Bill disappeared from the outdoor retail world in 2013. His packs and barrel harnesses couldn’t be beat since he first opened his shop 26 years prior. The issue, however, was that he made them just too darn good. He also insisted they were Canadian-made—which upped the price compared to other companies manufacturing overseas.
At the same time, paddlers also changed from three-week-long far northern expedition-type canoeists to weekend warriors. Who needed a high-priced pack or harness for a couple nights in the woods?
Slowly, paddlers began to realize that products produced to carry heavy loads on your back during gruelling portages have to be made well—no matter how long you’re out there for. (It’s nothing like big screen televisions, toasters, microwaves, washing machines, cameras…)
I bought my first pack and barrel harness off Bill Ostrom at an outdoor show in Ottawa in 1994. I still use them to this day. Nothing has broken, ripped, torn or worn through. You own an Ostrom product for life—which is maybe why sales went down and Bill took a bit of a casual hiatus.
So, how did Recreational Barrel Works get involved? The company had worked with Bill back in the day. When Bill took a break, Recreational Barrel Works continued to sell barrels. Sales were good. But the company was always being asked about Bill’s legendary harness system. Nothing seemed to compare.
Bill decided to go back into product design. Their collaboration gave birth to a new harness called the RBW—Ostrom 60/30 Harness.
It’s slightly different than Bill’s old and famous Ostrom Voyageur model but has been simplified into a one-size-fits-all version with comfort built into the key places like shoulder-straps, back-pad and hip-belt. The result is a cozy barrel harness that works effortlessly with a 60Lor 30L barrel.
The classic Ostrom barrel accessories have also been reborn—with some minor alterations. The Barrel Cooler—good to keep your fresh food fresh and your beer even colder—has buffed up insulation and a zipper closure. And the Pocket Organizers and 60L and 30L Barrel Buckets have snazzier, more vibrant colours.
It looks like Ostrom is back in the game. Welcome back Bill.