About RMW

Founded in 1971 in Snoqualmie, WA  Operations moved to Victor, Idaho in the mid-70’s. Assets acquired in 1981 by Don Wittenberger. Operations moved to Monroe,WA – current.

The Back Story

The Back Story

Rivendell Mountain Works was the brainchild of Larry Horton back in 1971. The flagship products were both based on designs created by the late Don Jensen, who was a climber active with the Harvard Mountaineering Club, in the 1960’s. Larry had a keen sense of how to manufacture these products to a high standard and a design philosophy of adhering to a theme of simplicity. In the 1977 catalog, Larry wrote “In spite of our choice to remain a cottage industry-or, perhaps, because of it-we have managed to continue an innovative influence on the world of equipment for backpackers, climbers and skiers.”

One thing that RMW gear came to represent, in the 1970’s, was gear that was reliable and had great longevity. Packs and tents are certainly two of the most important items that you need to be able to trust implicitly. Even now the Jensen Pack™ is built to be far more durable than many packs on the market today. For longevity and during extreme use, it is just not going to come apart on you. These packs are overbuilt to the nines.

Inside RMW

Inside RMW

Susan Haendel has been the ace seamstress for RMW during the last 10 yrs. She is an expat from Dana Design where she did sewing, quality control and had other roles. Her work is of the finest quality. I’m sorry to report that she has “retired” from her regular sewing role for RMW and her departure leaves a big hole in my resource for “cottage” sewing people. Best wishes in your new venture, Susan !!

Rivendell Mountain Works is a “micro-cottage” industry. Micro-cottage means to us, small production with utmost attention to detail and pride in the local community. We produce distinct and unique products that stand apart from the mainstream, and we have a commitment to quality.

We also practice the “village based” method of production. Our production is de-centralized with sewing and production taking place in multiple home workshops.

Eric Hardee, RMW Production Manager: making Jensen Packs since 1981

Our Community

Our Community

Small scale, community based, “micro- cottage” industry. This is our counterpoint to the globally based mega-economy. While it is possible to have a larger company, with a commitment to environmental, ethical and political issues (Patagonia), our choice is to focus on the local community. Supporting our “backyard” by utilizing local suppliers and manufacturers is what we are about. We believe this to be a valid approach to the economies of production and beneficial to the environment in its own small way.

Since 2007, when we began to reintroduce the Rivendell Mountain Works Brand, we have learned a couple of things. It has become evident that many of our customers have a desire to patronize a business where the product is “hand made”. We assume that means not factory made in assembly line fashion. While we do practice production efficiency techniques, packs are made in small numbers and typically by one or two people. We are committed to continuing this manufacturing philosophy.


Our main production workshop is off-the-grid and as such we have first hand knowledge of the importance of having a small energy footprint.

RMW networks with several other local, cottage manufacturers who also work out of their homes.

This “village” method of manufacturing. is, for the time being, our way of practicing what we preach, keeping it local and supporting “our neighbors”.



The Jensen Pack™ is not for everybody and it is also not necessarily the best pack for every conceivable use. Many Jensen Pack™ owners have several packs, of different makes, that they actively use.

There are many very well made packs available these days, but there are none that achieve that high performance without an internal frame, except the Jensen Pack™. For really heavy loads, say over 60 lbs., we try to suggest other packs that might be better for a particular customer, even though we have used these packs successfully with loads heavier than that. The recommended load is between 40 and 60 lbs, less if you are a smarter packer.


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Looking for gear produced domestically? What about small scale cottage industries or family run businesses? Or maybe an older type “Trad” product.

There is a growing cadre of small, domestic manufacturers doing high
quality creative work. If you know of such a local effort and/or have a
favorite, please pass along their website and anything else you know about them.Thanks for sharing.

In no particular order: www.alpineluddites.com
The particularly cool thing that John Campbell is doing, with this new incarnation, is reviving some of the legendary designs of the defunct British manufacturer Karrimor

Ultralight Adventure Equipment, located in Logan Utah, this domestic pack maker makes packs for a very discerning crowd, PCT thru-hikers, among others. A friend of mine tells me that he estimates as many as 25% of PCT thru-hikers are carrying ULA packs, impressive creds!!!

Brilliant alternative to the heavy and cumbersome bear canisters

Ascent OutdoorsMy favorite, local, independent gear supplier in Seattle (Ballard). One of the best shops in a diminishing landscape of locally owned retailers. They have been very supportive to RMW, Thank You.

A very good online source for gear reviews and product information plus an extensive classified section for folks searching for or selling gear, mostly used gear.

Down sleeping bag manufacturer. Highly regarded, super high quality bags. Sewn in Seattle, WA. In business since 1972.

The finest domestic source for leather hiking and mountaineering boots. Family business out of New Hampshire, since 1919. Their custom boots are legendary.

Niche manufacturer of climbing harnesses. Located in Tennessee. I love their name!

Legendary, eccentric, family business out of New Hampshire, now out of Colorado.The Stephenson family made amazing lightweight tents. Their tents are the lightest tents for their size of any made. Great attention to detail and superb craftsmanship. Other original products, many invented by Jack Stephenson.

The latest incarnation of Dana Gleason’s creative mind, the genius behind Kletterwerks and Dana Design. Much of his stuff is made in his Bozeman, MT. workshop.

Dana’s son “D3” has spearheaded the revival-refinement of this 1970’s company of which Dana Gleason was a founding member. Beautiful detail in this line of traditional style packs and bags.


I recently had the opportunity to meet Tom and see his Seattle Factory. His knowledge and passion for making packs and bags is impressive and I am in awe of his ability to take the craft to that level of production and keeping it made locally. Brilliant job Tom !

I have done some collaborating with John Canfield. John is an ex-pat from Mystery Ranch and brings that high quality philosophy to his own brand. He has done sewing and design work for RMW. John brings a vintage and modern ethic together in an unusual way to create his own aesthetic and his work is impeccable.
I just want to support the efforts of other grass roots, small scale manufacturers.I hope they will do the same for us.s

Heritage and Trad Gear

Heritage and Trad Gear

The last decade has seen a renaissance of interest in older gear and traditional designs. Part of the success (the re-introduction) of RMW packs is attributable to that. We have not messed with the original designs and we continue to use some materials that modernists and the fashion police consider to be out-of-date.

The fact is that these choices are valid because the older components either equal or outperform the newer components and we consider them to have greater aesthetic value. Most of the time, changes occur for reasons of economy and fashion and not because of functional value.

If the components we used were inferior, we would find something better. With that in mind, you will find the Jensen Pack™ equipped with leather tie-on points (barbells) and leather reinforced stress points.

The waist buckle is made from stainless steel that can easily be released with one hand. The shoulder strap buckles are the traditional nickel plated steel, double bar buckles, (they don’t break like plastic buckles). 1000 denier nylon fabric is not commonly used in backpacks these days.

Most manufacturers have switched to high tech fabrics that are lighter weight, but ironically the Jensen Pack™ remains one of the lightest packs in it’s capacity range, and achieves many times the longevity of these modern fabrics.

Even though the Jensen Pack™ is made much in the same image as it originally was, and thus appeals to the purist, it is possible to specify more modern materials and we will work with your requests to adapt the design to your needs. Please see the section on Customize for more information and ordering guidelines.

It is a ton of fun to be part of this movement away from mass produced gear and it is great for the consumer because of the proliferation of choices and the availability of unusual niche products.Thanks so much for your support!!