Wilderness Experience records, 1971-1983

Overview of the Collection

Wilderness Experience records
1971-1983 (inclusive)
1 box, (0.5 linear feet)
Collection Number
This collection contains various records from Wilderness Experience from 1971 to 1983.
Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections and Archives Division
Special Collections & Archives
Merrill-Cazier Library
Utah State University
Logan, UT
Telephone: 4357978248
Fax: 4357972880
Access Restrictions

No restrictions on use, except: not available through interlibrary loan.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

Jim Thomsen grew up in California and became interested in mountaineering and outdoor recreation after spending many summers in Mammoth Lakes, California with his father and his brother, Greg. In 1965, both Jim and Greg began backpacking across California’s Sierra and eventually picked up climbing in 1967. While Jim was working at Kelty Pack around this time, his wife Laurie suggested starting an outdoor mountaineering recreation program specifically for youth. Jim, Greg, and Laurie chose to call the program Wilderness Experience and began teaching cross-country skiing, backpacking, and climbing.

In 1971, Jim and Greg started making small accessories for their guides to use on Wilderness Experience tours and also sold them at the Mountain Store in Tarzana, California, which they both managed. The brothers met Class 5 owner Justus Bauschinger in 1972 who encouraged and helped Jim and Greg to create a more complete line of outdoor recreation gear. They began making gaiters but became known for packs when their line was taken on by Don Lauria at his store Westridge Mountaineering in Santa Monica, California. They also began making sleeping bags and tents but kept their concentration on packs, eventually adding the tagline “We only make backpacks and that’s why we’re the best” to their advertisements and pamphlets between 1974 and 1975.

Wilderness Experience was one of the early sewing companies to have computerized systems due to Jim’s fascination with computers. All of their merchandise was created in-house including small accessories. By 1980 the company was a major outdoor industry manufacturer with factories in Chatsworth, North Hollywood, and San Francisco, California where they employed a few hundred workers. Jim left Wilderness Experience in 1983 and taught classes at California State University Northridge based on small business and outdoor recreation.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This collection contains various records from Wilderness Experience, such as advertisements for merchandise and outdoor recreation activities, including registration forms, mail order forms for merchandise purchases, and a 1983 price list.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances.

Permission to publish material from the Wilderness Experience records must be obtained from the Special Collections Manuscript Curator and/or the Special Collections Department Head.

Preferred Citation

Initial Citation: Wilderness Experience records USU_COLL MSS 550, Box [ ]. Special Collections and Archives. Utah State University Merrill-Cazier Library. Logan, Utah.

Following Citations:USU_COLL MSS 550, USUSCA.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Wilderness Experience records are arranged by three categories: records related to outdoor recreation education and tours, retail and merchandise records, and other records.

Processing Note

Processed in December of 2020

Acquisition Information

This collection was donated to USU Special Collections and Archives by Jim Thomsen in 2020.

Related Materials

Outdoor Recreation Catalogs (BOOK COLL 72)

Outdoor Recreation Serials (BOOK COLL 72a)

Michael Hodgson and Therese Iknoian outdoor industry collection (USU_COLL MSS 548)

Robert E. Gillis papers (USU_COLL MSS 549)

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 1 Ski Touring Classes flyer undated
1 1 Rock Climbing Classes flyer undated
1 1 Mountaineering climbing flyer (3 copies) undated
1 1 Mountaineering course flyer undated
1 1 Classes and Guided trips for backpacking, mountaineering, ski touring flyer (2 copies) 1971
1 1 Basic Backpacking course application 1972
1 1 Youth program health consent form undated
1 1 Medical statement of physician form (2 copies) 1972
1 2 Wilderness Experience backpack advertisement 1973
1 2 Gore-TexTM advertisement undated
1 2 The ultimate mountaineering pack advertisement 1982
1 2 Merchandise mail order information form undated
1 2 Wholesale price list 1983 March 15
1 2 Women’s Australian walking shorts advertisement on cardstock undated
1 2 Wilderness Experience Warranty on cardstock undated
1 2 Scan of Wilderness Experience Packs for Mountaineers advertisement undated
1 2 Pre-season newsletter (2 copies) 1977 September 23
1 3 Wilderness Experience envelope undated
1 3 Wilderness Experience, Inc. investment pamphlet 1981 March

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

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