Ortovox turns 40

Design changes. Values do not.

Gerald Kampel didn’t listen to the voices of those who said it was impossible. He listened to his own voice, which said: You can make the world of mountain sports safer. And that’s exactly what he did. In 1980, Kampel developed the F2 double-frequency avalanche transceiver, which would go on to revolutionize avalanche search and rescue – and form the beginnings of Ortovox: The company name is a portmanteau of “Ortung” (the German word for detection) and “vox”, meaning voice.

For 40 years now, the South German mountain experts have been following this guiding principle. For 40 years now, Ortovox has been developing mountain sports products with passion. The products are intended to provide safety while also protecting nature and animals. This philosophy has shaped the company up until the present day – from the company headquarters in South Germany, across to Tasmania, where like-minded partners supply the merino wool for Ortovox products. Ortovox has revolutionized equipment and influenced designs – but the company’s values have remained unchanged for 40 years.


The avalanche transceivers that were used before 1980 transmitted and received on two different frequencies. This led to (often fatal) delays in searching for avalanche victims. Gerald Kampel’s F2 functioned on both frequencies, thus becoming the clear market leader within just a few years. Avalanche transceivers continued to be systematically developed in the following years. Ortovox presented new models almost every five years. One of the highlights was the F1 FOCUS: introduced in 1994, its optical search aid helped it become one of the world’s bestselling avalanche transceivers. The M2 came along a few years later, offering the possibility of searching for several victims at once. The X1 arrived in 2002 and featured two antennas, unrivalled range and a fully automatic search system. In 2007, the world’s first sensor-controlled avalanche transceiver arrived: the S1. This was followed in 2011 by the S1+ with its Smart Antenna technology, making it easier not only to find victims but also for you to be found.


These were joined by further developments in safety: The clearing function of avalanche shovels and the PFA quick-assembly system on probes have helped rescuers to gain decisive seconds when searching for victims. In addition: Ortovox became a leading brand in the development of backpacks for ski touring and freeriding. The first deep-snow backpack was put on the market in 1985. This was followed by backpacks such as the Free Rider with its TÜV-approved back protector. And last but not least, 2016 heralded the arrival of the lightweight AVABAG system. Since then, the argument that avalanche airbag backpacks would be too heavy for ski touring has become invalid. The ORTOVOX-developed cartridge system was promptly awarded “Product of the Year” at ISPO.


The introduction of the Safety Academy in 2008 demonstrated exactly what Ortovox is all about. Successful sales figures thanks to the development of innovative equipment is one thing. However, economic success should not be the primary driving force. Ortovox’s core values are clear: protection and responsibility, sustainability and friendship. These are the pillars the brand’s success is built upon.

This was the reason why, in 2008, ORTOVOX founded a platform for imparting alpine safety knowledge. The Safety Academy began by providing training and avalanche courses by mountain guides and experts, and it now educates more than 1,400 participants every year. Today, the SAFETY ACADEMY has grown to be a comprehensive, globally unique platform for alpine safety training – online, in print and through courses.


Living by your values with conviction can often also mean having to swim against the tide. It is not always easy, but it shapes you. Synthetics had always been considered absolutely necessary for functional apparel when Ortovox began using natural materials in 1988 – and was sneered at for doing so.

In 1995, the company became one of the first to use merino wool, redefining the world of these fine fibres from highland sheep. Today, the Ortovox Wool Promise (OWP) is one of the most comprehensive standards for the protection of animals, nature and people. The merino sheep farmers in Tasmania have not only committed themselves to the OWP, they literally live by this systematically sustainable approach with every fibre – and have been so economically successful with their responsible handling of flora and fauna that many other farmers are now following suit.

A deep friendship has developed between Ortovox and its partners in Tasmania – and that’s exactly how it is with the suppliers of Swisswool, the natural warmer from Switzerland. Just a few years ago, small businesses in Switzerland were only earning very little money from mountain sheep’s wool. Now mountain farmers not only enjoy financial success but new appreciation, too. And mountaineers profit from a durable, highly functional, natural fibre that neutralizes odours, regulates moisture and temperature, and that excellently insulates.


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