The origins of the Filson x Springbar “Outfitter” Tent can be traced back to one man from Salt Lake City, Utah, and his inspiration for creating a tent that was portable, easily set up, and versatile enough for all kinds of backwoods and terrain.
Jack Kirkham, Sr. was the designer of the original Springbar Tent, so called for his ingenious framework that relied on flex, tension, and hardened spring steel rods to create a canvas tent that was remarkably durable yet required only a few poles to pitch.
When Kirkham first operated his workshop in Salt Lake City in the 1950s (the AAA Tent & Awning Shop), the poles were installed internally, inside the tent’s fabric, but Kirkham soon changed this for an easier-to-use installation that had the pole framework on the outside of the tent. His experience in designing canvas goods for miners, travelers, outfitters and herders inspired his use of a tightly woven cotton duck canvas as the fabric of choice for the new tents, which were coming into greater demand by an American populace looking for outdoor adventures but also leisure and comfort.
Kirkham’s signature “Springbar Tent” of 1961 was followed by an entire line of tents with names that both invoked and defined the American camper’s experience: “The Retreat,” “The Cabana,” “The Deluxe Trailmaster,” and “The Deluxe Vacationer” soon became favorites and “must-haves” for families coast to coast.
These tents became a standard for all—from the American day camper up to today’s “car camper.” There were pitched overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Baha and the windswept coastlines of New England, in National Parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone, along waterways and deserts and destinations like the Grand Canyon, or in remote locations accessible only by foot and pack animal.
The tents were far simpler than previous models, requiring fewer poles and no ropes. They also withstand high winds and weather that knocked other tents flat. Kirkham’s tents soon earned a reputation for being durable, roomy and easy to pitch. Kirkham also established a tradition of using only American made sources for his tent materials, from the fabric to the signature steel wire stake loops. This practice has continued to the current era, with even the cotton fabric dyed and finished in Georgia.
The “Outfitter” model was inspired after a history of horse packers over the past century in America, with the same utility of the Springbar framework but with a pole design that allowed the entire tent to be broken down to a size that could be carried by a pack animal. One modern adaptation found in the Filson x Springbar Outfitter is the “Bison/Suntan” canvas color, a combination never before released by the Springbar workshop. Repeated in the new Outfitters is the Springbar tradition of quality, where one can expect tents to last 30, 40 years and longer.