow, owner and founder of "Wiggys" reported to me that many of his sleeping bag designs are to be directly credited to Mr. Lamb, upon whom Mr. Wigutow heaps praise, "George was the most creative designer the industry ever saw." In relation to Wiggys "Antarctic Parka," Mr. Wigutow adds, "It's George's pattern, I purchased it from him." ....During the mid-late 1970s, Camp 7's very innovative modular sleeping bag system was adopted by Idaho-based Rivendell Mountain Works. George Lamb of course was the original designer behind it. "The System" was composed of an inner down mummy bag named the "Arete, " weight 2 lbs. 5 oz; a removeable vapor barrier liner, and a Polarguard synthetic overbag named the "Pioneer." Any of the three components could be used separately, ie. as a summer bag, ie. as an emergency bivouac sack, etc.....There was no Goretex because The System predates the introduction of Goretex.
Camp 7 was Mr. Lamb's last outdoor gear company. It was begun in 1971. It rapidly rose to about $4 million in sales. Lamb told me that roughly half of his products went to Japan. This led to a financial disaster which brought Camp 7 down. In Lamb's words, "We had a huge amount of already sewn goods ready to ship to Japan, but [unexpectedly] we didn't get our Letter of Credit... I owned the bank $1.65 million... had to liquidate with warehouse sales...[and then additionally]... loyalty didn't really exist among [our] retailers, when they got wind of our trouble they wouldn't buy our product." ..... Mr. Lamb sold everything remaining including his designs to a business named The Sport Chalet in California.. Mr. Lamb himself went on to own a Western tack store "The Horse of Course," based in nearby Longmont, Colorado. Note: a modern gear company having the name "Camp 7" has no connection with the original Camp 7.
Mr. Lamb told me that he had one last gig in the Industry. It was in 1991, when he was hired by Slumberjack as a sleeping bag consultant.
Some of my correspondents now report that the brand "Alpine Designs" can still be found, but the truth is that the high-quality specialness of the brand gradually faded away after it left the hands of George Lamb and went through a variety of later ownerships; eg. the 1976 catalog image to the left proudly sports the Alpine Designs logo, but George Lamb had sold the company several years earlier and the product line and designing no longer had his guidance.
Remarkably different has been the business course of the small custom gearmaker Stephenson's Warmlite, which has survived, and never changed its name or ownership in 40+ years of doing business!
THE FIVE HISTORY OF GEAR BOOKS AND ONE BOOK OF STORIES: Books 1-4 are presented in 8x10 format with choice of hardbound or softbound and all lavishly illustrated with high-quality color images. Books 1-4 can also be ordered directly from me as $15 PDF downloads.... Book 5 is our bargain book, offered in a simple 6x9 inch, black&white format... Book 1: "Frostline of Colorado," updated in 2012 after Dale Johnson, its founder, passed away (Frostline). Book 2: "GERRY, To Live in the Mountains," updated in late 2010 after Mr. Cunningham passed away (GERRY). Book 3: "Holubar Mountaineering, Ltd.," rightly regarded as the inventor of the modern lightweight down sleeping bag, among other honors (Holubar). The Holubar book was lauded in 2012 as one of the year's best "Local History" books at Chautauqua in Boulder, Colorado.... Book 4: "MSR: Defying Tradition, describes Larry Penberthy's often controversial rhetoric as he took on the Climbing Establishment through his Seattle-based Mountain Safety Research company (MSR) (MSR). Book 5: "Warmlite: Still Controversial After All These Years" tells the tale of Stephenson's Warmlite Equipment, with its radically innovative products and boldly notorious nudist founder (Warmlite). All five books feature major contributions from their founders/Presidents or chief personnel. You may order the books directly from my Publisher, and the PDF version directly from me (firstname.lastname@example.org).... My one book of mountain stories is a short and very personal book about spiritual awakenings in the mountains, set up as a Kindle book through Amazon.