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Pack With Me: Rhonda Swenson

Welcome to the ‘Pack With Me’ series, where we hear from some of The Cairn Project’s women-owned brand partners about their path to the outdoor industry and their ’10 essentials’ for adventures near and far. In this edition we hear from Rhonda Swenson, Founder and Creative Director of Krimson Klover, a women’s activewear company based in Boulder, CO.

Entrepreneur and outdoor adventure athlete Rhonda Swenson knows a thing or two about staying warm in the backcountry.

Rhonda first fell in love with the ski and outdoor industry 30 years ago while living in Vail, Colorado. “I worked at an outdoor sporting goods store and thought all the sales reps coming in and giving us clinics had the most incredible job. Traveling, doing what they loved, in the industry they loved.”

Eventually working as a flight attendant allowed her to live out her personal penchant for adventure and travel, but she kept getting called back to the industry she loved. Serendipitous as it may sound, her travels landed her a job as a sales rep selling for a boutique sweater brand produced in South America. Rhonda was sent to Peru and Bolivia to work with their factories. As a passionate knitter and natural creative, it was only a matter of time before Rhonda started designing sweaters. Fast forward a few years and Rhonda had the opportunity to buy the company she worked for. The rest is history.

“I always tell people to pay attention to the right turns that present themselves in life. You never know where they might take you. For me, it led to this amazing industry and I have built my career around doing something that I absolutely love.”

Rhonda’s approach to achieving her life goals is informed by her earlier experiences as a competitive athlete. She does the hard work early, focuses on pushing through discomfort, and takes her efforts to the finish line. “I take this into my job on a regular basis. I just don’t believe failure is an option. If you fall down, you get back up and try again until you achieve what you are striving for. If you come across a hurdle, find a way around it. Keep going until you succeed. I’ve lived my life this way.”

When asked about her favorite way to experience the outdoors, Rhonda shared, “Skiing is my favorite adventure sport. And the past few years it has been backcountry skiing. Getting out into the wilderness, pushing yourself through the climbs. We did the most amazing trip up into the backcountry of Canada last year. We stayed at the Sentry Lodge in the Selkirk Mountains of BC. Every day we explored the peaks and valleys around the hut. It might be the most incredible scenery I’ve ever seen.”

Whether she’s in the mountains or in the office, Rhonda spends a lot of time thinking about being prepared outdoors. Here are Rhonda’s ’10 Essentials’ for every backcountry hut trip:

  1. Krimson Klover Gondola Merino Base Layer Top. “My most important item is a Merino wool baselayer. It keeps you comfortable in all conditions.  Warm when it’s cold. When you are sweaty, it wicks the moisture away from your skin. And you can wear it multiple days since Merino doesn’t get stinky like polyester can.”
  2. Ortovox reversible insulating jacket. “It is really functional yet still super colorful and stylish lightweight packable down or poly jacket that you can throw on any time to get warm but it fits really small into your pack. We just started making this type of jacket at Krimson Klover and it will be in our fall ‘23 collection.”  
  3. Arc’teryx Beta Jacket. “A waterproof lightweight shell that is breathable.”
  4. Scarpa F1 Boots. “I love my Scarpa boots. I’m skiing on the F1 and it is light and really comfortable for long days out. 
  5. DPS touring skis. “I am a huge fan of G3 bindings and DPS touring skis.”
  6. Ortovox Airbag System. “I ski with this when we are in avalanche terrain. They make the most colorful fun lightweight option out there. And I think we should all stay super colorful outdoors.”
  7. Collapsible Water Bottle. “I use a collapsible water bottle by Platypus that shrinks to nothing when empty. I also always carry tea so a good lightweight thermos comes in handy. Thermos makes a great option as does Hydro Flask.”
  8. Safety, safety, safety. “A helmet, goggles, a lightweight shovel, probe and avalanche beacon.” My avalanche beacon is from Backcountry Access (BCA).
  9. Black Diamond “My go-to for a shovel and probe.”  
  10. The Backup Gear! “Pack a backup pair of gloves, hat, and gaiter. Our Illustrated Beanie is super cute and stylish with a removable pom so that you can put your helmet right over it. We also make great neck gaiters.”
  11. Bonus: Traveling in backcountry terrain is inherently dangerous. Learning about risk management on backcountry terrain and gaining experience using safety equipment can be life saving. The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) courses are offered across the country. Check their website for a course near you here.
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Rhonda Swenson
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Rhonda Swenson is the Founder and Creative Director of Krimson Klover, a women’s activewear company based in Boulder, CO.