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May 17 2018

Adventure Capital: Borah Gear

Ultralight backpacking gear, homegrown in Troy

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Dylan Root, owner of Troy-based Borah Gear, became an entrepreneur by accident. While he was a student at the University of Idaho, he’d spend his summers backpacking through the mountains of Idaho. These trips took a toll on Root’s gear, but rather than buying new equipment when something wore out, he got a sewing machine and started to repair his gear himself. Before long, he expanded from repairing backpacking gear to designing and creating it, and it wasn’t long before he started taking orders from friends. 

“I didn’t force it to happen, it just fell into my lap...and it worked out,” he says of the fledgling days of his ultralight backpacking gear business. That philosophy stayed with Root as Borah Gear grew over the last seven years, and as he moved around the West before choosing to make Troy home. “It was never a ‘get rich’ scheme,” he chuckles.

“Living in a small community like Troy is a benefit to my business,” Root says. “As long as I have access to the internet and to a post office, I can do business.” Root notes that Troy’s biggest assets are the low cost of living, access to a major highway, and lots of recreational access to public lands. “There’s close access to public lands, Wilderness, and fishing right at your doorstep,” he says, emphasizing the role outdoor recreation access played in his decision to relocate to Troy with his wife Rachel, who has family in Troy and teaches kindergarten in town. 

Now employing two others, Root runs Borah Gear out of his home in Troy. His employees work out of their homes as well. Together, the team makes handmade, lightweight hiking gear including apparel such as down jackets, sleeping systems such as bivy sacks, and lightweight, minimal backpacking shelters. Every item is made to order, so the Borah Gear team is able to accommodate custom requests and provide one-on-one customer service. Root says he has never advertised - Borah Gear gained popularity organically with serious multi-day hikers who use the products on long treks, like through-hiking the Continental Divide Trail. He even designed the company’s logo himself. 

Root says recreational access to public lands plays a large role in the success of Borah Gear, simply because his customers use his products on public lands. “I mean, it’s not like people are out hiking across private ranches. It’s public lands. Most any place you are going to access for outdoor recreation is on public land. Public lands are everything,” he says.

Public lands support Montana’s leading economic driver: outdoor recreation, which now generates over $7.1 billion in Montana’s economy every year. In this growing industry, Root suggests that prospective business owners pick something they love, be flexible, and have small projections to start. “Be willing to work with the community,” he says. That’s how Borah Gear got its start, after all. 

Learn more about Borah Gear at borahgear.com

- Grete Gansauer, northwest Montana field coordinator

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Adventure Capital is a feature profiling small businesses that are bringing jobs to Montana’s $7.1 billion outdoor recreation economy. Outdoor recreation supports an estimated 71,000 jobs across Montana, more than any other economic sector, and is now the largest single sector of Montana's economy. World-class outdoor recreation opportunities and abundant (but threatened) access to public lands are putting the Treasure State on the map as a destination for tourists and entrepreneurs alike. This story originally appeared in Kootenai Country Magazine.