Dear KUIU...

Dear KUIU,

When I first learned of your company, I was inspired. In fact, I was inspired so much so that I now own an embarrassing amount of your products. I’ve purchased pants, shirts, hats, jackets, rainwear, game bags, a tent, a sleeping bag, and even those organizational dry zip bags that I love so much. Your business model was refreshing at a time when the hunting industry needed it badly. You forced us to look at our hunting gear in a different light and encouraged us expect more from the brands we had come from. I’ll admit, you had a KUIU Fan Boy in me for a number of years, however, you’ve changed and I think it’s time we talk about it.

Remember when you had a mission to create the best damn mountain gear anyone could ask for? Remember how amazing and simple that was? You offered everything you needed and nothing you didn’t and it felt great ordering something that was perfect for the job. Believe it or not, you made spending money easy because YOU were the experts and YOU offered what YOU thought would be the BEST solution to my problems in the field. And guess what? You were amazing at it.

If my memory serves me well, my first purchase was the Yukon rain gear and it was the best money I’d spent on hunting gear EVER. We bonded, you and I. During that first fall hunt when the rain was coming in on me sideways while I pushed through those rain-soaked bushes, all the while remaining dry. After that, I knew I was done for. I wrote reviews, helped people find your company, sang your praises, and ordered a stupid amount of gear because I believed in your mission and your abilities. I even visited your corporate location once and it felt great to see someone come at the hunting industry from a humble and simple place. For that, I believed.

I sincerely loved your brand, but somewhere in the last couple of years, you’ve changed. Your product line has expanded into areas that make me question what you’re doing in life. Have you forgotten your own mission? Have you lost your way? You’ve become exactly what I thought you never wanted to be - just another hunting brand making products just to make them so you can pay your bills. You’re now one of many brands trying to seek my attention and money and you’re doing it in a way that no longer resonates with me. You’re now stocking your shelves with “lifestyle” apparel as if you think you’re now the worlds foremost experts in that category. Don’t you think that if I wanted to live the Kuiu lifestyle on the street I would be wearing the same gear that I take hunting? Wouldn’t that make more sense from a marketing perspective? What on earth does wearing a snap up insulated jacket with your logo on it have anything to do with ultralight mountain hunting? No one who doesn’t already know of Kuiu can tell the difference between your solid colored lifestyle jacket and a Patagonia one. Congratulations, you’ve found a way to camouflage your brand amongst city dwellers! Those actually living the Kuiu lifestyle (you know, the ones your company owes your success to) wear their Vias or Verde camo jackets loud and proud regardless of whether they’re in the mountains or in town pushing their kid around in a stroller.

You sold me on your original mission, now you’re losing me because I have no idea what the hell your mission is anymore. Are you still a mountain hunting brand building real backcountry solutions or are you now just a general outdoor brand that pays their bills by coming up with whatever products their design team can conjure up? I get it, you wanted to keep growing so you started pumping out what you felt were solutions, but you forgot something along the way. You forgot that solving real backcountry problems take time. You forgot your mission. You forgot that you’re not the experts in clothing systems, sleep systems, shelters, packs, AND street apparel. You forgot that people loved your brand because you were humble, not because you offered everything. You forgot about what you didn’t want to be and you forgot about why you started in the first place.

You forgot about me; the guy looking up to you to solve my HUNTING problems, not my lifestyle problems.

Listen, if you go away tomorrow because you’ve lost your way, you’re not helping anyone. If you sell out to the bottom line by making things you think people might WANT versus what they NEED, then you might as well just close up shop today and forget this whole thing ever happened so someone else can carry the torch you originally lit. If that happens, I assure you that I’ll look fondly at the select items that I NEEDED from you (not what I wanted) and speak about how there USED to be this company that was formed with the right mission, but lost their way, then point to each item like a sort of relic from the past. They’ll ask me who this elite company was and I’ll tell them all about the legacy and boot print Jason left on this industry, his mission, his vision, and his purpose. I’ll tell them I wished they had just avoided the bullshit products and remained focused on the backcountry, not the city. Then, I’ll tell them that at some point in the middle of it all they decided to mix politics and fame with mission, and instead of solving problems for other backcountry communities like whitetail hunters or the common backpacker, they decided to offer fashion solutions. I’ll then shed a tear, not because I’m crying, but because I’m sitting on an exposed ridge-line hunting in the winter in my non-Kuiu gear while the cold wind is blasting my face causing my eyes well up, all the while cursing the KUIU marketing team who thought creating street clothes were a better option than solving my problems up here on the mountain.

But what do I know? I’m just a guy who spent a lot of money at your company who’s now looking elsewhere.

Still Hunting By Land,

Emory