Blackhawk! founder Mike Noell built his business around one vow: build a better backpack. It sounds small, but as a former Navy SEAL, he understood the magnitude of well-built gear. While serving in Iraq in 1990, Noell’s issued backpack failed and his gear scattered as he navigated a minefield. After he survived this harrowing experience, he swore to create gear that would be strong enough for SEAL missions. Noell founded his company in 1993, starting with backpacks and expanding to cover nearly everything a serviceman could need in combat from headwear to holsters to boots.