Born from conversations with hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2006, local gear company Yama Mountain combines founder Gen Shimizu’s love of designing and making with his appreciation for the outdoors. “Yama is the result of those passions coming together,” he says. The company’s products, which range from tarps and tents to rain mitts and skirts, are designed and manufactured in its East Market Street studio in the Linen Building. We asked Shimizu a few questions about what’s on offer right now—and what’s coming up.
Why’d you base the company in Charlottesville?
I moved to Charlottesville to study mechanical engineering at UVA and stuck around to explore the area. I enjoy the balance of culture and arts with ease of access to the mountains that our city provides. I love how easy it is to get out onto the trails at any time of the year.
What is your bestseller? (And what makes that product special?)
Our Swiftline and Cirriform shelters are popular choices among backpackers looking for reliable and highly efficient shelters. Both use trekking poles for support rather than tent poles and weigh between one and two pounds. A combination of specialized materials with refined, minimalist designs helps achieve a high level of performance. Our customers tend to be traveling long distances, perhaps thru-hiking, or simply trying to reduce the load on their back.
Which of your products do you personally use the most (or are you currently obsessed with)?
We just launched the Sassafras, our first backpack. It’s designed for activities demanding good freedom of movement and stability. We love using it for minimalist backpacking trips, trail-running, cross-country skiing and biking. It’s quickly become a favorite piece of gear and we’re excited to see where we can go with it.