In 1968, Scott Crook moved to Fayetteville from Shreveport, LA to start his PhD in Organic Chemistry at the University of Arkansas. Carolyn moved to Fayetteville from Louisville, KY in the Spring of 1971, for a post-doctorate position in the Chemistry department at the University of Arkansas, after finishing her degree in Biochemistry. They met in the chemistry department soon after Carolyn moved to the area, and were married on September 30, 1971.
By 1973, it was discovered that Scott was allergic to the chemicals that he was working with in the chemistry department. Due to this, their love of fishing and canoeing, and a lack of outdoor equipment in the area, Scott and Carolyn decided to shift gears. Pack Rat Outdoor Center was born in their garage in 1973, where they started selling Grumman Canoes. As they continued to add products to their selection, they eventually outgrew the garage, and set up an official store front in the in Evelyn Hills Shopping Center.
Products that Pack Rat started with were Grumman Canoes, Eureka Tents, Seda Kayaks, MEI Sleeping Bags, Columbia Sports Wear, Camp 7, and Sierra Designs. From the beginning, Scott and Carolyn decided they would always carry gear that was a good value and would stand up to the rigors of the activity the customer was using the gear for.
Pack Rat continued to grow and move to different locations on N. College Ave, Township, and Green Acres Road. After 10 years in the building on Green Acres Road, Scott fell in love with the idea of a log structure design as a new home for Pack Rat. After a year of planning and work, his log building was completed, and their Grand Opening was held in the Spring of 2002. The winter snowstorm they had that day made it especially memorable.
Along with canoeing, Scott and Carolyn loved backpacking, spending years exploring areas like Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Arkansas. With friends from the Ozark Society, they believed a trail system like the Appalachian Trail would be a good fit for Arkansas. Scott and Carolyn met Tim Ernst, who was also interested in building a trail system across the state - and together they started the Ozark Highlands Trail Association.
The forest service did not have the funds to build a trail, so it was clear that volunteers would be doing the work. Dick Murray, a retiree from Corps of Engineers, had already begun flagging a trail in the Ozarks, and so began the establishment of the Ozark Highlands Trail. The initial work on the trail began at Lake Fort Smith, and ended at the Moore CCC Camp. This took nine years to complete, and because they knew the trail would need regular maintenance, Scott became the first Maintenance Coordinator for OHTA.
While Pack Rat began as a small operation consisting of two people and a garage, we now employ over 22 people and cover a wide range of outdoor activities - rock climbing, paddling,camping,backpacking, travel, archery, and more.
Pack Rat Outdoor Center also hosts a number of events and clinics throughout the year. From rock climbing instruction, to survival skills, to archery, we've got you covered! Many of our clinics are free of charge, and almost all of our events are fundraisers for local nonprofits. You can learn more about upcoming events and clinics here.
In 2015, we added roof-wide solar panels, which are maintained by The Stitt Group, another local business based in Rogers. On a good day, they provide over 100% of our daily energy needs. Surplus energy is back fed into Fayetteville's electricity grid. Read more about our sustainability initiatives.
Since 1973, Scott and Carolyn have nurtured a business that puts conservation, education, and an environment for their staff that felt like a family-run business first. Scott passed away in 2019, and his leadership and humor is missed. Carolyn is still very much a part of Pack Rat, taking care of behind-the-scenes tasks and occasionally still working the sales floor. If you ask Carolyn what’s important to her as the owner of Pack Rat, she’ll tell you: quality products, great customer service, and taking care of her staff.
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If there are any products, clinics, or event ideas you think would be a good fit for Pack Rat, let us know!