Following a Pack Order

The pack department has come a long way since KUIU’s inception in 2011, with multiple moves and expansions as popularity and volume have increased. Up until Q2 of 2014, packs were assembled in a small dedicated back room at the Dixon office. Every day a truck load of bags and suspension would be picked up from the warehouse and brought to the office to fill the days orders. In the mornings an Excel spreadsheet would be printed, containing information for each pack order- customer name, order number, order time/date, and pack style/size/color; which would then be written out manually onto a separate form for each order before the building would proceed. Once assembled, each finished pack and form would be loaded up and brought back to the warehouse the next day for shipping.

I still remember the 2013 Black Friday sale like it was yesterday: The spreadsheet was at least fifteen pages long and took over 2 hours to hand write onto individual sheets. Ben Britton and I assembled packs in the back room until the wee hours of the morning for days on end to catch up. The only thing that kept us going was our goal of lining each hall in the office with a solid wall of packs on each side- which we ended up doing more than once. One morning Jason walked in and said “Okay, enough is enough- what do we have to do to get this operation moved over to the warehouse?”

The photo below depicts the gauntlet of packs that would pile up in the hall on an average afternoon in the weeks leading up to the department move.

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Just in time for the arrival of the ULTRA line in 2014, I got the pack department moved to our spacious warehouse in Vacaville, CA. The assembly team has grown from one full-time employee when I arrived in early-2013 to four full-time assembly employees today.

As a company we spend a lot of time focusing on product transparency, but what’s rarely highlighted is the day-to-day, behind the scenes operation that makes KUIU run. I came up the idea for this article on January 20th, at which point I emailed the Customer Service team asking for a customer willing to have their name and order tracked as a sample. Ricky, one of the newer members to the KUIU team, replied the next morning with a name: D.R. Horrocks of Vernal, Utah.

D.R. Horrocks ordered a Clearance Icon 5200 in Phantom over the phone with Ricky at 11:51am on January 21, 2015. (Notice the brand new Customer Service building).

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New orders are loaded twice per day at our warehouse in Vacaville, CA- 11 miles down the highway from our Dixon headquarters. During this process, the warehouse account manager Laura syncs her warehouse management software to KUIU’s order management software, and copies a large file containing each new order that’s been placed since the previous batch. Laura’s software then splits this large file up into individual orders before proceeding to print a “pick ticket” for each order to be packed and shipped. Once the batch of orders has finished printing, Laura manually sorts out any pack orders which are then delivered to Cody, our pack assembly and quality control supervisor.

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D.R. Horrocks’ order ticket was loaded and printed at 12:10pm on January 21st, just 19 minutes after his order was placed. Once the new batch of pack order tickets reach the assembly area, Cody, Abel, and George begin work to assemble each pack. Below we see D.R.’s order ticket next to the parts for his new Icon 5200, which Cody is beginning to build.

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Each KUIU Full Kit pack requires roughly 17 minutes worth of assembly before it’s ready to ship. Frames, which are received in weekly batches from the frame maker in Sacramento, CA, require sanding and an acetone cleaning before the specialized 3M Velcro is applied. A strip of edge trim is also applied to the bottom of the frame. Next the guys install the necessary webbing and hardware, used to attach the bag to the frame. The final steps include installation of the shoulder straps, waist belt, and bag. The photo below displays each step from start to finish for an Icon Pro Full Kit.

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Once a pack has been assembled and bagged with a manual, it’s then taken down to the packing area to be boxed and set in line for shipping. This is also the stage where any additional non-pack items are pulled from the warehouse shelves to be added to the outgoing order. Below Cody is boxing D.R.’s pack for shipment, still within two hours of the order being placed.

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After boxing, the pack moves to one of the four shipping stations where it gets weighed and ready for exit. Unique address and product-specific bar codes on the order ticket are scanned into the shipping software, where a number of actions are initiated: 1) The customer’s address and shipping preference pops up in a shipping document, 2) A packing slip with all items on the order is generated and printed, and 3) a shipping label is made. Additionally, this is the point at which a return form and any special offer coupons go into the package as well.

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Once the documents and shipping label have been inserted and attached, the package is securely sealed with KUIU packing tape and set on the day’s outgoing order pallet to be picked up by day’s end. FedEx and USPS back up to a bay door roughly 75 feet from the shipping station. Below you see D.R. Horrock’s pack boxed and ready to be shipped via FedEx, just three hours after placing his order.

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D.R. was nice enough to send us photos of himself opening the package at his home two days later on Friday, January 23rd.

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Having efficiently shipped over 8,000 pack orders in 2014, we feel we have a great program in place- with room to grow as needed. The key to the pack department’s efficiency is having great employees in place who care about the quality of both the product and the customer experience. Even as volume picks up this Spring and Summer, it is our goal for 2015 to get all packs assembled and shipped within 3 business days of the order being placed.

If there’s a another portion of KUIU that you would like to see highlighted in the future, email me your thoughts at toddh@kuiu.com.

-Todd Harney 

Expanding the Comfort Zone

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“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will not accomplish anything in life.”

-Muhammad Ali

Preface: This topic is a fitting one for my first post to The Hunt. It’s not easy publishing thoughts and advice for the public. What if they don’t like the way it reads? What if it’s not useful for anyone? These are the questions that went through my head as I sat down to begin writing. I soon realized that I was simply having a hard time leaving my comfort zone, which I’ve also experienced and been able to overcome throughout my development in the outdoors. In posting this content I have left my comfort zone. What will you do next to leave yours?

When you take a moment to sit back and reflect on past hunts, which experiences initially come to mind? Do you think about the times you took a quick road hunt and shot something close to the truck? Or does your memory take you back to a time when you were in over your head and ready to give up, but somehow stayed in the game and found success? Thinking back on my own experiences, the hunts that stand out the most are those where a lot of time was spent outside of my comfort zone. Not by coincidence, these were also the hunts that were the most successful.

Because hunting is such an individual sport, one can easily sail through a hunt while selling themselves short on effort and production. The hunter answers only to themselves so there are no repercussions for slacking. At the same time, again because hunting is such an individual sport, one can go all in and shoot for the stars and there are no repercussions for failure. If you’re one to have found the drive to step outside your comfort zone in the mountains each year, hats off to you. But for those of you who find yourselves staying within the bounds of your hunting comfort zone, read on.

Getting outside the comfort zone requires a specific mental approach- one that’s comfortable with risk, even if an immediate reward is not likely. If a filled tag was guaranteed every time someone decided to backpack hunt alone, go a mile further than they’ve gone before, or not return to camp for a night to stay in position for the morning, everyone would be doing it. These are just a few examples of the many situations which might require one to leave their comfort zone for an extended period of time without the promise of bounty as a reward. While immediate success won’t always be a direct result of getting out of the zone, the long term benefits are well worth the effort. The beauty of the comfort zone is that each time it’s left behind, it gets bigger for the future. Slowly but surely, the unknown becomes the new norm.

Aside from staying aware the risk-reward mental aspect, there are a number of things you can do to extend your boundaries next season. Below are a few recommendations for starters.

Visit New Country

Simply hunting a new area is one way to force yourself into the unknown. We all have those places we’ve looked at on Google Earth over and over or frequently driven by on the way to our favorite spots- but never taken the time to put true effort into. Is your comfort zone stopping you from loading up a pack and checking it out?

Refine Your Kit

No matter how obsessive you are or aren’t about the weight of your pack, there’s almost always room to get by with less. Evaluate your “comfort” items, and leave something you’ve always thought was nice to have behind for a hunt.

Hunt With Someone More Accomplished

This may be easier said than done depending on who you are or who you know. But, if you can find someone to go on a hunt with who will drive you outside of your comfort zone, take advantage of it. Let them know beforehand what your goals are, and specifically ask them to push you.

Plan a Trip Like Never Before

Again, easier said than done depending on what you’ve accomplished, but it can be done. Even if you need to plan now for a hunt next year or even later, put something together that you know will be tough. The more preparation, planning, and anxiety involved, the better!

Hunt Alone

Nothing forces you to be more honest with yourself about your feelings and abilities than spending days on end alone in the backcountry. Everything is on you, and you will either leave knowing you left it all on the line, or if you sold yourself short. Either way, this one will surely make your comfort zone grow.

Now is a great time of year to be setting goals for the 2015 hunting seasons. To get the most out of yourself, consciously set goals that will require leaving your comfort zone to fulfill. Leaving the comfort zone isn’t about getting things right the first time, it’s about building blocks to grow upon. While it’s not easy, slowly expanding your comfort zone will be a long term investment in your hunting abilities. Manoj Arora said it best in From the Rat Race to Financial Freedom: “Comfort is your biggest trap and coming out of comfort is your biggest challenge.”

Todd Harney

 

Welcome to The Hunt

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The backcountry: It’s the most remote, isolated, undeveloped, and hard to reach place we can go. It offers no mercy and can chew you up and spit you out, no matter how prepared you went in. Yet for many of us, the backcountry is always calling for our return. We go there to find solitude, to test ourselves, to pursue the unknown, and to spend time living outside our comfort zones.

Its no secret that the backcountry provides much of the best big game habitat there is, and that its steep walls and deep valleys deter many hunters from going in and taking the trophies it grows. Sure, most would agree that acre for acre, public backcountry areas hold more trophy animals than any other collective land type out there. But for many of us who hunt these areas year in and year out, the trophy potential is just a small piece of what calls us back.

At some point in each of our pasts there was turning point- a striking realization that the backcountry had grabbed our hearts and didn’t let go. Maybe it was an awe-inspiring sunrise view from a ridge that few people have reached. Perhaps it was the feeling of accomplishment after reaching a place that you’d always wanted to reach. Possibly it was a sequence of moments shared with someone close that wouldn’t have been the same if it happened anywhere outside of the backcountry. This early defining moment, whatever it may have been, captivated us- perhaps to the point of obsession. This enthrallment with hunting the backcountry happened to me at age 13. I had plenty of previous field experience hunting upland birds with my grandpa and pigs with my dad and our dogs; but it wasn’t until my dad took me on a backpack deer hunt in the Ruby Mountains that I felt the life-changing emotions that a backcountry hunt can provide.

Reflecting back now, that single experience has largely influenced the way my life has evolved ever since. Over the course of that week long hunt, I gained a small bank of knowledge on things that apply not only to hunting, but to life. I learned about test of self, patience and persistence, when to work harder and when to work smarter, as well as the direct correlation between effort and success. Naturally, my interest in gear was sparked as well.

Thirteen years, hundreds of days and nights spent living out of a pack, dozens of successful hunts, and who knows how many gear changes later, I still find myself building upon the same basic lessons my dad taught me on that initial introduction to the backcountry. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to venture into numerous mountain ranges throughout various states to fulfill my calling along the way.

After graduating college in the Spring of 2013, the stars aligned and I began working at KUIU. This opportunity brought my ability to study gear advancements to a whole new level, not to mention the wealth of knowledge in contacts such a job opens access to. As a new project for 2015 I will be contributing content of various subjects to this page, The Hunt. These pieces shall address anything and everything from frequently asked how-to’s, gear related articles, customer interviews, photo essays, hunt stories, KUIU behind the scenes, and more.

If you share the same feelings toward backcountry hunting as described above, then we should get along great.

Please check back soon for more, and never hesitate to interact in the comments section. If there’s a subject you’d like to see covered in The Hunt, feel free to email me at toddh@kuiu.com.

Sincerely,

Todd Harney