Inspiring Adventure: How a father shaped our gear and fostered a love of the outdoors for many

Inspiring Adventure: How a father shaped our gear and fostered a love of the outdoors for many

For many of us, a parental figure showed us how to bait a hook, put up a tent, start a fire, and more. They may have been the ones to show us how incredible the outdoors are, and how to pack our backpacks. This was the case for Near Zero's founder and owner Scott Jensen, whose dad, Dean, was not just a teacher but a source of inspiration. Dean instilled in Scott a profound love for the outdoors and shared all the knowledge he had on how to find the best in outdoor gear, a legacy that lives on in Near Zero. 

Scott and his father, Dean, had experienced the common struggle of outdoor enthusiasts—the search for affordable and durable gear. They knew what it was like to go to bargain bins to find gear because many of the best outdoor gear was expensive, and buying gear for five kids wasn't great for their wallets. This shared experience fueled their commitment to making quality gear accessible to all. 

The two had talked over the years about going into business together. In 2016 they got serious about it and when things started to kick off around 2018, Dean had a sudden heart attack. His death was a devastating blow to Scott, but it also ignited a fire within him. It pushed Scott to fulfill his dreams and his father's dream of starting an outdoor gear company. 

In 2019, when Near Zero was starting, Scott wanted his gear to be simple, organized, lightweight, and easy to pack. His dad's desire to make backpacking simple for everyone started with this, and then, while talking to his wife about where he wanted to take the brand, Scott had an "aha" moment. 

The two discussed creating a backpack, and Scott's wife had the idea of creating a pack that opened up like a suitcase and was organized, compartmentalized, and labeled—just like Dean would have wanted. This was how The DEAN was born, and from there, The Little DEAN was created to encourage youngsters to get out and go with their dad. The Near Zero brand has continued to make gear that Dean would be proud of. 

Dean was meticulous when it came to lightweight gear. He weighed every item bought for camping and tried to lighten it himself, even going as far as to cut his toothbrush in half (yip, one of those guys). Often, he would walk a mile from his home in Arizona and camp in the desert to try out his latest purchase. 

Photo: Dean using wooden spoon he made while camping. 

Dean guided scouting trips and took his grandkids on trips. He earned the Silver Beaver (BSA’s highest honor award) and hiked the Grand Canyon 13 times in a year when he was 70 years old. He had a passion for getting others outside and falling in love with nature, and that same desire was instilled in Scott. Near Zero gear is also a reflection of Dean's dream to have gear that is affordable, simple, and lightweight. Scott continues to ensure these traits of his father live on in Near Zero's gear so everyone can get out with those they love and create memories that'll last a lifetime. 

"I love backpacking and camping," Scott told The Mesa Tribune in 2023. "Maybe it's because of my dad. I love the memories of our camping trips together. I love escaping the pressures of everyday life and getting out into nature. I love sitting under a sky full of stars. I love disconnecting from technology, even for a little while, and feeling free from all the demands. I love getting to peaceful remote locations when I need solitude, and I love meeting new people on the trails or connecting with loved ones around a campfire and making fun memories."

Photo: Scott Jensen (at age 7) and his dad Dean Jensen. 

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