Local backpack manufacturer Mystery Ranch is re-launching Kletterwerks — the first line of packs designed and built by founder Dana Gleason — today, 37 years after the line began.
Originally conceived as climbing gear, the new Kletterwerks line was redesigned as a lifestyle product by one of Gleason’s sons, Dana Gleason III, known as D3.
D3 came to the project as a part of re-examining his past as a way to more fully understand the name his father passed down to him. Kletterwerks is an integral part of Gleason’s past as the first set of packs he made, a big step down the path he followed before creating Mystery Ranch.
D3 cut his teeth as a designer by — as his father says — fixing mistakes in the older
Gleason’s pack designs.
He saw that a lot of his father’s “skills and his different tricks” started in these packs, making it easy and natural to go back and adopt the packs, D3 said. It is something where they’re so simple and they’re very beautiful. It was something I wanted to improve on and play with,” said D3, who began working with the company after high school.
Kletterwerks began in 1975 after Gleason moved to Bozeman from South Dakota, where he primarily worked selling packs but also inspected and repaired German packs. The line was designed in about two weeks and soon enough demand led Gleason to move from working out of his home to a shop above Schnee’s downtown location.
This line is utterly emblematic of Bozeman. Every pack and every piece of gear I’ve built has had Bozeman, Montana, next to the company name,” Gleason said. “And we started that with Kletterwerks.”
Dana Gleason left the company after disagreements with a business partner and went on to start a few other pack-related businesses before founding Mystery Ranch, while the original Kletterwerks Company eventually went out of business.
The new line of Kletterwerks packs is a new line under the Mystery Ranch company umbrella, rather than its own independent company, explained D3, the line’s head designer.
KW was launched initially in Japan this March. Gleason said it has sold out already and the second shipment, which went out in May, is nearly sold out as well.
The company partnered with Schnee’s to sell this new line of packs in its Main Street store. Given the company’s history working above Schnee’s and the way it manufactures gear in the Gallatin Valley, both Gleason’s felt the partnership fit well.
It is great seeing it launched and to go on and being pushed by D3 here,” Gleason said. “It’s one of the privileges of my life to have that carry on.”