Denver-based backpack company Mile High Mountaineering (MHM Gear) won the top prize at the local Something Independent Awards in October; in July, MHM's "Snake-Loader" Salute 34 pack made the cover of the 2013 Backpacker Magazine Gear Guide and also won an Editor's Choice Award. And this week the local brand got its first major international recognition: MHM is among the finalists for the ISPO BrandNew Awards at ISPO Munich, an international sporting goods trade fair scheduled for February 3 through February 6 in Germany. The BrandNew Awards are billed as the world's largest start-up competition in the sporting-goods industry, with a focus on innovative products from brands younger than four years old.
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"You have to send product samples out to Germany and the jury spends a whole day looking at products and voting, so we sent out our Salute pack since it's gotten quite a bit of attention here in the U.S.," says Jeff Popp, MHM's founder, president and product-development manager. "Two years ago we placed second in the public votes but didn't make it past the jury selection to become a finalist, and we'd gotten a sense that there was a bias towards European companies so we'd kind of written it off; we were surprised to get an e-mail the other day telling us we were finalists. As far as we know, we're the only American brand in the mix this year."
As one of the perks of being selected, MHM will get a free booth at the trade show in a special section dedicated to the BrandNew Awards finalists.
"The biggest advantage to this award is a stream-lined easy entrance into the European market," Popp says. "Because of all the recognition and publicity we'll get when we go to Munich, we'll be on the radar of all the media and dealers and distributors in Europe when we go out there. We probably never would have gone out to ISPO as a small brand otherwise, but it's a pretty great opportunity to show off our packs to the rest of the world."
Want to support MHM closer to home while also taking care of the hardy adventurers on your holiday shopping list? Popp says MHM's packs and accessories are available at the I Heart Denver Store at Denver Pavilions, 123Mountain in Lakewood, and Neptune Mountaineering and Moosejaw Mountaineering in Boulder.
Our favorites, after checking out the full line at the Something Independent Awards, were the Salute 34, the PowderKeg 32 backcountry snow pack, and the Colfax "urbaneering" convertible messenger bag/backpack. The full line is available online at MHMGear.com.