Denver-based Mile High Mountaineering is one of the newer outdoor companies on the scene. If you haven’t heard of it yet, there’s a good chance you soon will. Founded in 2009 by a pair of 20-something college grads who decided, rather than struggling to find jobs in a bad economy, they’d branch out on their own. Jeff Popp and Casey Lorenzen believed there was a niche to be filled in the world of high-end backpack designs, and they aimed to fill it with some innovative new ideas. Since releasing its first line of packs in 2011, MHM has turned a profit every year and continues to grow, said Lorenzen, the company’s vice president.
“We got a lot of good PR right off the bat with our company,” he told High Gear recently. “Since then the response has been great. We’re slowly building our retailer base.”
With the announcement that — as of July — the company’s packs would be available in REI stores, that growth looks like it’s on track to continue.
“We’re excited about it,” Lorenzen said. “REI is kind of the go-to for everyone in Denver proper.”
From their big and burly 80-liter pack to smaller daypacks — around 20 liters — the main focus behind the designs is a combination of comfort and practicality.
“We’ve heard from many people that these are the most comfortable packs they’ve tried,” Lorenzen said of MHM’s integrated shoulder strap and hip-belt suspension system.
Each pack is designed with the shoulder straps and hip belt connected directly to the frame, allowing it to move with the body of the person carrying it.
In reviewing a few MHM packs, however — the Divide 55, the Salute and the Powder Keg — we were more impressed by the efficient pocket and zipper designs.
“Accessibility is a huge key for us,” Lorenzen said. “We try to make it easy on the user when they’re packing and unpacking .”
From dual zippers that unzip all the way to the top of the larger packs — making both sides fully accessible — to an innovative S-shaped zipper in the smaller rigs — like the Salute — that emphasis is clear. Gear can be reached from either the bottom or the top, but beyond that most of the packs can be opened so wide that they can essentially be laid out flat on the ground to access all gear within. The larger packs also have a separate waterproof pouch at the bottom that’s great for either a sleeping bag or dirty laundry. Beyond its backpacking and day packs, MHM also has a line of backcountry ski and snowboard packs — the 32-liter Powderkeg and the soon-to-be-released 22-liter Slay.
We haven’t had a chance to look at some of the newer smaller daypacks, but we’ve been pretty impressed by what we’ve seen so far.