Meet The Maker: Organic Climbing, Made In The USA

Meet the brand behind American-made crash pads, chalk bags, and backpacks that last a very long time.

josh helke organic climbing edited small

Organic Climbing earned its reputation for high-quality soft goods by using strong Cordura fabrics, expert sewers, and technical advice from top climbers. Rural Philipsburg, Pa., may seem an odd locale for this outdoor-oriented company, but the area’s robust textile industry made it an ideal spot for manufacturing.

We toured Organic Climbing‘s facility last month and caught up with founder Josh Helke. We asked about his manufacturing methods, commitment to made-in-America products, and insights into the climbing industry.

Organic Climbing Culture

josh helke old pad vertical organic climbing

Helke and Organic’s two office dogs happily toured me around sewing workstations while introducing me to workers and showing off their projects. Crash pads were piled high at the entrance, and brightly colored fabrics filled my periphery.

An avid boulderer, Helke, started making crash pads in 2003. He sought to buck the trend of outsourcing production, which, Helke said, resulted in low-cost, low-quality bouldering crash pads.

In fact, Organic’s small operation allows for frequent and unique product development. Workers keep leftover scraps from pad designs to use in other creations, minimizing waste in the process.

For example, one of the company’s employees, also a yoga instructor, created an item she felt would be useful—a Yoga bag made of the same durable 1000d Cordura used for the company’s climbing pads.

Made In The USA

To ensure a tight, trusted chain of manufacturing variables, Organic imports the foam used inside its pads from Iowa and the fabric from Connecticut. Most pads feature a tough 1050d ballistic shell with a 1000d Cordura landing zone.

cordura rolls organic climbing
The company offers Cordura fabrics in a wide selection of colors.

All of these materials ship to Organic’s warehouse in Philipsburg, where employees assemble everything and then deliver the final product to climbers across the world. From its supplies to manufacturing to shipping, Organic does it all in America.

Organic Products

Because superior foams, fabrics, and construction mean the company’s crash pads last for years, Organic’s R&D innovators focus on new products, such as blue jeanspad/haul bags designed for roped climbing, and roll-down backpacks.

The company constructs additive items that enhance comfortable transportation, including load flaps, hip belts, and shoulder straps.

One of their more popular products, the Full Pad, retails at $185 and is reasonably priced and slightly cheaper compared to other high-end crash pads. Robust in build, they have not attempted innovations similar to Mad Rock’s R3 baffle design, or Black Diamond’s waterproof backed pads.

Organic’s pads stick to simple builds focused on the materials, not so much alternative constructions.

old organic climbing crash pad close up
The tag may be tattered, but the pad is still good to go. A testament to its durability, this 10-year-old crash pad shows little sign of wear

Custom Color, Two Days to Ship

Want a lion on your crash pad? Want it to be baby blue and blaze? Organic allows you to choose your design elements and customize your gear. Check out the clever patterns and colors on the company’s Instagram page.

organic climbing custom order
A scheme for a custom order

The custom inquiries page states detailed items may take “considerably longer for production.” However, the company often produces items more quickly.

For example, their custom color pads ship in two days on average. They were making this custom lion rasta pad (below) while were on location, and finished it with haste, much before the 4-6 week estimation.

rasta crash pad organic climbing

If you don’t want to pay extra to customize your order, you may request small stylistic changes at no cost.

yoga mat bag maker organic climbing

As we wrapped up our interview, we shared stories. I learned Helke developed various crags in Minnesota, many of which I frequent. Knowing this manufacturer of climbing gear is so intimately connected with the community encourages me all the more to trust its products.

Think you can outdo the Jamaican Lion pad? Go ahead and customize the pad of your dreams, and maybe you’ll be the talk of the crag.

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Midwest born, Nate Mitka started with Gearjunkie after a short stint as “intern”. An advocate of all outdoor activities he’s developed some habits, like running without headphones, eating raw vegetables, and fixing the chain on his ratty old bike.

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