How We Got Here

The story of how we got here. Told by Summiteer's founder, Ethan Thomas.

In the summer of 2016 I was sat in a canoe on Windermere after a tiring day of teaching 12 year olds how to paddle in a straight line, when I got an alarming phone call from back home.

“Twelve enormous boxes have been dumped in our tiny house! What’s going on? I’ve had to pay ‘customs fees?’ out of our joint account”

Truth be told I’d forgotten all about it. About two months previously I’d stayed up late, designing and speccing sleeping bags, trawling through blogs and websites trying to find out how one goes about manufacturing this sort of thing. Eventually I found a suitable factory, that seemed to have a good ethic and a detailed knowledge of their down supply. After a few conversations (with the factory, not my partner) I maxed out my credit card and placed the largest order I could. I then went to bed and continued with my life for the next two months. 

“Don’t worry, everything’s fine, I’ll sort it!”

I raced home.

I managed to explain that our house was now a distribution factory, whenever you answered the house phone you now had to say “Hello, Summiteer” in case it was a customer and there was a good chance I might end up bankrupt. Summiteer was formed.

Looking back on it things have come on quite a bit in a short space of time, and there have been many milestones in the company as it grew into something a little more special. March 2017 was a real turning point, when I took a rucksack we had designed out to China. The idea was to find a factory, but my eyes were about to be opened to a whole new world. The most embarrassing moment in my life was standing in a dark factory in a suit looking at 13 year old children on sewing machines, watching them sew rucksacks with some rather recognisable brand names on them. The prices they were offering were unbelievable, and their quality was superb, but the looks on the worker’s faces said it all. I left feeling ashamed to be a part of the industry. It became clear throughout the visit that cheap products meant unethical labour practices. Eventually we did find a lovely factory willing to make our rucksacks. I was over the moon to have found somewhere with such a great working environment and attention to detail. The extra cost was worth it. I was just about to sign on the dotted line for a contract with this supplier when I had a sudden epiphany. I’d been walking around the whole week holding a rucksack made back at home in Cumbria in my very unit. And it was rather good as well! The moment I arrived home I bought an old industrial sewing machine, worked on my sewing ability and associated myself with anyone and everyone who knew anything about stitching. The next nine months were spent converting my storage unit into a rucksack factory!

I’d always been conscious of the issues surrounding our planet. It became clear that companies were starting to claim to do things that were ‘environmentally friendly’. However rarely is anything a human does environmentally friendly. The term environmentally conscious seemed to fit better. I began to wonder how environmentally conscious a company like mine could be. After all it was the beauty of the environment that sold my products. What could I give back to it? I researched a lot and before long came to the conclusion that a large chunk of organisations were trying to correct their ways, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on new manufacturing processes and policies. However as a new company I was in a fortunate position to start on a good footing. With this in mind I came up with some basic guidelines for running the company. These are outlined in our Environmental Policy and Ethics page.

So here we are today. A small team based on the edge of the Lake District with a passion for our products and the environment in which we use them. We’re riding a wave of change in the industry that I hope will be taken on by an increasing number of companies, and something we can pursue further as we continue to grow.