These college grads may be the next big innovators in outdoor gear.
These college grads may be the next big innovators in outdoor gear. (Photo: Courtesy Natalie Cullum)

This Next-Gen Gear Was Designed by College Students

Utah State University's first Outdoor Product Design and Development class created their own versions of everything from waders to bike pedals

These college grads may be the next big innovators in outdoor gear.

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After four years of courses, including digital design, sustainability, and sewing, the students at Utah State University’s first Outdoor Product Design and Development class presented their projects at the school’s Logan campus earlier this spring. Some created entirely new products inspired by their own needs, while others made improvements and design iterations for gear that already exists. They produced technical apparel, packs, hammocks, ski and snowboard gear, even new climbing-belay devices. Here are our favorites from the showcase.

Mackerel Approach Shoe

(Melissa McGibbon)

Veronica Villhard took inspiration for the Mackerel from the landscape and climate of southern Utah. “The spring conditions are unique, the weather is constantly changing, so the technical aspects were influenced by that,” she says. She built these suede and nylon mid-top shoes with materials that lend them capability in variable conditions: Five Ten’s proprietary Stealth rubber, a stiff foam, and laces that extend all the way to the rubber toe cap for a lockdown fit. Villhard named the Mackerel after the fish’s unique patterning, which she incorporated onto the soles (strictly for looks). She doesn’t have any immediate plans to take these shoes to market but does have a job offer on the table with a big-name brand.

Woolly Snuggers Waders

These college grads may be the next big innovators in outdoor gear.
(Courtesy Natalie Cullum)

Natalie Cullum designed a pair of women’s fly-fishing waders, named Woolly Snuggers, that are made to better complement a woman’s physique. “I started fly-fishing about a year and a half ago, and my dad bought me a pair of waders, but they fit like a box and were super unflattering,” she says. So she started prototyping, and after implementing a zippered gusset that kept the silhouette slim while boosting the range of motion, she got the fit she was aiming for. Cullum’s design led to a job with Orvis, which she starts this month.


(Melissa McGibbon)

With two other friends, seniors Riley Hughes and Nick Bierwolf created a company called Lit Outdoors and developed the Tammock. As the name implies, it’s a hybrid tent-hammock, with 15-to-30-denier ripstop nylon and nylon mesh attached to a steel frame. (Though for the next iteration, the team is planning on switching to aluminum to bring the current 20-pound weight down.) The freestanding hammock inside the tent can be taken out and used separately. Their Kickstarter and Indiegogo launches were successfully funded, and Hughes and Bierwolf plan on shipping Tammocks to investors by next spring.

Cyclone Pedal

(Melissa McGibbon)

Jake Van Wagoner designed the Cyclone, a bike pedal that accommodates both flat and clipless shoes and is compatible with the standard hole pattern on both road and mountain cleats. He machined the Cyclone out of a quarter-inch-thick plate of aluminum. “I recognized an opportunity to do this while commuting on my performance bicycle,” he says. “It was inconvenient to change my pedals or shoes every time I rode to school, so I created a pedal that converts a clipless pedal into a traditional flat pedal.” Van Wagoner wants to refine the Cyclone before putting it on the market.

Lane Biking Dress

(Melissa McGibbon)

“Because cycling is a very male-dominated sport, I wanted to design a line that is really feminine and really accessible,” Bailey Purser says of her project. “There’s a lot of competitiveness with cycling, too, so I wanted something casual that feels less intimidating for women to wear.” She prototyped what she named the Lane Biking Fress, a half-cycling, half-commuting piece that has built-in shorts and a removable chamois, so it can be worn as a regular dress as well. “It’s made from nylon and stretchy fabric that’s super durable, so you can wear it anywhere,” Purser says.

Summit Snowboard Vest

(Melissa McGibbon)

Logan Reese cooked up this snowboarding vest (shown on the table in the photo) as an answer to the skier’s resort backpack. It can be difficult wearing a pack while riding because it can throw off your balance. “The Summit keeps all of the weight distributed in a way that keeps you on balance when you’re riding,” Reese says. “It has a lot of cool features, like stretchy side panels and 11 zippered pockets. And it can hold about 25 liters. I [wore] it all season.” He also created a fly-fishing model called the Angler’s Day Pack that can be worn on your front (as pictured) or your back and packs into itself. Due to the expensive costs of materials and design, Reese doesn’t plan to mass-produce the packs unless he lands a job with a company that can fund their development.

Lead Photo: Courtesy Natalie Cullum

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