These Innovative Hiking Backpacks Began in a Southampton Kitchen

Husband-and-wife team Chris and Lorraine Millard founded LiteAF after recognizing a demand for custom, ultralight outdoor gear.

Curve is a 46-liter, custom-printed backpack; $400 at and on Instagram @liteaf_gear. Courtesy of LiteAF

In anticipation of an Appalachian Trail hike three years ago, Chris Millard and his wife, Lorraine, made small sacks and food bags on a sewing machine set atop the kitchen counter in their Southampton home. They listed, and quickly sold, excess product on Etsy. “After that, we realized there was definitely a market for what we were doing,” says Chris.

The hike never materialized, but a business, LiteAF, did. In spring 2018, the couple launched a website and moved operations into the garage. Today, LiteAF produces customized, colorful, ultralight backpacks and fanny packs, as well as pouches, dry bags and bear bags, in a nearby warehouse space with eight employees, including their son, Cristian, a student at Rowan College in Burlington County. 

Last year, sales increased 200 percent; currently, the wait time for a pack is 26 weeks. “The pandemic pushed everybody outside,” says Chris.

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In addition to making a pack to fit a customer’s size and gear, Chris is focused on quality—right down to the imported German thread and the composite fabric, Dyneema. “It’s 15 times stronger than steel,” he says. “But it’s also so lightweight, it floats on water.”

Packs range from $225 for a 30-liter pack to $400 for a custom-printed, 46-liter pack.

“It is expensive,” says Chris. “But we’ve created such a good name in the outdoor industry that people trust us.” LiteAF donates 10 percent of profits to the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve.

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