Frostline Kits

Last updated
Frostline Kits
IndustryDIY outdoor gear
Founded1966;55 years ago (1966) in Boulder, Colorado, United States
FounderDale Johnson
Defunct2009 (2009)
Fatedecline of the kit industry generally
SuccessorFrostline Kits, division of Gillette
Insport, Grand Junction, Colorado
Frostline Kits, Grand Junction, Colorado

Frostline Kits was a Colorado-based company that produced sew-it-yourself kits for outdoor gear including clothing and tents.


While it operated, it provided a cost-effective alternative to manufactured gear.


Frostline was founded in 1966 by Dale Johnson in Boulder, Colorado. [1] It was at its founding a mail-order company. The company grew to eighteen retail stores by 1978. [2] At its peak, it had spawned competitors, including Altra Kits, Sundown Kits, Holubar Carikits, Plain Brown Wrapper Kits, and EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports) Kits.

In 1978, the company was acquired by Gilette. [3] Gillette had little success in the segment. It liquidated the company in 1983. [2]

In 1984, Insport of Grand Junction, Colorado bought the Frostline name and intellectual property from Gillette and resumed sales of kits. In 2000, Insport failed. [2]

In 2000 the company reorganized as Frostline Kits USA, LLC, also based in Grand Junction. Between 2007 and 2009, that company ceased operations. [2]


Frostline began with kits for parkas and sleeping bags. [4] The range of products eventually extended to backpacks and other textile gear. These kits offered do-it-yourselfers a chance to save 50% from the cost of manufactured goods. [5]

Case study

The concept and company succeeded in a time when outdoor recreation was growing, new materials had revolutionized outdoor gear, and manufactured goods were relatively expensive. Its growth paralleled The North Face, also founded in 1966. North Face was also in financial trouble in 2000. [6] Offshore manufacturing that saved North Face was the death knell for Frostline. [2] Like Heathkit, a producer of kits for electronic gear, its line of kits could no longer compete with imported manufactured goods. [7]

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  1. "Frostline Kit – The Homemade Parka". Proper Magazine. August 18, 2010. Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "History of Gear: Frostline Kits". Oregon Photos. Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  3. "Q&A: Requiem for Frostline Kits". Threads Magazine. August 2010. Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  4. "Do-it-yourself Kits". Backpacker Magazine. October 1976. Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  5. "From the Lean-To: Frostline Kits". Outside Magazine. August 28, 2011. Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  6. Finz, Stacey (April 8, 2012). "Business booming for once-troubled North Face". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  7. Swindwa, Julie, "Disassembly complete: Heathkit is no more", The Herald-Palladium , 19 July 2012

39°06′46″N108°37′30″W / 39.1126809°N 108.6250436°W / 39.1126809; -108.6250436 Coordinates: 39°06′46″N108°37′30″W / 39.1126809°N 108.6250436°W / 39.1126809; -108.6250436