Eagle Creek comes to town, becomes Steamboat’s 21st outdoor gear brand
Eagle Creek, a long-established name in the adventure travel gear business, is making Steamboat Springs its new home under the leadership of a familiar face.
“It is a business that is in the space that I’ve dedicated my life to — what I call the broader outdoor industry,” said Steamboat resident Travis Campbell, who purchased Eagle Creek from VF Corp. on Sept. 3 and plans to move the company’s headquarters to Steamboat. “To be able to have the control to essentially locate, or headquarter, in what is now my hometown is fabulous.”
Travis said he will be transitioning the business to Steamboat over the next six months.
“That means I have to staff up between today and that window of time to be able to do everything we need to do,” Campbell said.
Campbell is already lining up a space that will provide a combination office and warehouse for Eagle Creek. He said the warehouse will primarily be used for samples and marketing.
He expects to hire 20 to 30 employees in the next 18 months, but how many of those employees are based in Steamboat and how many will work remotely is yet to be determined.
“If I could snap my fingers or wave a magic wand, I would want everybody here in person because I like the energy of having everybody together,” Campbell said. “But I think the practical reality is that we won’t be able to have all of our people in town.”
Campbell served as president of Smartwool, which was based in Steamboat at the time, from February 2017 to July 2018 before leaving to become general manager at Americas for The North Face, another VF company. He stayed in that role until March 2020 when he became president of VF’s Emerging Brands portfolio, a position he held until August.
“VF had come to the conclusion that the brand (Eagle Creek) did not make sense in their portfolio anymore, and I think they were going to discontinue operations,” Campbell said. “From my standpoint, I had made the decision to exit VF in kind of a similar window when the decision was made to wind down the business.”
Campbell believes Eagle Creek, which was founded in 1975 in California by Steve and Nona Barker, has a solid reputation for making quality outdoor gear including packs, duffel bags, shoulder bags and waist packs, as well as wheeled luggage and wheeled packs and duffels.
“It is really an outfitter for people’s adventurous travel,” Campbell said.
Campbell said the company also makes different sizes and types of packing cubes that allow people to have a place to organize items like socks, toiletries and dirty cloths.
“A packing cube is really a way of just organizing your travel experience … rather than having a giant duffel bag with all your stuff poured into it you can be a little bit more organized,” Campbell said. “I’ve also been just a little bit amazed at all the stories of how people are using their packing cubes for river trips or in their RV and things like that.”
Campbell said COVID-19 was pretty hard on Eagle Creek, especially in the rolling luggage portion of the business because people were not flying and traveling as much. But the company did well when it came to products for what he calls “close-to-home recreation,” like camping and road tripping.
“My optimistic view is that I was able to buy this business at a low point in global travel, and so as that starts to rebound, I think Eagle Creek is really well positioned to take advantage of that rebound as people start to get back out and travel much more aggressively,” Campbell said.
“He is such an important leader in the community,” said John Bristol, director of economic development for the Steamboat Springs Chamber. “Him previously working at Smartwool and spending time in the community and obviously living here with his family is an important part. It is really thrilling to see what he’s been able to put together, and I’m excited for how it develops and what it means for our community.”
Bristol is also thrilled that the addition of Eagle Creek means there are now 21 outdoor brands that currently call Steamboat home.
“Outside of the Denver-Boulder metropolitan area, we have the highest concentration of outdoor gear brands,” Bristol said. “That’s significant because there’s a talented group of people that live here, and there’s values that align with those kinds of companies and support for public lands and being sustainable.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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