“I realized that having the ability to get at your things on the go was so powerful, because it allowed you to just keep going” -Bryce Thatcher
Have you ever had an idea, something that came to you that would solve a problem you are having in the moment, only to realize something like it exists already? (that is the absolute worst I know) Well that is not the case for a young Bryce Thatcher, he had an idea that would forever change the way people involved in endurance sports would perform forever, with the release of his new short documentary I wanted to highlight his story as I find it inspiring and motivational and I hope you do as well! I will provide a link to the film at the end of this post.
The idea behind the product that changed running forever:
It was on the Idaho side of the Tetons that a young man found his love for the outdoors. Bryce Thatcher learned early on that he wanted to build a life immersed in the trails and mountains. Bryce would charge through the Tetons with his best friend and lifeline, his backpack, and would run with the straps in hand to keep it securely against his back and push as long and as hard as long as possible until he felt like he was going to collapse, at which point he would stop to drink. He would guzzle an entire bottle of water or apple juice which would slosh in his stomach and ultimately slow him down. An idea was born from this, what if he could reach his water without ever taking the backpack off? This would be the thought that revolutionized the efficiency and performance of endurance athletes to this present day.
In 1979 Bryce introduced the first ever hydration pack that he personally used to be faster during his mountain runs, as the term trailrunning had not yet been used as the primary term. Before his pack creation, he used a backpack that he took with him everywhere on his adventures, he called this his “best friend”, and while he loved that backpack as it accompanied him on many adventures that he would never forget, he also began to realize that there had to be a better way to be faster in the mountains.
Why the need for Bryce to be faster?
In 1981, Bryce was ready to go for his first FKT (Fastest Known Time) on the Grand Teton. A man by the name of Gock Glidden held the current FKT on the Teton with a time of 4 hours and 11 minutes. Initially, Bryce came in with a goal to break 4 hours, he would be running a trail he had never ran before called the Owen-Spalding route. All in all, Bryce set the new FKT at 3 hours and 47 minutes solidifying his first FKT and the new Grand Teton world record.
For Bryce, setting the FKT meant being as efficient as possible with as little delay as possible. The pack he had invented allowed him to not have to stop and unload his pack to get a drink, and be more mobile while staying hydrated.
Sharing with the world:
After the creation of the first hydration pack, which was cut and made out of Levi material, Bryce knew instantly that there was a need for this product in the marketplace, but he didn’t know just how popular his packs would become.
During his time as a pre-med major in college he would wear some of his prototype packs to sporting events. His teammates would see the packs he wore and ask where he got them. Upon explaining how he created them, the team was insistent that they each have one of their own. At the time he was a full time student, full time employee, and competitive athlete. With the inquiry from his peers about his products, he also decided to start a company. This company would be called Ultimate Direction. He prepared a one page business plan and presented it to his father who in turn invested $1,000 to help him get started. He purchased a sewing machine for $960 and invested the other $40 into fabric and webbing. Bryce was working at a specialty run store called the Athletes Foot while making packs on the side. With the few packs he had designed the owner of the store he worked for was intrigued by them, and allowed Bryce to set up a display showcasing the packs. After a few weeks, a man came into he store and saw the packs and asked Bryce if he was interested in hiring a sales rep. A week later, on a Sunday morning, Bryce got a phone call from his new rep with his first order for 12 of each of his 3 separate pack designs. With the help of his mother they sewed by hand for a week straight and finished the order.
The evolution of hydration:
in 2012, after starting and growing Ultimate Direction and working with Nathan Sports as a designer, Bryce decided that he wanted to get back to doing what he loves doing the most in this world, building packs for others that he would choose for himself without worrying about price, volume, or mass production. This was the spark that ignited the company, UltrAspire. Bryce has had a philosophy throughout his career, create the best product so that the athlete can enhance their performance. Since the beginning of UltrAspire the creation of athlete worthy products has always been the primary goal, the process Bryce goes through before a product reaches the market is thorough and specific.
Bryce’s passion for innovation began early which lead to many industry firsts including the first screw top sports water bottle, the first handheld, the first race vest, the first backpack with built-in hydration, and many more. The innovation will always continue, it continues out of need, and it continues out of the need to perform better.
We can find inspiration everywhere we look, for some people it often comes from seeing another chase their dreams. That is why I wanted to share this short version of the story with you today in case you are looking for some extra motivation, as well as provide the longer more detailed version of story regarding running and hydration from past to present day.