By Chris Meehan | Dec 15, 2014
Ownership: Private, investor-owned with some employee ownership.
Rapid prototyping and innovative design are inflating sales for Cory Tholl and the company's upstart sleeping pads and outdoor gear.
Klymit's sleeping pads and backpacks use air or inert gases for insulation and comfort. The company is setting itself apart from competitors like sleeping pad behemoth Therm-a-Rest with unique, radical designs, based on its Body Mapping technology and its ability to quickly mock up and test designs locally.
"We developed a proprietary technology where we can design things on the computer and we have a machine here in Centerville, Utah, that can actually weld it all up," says Klymit President Cory Tholl. "We can do iterations of prototyping and testing in a fraction of the time of other companies. That's one of the huge advantages we have."
As a result, Klymit has come out with several award-winning products, like its Inertia X Frame sleeping pad, which is more noticeable for what's not there than what is. The pad has wide 'loft pockets' or gaps between padded areas designed to support the heavier parts of the body, while allowing a sleeping bag's insulation to fill out the open spaces and do its job more effectively.
"When we first started designing camping pads, we were looking at it from a new perspective in terms of how can we rearrange the welds or baffles on a camping pad to make them more comfortable and easier to inflate, so our designs have come out very different looking from other sleeping pads," Tholl says.
"Our Static V that's one of our bestselling pads. People can inflate it in 12 breaths. There's no other camping pad that you can actually inflate that quick and then deflate and get back in your stuff sack that fast," he contends.
The company didn't start out making sleeping pads, however. "Our original technology was incorporated for apparel," Tholl says. "We launched the company in 2009 based on developing and selling inflatable apparel." The apparel used air or argon gas as insulation instead of down or other materials, making lighter and customizable to the weather.
"We knew we had to be able to design products that inflate so we developed our machine," Tholl explains. Next Klymit started looking at other potential products, including more comfortable sleeping pads. "We began developing that and it quickly evolved into this skeleton frame that supported a body without having another pad necessary."
Klymit has expanded further and now makes backpacks with an inflatable frame as opposed to plastic frame sheets. The company also developed a small inflatable boat that campers can carry and use to float or fish with.
The ability to quickly prototype designs in Utah also helps Klymit with manufacturing its products overseas, Tholl says. The company can put a working prototype into the hands of its manufacturing partners overseas, rather than waiting for its partners to develop and send a prototype to Utah based on renderings and specifications.
And Klymit is continuing to innovate. "We're expanding our backpack line into day-use packs and we're adding a unique addition to our sleeping pad line," Tholl says. "I can't reveal too many things, but those will be debuting in the next few weeks or so." He anticipates that the new products will be shown at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in January.
Currently the bulk of Klymit's sales are in specialty outdoor stores in the U.S. "We have a small presence in REI in their A-line stores and online. We're growing it. We're very excited about what's happening with the small specialty shops as well. At the core of who we are is the specialty mom-and-pop stores where we do really good against the big dogs like Therm-a-Rest," Tholl says. The company also is growing in international markets, including Japan, South Korea, Germany, South Africa, and New Zealand.
Challenges: "The growing pains of a smaller company," Tholl says. "Making sure we have inventory. Making sure we can sell it. Making sure we're in a position where we can scale it."
Opportunities: "We're really looking forward to 2015. We see some opportunities to widen our distribution in specialty we're also have some great partnerships with some bigger chains, and then internationally I think there's some more potential," Tholl says.
Needs: "Making sure we have the capital for the growth we're seeing and making sure we're well-stocked," Tholl explains. He adds, "There's a need for greater brand awareness, getting the message out about who we are."