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Execute Those Travel Plans in Style

Written By: Melissa Mitchell Bradley Mountain
Photographed By: Mariusz Jeglinski

The Expert: Tyler Axtell
Credentials: Founder of Bradley Mountain

When Tyler Axtell purchased his first sewing machine following a trip abroad some five years ago, he didn’t know that he was stitching together the beginnings of the proverbial location of a lifetime: Bradley Mountain. While this locale is fictitious in the traditional sense, the now six-man Bradley Mountain crew have definitely secured themselves a spot on the map. From camping packs to mountaineering musts, these craftsmen create anything and everything needed for a night beneath the stars. Wanderlusters everywhere are grateful for the reminder to embark on an amazing expedition with exceptional gear. After all…behind every great adventurer is a great backpack…literally.

Q: How long have you guys (Bradley Mountain crew) known each other?

Tyler Axtell: Basically, we’re all locals who met along the way and are passionate about what we do. I started working on the brand on my own about five years ago. Andrew came on the scene about a year after that; and TJ, our production manager, and I used to live together in the house where Bradley Mountain started, in my garage in Ocean Beach. We’ve since grown to a team of six and we’re all local to San Diego and reside in the Downtown area near Balboa Park.

Q: Tell us about the adventurous beginnings of this journey-based brand.

TA: When I turned 18, I spent a year traveling and soaked in a lot of ancient European culture. I hadn’t been exposed to such craftsmanship prior, and that experience is what sparked my desire to learn a trade. Upon my return, I was living in Ocean Beach, right near the water, and basically turned my one car garage into a workshop. We added in a couple of tables and I set up a sewing machine that I bought from an old apparel factory. My mom taught me the basics of sewing and I took the reins from there. My parents own their own business and I grew up working for them, which taught me a lot about small businesses.

Q: Talk about your backgrounds; did any of you envision yourselves where you are today career-wise?

TA: It’s kind of crazy none of us have studied this! TJ’s craftsman start was similar to mine; he was making bags and wallets while living in Portland before I knew him. Neither of us had any formal training, but TJ brought in the same vibe that I was trying to cultivate at Bradley Mountain. Cody has a lot of experience in video production so he adds a nice element in the domains of marketing and photography, etc. But, to be honest, we’re all basically doing this for the first time and none of us have worked for a brand like this before. We don’t have investors, we handle all aspects of the business ourselves, and it’s all been a labor of love.

Q: Do you guys adventure together for ‘research’ and recreation?

TA: Yes! We all go camping together and try to do at least two group trips a year. We went up to Yosemite last year and we frequently camp in some local spots in California. Running the business is a lot of hard work, so that keeps us busy, but our trips are key in testing out our gear and developing new ideas for the brand.

Q: Where do your adventure-tools come in handy the most?  

TA: We make gear particularly for the people who want to travel light and travel far. Whether it’s for a trip to Europe, Asia, national, or international—we design gear for the traveler who wants something rugged and different on their back.

Q: Where do you draw product style and inspiration from for your unique products?

TA: Our designs are a fusion of old European and old American travel gear. Essentially, a combination of old, Swiss military packs and vintage Boy Scout gear. Throughout the design process, I try not to look at what other people or other companies are doing. I like to come from a point of function and aesthetic, as opposed to style. For instance, we don’t like to add a single stitch or piece of leather that’s primary purpose isn’t functionality.

Q: Favorite adventure memories among the Bradley Mountain creators?

TA: We’ve had a lot of them! Probably our best adventure was when got a cabin up in Strawberry, California and spent the next day exploring Yosemite and playing games outside by the cabin. Another was going to Big Sur for some hiking and exploring the waterfalls. All of the materials used for the products we make are natural, so getting to see the ocean and mountains is like being around what we’ve been building.

Q: What is “Bradley Mountain?”

TA: It’s the name of a fictitious place I created where people can cast their dreams and adventures. We try to encourage and empower people to pull the trigger on their ideas and travel plans, and we hope to convey that through making quality products. Sometimes people have intentions of taking a trip but they put it off for years, postpone booking tickets or struggle to pick a destination. Bradley Mountain is that destination.

Q: Any Bradley Mountain-eering must-haves that you recommend?

TA: The Wilder is our ultimate travel bag. It’s comfortable, it carries a lot, and if you’re looking to travel at length you could survive a few weeks on it. It’s also modular so you can clip a sleeping bag and hang your jacket on the side straps.

Q: Any Bradley Mountain favorites or best-sellers among adventure-seekers?

TA: We’ve been super surprised by this, but our bestseller is The Wilder bag, which is our highest end product. Another recent popular item has been our Dopp Kit, which is an everyday grooming kit and great for traveling.  

Q: What’s on the horizon for Bradley Mountain? Any new products in the works that we can look forward to for our next expedition?

TA: We recently released an all-leather camera strap and, at present, we’re working on launching two new bags! One is a simplified version of The Biographer and the other, The Ranger, is a cross between a duffle and a tool bag. It’s got a great open top and is a catch-all bag with seven pockets around the side…great for going to and from work or going on picnics, etc. We’ve got a few other surprises in the works. Other than that, we’ve got lots of dreams for Bradley Mountain and beyond, but we’re not yet sure what lies ahead.

Q: Where are you and the Bradley Mountain crew traveling next?

TA: We have some small trips planned that are work and event related. Nothing is set in stone yet, but I’m working on preparations for a group trip to Alaska next spring.

 

Q: When you’re not creating wanderlust wonders, what are some other hobbies or passions?

TA: Just regular stuff, we have movie nights in our workshop, we all love camping. I recently got married! The main thing we’re passionate about is trying our best to support the work of other makers. Some people get really competitive in this field because it feels fragile, but we’re building our business off of values and promote other leather workers as much as we can. We don’t have fear of other people’s success…we are really confident in what we do and we want to support other people doing the same thing.

Movin’ On Up: Bradley Mountain has since relocated from its humble beginnings within Tyler’s garage to a workshop at Moniker Group in East Village.

Native Knowledge: While you can purchase all Bradley Mountain merch online, their adventurous products can be found in a number of local stores including Lone Flag in Del Mar and Moniker General at Liberty Station.
Into the Wilder: “We want it to sound like the feel it puts off. The Wilder embodies the person who is most excited to get out there…they’re going to go the longest and just be wild.”

Bradley Mountain | @bradleymountain
“We design gear for the traveler who wants something rugged and different on their back.”—Founder of Bradley Mountain, Tyler Axtell