FSP Outdoors was born from a minor yet annoyingly common setback: a broken strap on a well-worn duffle bag, deep in the woods of Maine. So, that duffel's owner, Blair Kemp, did what most people wouldn’t do: he borrowed his mother’s sewing machine, watched some YouTube tutorials, and made himself a new one.
That was in 2012, and from that point, Kemp’s newfound skill spiraled into a major hobby that has evolved into into what FSP Outdoors is today, a boutique gear brand run entirely out of his Brooklyn apartment.
As Kemp's story goes, after graduating from that first borrowed machine and a duffel bag project, the Brooklyn-based, Maine-raised maker acquired his own sewing machine and began making various types of utilitarian shoulder bags, hip bags, and backpacks that he and his friends would use on hiking and camping trips. Several years after he started, a friend convinced him to brand his products and sell them. Relying only on word-of-mouth—a grassroots marketing strategy he maintains today—Kemp began selling bags.
“It’s about more than making bags, it’s an avenue to do other creative things, too.”
With a name inspired by Kemp's travels to Vietnam’s highest peak, the iconic Fansipan, FSP Outdoors has the spirit of adventure built into its DNA. But it’s the timeless design that makes FSP gear feel like vintage favorites, immune to ephemeral trends and fads (despite old-school gear's popularity these days).
“It’s about more than making bags, it’s an avenue to do other creative things, too,” said Kemp. “It’s a reason to go outside, a reason to go on trips, a reason to go places with friends, and create more.”
In 2019, Kemp fully realized this ethos when he and a few friends visited Maine’s iconic Cutler Coast and were shocked at the amount of ocean debris they found on the remote shores. On their return trip, Kemp’s newest brainchild revealed itself: custom-made beach cleanup bags, just big enough to fit a 30-gallon plastic yard waste bag. The beachcombers hauled out four bags worth of trash that day, leaving the area much better than they had found it. (Cleanup bags are available for special order through the FSP contact page.)
Whether it’s cleanup bags, a new backpack or sling bag, or simply mending a wornout item, Kemp approaches gear as a means to an optimistic end—service toward the greater good. “I think outdoor gear is inherently not sustainable,” says Kemp in regards to the industry’s ubiquitous use of synthetic materials. “The way to make products with these materials in a conscious way is to repair and keep them out of landfills.
That, along with the connection you can form with a bag throughout the years, is the crux of the importance of repairs to me.” Kemp offers free repairs on all FSP Outdoors’ products, and will happily repair damaged non-FSP Outdoors gear and apparel for a modest fee on a case-by-case basis.
With an emphasis on community, Kemp also makes an effort to donate his time and abilities to advocate for underrepresented groups in the outdoor space. “The outdoors are truly so special for all people, it's crazy that these activities have traditionally been only for people of privilege,” he says. An example of his efforts is a chalk bag design he created in 2020 in collaboration with climber Marina Inoue to raise funds for WeClimb, a Tennessee-based group that makes rock climbing accessible for underserved youth of all backgrounds.
Today, Kemp doesn’t have dreams of scaling FSP Outdoors into a multimillion dollar outdoor company. He prefers to keep designing versatile, well-made bags and gear, the kind that can be mended over and over again, collecting stories along the way.
“I like the idea of having a backpack with memories tied to it,” said Kemp. “Being able to fix it so that it can last forever is pretty cool.”