|From its beginnings in a Christchurch family garage, Macpac has developed into one of the world’s most trusted manufacturers of top quality outdoor equipment and clothing.
In 1973, 19-year-old Bruce McIntyre left university after a year of studying psychology, sociology and political science. His vision: Simply to make backpacks that were better and cheaper than what else was available.
“I had no capital of my own, but my parents loaned me $2,000 to buy Charlie McCormick's brand (Macpac) and machinery, and they put up their house as collateral so I could secure a $700 overdraft from the bank.”
Bruce started off with his own designs, and a spirit of collaboration. In 1975 a group of young men from the Canterbury Mountaineering Club (CMC) were heading into the South American Andes on an expedition at the time. According to Bruce, “I said I’d make them all backpacks if they’d work with me on the design.
The pack that emerged from this development was New Zealand’s first internal frame climbing pack – the Torre Egger. Many of its features have since been copied around the world; at the time they were new and innovative.
“We had the first bungy cord attached to the packs because one of the guys had said he wanted to attach his crampons to the outside of the pack.”
Other “firsts” included the fabric (a precursor to the legendary AzTec® blend that Macpac still stands by, 33 years on), extendable pack lids, and the pack’s ability to double as a bivvy bag (with your sleeping bag inside, it doubled as a shelter).
He also made customer service a priority for the company, as he wanted it to match the quality of the products. By 1978, sales were growing at 100% a year and Macpac couldn’t keep up with demand. Nevertheless, Bruce headed to Australia to set up the company’s first export market. In 1987, export markets in Holland and Switzerland followed. Distribution in Germany and the UK developed soon after.
Macpac’s collaboration between pack designer and experienced mountaineers set an example that Macpac continues to follow today.
The comprehensive testing programme leverages the experience of partners in the mountains who Macpac trusts to push its gear to its limits and beyond.
The company’s design philosophy also places an extremely high value on feedback, not only from athletes and adventurers, but all Macpac customers around the world.
The benefits in this combination of partnership and innovation are seen in hundreds of letters from loyal customers and coverage from gear testers. Some examples of the praise that has been published around the world in 2007 alone include: “Britain’s Toughest Test,” by UK’s Trail magazine, awarded Macpac’s Vamoose child carrier BEST IN TEST among tough international competition.
In the US, the popular Backpacker Gear Guide rated Macpac’s Epic 300SF READER APPROVED “Lightest Three Season” Sleeping Bag. “Australia’s Toughest Test,” published by Outdoor magazine, rated leading brand sleeping bags and gave Macpac’s Latitude 500 first place. The same publication also called Macpac’s new Tuatara 20 “Worker’s Choice” for being an ideally-featured daypack for commuting
Despite being a business that was not only New Zealand led but New Zealand-made for nearly 30 years, in 2001, McIntyre faced the most difficult of decisions – moving production offshore.
“Staff knew we had been struggling and were losing money – people weren’t angry, they came up and hugged me and told me how sorry they felt for me. In fact, some of them were grateful we had tried to keep it going for so long.”
These values are shared by thousands of Macpac customers, who appreciate that what is best for them - long-lasting gear - is also best for the environment.