Kletterwerks by MYSTERY RANCH: 40 Years of Fortitude

Published 2016-03-09

Kletterwerks was founded in 1975 by Dana Gleason II, founder and owner of MYSTERY RANCH. Kletterwerks was Dana’s first endeavor designing and manufacturing backpacks. Today, because of the simplicity and durability of these authentic designs, the Kletterwerks brand resurrected and brought under the same roof as MYSTERY RANCH. Though these heritage designs retain their historic lines, they now incorporate new millennium features, perfect for everyday carry.

Definition: Kletterwerks is derived Germany. “Kletter” meaning climbing. “Werks” meaning plant. – so Kletterwerks essentially means “climbing factory.”

In 1975, Kletterwerks was founded in Bozeman, MT by experienced outdoorsman, Dana Gleason. Prior to Kletterwerks, Dana was one of the founders of Erehwon Mountain Supply in Chicago and started importing European Mountain climbing equipment. He would eventually move to SD and open an outdoor store, Mountain Man. There, Dana focuses his efforts on product repair and customization and finds that the pack industry is lacking packs with long haul durability and customized fit options for these mountain fanatics – hence, the beginning of Kletterwerks – where he will focus his knowledge and experience into building what become legendary packs.

Dana wearing one of the first Kletterwerks’ packs

Kletterwerks’ packs in use high in the Himalayas

Immediately after launching Kletterwerks, Dana starts manufacturing the five packs he had been tinkering with during his last days at Mountain Man. These packs – the Terraplane, Day, Flip, Rock and Hip Sack – would shortly become the choice of hardcore mountain athletes. During this period of time – because of the rapid growth in popularity – Kletterwerks grows out of Dana’s home and into a mainstream location downtown Bozeman.

Founder Dana Gleason

Kletterwerks’ store front downtown Bozeman, MT, late 1970s

In 1978, Dana sees an opportunity to sell Kletterwerks and start a new adventure called Mojo Systems focusing on camera bags. Three months prior to selling Kletterwerks, Renee Sippel-Baker is hired as a seamstress and is trained by Dana. Renee continues to work at Kletterwerks and is also employed by Dana at Mojo Systems, which leads to a decision point when she decides to work exclusively for Dana at Mojo.

Years later, in 1983, the sold-off Kletterwerks goes bankrupt and dormant for nearly 30 years. During this time, the dynamic duo, Dana and Renee, continue to launch other companies such as Quest and the ever-popular, Dana Designs. Throughout the Dana Design years (est. 1985), packs such as the Terraplane – which was initially a Kletterwerks’ design – resurface and yet again, become the pack of choice for the hardest core mountain athletes.

After many years having Dana Designs, both Dana and Renee decide to go their separate ways. Dana continues to work in the pack industry; Renee pursues other career opportunities within Montana.

Jump ahead to 2000, Dana and Renee decide they hadn’t done their best work yet and decide to build what will become their most successful brand ever…MYSTERY RANCH in Bozeman, MT. They build packs for the US Military – load carriage and long haul durability are essential. The dynamic duo was up for the challenge.

MYSTERY RANCH company photo

The dedicated Renee Sippel-Baker hard at work

After MYSTERY RANCH had entered the military, mountain, hunting and wildland fire markets, Dana’s son–Dana Gleason III, and MYSTERY RANCH employees–Ben Nobel and Patrick Odenbeck–along with A&F Distribution in Japan, entertain the idea to resurrect the Kletterwerks’ name and designs (that had been dormant for over 30 years) in effort to fulfill the demand for American-Heritage goods in Japan. With commitments from A&F, the thoughts come to fruition and in summer of 2012, Japan launches the “new” line of Kletterwerks packs and are manufactured and distributed out of the MYSTERY RANCH factory in Bozeman, MT.

Second generation pack designer, Dana Gleason III

Design, development and manufacturing for Kletterwerks lives under the same roof as MYSTERY RANCH. These two powerhouse names in the pack industry continue to reinforce the commitment to the pack industry that Dana and Renee possess, along with their 110+ Bozemanite workforce.

To this day, the packs retain their historic lines but now incorporate new millennium features which make them perfect for everyday carry whether it urban commuting or skiing the mountain.

Kletterwerks’ label of yesterday and today


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