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Employee Spotlight: Kim Knapp

Kim Knapp loved math enough to get a master’s in accounting and financial management. But when you ask her who her lifelong mentor is, she slips on her safety glasses and confesses: Her middle school science teacher.

“Mr. Kohls took us whitewater rafting and backpacking every year. After eighth grade, he gave us his personal contact information in case we needed anything in high school.”

It’s a contact Kim Knapp, controller for CamelBak and QuietKat, needed – not just in high school – but in her adult life, too.

“We became friends as adults and when I had my daughters, I would call him and his wife for parenting advice,” she said. 

Parenting – a bit of a science project in itself – was one experiment that Kim says was one of her greatest, yet most difficult, life accomplishments. 

“I wanted my two girls to think for themselves, and they started by questioning everything I do,” Kim said. “I raised two strong-willed, loving humans, and I’m really proud of both of them.”

Kim and her daughters, Skyler (18) and Allie (20), love to spend time outdoors rafting and camping. In fact, Kim says one of life’s greatest adventures involved flying into an inholding in the Golden Trout Wilderness in California and kayaking down the Little Kern River – an outing that she describes as “an epic combination of canyoneering and boating.”

“It had only been run twice before. It took us two days to go nine miles. It was a beautiful, deep canyon with lots of small waterfalls and drops. On the third day, we did 17 miles of class IV-V whitewater on the forks of the Kern in four hours,” she said.  

The adventure was far from a lazy river. There was a lot of planning, work, and knowledge necessary to make the trip a success. Which is exactly why the trip also felt like a great accomplishment to Kim and others kayaking the Little Kern.

“When I showed up to the start of that trip, one of the guys spoke up: ‘You aren’t coming are you? You can’t handle this.’ After the trip, he called to say he was wrong, and that I had helped him in many ways. In my career, I must overcome bias like that regularly, and I am proud of the impact I make,” she said.

Kim has been a controller for CamelBak and QuietKat for five years. She is responsible for the accuracy of financial statements but sees her job as more than just checking up on finances.  

“My job is to ask hard questions, to make sure we really understand the financial impacts of our decisions and that we have the systems and processes in place to accurately report them. I work with teams across the company to make sure they understand how their work and decisions impact the company’s financial health,” she explained. 

Since joining the company, Kim has had the opportunity to work with some of the newer brands added to the Vista Outdoor portfolio. 

“I enjoy the variety and the challenges in my role. It allows me to think outside of the box and find ways to solve problems. My problem solving skills have grown strong, and I am good at making the best of difficult situations.”

It’s the perfect match-up, given solving problems is what Kim says got her hooked in the first place. She says she is a “nerd at heart,” and that she loves solving puzzles, and working with numbers and people.

“This job feeds my passion,” she said. “I love what I do. Working in the outdoor industry with a great team, finding solutions, driving growth and change, talking about the future and the path to get there, and helping people grow makes me happy.”

The connection Kim has to her team and her work helps her lead. 

“I make decisions based on what I think is right, not where it can get me. I am so grateful for my family, my friends and my team and I know that happiness is about connection.”

The importance of connection. Likely a lesson that also traces back to that middle school science teacher.


Last book you read?
“East of Eden” -John Steinbeck.

Cups of coffee per day?
One to two, unless it is close week and then it is more like 573.

Your most interesting job?
Park aid for the California State Parks System

A day off with no obligations would include: 
Some kind of adventure, hopefully involving whitewater and friends.

Best advice you’ve gotten?
My best friend told me to pick the one thing that is the most important and when you are faced with hard decisions focus on that. If you can accomplish it, everything else will be OK. It applies to so many things in life. Find the focus and hold true to it.
Something people at work don’t know?
I was raised in a yurt with no phone, electricity or running water. 

Best type of meat?
I used to be a vegetarian. I didn’t really like meat when I was younger. In the last few years, I have learned that I just like good meat. My Woodwind has made me a fan of a medium rare smoked steak.
Dog or cat lover?
Cats. I love dogs but I travel to much to have one of my own. 

Worst injury?
Bike accident. I don’t remember what happened. I woke up in the ER with six hours missing. 

Favorite Spring Activity?

Finish the sentence: I just can’t seem to get enough ___.

Your greatest adventure?
I went to a private high school, but the tuition was more than my mom made in a year. At the time they didn’t give scholarships so everyone there was wealthy. The education was amazing but the best thing I learned was that money doesn’t make you happy.