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Vargo Outdoors: A Brand for Hikers, by Hikers

While most people have hobbies, only a few can truly make a living off of them. Brian Vargo is one of the lucky few. From humble beginnings, Vargo Outdoors has become one of the more well-known brands in the backpacking, hiking, and ultralight community. 

Their secret: simplicity and titanium.

How It All Started

Vargo banner

One can say that Vargo's founder, Brian Vargo's, journey as a successful business person mirrors that of a thru-hike in that it started with a thru-hike. And like a thru-hike, it took patience and relentlessness before they reached success.

It all started with the Appalachian Trail. Vargo wanted to try finishing that long hike, inspired by the stories he had read.

Of course, as someone who had just discovered it, he let curiosity drive him and devoted himself to learning everything about what it takes to go on such a long journey.  

After some time, he went from owning no gear for backpacking to someone ready to go.

Like all long journeys, the hike changed him. Along the way, he was asking questions, both philosophical and mundane. These questions and the experiences he gained along the way became the building blocks of his next venture.

Sometime after finishing the trail, Vargo founded a website called There, the student became the teacher.

It became a website where people offered and received advice about hiking and backpacking. The result was an outlet to answer some of the questions he had back on the Appalachian Trail, as well as to ask more questions.

After a few years, the website gained considerable traffic, and he started dabbling in e-commerce.

Vargo Outdoors

Brian Vargo, founder of Vargo Outdoors
Founder Brian Vargo

When Vargo started selling camping gear, they did not go with just selling any other camping gear. Instead, they took stock of the gear market and, from there, found a good approach.

The hiking and backpacking community has always had an obsession with keeping things light. It is a necessity, after all; walking through miles and miles is already hard work for the body, and any means to ease the burden is always welcome.

This became Vargo's focus, looking for lighter and more portable products that are also durable. This is where titanium comes in.

Vargo wasn't the first one to use titanium for camping gear. Back in the late 90s, two Japanese brands, Evernew and Snowpeak, already sold simple cookpots made of titanium. With their aforementioned qualities, these became widely popular. However, supply was pretty limited.

Knowing this, Vargo endeavored to fill in that gap. They started small. Some of the first products that they sold included a spork, a stove, and tent stakes. These products also showed Vargo's clear tenets, portability, ease of packing, reliability, and durability. 

These initial products were met with general enthusiasm, and it wasn't long before Vargo's product line grew.

Reaching Even Higher

Hexagon Wood Stove
Hexagon Wood Stove

Seeing success, it is easy for some companies to rest on their laurels and stop growing altogether. Vargo isn't like that. Exploring new niches wherever they may be found, Vargo continued to innovate their products.

From an alcohol stove with an integrated pot stand to a titanium pot that can be turned into a water bottle with just a screw-top lid, new backpack ideas emerged.

Vargo continues to lead the charge in making unique and exciting products that are extremely useful for the camper.

One such product came in the form of the Dig Dig Tool. Despite the silly-sounding name, it is one of their more successful products. 

The tool came to be Vargo's answer for customers asking for a titanium trowel. Not satisfied with selling a simple trowel made up of the material, he labored to think of a unique design that was more than just a trowel.

He developed a unique dual-use tool that serves as a trowel and a tent stake. It has serrated edges that slice through challenging ground and roots, making it more efficient in digging than the usual trowel.

An ergonomic design allows the user to handle it more easily and efficiently, and the rounded handle won't dig into the user's hand.

Not Always an Easy Journey

That said, not all of Vargo's products are met with success. As in thru-hiking, where setbacks can happen or no progress can be made, Vargo has had its fair share of unpopular products that don't sell well. 

Like their line of ultralight external frame packs (some consumers think the design looks old) or their tents (some people are unsure of the design).

Not all their products can be for everybody. However, when they do find their way to the hands of consumers, they will always stand by them.

A Company of Firsts

Vargo banner

These setbacks testify to Vargo's willingness to innovate and tread new ground. While it would be easier to follow trends and sell what's popular, Vargo would rather forgo that and think of something new, creative, and engaging while maintaining their motto of “simple is good, good is simple.”

Maybe it is for this reason that Vargo Outdoors has become a company of firsts. Vargo Outdoor believes that they are the pioneers in:

  • The first titanium alcohol stove.
  • The first to use a strainer-type lid on cookware.
  • The first to create colored titanium sporks.
  • The first to develop a genuine water bottle and cooking pot hybrid.
  • The first to make a titanium wood stove.

Despite this, Vargo Outdoors still is not done. As a company rooted in innovation, it will continue to push forward interesting, simple, and useful products.

Just as hikers are inspired to walk as long as there is a path, Vargo, too, will endeavor to create products as long as a need exists.

You can be sure of that, as Vargo will make gear they are willing to use. After all, Vargo Outdoors is a brand for hikers made by hikers.


This story is brought to you in partnership with Vargo.

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