Travel Guides

JOHNSON OUTDOORS: A Wisconsin-based Outdoor Adventures Innovator

By Lynn & Cele Seldon

Based in Racine, Wisconsin, but offering outdoors products found and recognized around the world, Johnson Outdoors is a 50-plus-year-old leading global innovator of outdoor recreation equipment and technologies that inspire people to experience Mother Nature at its finest in a wide variety of ways. 

Through a diverse range of iconic brands, Johnson Outdoors designs, manufactures, and markets a portfolio of award-winning consumer-preferred brands in four categories: Watercraft Recreation, Fishing, Camping, and Diving. From world-class kayaks out on the water to catching the big one to camping and even heading underwater, Johnson Outdoors has something for any
outdoor enthusiast. 

Founded in 1970 and having celebrated their 50th anniversary last year, Johnson Outdoors has a long history and culture of innovation, and a love of the outdoors. The company was founded by Sam Johnson, who had a passion for the outdoors and a commitment to serving team members, customers, the environment, and communities where Johnson Outdoors did business. His innovation-driven business philosophy, which still exists today, was: “New products, new geographies, and every few years a new brand or technology.”

Johnson Outdoors has been led by one of Sam’s daughters, Chairman and CEO Helen Johnson-Leipold, for more than 20 years. An avid paddler, angler, camper, and diver, the Racine native shares her father’s passion for outdoor recreation, and was named Chairman, Johnson Outdoors, in 1999, and Chairman of both Johnson Financial Group and The Johnson Foundation in 2004, succeeding her father in all three roles.

Johnson-Leipold also serves as a director of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., her family’s consumer household products company (including brands like Windex®, Ziploc®, Glade®, and Pledge®). She and her husband, Craig, owner of the NHL Minnesota Wild franchise, reside in Racine and are the parents of five adult sons and grandparents of four.

When asked about the company’s continued purpose, Johnson-Leipold says,

“We inspire people to get out there to experience and value the awe of the great outdoors for generations to come. We aim to give people the best outdoor experiences possible, from the moment someone thinks about heading outdoors to researching, shopping, and purchasing, [and] to actually using the product or technology.”

Under Johnson-Leipold’s leadership, today’s Johnson Outdoors features a diverse range of iconic and innovative products. For instance, their Watercraft Recreation category includes legendary Old Town® canoes and kayaks. Founded in 1898 on the banks of the Penobscot River in Old Town, Maine, Old Town is quite simply synonymous with paddling, including canoes, kayaks, paddles, life jackets, and more. Always innovating beyond their first legendary canoes, Old Town now features the Predator PDL pedal-powered fishing kayak machine, and they launched their first Sportsman Line of kayaks in 2020 to rave reviews and skyrocketing demand.

The Watercraft Recreation division also includes Ocean Kayak™. They’re renowned for their sit-on-top kayaks, like the Malibu Pedal and the Prowler Big Game II Angler, as well as stand-up paddleboards and more. 

The Fishing category includes Minn Kota®, Cannon®, and Humminbird®. Minn Kota focuses on fishing trolling motors, including freshwater and saltwater trolling motors, plus electric outboards, as well as anchors, and more.

Cannon is renowned for downriggers that help you get the bait where the fish are (along with rod holders and other fishing accessories), while Humminbird is known for advanced marine electronics and charts, including fish finders, mapping, accessories, and apparel.

The Camping division of Johnson Outdoors features another truly iconic outdoor brand: Eureka!® camping and hiking equipment. From the still-beloved bright green Timberline® series of tents to many other tents, lots of camp cooking options, furniture, and more, Eureka! remains a camper favorite around the world. There’s also Jetboil®, whose renowned and innovative stoves have proven very popular with RVers when they’re “roughing it” outside their RV.

Finally, famed SCUBAPRO® dive equipment makes up the Diving category of Johnson Outdoors. Quite simply, scuba divers love and trust everything SCUBAPRO offers, including technical gear, fins, masks, snorkels, and accessories.

Given all of these options, it’s easy to see why this Wisconsin-based global company is so loved and respected by those who love and respect the great outdoors. Johnson-Leipold says, “We’re focused on working hard to keep pace with demand and leveraging our market-leading brands and innovation to maximize the heightened interest in outdoor recreation.”⎯


Visit for information about their watercraft, fishing, camping, diving, and other innovative outdoors-oriented offerings.

Long-time TrailBlazer contributors Lynn and Cele Seldon started camping together almost 30 years ago in an iconic bright green Eureka! 

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