Gossamer Gear started with Glen Van Peski and his wife, Francie, sewing backpacks in their garage more than 20 years ago. While the company has grown a great deal since, that small, family-oriented approach to design has lived on. Each Gossamer Gear product our customers have come to love starts with a father–daughter design team based out of Chico, California: Greg and Carrie Fritsch.

Greg is a creative designer, successful entrepreneur, and bag manufacturing specialist. In his early career, he used his background in sculpture and love of hiking to form his first company, one of the most innovative pack manufacturers in the industry. His second start-up was an eco-conscious line of lifestyle bags made of sustainable materials. He’s now part owner, along with his daughter, of Deviant 9 Studios, specializing in bag design, manufacturing services, materials sourcing and development, business consulting, and graphic design. Carrie is an internationally recognized product and graphic designer, business owner, wife, mom, community organizer, and CSU–Chico graduate.

We recently captured Greg and Carrie’s story in a short film that we’re excited to share with the Gossamer Gear community, and got to chat with them more about their design process. Each time a Gossamer Gear pack goes on a grand adventure, you can remember that it started with this family story. 

Interview With Greg and Carrie Fritsch on Outdoor Gear, Design, and Family 

To celebrate the launch of our film, we caught up with Greg and Carrie to talk more about their history with outdoor gear design, what it’s like working together as family members, and of course, what their Gossamer Gear favorites are! 

Gossamer Gear: How did outdoor gear design become a family affair?

Greg: I founded “Overland Equipment” with my wife, Wendy, in 1981 after dropping out of graduate studies in art. We started with one machine in the garage and grew to a factory full of them 27 years later. We are “makers” and cursed with “Do It Yourself Disease.” Why buy when you can make? Being a family business, new ideas and factory issues were always kitchen table conversations.

Carrie: Well, I suppose it has always been a family affair for me. My mom was sewing together my dad’s designs on her lunch breaks at her industrial sewing job when I was in the womb. Scraps of fabric and foam were the toys of my childhood, and as soon as I could reach both the pedal of the sewing machine and feed fabric under the foot of an industrial sewing machine, I was making my own creations. As a toddler, I would speed around the 20-foot cutting table on my pink plastic big wheel trike and take naps on the rolls of fabric stacked under the table. The gentle drone of sewing machines lulling me to sleep. 

Growing up with entrepreneur parents, the business was my other sibling, and we were all an integral part of its success. Even as a kid, I’ve always been one of Greg’s most critical design testers, fit model, and brainstorm buddy. Solving design problems and making stuff that looks aesthetically pleasing has been a lifelong love. I started really getting involved in the day-to-day business in college, and now 20 years later, we are still working together and my young daughter gets to join in on the fun now. 

Gossamer Gear: What are some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on over the years?

Greg: Building the Overland brand, working with international customers, Gossamer 2024 products.

Carrie: We’ve had some amazing opportunities through the years! I’ve loved working with some of the biggest names in the outdoor industry and startups with a clever idea. There is so much to learn from each scenario. We’ve had big meetings in fancy high rises, important brainstorms on a napkin over beers, and been sent all over the world to develop and design products. It’s been a great ride and fun to see our designs in use around the world.

Gossamer Gear: What do you enjoy about working together as father and daughter? Are there any challenges to it?

Greg: There are all sorts of them, but ultimately, we think alike, so it’s a little like working with yourself. Carrie would cry as a kid if she didn’t finish her homework, and has brought that same commitment to her work life. I’m not saying it’s healthy, but I never worry that her part of a project won’t be finished on time!

Carrie: Working together with my dad has been pretty cool. We’ve tackled some great design challenges as a team. My favorite is getting in deep on a project we thought would be doable and realizing that nothing we initially thought would work is working and then working together to get past that point to something greater. It’s always a hard, frustrating process, and we have some arguments in that despair, but neither of us give up on each other or the project, and the end result is usually quite rewarding. 

We have weathered many storms together, including losing our office, family homes, and 90% of our town in the 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise, California. Rebuilding our office and reimagining our work after that was pretty intense, but I’m glad I had my dad by my side. Working with family is not for everyone, but it has mostly worked great for us. Does a dad ever really stop being embarrassing at times? Asking for a friend! LOL. 

Gossamer Gear: Is there something about designing products with Gossamer Gear that’s special to you?

Greg: It’s fun to work with a smaller company that is so connected to their customers. 

Carrie: It is really special to have the opportunity to do great work with wonderful people. The Gossamer crew is like family to us. Being able to be an integral part of a small team is so rewarding; everyone’s contributions are so valuable. I love that they allow us the design freedom to take some risks with design and color. That’s been so fun! The customer base is also great; they have taught me so much about what people are looking for in ultralight gear. Also, setting crazy weight goals for products and crushing the goals is seriously addictive! I now carry around a pocket gram scale in my work bag to obsessively weigh buckles. 

Gossamer Gear: What’s your favorite Gossamer Gear product and why?

Greg: Being a designer, my favorite thing is the next thing I’m going to make. Knowing something can be improved fuels my creativity. Aside from that, I use the Vagabond everyday because it suits my lifestyle.

Carrie: I love how the new Loris daypack turned out, the styling and the Tropical Mist colorway are so nice. That center lavender zipper is amazing! I love how we were able to bring the favorite Gossamer Gear DNA into a smaller silhouette that can daily remind people of their thru-hike or awesome adventure with their larger Gossamer pack. The Gossamer pack I use the most is definitely the Vagabond Jet. I use it as my everyday work backpack and used earlier versions as a diaper bag when we were in that stage. It is a great all-around bag. 

Learn More About Gossamer Gear’s Design Team

Curious for more behind-the-scenes looks at the Gossamer Gear design process? Make sure to watch our short film with Greg and Carrier at their Chico-based studio!

Want to take this story on trail with you? Check out our line of ultralight backpacks for day trips, weekend warrior-ing, thru-hikes, and more.

You might also enjoy some of our other posts on the Light Feet blog about gear, sustainability, and beyond:

June 16, 2023 — Korrin Bishop