Picture this: You’re 22 years old, starting a company that you hope will become an enduring brand someday, and you have to pick a color. It’s kind of like naming your child, choosing a life partner, or any other pivotal decision that will have implications for years to come.
17 years ago, Cam (our founder and CEO) chose the color for NEMO’s first tent – one that would become our identity over time and eventually be represented on nearly half of our products. Birch Leaf Green, as we call it, has become part of who we are and continues to be the color wash within which our small, quirky company works. So we thought we’d share about the origin of this now-beloved color.
It All Started in Mine Falls Park
Our first office was in an old mill building in Nashua, New Hampshire that had a previous life as a rubber boot factory. Aside from high ceilings, big windows, and cheap rent, it delivered something else essential: it was 200 yards away from a park with nearly ten miles of single-track mountain bike trails. Cam and the crew would get out biking most days, and it was here where we first plucked a birch leaf bud as the inspiration for our first tent.
The White Birch is New Hampshire’s state tree. It’s a chicken-or-egg question whether Cam is a New Englander by being raised here, or whether his parents chose this place because it resonated with their spirits. But either way, Cam was raised in New Hampshire and carries its grit and tenacity in full force. So, it was only fitting that this small green bud was taken from New Hampshire’s beautiful state tree.
Coming back to the office, Cam laid the small leaf on a Pantone book and selected a chip that matched. It was a fresh spring yellowish green – different from the dusty or suntanned deep greens later in the season.
Cam in the original NEMO Headquarters.
While we believe gear should enable you to do what you want without being a distraction, at the time we were a young company just about to create our first prototypes. We wanted and needed to stand out in the retail environment. The tents on the market were mostly red, yellow, orange, or blue. A fresh, light green would be unique and symbolic of who we were: a small team of designers seeking to bring new thinking to outdoor gear.
Yet, as much as we wanted to stand out in retail stores, we wanted to be unobtrusive in nature. It was paramount that our color would blend harmoniously into the forest. As human beings, we choose to be in nature; we feel complete and satisfied when we’re looking through a canopy of trees. Our gear has always been designed to enable people’s best selves as they adventured in nature, and we wanted our tents to echo this experience.
What Is it About That Particular Green?
From the beginning, it was important that our green was different, intelligent, and clever. This meant taking it a bit off primary, and mixing in some other forces.
The original green was muddied and weird. We believe interesting colors are an acquired taste, much like food and drink. A sophisticated palate is built over time as you explore dishes and libations, appreciating unique combinations and tastes that are nuanced, surprising, or unfamiliar. Similarly, colors with a point of view, a personality, or an unexpected combination assert a more mature and cultivated perspective than a mainstream green. We’d rather be polarizing than predictable.
When Cam was growing up, his father had an old box of color chips in his basement, leftover from his days as a graduate student of design. They were perfect little squares that Cam would spend time arranging into different combinations, enjoying the surprising families of color that would emerge.
With this in the back of his mind as inspiration, Cam created a palette for the new company, centered around a primary core of green, but extending into accents of oranges and yellows for mountaineering and elite ultralight collections.
NEMO's original Morpho Tent in Mine Falls State Park.
The Evolution of Birch Leaf Green
At the beginning, we were a small company and didn’t have the buying power to make all of our own fabrics and trims bespoke. We’d have to settle for the closest thing, which sometimes was closer to a fluorescent green. With limited supply choices, our green was brighter, sportier, and less surprising than we wanted it to be.
As we’ve grown, we’ve been able to reclaim our original green in our fabrics and breathe new life into it. We have both the confidence and scale to more accurately achieve the green we want.
Last year, we refreshed our brand. We refined our logo and incorporated our original Pantone. And our tents are returning to the slightly more esoteric green that is more distinct. Like any color, there are challenges with applying it uniformly across our tents.
Light denier tents can wear any color and look amazing. The translucent fabrics have so much intrinsic beauty and the light plays off them so well; when using a beautiful Japanese high-tenacity 10-denier fabric, Birch Leaf Green glows and resembles its original leaf bud inspiration.
Denser fabrics used on camping tents are more difficult. In high concentrations, the green can be visually intense and it takes careful color work to find the right expression. Our designers use light boxes and photo spectrometers to dial in the green on these heavier applications.
A Verdant Wish for Your Adventures
As designers, we believe beauty is scientific and rational, even if we don’t fully understand it yet. We often look to nature as a source of inspiration, or to validate our designs. Our Birch Leaf Green products arose from a love of the outdoors, and the energy we put into each new product comes from a place of passion for your next adventure. We find no greater satisfaction than to see our tents in the wild, enabling you to go further, travel lighter, sleep more comfortably, and experience new things.
So from our team to you, here’s to your next adventure. And if you wake up in a Birch Leaf Green tent, ready to soak in another day of exploration, we hope you feel just a little more harmonious with the world around you.