On this episode of the Hunting Gear Podcast, Dan is joined by Kevin Leach of Latitude Outdoors to talk about the rise of their saddle hunting gear. Kevin shares their origin story of how three college friends who were all serious deer hunters decided to start a business together. Dan and Kevin cover company history, the evolution of their saddle and climbing sticks, and the direction they plan on taking the company in the future. If you are a serious saddle hunter, you may want to check out Latitude Outdoors. Enjoy and Share!
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Mic check. One, two. Ladies and gentlemen, here we go. Welcome back to the Hunting Gear Podcast. I'm your host, Dan Johnson, and today we will be talking with Kevin Leach. From Latitude Outdoors. Now, if you don't know who Latitude Outdoors is, you're gonna learn today. They are a saddle hunting company, but I have a feeling that in the next handful of years, they're [00:01:00] just going to continue to come out with some pretty cool products.
I saw their booth at the ATA show, and I must admit, they make a good saddle and they have a really lightweight carbon fiber climbing stick. If you're a gear junkie, you already know all this stuff. But today we're gonna get the some information straight from the horse's mouth. Kevin Leach, he's one of the original founders.
And today we're gonna talk about company history. We're gonna talk about their product line, how they develop new products and then we're gonna break it down into Saddle Saddles and we're gonna break it down into climbing sticks and all the other accessories that they offer. So this is a really good episode, especially if you are trying to get into the saddle hunting space and you're trying to figure out what.
Products you wanna buy, what brand you wanna buy. This episode is just gonna give you the information that you need to make it a, make an accurate decision. So with that said, there are no commercials this week. Let's get right into today's episode with [00:02:00] Kevin Leach from Latitude Outdoors. 3, 2, 1.
All right, ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to the Hunting Gear Podcast. I'm your host, Dan Johnson, and today we're gonna be talking with Kevin Leach from Latitude. Kevin, how we doing, man?
[00:02:17] Kevin: Good morning, Dan. Thanks for having me on.
[00:02:18] Dan Johnson: Yeah, you a coffee drinker?
[00:02:21] Kevin: I'm a big coffee drinker. Yeah.
[00:02:23] Dan Johnson: Yeah I've recently had to cut back.
On the amount of coffee that I was drinking, I was drinking almost, I wanna say almost a whole pot in the mornings over a three hour period. And then I would eat lunch, then I would get tired, and then I would have like somewhere around one or 2, 2 30, I would have to have another cup of coffee. And so finally I've just been like, Jesus, that's too much caffeine.
I need to cut it back drastically. So I have my coffee here. But it's it's only this much of it, and it's my first cup of the day. And so I gotta cut back before my heart [00:03:00] jumps outta my chest.
[00:03:01] Kevin: Yeah I that happens to me sometimes as well. It seems like it comes and goes.
Either I'm drinking a lot or then I try to cut back. Similar to what you mentioned there, but it's a constant battle with how much caffeine is being ingested. Yeah. Just depends on what's going on, in, in life. Yeah.
[00:03:17] Dan Johnson: Absolutely. You're getting fired up for the upcoming season yet.
[00:03:21] Kevin: Oh man. Yeah. We just got back a little over a week ago. We had the Total Luxury Challenge here in Michigan. Which we attend every year. Yeah. And it feels like that with the timing of it always being that second weekend of June I like to stop thinking about hunting for at least a couple of months in the springtime.
I'm a big fisherman. Yep. We really all are on the team and it's a good way to get away and have some balance throughout the year. But once total archery challenge hits here in Michigan, it's like a, a switch flips and, I'm thinking about whitetail now for sure. Yeah. And excited to start getting some cameras out here and.
And looking at what the prospects are for the upcoming fall.
[00:03:57] Dan Johnson: Yeah, I have a couple things that [00:04:00] I'm really looking forward to within the next handful of weeks. This week's gonna be crazy. I don't think I'll be able to do it this week, but maybe next week I keep pushing it back, but I gotta get trail cameras up.
Out, right? I ha I already dumped the mineral out during Turkey season. I just need to go put the trail cameras over top of them. Yeah. Then put some trail cameras into the, into the, like the pinch points and things like that. See what Deere moving around. And then the other thing is I got my skull plate right here from last year's buck and I just got a confirmation that they're ready for it at my taxidermist.
But my taxidermist is like an hour and a half away. From where I live okay. I gotta go make a trip down there so he can put it together so then I can make another trip down there to go pick it up, by the end of June or something like that. I am, that's exciting. Oh, dude, it's, I don't know about you, but visiting my no.
Number one, my taxidermist Sam Gaylord from Old Barn Taxidermy. He, I don't know what it is about him. I just love talking with that guy. He's just [00:05:00] one of those people that I just like to see every year. I like to catch up with him. I like to bs with him and it's one, it's like an adult Christmas.
You go there you're, you drop something off that you know what you're gonna get back, and it's just awesome every single time.
[00:05:15] Kevin: I feel like having just a jolly personality and a bunch of good stories is like a prerequisite for being a taxman. Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. They remember everybody's name.
You only see 'em once every year, every few years, whatever it ends up being. But they remember everybody. They see a lot of cool stuff and they have a lot of good stories.
[00:05:33] Dan Johnson: Oh, that's a fact. Lots of good stories. Let's see here. Latitude outta Michigan, right?
[00:05:40] Kevin: That's correct. Yep. That's our home base here.
[00:05:43] Dan Johnson: How many years has the Latitude been a company?
[00:05:47] Kevin: At the time of this recording in two weeks, so we're mid-June here, 2023. We will hit our three year anniversary at the end of the month.
[00:05:54] Dan Johnson: Okay. Awesome. All right, and it's you and two other founders, is
[00:05:58] Kevin: that correct? [00:06:00] Yeah, so we started, so myself and then my two good friends from college, that's where we met.
We're all, or originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan. But we met in undergrad over at the University of Michigan on the east side of our state here. And so Alex Chop and Jake Metall are my two partners, and we've just been since college hunting and fishing buddies ever since. And really always tinkering, building our own gear.
And that ultimately led into, what became Latitude Outdoors here three years ago. But we're just really good friends that have a passion for everything we talk about and everything we build product for.
[00:06:38] Dan Johnson: Yeah. Awesome. All right. So three dudes sitting around, sometimes three dudes sitting around can be good.
Sometimes it can be bad but three, three dudes who love hunting in the outdoors, sitting around. How does latitude form, how does, how, what's the intro story? What's the origin story of [00:07:00] latitude?
[00:07:01] Kevin: Yeah, so it, I mean it's interesting. We all grew up in hunting families. Our dads were always hunting our grand not me, but Jake and Alex their grandfather.
For both of them. We're both big into it, so we all grew up around it. A lot of just public land, none of our families really have access or own a bunch of private here in Michigan, but we have a ton of public land in Michigan, so we all grew up around it. Those guys started doing whitetail hunting very early on.
And I was a big athlete in my younger years, all the way up through college actually. So I really didn't start whitetail hunting on my own until after college. And they were right there in the very beginning of it. But what that did is I think I when I started, I came in with, Less preconceived notions in terms of gear and what you know should be used out there.
I didn't really come up with the, Hey, we gotta go set our stands [00:08:00] for the year and go fine tune those spots and hope they don't get stolen and that kind of thing. My dad was always a mobile publicly land guy. He has been for over 50 years just cuz that's what he had to do. But the origination of the saddles and the company really started.
I was traveling for work and staying up in Midland, Michigan, which is a small town in northern Michigan, but it's where Dow Chemicals headquartered. And they were a client of mine at the time for my previous job. And Midland Michigan's a great little town, but it's little and you run out of things to do pretty quick.
So I was staying in a hotel three nights a week and just, the way my, my brain works, I'm always looking for. Things to do and building new stuff. And I just started I had been messing with the saddles for a little bit and specifically an Anderson tree sling, an old one that my dad found in his basement that my mom bought for him from Meyer for probably 35 bucks back in the day, early nineties.
And I had been playing around with that for a while and modifying it [00:09:00] and I just started progressing that further. There were some things I really liked about that old. Two pa panel sling design, but there were a lot of I dunno, issues with the user friendliness of it specifically.
And I was, I actually bought a sewing machine off of Amazon and I started doing, bringing that up to Midland with me every week and buying some webbings and different materials and sewing together these saddles that night after work in a hotel room. And did that for probably six months or so and felt like I was starting to get some traction in a direction of something that was different but significantly better than what I had been DIYing with the Anderson tree Sling and I showed it to Alex and Jay had said in it, and, the light bulb went on and it clicked and they could see why it was better and different.
And we started working on it together from that point and really refined it over the next 22 months. Leading up to, launching Latitude Outdoors in early July of 2020. It was, we were working [00:10:00] on the saddle itself and that turned into our Method two panel saddle.
Specifically what was being worked on in the hotel there. And that. That was something that almost two years before we even started the company we had been working on. And we, tested it with a bunch of friends and whatnot in our circles and just it evolved from there and was well received.
We put this thing together with our own money. We don't have a big financial donor. Our backer, we're just literally three really good friends from college that. Build gear to solve problems for ourselves. And we put 'em out there and other people liked 'em as well. So here we are three years later.
[00:10:33] Dan Johnson: Gotcha. So you guys maybe the peak is, has passed, the very first time saddles were introduced it was a fad and I think it was a fad just because technology and social media wasn't around at that time. So it came and went great. Social media hits things that are able to get, like certain things in life are able to be reborn.
A [00:11:00] fad can start again. All right, so saddles are introduced again, and then I would say somewhere around the time that you guys started would've been. Like the peak of the saddle craze. Why did you guys say, man, cuz there's a lot of other companies out there that already had established companies, already had saddles made.
How did how did you guys make the decision to say, okay, we're gonna start this business and we're gonna plan to compete with the already established saddle market?
[00:11:32] Kevin: I think it's a. Pretty easy answer. For us, it's two things. First and foremost, we're just extremely passionate about. This industry, this, hunting in general, public land moving around.
All three of us, our personalities, we just love to explore new places and try new things. And that was really the impetus for starting the company, wasn't that, Hey, we wanna go try to make some money. Because saddles have gotten popular. We feel like we've got a different design that fits well in the marketplace and solve some problems for people.
[00:12:00] That's all kind of execution details, but we've always together wanted to collectively start a company. And it just so happens that it ended up being with hunting saddles. Yeah. In the hunting space. But we started this cuz we wanna just share our passion for trying new things and seeking adventure and inspire other people to do that.
Gotcha. So that's the root of it. And it just so happens that the saddle was the mechanism for us to start doing that. Gotcha. So this is the life that we wanted to live and was a goal of ours. I that's
[00:12:30] Dan Johnson: How we approached it. Okay. All right. So when you guys were, when you were sitting around sewing these saddles in in this hotel room.
Did so did you look at other saddles and were you already a saddle hunter saying, Hey, I, I use this saddle. I'm experienced saddle hunter. I want to put my twist on it, or I wanna make the current version better. What was that? What was that like? Because [00:13:00] some people would look at it and go, oh, it's just another saddle company coming to the market selling the same thing.
How would you answer that?
[00:13:09] Kevin: Yeah. So yes, we always look at, other saddles from the competition. There's always some baseline lining involved, but when we, go and develop any product, even. Even something that's not a saddle, we don't sit down and write down what the competition is doing and then, try to find a way to fit in the marketplace.
Okay. We always start with the customer and really trying to build empathy along the entire, journey map of how they're gonna be using that product within their hunting system. Cause everyone has a little bit different system. And then what are the problems that they are prioritizing and experiencing?
Are there problems that they're experiencing they don't even realize. And how can we find a solution then to fit along that entire journey map that optimizes the experience from the moment you leave the truck until you get back in or your, your back door, I guess if you've got a back 40. Now specifically with the [00:14:00] method saddle and the saddles, we felt like there was a gap in the marketplace specifically around what we feel a two panel provides you.
So there really wasn't, we could consider a more modern day two panel saddle design in the space available when we launch the company. And there is one specific problem that we think a two panel addresses better than anything else out there. And that is specifically that in general, with a one piece saddle design, the larger the saddle is, the more comfortable it gets.
It's just, the way it is. You've got more real estate to sit on once you're up in the tree. The challenge is we feel like once you get to a certain size, you start to get diminishing returns for the whole point of going to a saddle system. Yeah, we wanna be as lightweight and streamline and efficient as possible And we feel that way cuz that's what we, the hand worked out.
What we grew up with is public land swamp hunting in Michigan. Yeah. Which is nasty. It's, you got to come and [00:15:00] do it, I think, what, two, three years ago? Yep. Yep. Heard you talk about it on Wired to hunt with Mark and your experience there and an Iowa guy in Michigan in the fall, which, is mind boggling, but it was really fun to listen to your perspective as a Michigan guy.
It like, vindicated everything we complained about. Yeah. Yeah. But, so for us having, just making something bigger and larger and more bulky to get the comfort in the tree. Is really not an option. You can do it, but it's gonna start to, really hamper the whole point of switching to one of these things.
A two panel, specifically ours, it allows it to be really streamlined and compact. The saddle, when you're wearing it, anytime your feet are on the ground, you're climbing up and down the tree. We wanna be as compact and as streamlined as possible so you're not snagging on brush. It's, it can lead to safety issues if your thing is hooking on stuff going up and down the tree.
So that two panel designed specifically, we've got the magnet magnetic system that couples the two panels together. This thing slims down to like a weightlifting belt when you're wearing it in. Yeah. But [00:16:00] when you get in the tree, you can separate those two pieces and you have a ton of adjustability to get really comfortable.
So solving that issue of. Hey, I want to minimize bulk when my feet are on the ground and I want to be as comfortable as possible and have a much, as much adjustability as possible to get comfortable for my body size and shape when I'm in the tree, right? Is what the two panel we feel provides.
And that was that first problem we set out to solve early on. Yeah.
[00:16:27] Dan Johnson: Yeah. I I know I hunted in a saddle for a couple hunts this past year. I shot my deer in Iowa fairly early, so I didn't have time to just really get into it, but sure, but I get what you're saying with the bigger, the more comfortable.
Is there a way to, is there a way, do you guys feel that then your design? I. Gives all of the comfort, the comfortability, I believe would be the word at a more [00:17:00] minimalistic design as far as materials concerned.
[00:17:04] Kevin: Yeah. That's always been our goal, right? We want all of our products to be first and foremost, the as light as possible, second as fast and as efficient as possible.
And then, third as quiet as possible. Without sacrificing, the experience overall. And, we're, you're kidding yourself. If you're gonna go up and sit in a tree and be uncomfortable for six hours, it's just not enjoyable. We're out there to enjoy ourselves. So a lot of guys prioritize comfort and it is a very important aspect of these things because, you might have to sit all day in the rut for 5, 6, 7, 10 days in a row to get, the bucker after. But we're out there to have fun, yep. And the more comfortable we are, the less you're gonna move around in the trees, so the less you're gonna get picked. There's a lot of different factors that go into it, but yeah, ultimately, that is really the core of our saddle designs is, we want you to be really comfortable, but we're not, we don't want to have to do that at the expense of being lightweight and [00:18:00] streamlined.
[00:18:02] Dan Johnson: Is the is the saddle that you guys came out with the original saddle, did you guys. Other than the three of you who tested it out, did you guys hand it out to anybody saying, Hey, give us some feedback on this before you took it to market?
[00:18:20] Kevin: Yeah, we do that with everything to this day. We have a very structured slash unstructured, it's, five step development process with all of our products.
That allows for a lot of creativity, but ultimately testing and field testing is. It's extremely important and we go through a lot of that with everything we do. Yes, even before the company was a thing and anything was available for purchase, we did that with, several dozen people that you know, a lot of 'em in Michigan that are hunting similar, challenging scenarios.
We are, but. We've since expanded that to guys all over the country that help us with field testing and really are part of our feedback loop anytime we're developing anything. So yeah, [00:19:00] that's a huge part of our process. Gotcha. Cause. We feel like you really can't, there's just some things you can't predict until you put, a couple thousand hours on something in the field.
[00:19:09] Dan Johnson: So once you guys handed out that first round of saddles and the, some of that gear, did anything come back to you and you were, you had to redesign or re-engineer and be like, oh, duh. Or did it come out perfect?
[00:19:26] Kevin: No, we had a ton of feedback. Yeah we, it's funny. I was marching down an initial path when I started that, the stuff in the hotel room on my own.
And then when you start getting more minds involved, you get more ideas and more opinions and you have to figure out how to manage each person prioritizing different things. But one of the things we had early on in our design was we actually we had quite a bit of metal in the design Okay.
Of the saddle itself. And that was a piece of feedback we heard from everyone who tested the first generations was they wanted to eliminate that. It felt like there [00:20:00] was too many opportunities to clank and make noise. So we, we took that to heart and we went all the way through and we call it our metal free design.
Now our leg straps, which are removable, have some metal clips on 'em, but the core saddle as you're wearing it in and out of the woods, cause we don't wear it with the leg straps when we're on the ground. Has no metal at all. So we actually developed a metal free buckle, or I should say belt system that's made out of, a climbing rated rope with a climbing rated friction.
Our saddle, you can hold it up in the air and shake it around. It doesn't make a sound. So we very early on had a lot of clicking and clanking like a lot of other stuff that's out there. And a lot of the stuff that existed back in the day was like that. And, we said, Hey, let, can we eliminate all of that?
And that became a big change early on in the design to get to our, what we call our metal free design. Gotcha.
[00:20:53] Dan Johnson: Okay. And so as you guys start to come out with this company what were some of the [00:21:00] first, so you came out the method was the first saddle that you came out with. That's correct.
Yeah. Okay. And then you guys are on the method two. What's the difference between the method and the method two?
[00:21:14] Kevin: The number one difference is the first generation, the two pan, the two panels coupled together with a set of Chix clips on each hip. There was a little loop and you just took your bottom panel and you set it into those clips, and that kept the two panels together in a nice compact setup for going in and out of the woods.
That worked well. We had some early, some feedback early on with clips, ultimately not being durable enough or, popping out and being lost. So we pretty quickly. We knew we were going, working towards a magnetic system. And that's the big difference is the two panel or the method two, the two panels magnetically coupled together.
So there's a set of, there's three points around the body of the [00:22:00] saddle, one on each hip and one on the center of the back where the two panels magnetically snapped together. And that's what keeps the sa the saddle into a one piece design and a very compact profile. For putting it on and off, taking it on and off, and then when your feet are on the ground.
But when you get in the tree, all you gotta do is just pull down on that bottom panel. We have a little set of grab handles on there, specifically dedicated for that, and they just detach and it's dead silent. The magnets are weather and waterproof and they're, they're very high end, strong magnet.
So that thing does not separate when you're walking around in the woods. It just makes everything extremely easy, quiet, and durable to use. Which kind of goes back to, hey we started with Anderson slings and there was a lot of things about those when you weren't in the tree that were just not user friendly.
Yeah. We feel like the magnets are the best way to make a two panel just super user friendly on the ground, especially. Gotcha. So it's that magnetic feature. Okay.
[00:22:54] Dan Johnson: All right. So the saddle comes out. Did you guys launch a [00:23:00] platform right away with the saddle or was that a year down the line?
[00:23:05] Kevin: That was a little over a year down the line. We just, we basically launched our saddles and ropes and some pouch accessories to get yourself organized. And then the platforms came just last year actually. And that was, and we've got a couple different platform options. We've got our more traditionally the more traditional design, at least it looks more traditional in our rebel platform, which both of our platforms are machined aluminum, but the rebel gets you a lot real estate for the weight.
It's only 2.7 pounds. It's a, it's 25% bigger, 30% bigger than, like a predator platform from Tether, which is one that everybody knows that's a great product as well. So it's a really, good platform for if you want a lot of real estate without a lot of weight. And then we've also got our X-Wing platform, which is an extremely unique looking design.
It literally looks like a Star Wars X-Wing. We're all big Star Wars fans, or at least I [00:24:00] am. So that's where that came from. But people actually just naturally started calling it that when we showed it to folks at a t a two years ago. But that is a very uniquely shaped platform that was developed out of a lot of challenges we had.
Being nimble in the tree to make certain shots. So specifically the Weakside shot, that platform really helps with making that shot much more easy to make, but also easier to make while you're still behind the tree hidden from the deer. Yeah, so that's a big advantage of saddle hunting is, being able to move around the Tree 360 and use that tree as cover.
Sp we end up in a lot of small hunting situations. Me specifically where the foliage is down, you're in a tiny tree, so you gotta work with what you have and, staying on the backside of the tree sometimes is all you have for cover. Yeah. So that platform helps a lot with that.
[00:24:50] Dan Johnson: Sewing fabric, and then this is aluminum, right?
So is this cast or machined?
[00:24:55] Kevin: They're both machine aluminum. Okay. Alright. Yep. We machine 'em right here in Michigan. Okay.
[00:24:59] Dan Johnson: Two [00:25:00] completely different products. As far as just the material alone was there much of a learning curve on how to manufacture or how to design a platform versus a saddle, or were there any crossover similarities?
[00:25:15] Kevin: So we are very fortunate among, amongst the three of us, to have a wide variety of backgrounds and skill sets. We're all very different. So I came. So I have a mechanical engineering background. But then I worked in technology for Microsoft for seven years. Okay. Did a lot of different things.
Jake, he did manufacturing consulting with, the big automotive companies. So he, his last project, he came off of designing and implementing a manufacturing line for the Jeep Grand Cherokee. That was his last project before he, started working latitude full-time. And Alex was, in medical device sales.
He was pre-med. He used to be an organic chemistry tutor. Really smart guy with a whole different, skillset. We actually probably came into this with more [00:26:00] experience designing hard goods. So anything made from metal that was more natural to us, we had to learn how to take a textile product and manufacture it at scale.
Okay. And we leaned on early on our Michigan manufacturing partner that makes a bunch of our saddles to help us with some of that. But we had to just flat out get on the sewing machine and learn how it works. Yeah. And, learn how to make these things and. We learned early on that, hey, if we can make it efficiently ourselves, it can be scaled on the manufacturing end very, much easier.
So there's no magic with textiles. It looks like it from afar, really. It's really complicated, but you just gotta break it down step by step. But the hard goods was easier. That's just what we had more experience doing that in the past, but they are completely different.
[00:26:44] Dan Johnson: Gotcha. And I take it that was that something that you had always had planned or was this again, customer feedback where customers were like, Hey dude, you got the saddle. You need a platform? Do those two products go hand in hand?
[00:26:59] Kevin: Yeah, [00:27:00] so a saddle hunting system is we always talk about it as a five tool system.
You've got your saddle, obviously you got two ropes, the one you hang from, which we call your tether. And then your lime and belt, which is the rope that you want to use for safety going up and down the tree. That part's technically not different from what you should be doing with a tree stand. Any tree stand.
And then you need something for your feet. And typically a small platform, especially if you're new, is the best option. Some guys use what's called a ring of steps, which is some basically some little steps on a strap that you can put on the trees. You can walk around the tree. Some people use 'em together because they like the advantages that both provide.
And then you need something to climb the tree. Typically, a set of lighter weight climbing sticks is most popular with any mobile hunting system, whether it's with a tree stand or a saddle. So you really need those five tools and, we've always been working towards having all five tools available.
But we, obviously once we came out with the saddles and got some positive feedback from those people were scratching, clawing for us to come out with a platform. [00:28:00] As well. So it was both, but we've always had, this vision of having a full. Sweet. So that you can come and get anything you need for your mobile hunting system.
[00:28:08] Dan Johnson: One kind of a one-stop shop type deal, yeah. It's a no-brainer. Yep. It's a, you're right, it is, it's a no-brainer. If you're gonna sell this, why not sell the accessories and everything else that you need to get up a tree? Which now for sure leads us to the climbing sticks.
And that was a new introduction this year, correct? Yes.
[00:28:28] Kevin: That's correct. At a t a in January this
[00:28:30] Dan Johnson: year. Yep. And I believe you guys won an award for best product, or what was your award that you won this year?
[00:28:37] Kevin: Yeah, we were extremely blessed and fortunate to win Best New product didn't show, which was, a surprise to us.
We entered it. Obviously you have to enter into that to be considered for it, but and we were hopeful, but we won yeah. It was a, it was an amazing surprise. So we're just, yeah.
[00:28:52] Dan Johnson: Yeah. Okay. So plus and these are carbon fiber, correct?
[00:28:56] Kevin: They are. They are a one piece, one [00:29:00] singular piece, carbon fiber composite sticks.
So we don't bolt glue multiple pieces together. They are a singular piece of material. Okay.
[00:29:10] Dan Johnson: So from. The saddle to the aluminum platform. That's completely different. Now you're working with a new material and what is this injection molded?
[00:29:23] Kevin: It's a molding ish process. Yeah. Molding
[00:29:25] Dan Johnson: ish process.
Okay. All right. Now you're working with carbon fiber, which is completely different. Talk to us about any type of, the learning process, manufacturing carbon fiber, and if you guys tried an aluminum first, or was carbon fiber always the first idea?
[00:29:44] Kevin: Yeah, so we've been working on that climbing stick for.
Just under, it was just under three years when we launched it at ata. Yeah. So we actually started working on that pretty much when we launched the company. Within [00:30:00] weeks of launching the company with our first generation saddles and accessories, we were already working on this.
And the other part of your question is, yes, we always wanted to go the carbon fiber route with the climbing stick design cuz we felt like there's just a lot of advantages in the woods with that in the whitetail woods with that material. And we always felt like if we couldn't ultimately get what we wanted out of it we could fall back to an aluminum design.
Aluminum is a lot easier to work with as far as developing a product. Carbon fiber is a very slow, long, arduous process to test and develop. Anything you're making it with really. Just there's, there's some limits around the manufacturing processes in the prototyping phase.
And then, everything just takes a while. Carbon fiber there's there's just less I would say robust manufacturing partners. Out there, especially in the United States for that material. And it takes time to find the right one and work through that. And yeah. But it was a three year project for [00:31:00] us, so we've been learning a lot about that material, what's available in terms of how to manufacture it and how to design for it with it for a long time now at this
[00:31:09] Dan Johnson: point.
Awesome. Any road bumps along the way with these climbing sticks?
[00:31:15] Kevin: There's always road bumps with any product along the way. Yeah. Like I said, it was a three year project, so we didn't just, draw a climbing stick that had the features, the ideal, features that we wanted and spit one out and, it was done.
Yeah. So there was a lot of work in testing that went into. Really trying to marry everything that we wanted in a climbing stick. So we wanted something that had no moving parts, so there was no maintenance. We wanted something that had no metal, including the strap and attachment design, so that there was no opportunity for noise.
But also that, it would be eliminate some weight and in, make it very packable. So we wanted a stick that would. Pack together, flush, stack together, flush to minimize the overall profile when you're bringing them [00:32:00] into the woods. We want 'em to be really lightweight, but try to incorporate all of that into the manufacturing technology that we are using on these things.
That was a nut that took a long time to crack. Okay. Obviously I can't go into the speci specifics of it, but. Basically taking the type of carbon fiber composite we are using and getting it in the shape of a climbing stick with all those features, and then getting the structural integrity and performance.
From a durability and strength standpoint, marrying all those two, all of that together was the big challenge. That took the longest to figure out. But we eventually got it. Gotcha.
[00:32:38] Dan Johnson: That's awesome, man. First off, congratulations on that award. That's pretty slick. And I did get the opportunity to hold.
Hold those sticks and like, all right, so throughout, throughout the entire time I've been mobile, including this year still I used the three-step original lone wolfs lone wolf climbing sticks. Yep. And so I [00:33:00] feel like the comparisons might be a little off, but it, here's what it felt like in my hand.
Your three sticks. Yeah. And that one were about the same weight, if not less if your, yours, if not less. And so just the difference in how light they are is it blew my mind, dude. And yeah the amount of things that people are being able, are able to do with carbon fiber now and making things so much lighter is, I don't know, man.
I, I feel like it's only a matter of time until we have A full-blown, affordable like tree stand, a fully carbon fiber tree stand on its way.
[00:33:43] Kevin: Oh yeah. I imagine that'll happen one day, right? With the direction material science is going. The hunting space doesn't drive that We absorb it just because we're small and we don't have the money and the engineers to develop, new material.
Yep. Either on the material side or the [00:34:00] manufacturing process side with it. But so it trickles down from other industries. And what we're using is from other industries, right? It's been around for a while and used in automotive and aerospace extensively. It's used in medical. It's actually really cool.
Our climbing sticks, the facility they're made in, which is here in the United States. This is a made in USA product. So from a quality control standpoint, that's especially important with carbon fiber. But they're made right next to medical grade parts. Yeah. So in terms of the quality inspection and control that's, it's right in line with that type of industry.
Yeah. Yeah, you're probably right in that prediction. There will one day be something that's not, over a thousand dollars. Yeah. For
[00:34:41] Dan Johnson: stand and everything. Is everything that you guys do made in America.
[00:34:48] Kevin: Not everything we do our, what we consider our core safety products. So really those five tools I mentioned earlier on those are the ones we're making here in the states.
And we believe that's [00:35:00] important from a quality control standpoint. To keep people safe. Safety is obviously our number one priority. It's a given. If folks are trusting they're trusting us with their lives, right? Yeah. By using these products in an elevated position out in the woods.
So we do that stuff here and then we do some of our smaller accessories, especially the textiles overseas, and that's just more or less a capacity thing nowadays. Here in the United States, there's just not as many textile manufacturers. It's slowly starting to come back, so that may change in the future, but.
That just helps us, get those to our customers, more efficiently, essentially. While we focus on the safety stuff here. Yeah.
[00:35:38] Dan Johnson: I know there is a Tree Stand Safety Association, right? Or is it the TSA or something like that you
[00:35:44] Kevin: have tma? Yep. Tma Tree Stand Manufacturer Association.
[00:35:47] Dan Johnson: Yep. And so they have to go through a variety of testing to get approved and things like that. Are Saddle saddles and platforms, do they have to go through that type of certification as well? [00:36:00]
[00:36:00] Kevin: So those certifications are under development for both Saddle for Saddle's, ropes and platforms. We are on the committee with tethered, for example, as contributing to that trophy line.
So we are all collectively working together with some third party testing facilities. We're all members of the Tree State Manufacturers Association. Developing testing standards for all three of those product categories within the saddle hunting system. There are already standards for a specific for static testing is what it's called for saddle.
So basically strength testing, overall strength testing of the saddle. There are already standards in place that have been submitted to the A S T M. Which is a global testing standard organization that, applies to all industries across the world. So we've got our set of standards that they approve and put their stamp on for the hunting industry.
So there are, there's already standards for climbing sticks and tree stands and safety harnesses. [00:37:00] So the standards for all those other saddle hunting components are in process. And some. On the, for the saddles are already done, oh, okay. We're on the front edge of, putting those together. We, and we do a lot of testing ourselves with everything.
Yeah. So for a platform for instance, does a standard exist yet? No, but we basically test them like a tree stand standard, and there's just not a formal standard yet. Gotcha. For that
[00:37:25] Dan Johnson: product. All right. From saddle. And the accessories that you need. Obviously you can't you have to use a, have a rope system and for a saddle the platform to the climbing sticks.
Where do you guys see latitude going in the next five years, maybe even 10 years down the line and the assortment of products that you're gonna be offering at that point?
[00:37:50] Kevin: Yeah, so we. We see ourselves as a mobile hunting company. I mentioned earlier we started this thing cause we wanted to inspire people to enjoy exploring, new things.
[00:38:00] So we're gonna continue to innovate in any area within the mobile hunting space that we see an opportunity for innovation to get lighter, faster, more quiet, more streamlined, so that people can really focus more on the hunting experience and less on their gear. Throughout that process. So yeah, there's some pieces over the next year or so, like for instance, a backpack maybe that we're working on.
Beyond that, we have a lot of ideas and there's a lot of areas within the mobile hunting space that we anticipate contributing and innovating around. But it's a little t b d as far as what I can say. Yeah. But yeah, but there, there are some, like a backpack system is, it's central to how you organize and bring every, all those five tools in with you and out with you on it.
It's used on every hunt yeah. That we see as a next kind of, the next big piece. And
[00:38:52] Dan Johnson: Yeah. Yeah. And the reason I ask a question, cuz you got, obviously they're a saddle, a platform and the climbing [00:39:00] sticks, they're all in a way under this A tree, like in a tree, right?
You're in a tree. In order to get up a tree, you need all these things in order to saddle hunt, you need all these things. And so the reason I ask that is cuz I'm starting to see, and I'll just use Exodus Trail cameras, for example. Their first product was trail cameras and now they're selling arrows as well.
So you're starting to see this expansion of products being introduced under brands that may. Yeah. Yeah. They're under the same hunting category, but they're in completely different categories within that spectrum.
[00:39:36] Kevin: Sure. Yeah. We are focused on the mobile hunter. So if it's something that touches what they do and use, yeah.
It's, and there's an opportunity for innovation or we feel like something could be done better. Yeah. Or something that we can bring to the table. We'll go do it. We're probably not gonna go make a trail camera, that a big pivot like that. But, anything that we feel is critical to the [00:40:00] mobile hunting experience we envision ourselves contributing.
[00:40:03] Dan Johnson: Yeah. Awesome. All right, so a guy walks into a store or he is online and he's searching for, he hears this and he's searching for a a new saddle. He's okay, I want to go, I wanna go check out saddles. Why should that guy consider latitude?
[00:40:22] Kevin: If he's in a store looking at 'em I would suggest, try everyone that's on the shelf there, hopefully that particular retailer has some sort of pull that you can demo the stuff on.
We have a ton of awesome retail partners that we work with now, and we always, try to help them get a demo station set up. Because ultimately saddles are a very personal item. Just because we like what we make doesn't necessarily mean it's gonna be right for you.
A another brand might. It might just be better for you. It might be more comfortable. It might fit you better. It's very challenging to make a saddle that works for everyone. It's impossible. Cause we're all different sizes and shapes. Look at how [00:41:00] many different trims of jeans, Wrangler has for men's jeans.
Yeah. That's a great way to think about it. And cuz these wear in the same place on your body ultimately. So my suggestion would be try go to a store if, you know your local archery pro shop carries these things and try 'em all. And make sure that you put each one through its paces on that pole.
Try different adjustment settings, ask, the staff in there, what do I gotta do to make adjustments to get more comfortable with each of these and and figure out what you like. And it might be ours, it might not. But I, beyond that, you definitely want something from a company that is reputable, does their testing.
You don't want something sewn in a basement. Yeah. You want something that has been put through third party testing. Has quality standards. Typically the US AMA products are, have a little bit tighter control on that. So I would always lean in that direction for these Cause they are I mean they're your safety harness as well yeah.
Yeah. Find something that's safe and reputable and then try 'em and see what. What is most comfortable [00:42:00] and feels the best. Perfect.
[00:42:01] Dan Johnson: Now, if people want to go find out more information about Latitude or they wanna watch some videos about Latitude, where should we send them?
[00:42:11] Kevin: We're really easy to find Latitude outdoors.com. We've, got all the different social channels. We've got our YouTube. And, Facebook, Instagram, all that stuff. Other guys on the team manage that and put out all that content. That's not really my area of expertise. I'm working on the product stuff, but we've got we've got a few new guys on the team and they're doing an awesome job putting out some great educational content.
Jake Bush is on our team and he just did a whole web series slash pod coupled with some podcasts now called in session where he's doing a lot of, he's traveling around the country and filming. With some different experts in the hunting space and how they approach different situations on public land and yeah, and targeting different beer and stuff.
So there's a lot of cool content. And then we've got a new look for actually a new, more on the entertainment end of things. We've got a show called Grit coming out which will be available on [00:43:00] Waypoint, our YouTube carbon tv here in early July. The first episode will actually drop.
And that will just go through. And follow us in our fall season last year. That is, focused on Jake, Alex, and myself, the founders traveling around hunting on public land, showcasing, who we are as people and just showcasing us using the gear cuz we're not just building stuff in a box, we're building stuff that we use and because we are the customer and we're passionate about it.
So we just wanna share that with people. And I tell you the guys that were filming and that are on their team putting it together they're doing an amazing job. It's gonna be really cool and fun to watch. So look for that coming up here soon. And but other than that, we're pretty easy to find.
So just reach out anytime we have a. We have the chat bubble on the website. You can reach out anytime. A lot of those go directly to us and we can get you squared away with any questions you might have. Perfect.
[00:43:50] Dan Johnson: Hey man Kevin, I really appreciate you taking time outta your day to hop on and school us on latitude and good luck this upcoming
[00:43:57] Kevin: season, man.
Yeah. [00:44:00] Appreciate you having me on, Dan. It's been fun.