July 20, 2023
Producing high quality handmade ultra-light adventure gear for hiking, backpacking, packrafting and skitouring, like many businesses Terra Rosa Gear began out of necessity and the simple idea to make the best gear possible.
Speaking to Evan Howard from his new studio in Fairfield. “We’re in! I was just doing my first stitches in the new place. It’s pretty exciting” Evan tells me. Downsizing dramatically from the old workshop at Campbellfield, there is no longer the luxury of space, but there’s an added bonus of sharing the new space with partner Marianna who runs an art studio. Being able to spend more time with their daughter Gwen as she grows, was the catalyst for downsizing.
Growing up in BC, Canada, Evan almost took the mountains for granted pursuing a career in soccer until his early 20’s. I was drawn back to the mountains when I decided that I wouldn’t play professionally, then within a year I’d made more money mountaineering than I had my whole soccer career. That all changed when he arrived in Australia in 2005.
A lover of the outdoors whilst camping in the Aussie bush with his hammock and sleeping bag, Evan needed a tarp to complete his setup. With nothing on the market to fit the bill, he made one himself, using his girlfriend’s sewing machine. Unlike the burgeoning cottage industry for outdoor gear in North America, the only gear available in Australia was mass produced and lacked the quality and custom needs Evan was after.
So Evan started making gear in his lounge room, learning to sew thanks to YouTube and some advice from a parachute manufacturer. Making gear for friends from back closet rooms and share house garages. With little room for the rolls of fabric needed to really produce, in 2010 Evan officially launched Terra Rosa Gear moving into the workshop at Campbellfield. Named after the glacial complex in BC and with a mission to get more quality product to the Australian hiker, Terra Rosa Gear continues to expand, making custom gear for the Australian Antarctica Division (AAD) and Paramedic Ambulance Victoria. Regular production has expanded to include lightweight camping, climbing and mountaineering gear and with Melbourne’s incredible bikepacking and biking community, the bikepacking side of the business has been pretty solid since 2014/15.
With a core range of quilts, sleeping bags and tarps kept in stock, a lot of the bike bags and frame bags are custom made and Evan is constantly coming up with new ideas. Contracting two regulars who work for him, James and Abi from Schusser Threads, there’s three or four others on call if a big job comes up, but it’s all contract work so they can take off and go skiing whenever they want. You might have to wait a few months for something custom made though. Evan’s priorities have changed with Gwen around.
The internet is where it’s all at and with Instagram the main driver of content and sales via the web site, Terra Rosa Gear is an international brand. Popular with the Scandinavians, the Japanese with their gear culture for ultralight also love it. The United States, probably a little bit less because there’s a few different companies that do the same, if not similar sort of thing.
Last year Evan started working with the Arc’teryx REBIRD upcycling program as a design ambassador. “Arc’teryx are keen to change the way that people look at old gear and it’ll be pretty neat to see what ideas I can come up with.”
“Australia has a pretty decent following of Arc’teryx, but LA has a bigger outdoor market than our entire country. We’re small fry in the world game for everybody, but we have a high percentage of people enjoying the outdoors. It’s a small market so it’s great to see the team here really pulling things together to make something happen.”
Biking for Evan is mostly for commuting, or going on an adventure with ropes for canyoning, skis or raft on the bike as well. His main passion is for mountaineering and skiing, and Evan managed to get back to Canada for a trip earlier this year, but prior to that, last year was the most Evan had been on skis in quite a number of years for COVID reasons of course, but mostly because he prefers to go ice climbing. Every five years or so with a good cold winter there’s a couple of folks out on Mt Buffalo, when the conditions are right. The classic Victorian backcountry areas of Mt Bogong, Mt Feathertop and the Razorback are also favourites.