black and white historical image of osprey's past


Since its foundation in 1974, Osprey has had the same relentless spirit towards innovation and quality—values established by founder Mike Pfotenhauer back when he began placing his first stitches at age 16. Little did he know, he would eventually stitch together the legacy of meticulous craftmanship for which Osprey is widely renowned. Mike has been the unbreakable thread that has made Osprey a company like no other.

AS A YOUNG BOY GROWING UP IN OREGON, Mike found himself unsatisfied with the poor fit of his backpacking equipment. Taking matters into his own hands, he learned to sew from his mother and created his first backpack. It wouldn’t be his last.

As a young entrepreneur, Mike opened up Santa Cruz Recreational Packs in California where, drawn by word of mouth, backpackers and travelers sought him out for his custom-fitted, made-to-order packs. His reputation would eventually transform the business into the Osprey we are today, but first he’d need some help.

With his business partner/wife Diane Wren, Mike moved to Dolores, Colorado, and began working with a small team of sewers who took over production while Mike’s attention turned more heavily to pack design. These Navajo women, skilled in traditional sand painting and blanket weaving, became experienced in the art and science of constructing Osprey packs. They built upon and scaled Osprey’s vision, contributing to the prosperity and growth that, in 1994, led Osprey to expand operations to Cortez, CO, where it remains headquartered to this day.

The Osprey of today looks a little different than these humble beginnings, with packs that are sold and used the world over. We have offices in Poole, England, as well as design and manufacturing facilities in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where Mike and Diane lived for four years to build relationships and transparency with our employees and suppliers abroad. Besides our headquarters, we have a distribution center in Ogden, UT, and also continue to employ local Navajo sewers at our original warehouse in Cortez, CO, where we proudly deliver on our All Mighty Guarantee.

This growth and development of the company hasn’t hindered our longstanding commitments to innovation and quality, allowing us to tap into global talent and resources that have strengthened the legacy Mike started back when he first sat before his mother’s sewing machine.

Mike continues to work meticulously as Head Designer to push the limits of pack design and what it means to be a sustainable, responsible and integral participant in the global outdoor industry alongside a growing team of over 270 employees aligned around a common mission.


Mike sewing at the original factory
  • 1974
    Osprey packs is established in Santa Cruz, CA
  • 1976
    Our first breathable mesh backpanel is implemented in pack design
  • 1977
    We begin offering custom-fit mountaineering packs with revolutionary internal-frame construction

    The first adjustable sternum strap slides into market, making personalized adjustments easier than ever
  • 1979
    The Outlander, our introduction into travel packs, is released to the masses
  • 1982
    The first Ariel backpacking pack makes its appearance, reviewed by Outside magazine
  • 1984
    The removable pack lid becomes more useful than ever with its new convertible design, making it functional as a waist pack when detached
drawing board sketch of a pack
original factory staff
  • 1986
    Gabriella Salinas and Diane Wren join Osprey and begin selling packs, like the Silhouette, wholesale
  • 1990
    Mike and Diane move Osprey into a former GORE-TEX factory in Dolores, CO, and begin working with a team of skilled sewers, primarily from the Navajo Nation
  • 1991
    Fortune Magazine profiles Osprey Packs in an article on "America's Best"
  • 1993
    We introduce the Isis, our first innovative custom-fit women's backpack, as part of our legacy for custom anatomical fit
  • 1994
    Production moves to a new facility in Cortez, CO as the company scales up to meet demand
  • 1995
    Our first recycled HDPE framesheets are engineered for backpanel suspension—a key step toward our sustainability initiatives
excerpt from the 1993 catalog
Time magazine cover from June 1999
  • 1997
    We begin sewing Leave No Trace principles into our backpacks

    Osprey athlete, Anatoli Boukreev, summits Everest, Lhotse, Gasherbrum II and Broad Peak
  • 1998
    Mike literally dreams the Straightjacket suspension compression system into existence

    Our ErgoPull hipbelt closure is introduced and revolutionizes backpack hipbelts forever
  • 1999
    We expand our facility in Cortez and move all of our operations from Dolores

    The Aether™ backpacking pack makes an appearance on the cover of Time magazine

    Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind climber to summit Everest, chooses the Aether 60 for his ascent. Time magazine features him, along with his pack, on the June 18 cover
  • 2002
    We begin shifting some production offshore to Korea and Vietnam to meet product demand

    The Aether 60 backpacking pack receives the Great Gear Award from Outdoor Life Network
  • 2003
    The Aether 75 backpacking pack receives the Gear of the Year Award from Outside Magazine

    Mike and Diane move their family to Vietnam for four years to oversee the development of our Design and Quality Control Center in Ho Chi Minh City
  • 2004
    Our first line of travel gear is introduced, broadening the horizons of adventure for Osprey
Vietnam factory staff sewing
image of Aether AG backpacking pack backpanel
  • 2005
    We introduce our Custom Molding technology to our backpacking suspension system to ensure even better anatomical fit

    The Atmos 50 backpacking pack is awarded the Gear of the Year Award from Outside Magazine
  • 2006
    The Meridian 22, our first wheeled travel pack, wins the Gear of the Year Award from Outside Magazine
  • 2007
    The Circuit daypack earns the Green Gear of the Year Award from Outside Magazine for including 71% recycled materials by content

    We expand our headquarters in Cortez, adding an additional 27,000 square feet of office space with LEED-like standards
  • 2009
    After 35 years of independence and innovation, we celebrate by introducing our expanded All Mighty Guarantee.

    The Exos 46 ultralight backpacking pack receives the Gear of the Year Award from Outside Magazine

    The Ace 48 youth backpacking pack receives the Editor's Choice Award from Backpacker Magazine
  • 2010
    The Sojourn® 25" travel pack receives the Gear of the Year from Outside Magazine

    We introduce our new Hydraulics® reservoir system, making hydration on the go even easier

    The Raptor 10 mountain bike pack receives the Gear of the Year Award from Men's Journal
  • 2012
    Outside Magazine recognizes Osprey as one of "America's Best Places to Work" for the fifth year in a row

    The Ozone 22" travel pack receives the Gear of the Year Award from National Geographic

    The Xenith 88 backpacking pack receives the Gear of the Year Award from Outside Magazine
man repairing backpack
HQ in Cortez CO
  • 2013
    The Ozone 22" travel pack receives the Gear of the Year Award from Men's Journal

    Osprey celebrates 40 years of independence and innovation
  • 2014
    The Atmos AG 65 backpacking pack receives the Outdoor Industry Gold Award

    We open a new distribution center in Ogden, UT, and turn the Cortez warehouse into our dedicated AMG repair facility

    REI awards us their Vendor Partner of the Year Award for the fifth time
  • 2015
    We reveal our innovative AntiGravity suspension to the world, setting new benchmarks in carry comfort, breathability and load management

    The Atmos | Aura AG receives the Editor's Choice Award from Backpacker Gear Guide as well as Gear of the Year from National Geographic

    We build our new World Headquarters in Cortez and establish a new Headquarters for Osprey Europe in Poole, UK
  • 2016
    The Aether AG 70 backpacking pack receives the Gear of the Year Award from Outside Magazine
  • 2018
    The Kamber 42 | Kresta 40 ski/snowboard packs receive the Editor's Choice Gold Award from Backpacker Magazine

    We partner with the Renewal Workshop, diverting tens of thousands of pounds of waste from ending up in a landfill
  • 2019
    As part of our commitment to meaningful sustainability, we begin rolling out our plan to not only provide the highest performing and longest lasting technical carry solutions on the market, but to also be the industry hard goods leader in upstream and downstream sustainability.

    We build our new Osprey Vietnam Office for our design, quality control and sample room teams in Ho Chi Minh City

    Our repair team allocates its time and resources toward creating face masks for medical front-line workers during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic

    Sporting his trusty Aether Pro, Osprey Athlete Nims Purja becomes the fastest person to climb all 14 of the world’s 8k+ meter peaks. He completes this mission in under 7 months, breaking the previous record of 7 years
Man sewing masks
Heritage collection group shot
  • 2020
    The Heritage Collection is unveiled, celebrating nearly 50 years of design and innovation
  • 2021
    All poly bags are made of 100% recycled material and all paper packaging is FSC-certified or recycled and recyclable

    We become a bluesign® system partner, marking a significant shift towards textile sustainability throughout our supply chain

    We helped found the OIA-sponsored Climate Action Corps and are using the Climate Neutral system and database to calculate, reduce and offset our carbon footprint

    In 2021, our Aether/Ariel 55 was awarded the Backpacker Editors’ Choice Gold Award