Brevard is the land of waterfalls / Provided

Made by Mountains Story

Tom Dempsey

We have the industrial base of a place like Ohio and the outdoor recreational base of a place like Colorado.

Tom Dempsey wants to get people outside. In fact, he’s so passionate about the idea, he’s built an entire business around it. Sylvansport, an outdoor gear company based in Brevard, is designed to be a one-stop shop for everything one needs to enjoy the natural world. Just take the signature GO Camping Trailer, a multi-use camper that stores and hauls all the goods—and converts to an elevated tent when you’ve arrived.

Tom Dempsey is the Founder of and Chief Innovation Officer at

SylvanSport

Inspiration for the idea was simple, Dempsey says. “I envisioned this person sitting at work at lunchtime on a Friday. And they’re thinking, ‘Should I get outside this weekend? Should I paddle, bike, camp, hike?’ I wanted a product that made the answer of ‘Yes! Do it! Go!’ come much easier.” 

My first real job out of college was for the Coleman Company, the iconic American outdoor gear company. Everything you needed to enjoy the outdoors was available from them, from lanterns to sleeping bags to camping trailers to snowmobiles. Later, when I was working in the kayak industry, I watched people who were thinking about getting into paddle sports for the first time get really intimidated. I could see how these products all look really technical, while everybody else seemed to know what they were doing. 

So when I had the chance to start Sylvansport, what I wanted to do was start the modern-day version of what the old Coleman Company used to be: A company that facilitates the enjoyment of the outdoors in a variety of ways. A company that’s a one-stop shop for everything you need. I wanted to present it in a way that was accessible and convenient. That it’s not all hard-core gear that only experts can enjoy. This is stuff that makes all your outdoor experiences more enjoyable, more organized, and more convenient.

Tom riding his backyard Pisgah trails / Provided

The Merits of Proximity

We’re so fortunate to be so proximate to the outdoors here. There’s almost not a weekday lunchtime or a weekend that a group of folks here aren’t out doing something. We’re not even a half-mile from the entrance to Pisgah National Forest and all the trails there. We’re on the bike path that leads between Pisgah and downtown Brevard, where you can enter the Bracken Mountain Preserve. Enjoying these places that are right outside our door is part of our company DNA.

That proximity is another thing that makes Western North Carolina so special. So unique. We have the industrial base of a place like Ohio and the outdoor recreational base of a place like Colorado. Most places in this country that have a really rich outdoor attribute don’t have the proximity to manufacturing. It’s very difficult to manufacture outdoor gear in the heart of the places you want to use it.

What Sets Western North Carolina Apart

Everything sort of overlaps here. There are so many layers you can put on top of each other that all work. For example, take just the geologic characteristics of the space. We’re the highest peak east of the rockies. You take the climatological layer, and we’re at this intersection zone between Deep South, the Piedmont, and, in the highest peaks of North Carolina, we have an almost Canadian climatological zone. There’s a cultural overlap of all the different people who called this land home before me. It’s not a homogenous culture. And you have this diversity of thought and background that all seems to be united by aspects of mountain beauty and climate. The same is true of flora and fauna. From bug species to salamanders to mammals. This multi-dimensionality gives you the ability to choose the direction and focus of your thoughts on a daily basis. You can choose every morning when you wake up what you want to do that day.

We’re so fortunate to be so proximate to the outdoors here. There’s almost not a weekday lunchtime or a weekend that a group of folks here aren’t out doing something.

Endless Discovery

What’s my favorite place to be out in nature? Truly, it’s always evolving. As my early favorites become more discovered, as they change, I find a new spot. That’s one of the things I love about here. The seemingly endless opportunity to find new places.

This past summer, I went camping by myself with my bike for three days. I set off one morning on a gravel ride and discovered three or four new places that I had no idea existed. They were these “micro-places.” One was this spot in the middle of the creek with a rock and little grassy bank and the way the sun shone on it in the afternoon, it was beautiful. You could access it from the road, but when you were down there, no one could see you. I thought, “This is a spot that nobody really uses.” And it’s not necessarily a spot I’ll return to time and time again. It was just the discovery of the day. And I know there will be plenty more. So I don’t really have one place, I have many. And as I’m there, I’m highly aware that I wasn’t the first person—and I won’t be the last person—to be at that spot. 

It’s also so fun to be at a spot I’ve been to a thousand times. And you witness a group or family seeing it through their eyes for the first time. You can feel their excitement. It brings me back to not wanting first-time kayakers to feel intimidated. The first time somebody sees a waterfall you may have seen a hundred times, it makes you happy to see them getting the enjoyment out of it that you got the first time you saw it.

I really think what makes this area never grow old or become weary with me is exemplified when you fly overhead. You see what appears to be endless green folds and rocky outcroppings and streams. You know that in an entire lifetime you’ll never be able to find every nook and cranny in them. There’s something so compelling and exciting about having an unlimited supply of places to discover.

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