Compass: Charting the Evolution of Outdoor Gear

Phoenix Profile

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The following profile comes for the old Omega Outdoor website, but tells the Phoenix/Omega story in the founders own wordss,so seemed worth including


A Brief History

Omega was set up by Ken Rawlinson, Pam Sandford and Alan Waugh in the summer of 1997, probably the most experienced team ever to set up in a

new outdoor equipment manufacturing business in Britain.

Early Days

Alan and Ken were fanatical outdoor pursuits fans from a very early age, walking, climbing, camping, skiing, canoeing and biking in all parts of the world,

Pam a keen skier, they remain so. Alan worked on the very first Berghaus manufacturing project, then all three worked for the well- known brand

Ultimate Equipment in the seventies before setting up Phoenix Mountaineering in 1979. This was probably the most exiting era in the development of

outdoor equipment with the invention of truly waterproof breathable fabrics and durable flexible alloy poles for tents.

Forefront of Development

Phoenix was at the forefront in the development of specialist, high quality backpacking and mountaineering tents before becoming one of the very few

pioneers in the use of Gore-tex fabrics in clothing. Hot air Seam taping had not even been invented then, seams were sealed with glue often from the

outside leaving a fairly unsightly mess.

Gore-tex shell clothing was followed by some of the first Gore-tex tents including the award winning Phreerunner and numerous bivi-bag designs. Phoenix

tents were the byword for quality of design, manufacture and fitness for purpose be it backpacking, car and family camping, high altitude mountaineering

or polar exploration. Designs like the Phreedome were copied by many while new ones like the Phreebooter continued to win awards throughout Europe.

Phoenix had the first fully taped seam tent collection in Britain, a problem much more difficult to solve because all designs pitched flysheet first, the ideal

method in wet Western Europe. Good tent design is timeless, the best and the most popular of the Phoenix designs have been up-rated and are available

again from Omega.

In clothing the Phoenix Crystal, Magma, Opal and Diamond jackets became industry standards for climbers and walkers and Phoenix Gore-tex fabric

skiwear became the brand to aspire to for any dedicated skier. The British Alpine and Freestyle Teams were sponsored for the longest time in their history

with superb innovative clothing also available to the keenest skiers. Phoenix became synonymous with high quality, reliable cutting edge products like the

Black Diamond, and the company employed up to 150 people at this stage.

Change of Ownership

Karrimor International acquired Phoenix in 1993 but by 1996 the company had reduced in size by about 90% with the brand all but invisible, the workforce

almost gone and production almost all moved offshore.

Not surprisingly Ken, Alan and Pam left and began Omega Outdoor where the long held principles of quality British manufacture have been re-established.

New Beginnings

A significant part of Phoenix production was always made for corporate customers, travel companies, police, military, television, ski schools, dry slopes

and industry, indeed all types of outdoor professional workers. Omega, without having an established brand name chose to target this area first in order

to establish a credible manufacturing business, as specialist retail stores were reluctant to buy in a new brand.

Many of the old Phoenix team have re-assembled at Omega, only two hundred metres from our old site in a bright modern factory in Amble,

Northumberland. In order to compete with imported brands the decision has been made to sell quality outdoor equipment direct from the factory cutting

out the retail margin using the best new raw materials available.

Omega in the British Outdoor and Snowsport Industry

The Omega team has been involved for more than ten years now with the Snowsport Industries of Great Britain, the National trade body for Snowsports.

Alan Waugh recently served for three years as President of the Association and has now moved on to act as Chairman of the Snowsport Forum, the body

for all sectors of the British Snowsport Industry. The aim of the forum is to develop and increase participation and improve safety in Snowsports

particularly amongst schools. Members of the forum include major and independent Tour operators, the Ski Club of Great Britain, British Association of

Snowsport Instructors, Snowsport Scotland and The British Dry Slope Operators Association. Involvement in the Outdoor Industries Association goes back

to the early seventies when it was called The Camping and Leisure Association. Omega is an approved member of both organisations and abides by their

rules of fair- trading and where necessary arbitration.