Missouri is all about adventure. That must be why our state has spawned two terrific outdoor equipment companies. Everyone knows about Bass Pro, but there’s a family-run outdoor equipment company, too.

The Brune family business includes Brian, Dennis, Sarah, and Adam. Photos courtesy of Jeff Gardner.

ALPS Mountaineering, which stands for Active Lifestyle Products and Services, is headquartered in New Haven and has been cranking out rugged, affordable gear for more than 25 years. Here’s the story of the family behind the business.  Story and Photos By Jeff Gardner.

Imagine that you grew up loving the outdoors and then landed a job with one of  America’s first outdoor equipment companies, Kelty.  Now imagine that you rose from working in the warehouse to the president of the company, but your dream job was keeping you indoors all the time and away from your three young children who, just like you, loved the outdoors. What would you do? If you were Dennis Brune, you would take one of the greatest risks of your life: You would leave Kelty and start a new company in your garage. In 1993, Dennis Brune founded ALPS Mountaineering.

Dennis is still at the helm but working to pass the company to his three children: Adam, Brian, and Sarah. Brian heads up sales, Adam oversees product development and marketing, and Sarah watches inventory and logistics. The family works as a team, ensuring that their gear continues to “exceed your expectations” as promised in the company tagline.

“We are very close as a family, as a company, and as a town,” Adam says. In fact, there has been a Brune in New Haven for more than two centuries. “We Brunes live, work, and get outdoors together as a family.”

For many companies, this type of closeness wouldn’t work, but it does for ALPS.

The Hydro 15-liter backpack is adventure-ready. Photo courtesy of Jeff Gardner.

“Working so closely with each other and our customers keeps us connected to who we are and why our dad started ALPS—to produce good, quality gear, for the backpacker to the car camper, at an affordable price,” Adam says. Indeed, two of ALPS’s best-selling backpacks, the Hydro 15 liter, and the Nomad 50 liter are consistently ranked as good as competitor versions that cost much more. “We believe that part of having a great outdoor experience is the total price tag of getting there.”

So what is a typical day like for the ALPS family business?

“Ha!” Adam responds. “Since late 2019, with COVID, supply chain issues, and fuel costs, nothing has been typical!” But the tumult of the last two years, in Adam’s estimation, has a silver lining.

“Across the board, the pandemic seems to have reminded people about the great connection between our well-being and getting out in nature, and we hope that this trend persists. We are seeing a whole new generation of young people getting outdoors, and they really care about where their stuff comes from and who makes it. They are telling us that this makes our story, our company, stand out. That is tremendously rewarding since we are a family-owned, family-run company started by a father who refused to put his daughter and sons second and took a chance on starting ALPS when he had no certainty that things would work out.”

What’s next for the Brune family and ALPS Mountaineering?

“First and foremost, we are focused on our mission of durability and comfort,” Adam says. “Within that mission, ALPS is rolling out a new line of gear for 2023—the Felis tent and the Kinetic sleeping bag—both of which are made from recycled fabrics as part of our commitment to make our products as sustainable as possible. We love the outdoors, the Missouri wilderness that we live in, and we love the wilderness that others live in, too. We are committed, as a family, as a company, to ensuring that wild places stay wild, and people can afford to get to them and enjoy them.”

See the complete line of ALPS outdoor gear at ALPSMountaineering.com.