It all starts with our company culture. Marketers, product designers, customer service and gear specialists all are experienced outdoorspeople at Outdoor Vitals. Not only that, but Outdoor Vitals sponsors a company backpacking trip at least once a month and the team gets to test out gear! Outdoor Vitals employees have access to company gear for personal trips as well, and are all very familiar with the products we offer.
So what does this do for Research and Development? Well, instead of hiring additional people just to do research and work on gear development, our entire team is involved! We are our own R&D Team. By regularly using our own gear, we are very familiar with it and know what works, and what we want to improve. Our culture of being our own customers allows us to think of new ways to satisfy needs in the outdoors. Everyone has a voice in product development, and there is a constant stream of new ideas and innovation.
With all the new ideas, some seem to jump out. The more time we spend outdoors, the more some ideas develop on how to solve problems, fill needs, and improve outdoor experiences. We hold weekly team meetings, and often this is where we decide which ideas to put into practice next.
This is where we actually start drawing up design ideas, brainstorming how and where features should go, and getting together lists of materials needed. Sometimes this can take a substantial amount of time, discussion, and deep thought. We weigh the pros and cons of different features, and how we can come up with something that will truly help our customers "Live Ultralight." Once there is a satisfactory plan made up, we can start putting something together!
Getting prototypes for our gear and products is the next step, and is HUGELY important. Here we try to figure out just how to make the previously mentioned features work well. Things like which fabrics or materials to use, different patterns for sewing, baffling, or structure all have to be figured out.
When our in depth plan is in place, we send over all the specs, details, etc to our manufacturing partners to get a prototype made. Then it's just a waiting game until the prototype is ready.
Like mentioned before, monthly backpacking trips sponsored by the company are a good place for employees to test out prototypes of new products. Employees can also take the prototype on personal trips and adventures. During this process, specific care is taken to pay attention to anything that seems out of place, or ways the gear could be improved.
Once we feel like we've tested out the prototype enough to understand all the different things we might want to improve, it's back to the drawing board to solve those issues.
The first prototype almost never is the one we stick with. After testing, we are able to fine tune certain aspects of our gear that didn't work well, and emphasize what we liked. Then it's back to the drawing board to create an update, get a new prototype made, and then start testing that one. This prototyping and testing process can be repeated as many times as necessary.
When we finally feel confident that our gear is ready we start gathering feedback! This is done by sending out samples to influencers we have connections with. These influencers then test the gear as well for a period of time, giving us any feedback they have. Hopefully what they have to say at this point in the R&D process is positive. But if not, we know we might have to go back into the prototyping and testing phase.
If feedback is good, we are ready to release the product, and often influencers publish reviews on the gear as well.
With the new gear released, chances are we already have another product somewhere in the R&D Process that we have to move through the steps! With our company culture of testing, improving, and innovating, this process repeats itself over and over and over. Some product ideas move through this process faster than others.
Outdoor Vitals will continue to innovate, and we are excited to keep helping our customers enjoy their adventures more fully and "Live Ultralight!"