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The Complete Kelty History

Kelty Heritage

The Kelty Story

Since 1952, Kelty has built affordable, reliable outdoor gear that enables everyone, from the first-time camper to the experienced mountaineer, to embrace any experience with confidence. Kelty: Go Anywhere.
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.
1953: Sales triple
Kelty sells 90 back packs.
1954: Sales more than double
Sales increase to 220 packs this year.
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.
1962: Retail and mail order
Keltyís retail and mail-order divisions are moved to a larger building on Victory Blvd.
1963: Mt. Everest expedition
Kelty packs are used exclusively on the first American ascent of the West Ridge of Mt. Everest.
1965: Rain covers
Backpack rain covers are introduced.
1966: Antarctica Expedition
Kelty packs are used on the National Geographic Antarctica expedition.
1968: New factory
Kelty's production facility is moved to a new factory in Sun Valley, California.
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.
1970: First quick-release buckle
Dick Kelty designs and produces the first stainless steel, quick-release waist belt buckle used on a back pack.
1971: Daypacks
Kelty produces two models of daypacks.
1972: CML, Inc.
Boston-based CML, Inc. purchases Kelty, and Dick remains chairman through CMLís six years of ownership.
1973: "Full-feature" packs
Kelty introduces the Tioga and Serac packs, the first new designs since the early 1950ís.
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.
1974: Internal frame pack
Kelty introduces its 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.
1975: First Kelty clothing
Kelty introduces down-insulated jackets and special-make-up, Kelty-labeled down sleeping bags.  Kelty packs are used on the American ascent of K2.
1977: 25th Anniversary
Kelty celebrates its 25th anniversary and introduces the Sonora frame pack, a full-feature pack featuring a front- and top-opening main compartment.
1978: Waterproof/breathable clothing
Kelty produces their first Gore-Tex clothing. Introduction of six new models of daypacks and the first adjustable-frame kidsí packs, the 4/C and 4/D.
1979: American Recreation Products
American Recreation Products purchases Kelty. Additional pieces of menís and womenís Gore-Tex clothing are added to the line.
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.
1982: Dick Kelty's Signature 30th Anniversary Pack
An anniversary pack is introduced, featuring Dickís 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.
1987: First women's catalog
Kelty produces its first womenís-specific catalog, highlighting internal and external packs, along with sleeping bags designed for women.
1988: Radial Pack
Kelty introduces 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.
1990: Family camping
Kelty enters the family camping business with rectangular sleeping bags and family-sized tents.
1992: 40th Anniversary Pack
Kelty celebrates its 40th year in business with the special 40th Anniversary Tioga Radial pack. Kelty produces its first KIDS line of child carriers.
1994: Kid Carriers
The child carrier line expands to three carriers.
1996: Grateful Dead
Through a licensing agreement, Kelty produces 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.
1998: Pangaea Travel
The Pangaea line of travel packs, luggage and accessories is launched. Kelty moves its headquarters to Boulder, Colorado.
1999: Kid Carrier expansion
The Kid Carrier line is expanded to six models plus a complete assortment of accessories including a kidís play tent, a sleeping bag, and travel gear.
2000: Clothing
Kelty introduces a new complete line of clothing including mountain wear, rain wear, wind wear, down-filled and fleece.
2001: Hydration Packs and Jogging Strollers
Keltyís first hydration packs are produced. These new pack come with bladders included. The KIDS line is expanded with three new models of jogging strollers.
2002: 50th Anniversary Pack
Kelty commemorates its 50th anniversary with a special-edition frame pack. The KIDS line introduces a completely redesigned line of kid carriers and accessories.
2004: Dick Kelty passes away
Dick Kelty passes away at age 84 in Glendale, California.
2005: Camouflage
Kelty adds camouflage fabric to internal, external, and daypacks.
Kelty is still making the quality packs you have grown to know.
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Copyright © 1983-2016 Highland Hiker
Highland Hiker is a full service outdoor outfitter located in Highlands, NC. Choose from your favorite brand names such as Anuschka, Barbour, Bertucci Watches, Boker, Brunton Optics & Gear, CamelBak, CliC Readers, Deuter, Eagle Creek Travel Gear, ExOfficio, Filson, Gransfors Bruks, Kelty, Mephisto, Mountain Khaki, Mulholland Brothers Luggage, Nikon Optics, Ojai, Patagonia, Pelican Coast Neckwear, Petzl, Sage Fly Rods, St. Moritz Watches, Simms Fishing, Sun Company, Surefire Flashlights, Suunto Watches, Swarovski Optik, The North Face, Tommy Bahama Watches, and many more. We outfit for travellers, hikers, campers, fly fishermen, and most other outdoor enthusiasts. Be sure to stop by when you are in the Highlands & Cashiers area of Western North Carolina. There are plenty of area trails to hike and beautiful waterfalls to see.