New 'Made in USA' outdoor gear award

By STEPHEN REGENOLD

Outdoors products that are made in the United States got recognition this month via a new industry award and a trophy that comes in the shape of a 3-foot-tall sasquatch.

The “American Made Outdoor Gear Award” is a self-explanatory program created by Kokatat Inc. of Arcata, Calif., itself a made-in-the-USA manufacturer of paddling apparel and gear.

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Made in Washington state: Liberty bottle

The trophy, carved out of a block of solid Californian redwood, shipped last week to the contest’s first awardee, Liberty Bottleworks of Washington state.

More than 50 brands entered the contest, which was promoted as a “chance to raise a glass to the leaders in American-made quality, craftsmanship and creativity in the outdoor world.”

I can get behind that.

Job creation, civic pride, and American craftsmanship are dwindling commodities across most industries. It’s inspiring to see outdoors goods made not overseas but on American soil.

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Bottles on the assembly line in Yakima, Wash.

Applicants for the award ranged from large established companies like Woolrich and Thule Car Racks to startups that employ less than five workers.

Liberty Bottleworks, the winner, pretty much embodies a solid American brand. Founded in 2010, the company is based in Union Gap, Wash. Its water bottles are made in a Washington factory out of recycled aluminum.

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The trophy, a 3-foot-tall redwood sasquatch carving named Sassy

Said a competition judge, “Not only does Liberty make a product in a highly-competitive space that is dominated by imports, but the company does so in a factory where the machines were also built in the U.S.”

Beyond Liberty, the program gave a nod to four additional made-in-the USA gear brands, including:

> Cilo Gear of Portland, Ore., a maker of technical backpacks for climbing and mountaineering.

> Branches LLC of Osceola, Wis., which builds canoe and kayak paddles.

> Stormy Kromer of Ironwood, Mich., which employs more than 50 workers to make its woolen winter caps.

> Jackson Kayak of Sparta, Tenn., a 100+ employee brand that builds whitewater and touring boats.

Congrats to all the winners! I encourage readers to seek out American-made gear. I’ve tested and used items from many of the companies above. Not only is it good for the nation’s economy, in use outdoors it’s some of the best stuff around.

—Stephen Regenold wrote about American-made outdoor equipment in a 2010 article, “Gear Made in the USA.” Regenold is founder and editor of www.GearJunkie.com.

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Liberty Bottles, painted and ready for graphics before they ship

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