In this fast-paced life, nature and outdoors are some of the best places that can help reduce stress, and re-energize people physically and mentally.
A memorable, worthwhile, and to a certain extent, safe outdoor camping experience oftentimes depend on what items are prepared and packed. Delivering this experience to a wider community was the inspiration behind Snow Peak, Inc., a family-operated business, whose mission is to help connect people with life and their passion to nature.
The story of Snow Peak, Inc. began in 1958 when nature and outdoor lover, Yukio Yamai, founded the company in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. Yukio Yamai was fascinated with Mt. Tanigawa, considered to be the “devil’s mountain” because of the number of accidents that resulted to deaths. Back then, there was no highly functional clothing or gear designed for the demands of mountain climbing, luggage was heavy, and change of weather conditions was rapid and frequent – which all put climbers in imminent danger.
To help climbers take on the snowy roads and reach the summit of Mt. Tanigawa, Yukio Yamai enlisted the help of skilled people in his hometown of Tsubame Sanjo, which is known as one of Japan’s leading metal-processing towns, and began to make the tools he wanted as a climber.
Three Golden Rules in Product Design
To inspire them to come up with design ideas and new products, Snow Peak employees are encouraged to work outside – by going up the river, getting hit by heavy rain, or playing until they get exhausted. These experiences become wellspring for innovation and it is through innovative Snow Peak products that make these experiences tangible.
Following the spirit of manufacturing established by Yukio Yamai, employees are guided by three design principles that make every Snow Peak mountaineering equipment unique, easy-to-use and of high quality.
- Do not imitate. The company believes that this is most important rule in design. Creating a product that looks exactly like any existing product suggests that nothing from the status quo is changed. Snow Peak creates products that are not yet in the world in a cycle designed to constantly enrich the current outdoor experience.
- Make it multi-purpose. When a unique product has been found, Snow Peak’s design thinking process creates as many use cases as possible and imagines how a prototype can be designed for that need. Additionally, they believe that such product must be manufactured with the highest quality, making it superior in that category.
- Make it simple. Snow Peak designs the products in a minimalist way, reducing unnecessary parts and designs. Not only does it keep extra costs down, it also makes the product usable, collapsible, and portable.
Product Development Process
Since it was established, Snow Peak products have grown from outdoor equipment to accessories, down to apparel that has reached the shores of the United States.
The company’s founder, Yukio Yamai, has passed on two main product development policies: the “user perspective” and “hypothesis verification.” These manufacturing policies are being applied up to the present, with no changes made in the process.
The first one, “user’s perspective,” is developing the product from the user’s point of view, and keeping in mind what tools a user would like to use.
On the other hand, “hypothesis verification” is not only developing the product but also repeatedly testing it.
Snow Peak product development. Image Source: Snow Peak
Mockups are tested in the field where rain, wind and sunlight are poured, and rigorous verification is repeated many times until satisfactory data is obtained. After rigorous verification, the product specifications are decided, and it begins to breathe as an outdoor gear.
Snow Peak products being put to the test. Image Source: Snow Peak
The process of hypothesis verification continues even during the manufacturing process. The developers convey the selection of materials, structure, sewing and manufacturing methods, durability, and other specifications to the craftsmen of Tsubame, Sanjo. Hypothesis is made for each step and the verification process is repeated.
After clearing strict verification and in-house examination, the developers continue to oversee the mass production of the product. Even if the mass production has been completed, a strict check system continues where daily repeat inspections are maintained.
Now, Snow Peak, Inc. is being managed by Yukio Yamai’s son, Tohru Yamai, who is continuing his father’s legacy of producing world-class, sturdy, and minimalist outdoor equipment and accessories. While Yukio Yamai’s granddaughter Lisa Yamai has launched an apparel line that is aligned with the goal that his grandfather has started— “to provide customers with rich experiences that inspire us all.”
At present, Snow Peak, Inc.’s products are divided into four categories: Outdoor Living which is mainly tents, outdoor beddings, outdoor furniture, and lighting; Outdoor Accessories which are the camping accessories, cases and containers, packs and bags, and they even have something for your pets; Outdoor Dining which may be for camping or just some backyard cooking like grills, cookware, tableware, drinkware, and coolers; and lastly the Apparel which is both for adults and kids.
For the future, Snow Peak will continue to bring comfortable and an enriched outdoor experience to anyone who wants to spend time with nature. By bringing together partners who shape the product, customers who use these products, local people who protect nature, and employees who stay committed with the organization’s mission, Snow Peak promises to keep this cycle akin to the natural rhythms and cycle of nature.