1972: The early years
The Great BACH Packing and Construction Company is established on Thomas Street in Kilkenny. The first packs made by the 7 employees were external frame packs based on the famous Camp Trails backpacks from the USA. In the eighties BACH witnessed and participated in the biggest innovation period ever in backpacks. From an external frame, packs were now developed with internal frames. BACH was present right at the beginning of this exciting period in history and were the first to introduce an internal frame system that was truly adjustable. It was called Orthoflex and the patent was pending for years...
1985: New Chapters of BACH
As buyers for the Swiss Outdoor and Travel chain Transa, Martin and Beat travel to Kilkenny looking for outdoor equipment made in Europe. Overwhelmed by the Minimal Order Quantity (“less than one piece could be difficult”) they bring the first 20 packs home to sell at the Transa shop in Zürich.
In the summer of 89 the Swiss caused a little uproar in rural Kilkenny. After a sudden and unexpected bankrupt they took over the factory, inventory and all its workers and re-named it «TransBach Ltd». Although everybody worked hard, the first achievement was that turnover of the local pub became inversely proportional to the BACH turnover. As it seemed, the world was not yet ready for the influences from a young ambitious Swiss mountain guide by the name of Martin Wiesmann.
1989: OVERLAND - a true BACH Classic
The birth of the BACH Overland. A true BACH classic which was named after the first extended overland Trans Sahara expeditions by the founders of Transa in the late seventies. Even after ist fifth makeover the key-features never changed. The Overland still has the shape and usabilty of a suitcase but the carrying comfort of a trekking pack.
1991: Touching the void
For the first three years nothing happens. And with nothing we mean really nothing! The market has not been waiting for the new messias of the backpacks and the saying pioneering does not pay turns out to be more than true. The re-vamp of the product image with its "simple is beautiful" concept leads to a near complete loss of the existing customer base. We do not manage to sell any meaningful numbers of any of our new designs and by the end of 1992 the company goes nearly bust. Subsequently the management team is reduced to one person and the “CEO” acts as designer, sales guy, first and last maintenance officer playing drums, guitar and vocals at the same time. Martin learns the hard way that the demanding work of building a new company does not go well with extensive travelling, rock climbing, mountaineering and ski-touring he was so far living for. But the years are not lost. We successfully build up BACHs reputation of being a very happy company, where the beer isn't going stale and where nobody needs being forced to party. Step by step we find new customers. The frequent visitors from the continent like the somewhat rotten charms of our premises in Michael Street, they enjoy the lovely view across the medieval city of Kilkenny and the sweet potato smell of roasted hope being blown across the river from the nearby Smithwicks brewery.
1995: New factory at Hebron Road, Kilkenny
The company bike is being replaced by a brand new Nissan Vanette - a major event on the empty Irish roads at the time. With the kind support of Kodak this infrastructural exploit is immediately turned into an eternal stand still picture while Arthur Guinness launches a new beer called "Kilkenny" in honour of our brave efforts. With that kind of support we couldn't go wrong: In 1995 we sell more than a hundred pieces of several of our packs and slowly but surely the turnover figures start to show more zeros than our debts with the bank.
So we move into our new premises at the Hebron Road Industrial Estate in Kilkenny. We finally have sufficient space. There are separate toilets for men and women, the attic is big enough to serve as a design room and there is a huge office for all the managers. Only the light show is not too impressive but after handing out the requested miners lamps everybody is happy.
2000: Change for the good
BACH not only surprises the outdoor world with a once again superb collection of packs but tops the charts with a masterful new internet page. The world is holding its breath! Dominik is so proud of himself that the people around him need tranquilizers and some even psychological counselling.
The slow but constant build up of a second production in Vietnam is a good bit less glamorous and spectacular than www.bachpacks.com but as vital in the long run for the survival of the brand BACH. Vietnam is subsidising the Kilkenny production and facilitates the growth. By the summer 2000 BACH remains the only outdoor brand running a major production in Western Europe.
2004: Finally a Forklift !
The purchase of a second hand fork lift with all the technical features of a modern fighter plane makes one of Tonys and Martins dreams come true. Big boys toys you may say and right you are! Unfortunately the yard lights don't survive the early driving exercises of the patron. In the interest of a safe neighbourhood and the well being of the premises as much as the co-workers Luzia organises a fork lift driving course for everybody.
By the end of June we finally scale down the production in Kilkenny and shift most of the production for the season 2005 to Vietnam. Nevertheless a substantial part of the big trekking packs as well as some more exotic products are still being made in Kilkenny to this day. The production in Kilkenny allows us to produce small series of speciality products, it helps to overcome bottle necks in supply and gives us the possibility to still make custom fit packs for individual customers.
2006 - In the name of love
Tony is a happy man and the irish no longer need swiss mountain guide biceps for shipping boxes. In the name of love for the mountains and his girl, Martin moves back to Switzerland and with him the BACH design studio.
Being situated close to mountains and nature is not only reflected in the number of extended weekends of our BACH employees, but also leads to product ideas for the first prototypes that are created in the workshop in Wiesendangen near Winterthur. So along with being Irish, BACH gets more and more Swiss and Vietnamese. Although BACH has been growing step-by-step over the last years the passion for backpacks in all its details still remains.
Working together in a small company is something very personal. We all know each other for a long time. The commitment to the Irish production reflects theses personal friendships which have grown over the years. Like a family we have gone through good and sometimes not so good patches. The decision to outsource most of the production was not an easy one. Thanks to the ongoing massive growth of the Irish economy all our people easily found new, often better paid jobs than they had with BACH. From a human point of view this is a comforting feeling. But it does not change the fact, that we ultimately failed to deliver what we originally came for: to provide production jobs in Western Europe and not in Asia. But nobody can turn back the wheel of time.
2013 - Big in Japan
At the outdoor show in 2013 a nice Japanese guy shows up with a catalogue from the 90s in his hand, asking if we still offer the ‘Flintstone’. We don’t, but ask Bridget if she still has the original patterns. She does and she makes two pieces. Before we know it, Takuya makes us big in Japan. It is the start of a new adventure and new friendships.
2015 - Partnerships
Long lasting partnerships with ACAPULKA lead to numerous expeditions to the poles and other remarkable achievements carried out with pulling harnesses and covers made by BACH.
For Leica we designed and produced a Red Dot Award Winning product which caries their measuring device.
Additionally we start to work with the several insitutions and associations such as the Schweizerische Bundesbahnen (SBB), the Swedish police or dutch rescue forces and supply them with BACH Security- and high-visibility packs.
2019 - 40 years BACH
This year we celebrate 40 years of making packs better and it has been a good ride so far. We are excited to share it with you and look forward to hearing your experiences with our packs soon!