William P. Hilger started what would become Stearns, Inc. among the lakes and plains of central Minnesota. His first successful product was an electrically powered windshield heater that was a big hit in the colder climates of central Minnesota in the late 1920's, and eventually was a must-have product for cars from California to Maine. The company changed hands after World War II and became Stearns Manufacturing Company. The heating systems in cars had matured to the point where, anymore, the idea of needing a frost shield was old-fashioned. The business then turned towards the future: Plastics.
In the ensuing decades, Stearns would manufacture high quality outdoor products such as life jackets, water ski belts, and plastic boat interiors. Federal law changes in 1971 allowed companies to actually design a better looking Type III PFD that didn't have to be a bulky orange block. This was the starter's gun in a race towards ownership of the designed PFD market; a race that Stearns would easily win. In 2008, Coleman added to its family of brands the distinct quality of Stearns products, the most recognized player in the life jacket business. It’s a natural fit.