Gear Capital: Brooklyn, New York
At first glance, Brooklyn doesn’t seem like a gear hub. But consider that among the 50 states, New York is ranked third when it comes to employing outdoor-industry folks. And more than 20 companies call Kings County home. Brands like Horse, Union Surfboards, and Final Frontier Designs are rolling out first-rate adventure tools (think custom road bikes, surfboards, and even commercial space suits) by tapping into Brooklyn’s rich maker culture. Others like Biolite and GoTenna are pioneering off-the-grid mobile and solar technology, while Outlier serves up stylish apparel. In the process, companies are upending the borough’s rep as merely a fixie-commuter-riding hipster hive.
Atayne National Parks Collection Rec Cycling Jersey ($75)
To mark the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary, Atayne rolled out a collection of cycling tops inspired by America’s best idea. These high-performance jerseys are predictably gorgeous (each features a vista, like Olympic’s coastline, shown) and technical (there’s a full hidden zipper for temperature regulation). Less expected is their eco-conscious bent: Company founder Jeremy Litchfield was on a run in 2007 when he noticed that the red dye—and possibly sketchy chemicals—from his shirt had bled out and stained the whole lower half of his body. So he made sure to fashion his jerseys from recycled polyester treated with a nontoxic antimicrobial that squelches odor.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dyneema Summit Pack ($280)
Hyperlite is no misnomer: the brand trades in the fast and featherweight. Made with ultra-durable Dyneema, a waterproof fabric that’s several times stronger than steel, this 30-liter, pared-down pack moves up and over any type of rock with no worry of tears—ideal for long ice and mixed routes.
Bush Smarts Bear Star Line Thrower ($58)
New York, New York
While it looks like a weapon, best not to use the Bear Star to fend off any ursine intruders. It’s meant as a line thrower for suspending bear bags from tree limbs while camping. The titanium weight keeps the attached 50-foot reflective rope tangle-free and improves accuracy. Bottom line: pure genius.
Tracksmith Grayboy Shirt ($55)
For the Grayboy, performance running-apparel company Tracksmith eschews technical fabrics in favor of cotton processed at a century-old, family-run textile mill in Massachusetts. The result is a super-durable tee that’s soft and thick, and gets better with age, due to the cotton’s durability.
New Balance 990v4 Sneakers ($165)
Roughly 1,300 craftsmen in five New England factories produce New Balance’s Made in the USA line. This year’s version of the flagship 990v4 pairs the same pigskin suede and mesh as the original with a lighter upper and an -updated midsole, making it equally suited to races and music festivals.
Gilson Pioneer Snowboard ($519)
Steeped in central Pennsylvania’s rich woodworking heritage, Gilson’s Pioneer melds craftsmanship and performance. The board is built at the company’s Winfield “snowboard farm,” with a poplar core sustainably sourced from the region’s forests. It’s a surfy deck with a soft edge that carves huge and handles the hairiest steeps.
Timberland 6-Inch Lineman Boots ($450)
Stratham, New Hampshire
Timberland’s Lineman is an everyday walker that’ll last a lifetime trudging through slushy New England winters. Handmade in Arkansas, the boot’s waxed canvas and hand-stained Horween leather from Chicago give it a worn-in, well-loved feel right out of the box.
Gear Capital: Asheville, North Carolina
While traditional manufacturing has all but disappeared around Asheville, gear production has exploded in this artsy Appalachian town. Dozens of independent companies—from niche brands like spelunking-pack maker SwayGo to big players like Industry Nine Componentry, which builds lust-worthy wheel-sets—employ more than 500 people. “It’s a density thing,” says Shane Benedict, a founder of Liquidlogic Kayaks, headquartered near the Class V Green River. “You have a lot of people passionate about kayaking and mountain biking. With all these folks in one place, we all feed off of each other.”
Lynskey Summit Series Mountain Bike Frameset ($2,700 and up)
You want a titanium bike because of the metal’s ridiculous feel and durability. You want a Lynskey because the family behind it legitimized titanium with its first brand, Litespeed. Its newest whip, the Summit, has suspension and wheel options that pair well with Lynskey’s aerospace-grade framesets, known for unmatched pre-cision among titanium rigs.
Mountain Laurel Designs FKT Soul Bivy Sack ($375)
Founder Ron Bell wanted to fulfill his own ultralight backpacking needs and slowly turned his cottage manufacturer into a go-to brand for ounce-shedders in the know. The FKT Soul is a minimalist’s dream: a blend of eVent and Cuben Fiber—a nonwoven fabric used for yacht sails—for a fully waterproof-breathable bivy that comes in under ten ounces.
Tchoup Industries Flap Pack ($150)
New Orleans, Louisiana
Patti Dunn designed tents and sleeping bags for the outdoor industry before she started crafting packs under her own label. The Flap is built for the city and swamp, using upcycled awning fabric and seatbelt-grade webbing for a water-resistant day pack with a retro Boy Scouts look.
Oyster Signature Series Custom Fly ($2,390 and up)
Blue Ridge, Georgia
When he wasn’t racing, former pro cyclist Bill Oyster used to relax by fly-fishing, and he took to building rods by hand after quitting his job in the mid-nineties. Each one delivers bamboo’s legendary action, providing more heft than graphite and a suppler cast to boot.
Bison 50-Quart Cooler ($329)
Fort Worth, Texas
Father-son duo Dennis and Jeremy Denson knew when they started Bison that a cooler has one job: keep beer cold for as long as possible. Their 50-quart chest accomplishes that task admirably, maintaining frostiness for up to five days. Pressure-injected insulation in the walls and leak-resistant gaskets maintain an airtight seal and frigid temps even if it’s sweltering outside.
Gear Capital: Duluth, Minnesota
In the past few decades, entrepreneurs have caught on that the recreation mecca on Lake Superior is also the perfect location to test and build all manner of outdoor equipment. We don’t get why it took so long. This city’s iconic manufacturer, Duluth Pack, has been handcrafting its heavy-duty leather and canvas bags since 1882—longer than any pack maker in the U.S. Add others like Aerostich, which makes heated motorcycle suits, and Loll Designs, churning out recycled outdoor furniture, and the gear-related manufacturing jobs total nearly 1,300—more per capita than Minneapolis.
Wenonah Minnesota II Ultralight with Kevlar Canoe ($2,699 and up)
At 42 pounds, this sleek vessel tracks like an arrow and won’t weigh you down on portages. Kevlar in the 18.5-foot-long body means dinging a rock won’t sink your mission. Wenonah has been building quality crafts for 49 years, thanks in no small part to the world-class water available in this Mississippi River town’s backyard.
Shinola Runwell Sport Chrono ($875)
In 2011, Shinola set out to prove that it can produce any product entirely in the States, and that includes precision handmade watches. The Detroit brand pulled it off with the Chrono, which boasts an Argonite 5050 high--accuracy quartz movement. It’s all packaged in a bomber steel case, with a sporty U.S.-sourced leather strap and a rotating bezel for tracking elapsed time.
DogIDs Personalized Soft Grip Snap Leash ($39)
Fargo, North Dakota
With an official spokesdog named River, DogIDs is passionate about pooches. One of the most popular of the company’s roughly 100 fully American-sourced products: this waterproof, four- or six-foot leash, made from grippy rubber that was originally developed for horse harnesses and reins. No chance Fido will break this lead.
Fox River New American Ragg Wool Crew Socks ($16)
Operating in the Midwest for more than a century, this sock company has serious cred. The New American Ragg Wool socks are knit from merino, acrylic, nylon, and spandex yarns that are itch-free and provide extra wicking when your piggies get sweaty.
Zipp 404 NSW Carbon Clincher Wheelset ($3,100 and up)
The fact that cyclist Evelyn Stevens just used a pair of Zipp wheels to ride 29.8 miles in an hour, smashing the UCI record, speaks to just how fast these wind-cheating hoops roll. The lightweight carbon rims were created in Zipp’s Indianapolis headquarters, and the full 58-millimeter wheelset weighs a mere 3.4 pounds. Upgrading to silicon carbide in the brake track ensures stopping power even in wet conditions.
Gear Capital: Boulder, Colorado
Boulder’s outdoor cred is nothing new, of course. Scads of gear companies are headquartered here, spanning everything from ski apparel (Spyder) to car racks (RockyMounts) to recycled bike accessories (Green Guru). What brought them to Boulder? How about testing prototype climbing boots on Longs Peak in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. Or attracting talent with the city’s Platinum certification from the League of American Bicyclists and a ski area, Eldora, just 40 minutes from downtown. Want to develop a new gadget? Manufacturing resources like injection molders are a short drive away. Other locales may eventually eclipse Boulder. But for now it’s like that infuriatingly fast age-group racer you’ve had in your sights for years—somehow always out in front.
Duckworth Vapor Henley ($100)
The fine Rambouillet merino blended with polyester in Duckworth’s light Vapor wicks moisture as well as anything. Montana’s Helle family of ranchers provides the wool, which is spun, dyed, and knit in the Carolinas.
Buck Knives 108 Compadre Froe ($160)
Post Falls, Idaho
Founded in 1902, Buck constructed its knives entirely in the U.S. until 2004, and the 100 percent American-made Compadre hews to that tradition. Its 9.5-inch steel blade and walnut handle mean it can do the work of a hatchet.
Soul Poles SoulLite Ski Poles ($135)
Park City, Utah
Founder Bryon Friedman chose bamboo for his sticks because it’s renewable and biodegradable. He still has trouble convincing people that the wood can stand up to abuse (it does have a generous amount of flex), but it’s actually twice as strong as the more commonly used aluminum.
Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch Bourbon ($39)
The northern climate has challenges an independent distillery won’t find in, say, Kentucky—like temperatures that swing from 130 degrees in summer to five below in winter. Even so, this small-batch bourbon, made with 100 percent Wyoming-grown grain, has been racking up medals for its caramel-cinnamon flavor and toffee finish.
Topo Designs Klettersack Pack ($249)
Centennial State brand Topo is known for its collaborations. One of our favorites is with far-flung heritage labels Woolrich and Horween for the wool and leather Klettersack, a classic 22-liter rucksack with updates like gear lashes and a laptop sleeve.
Voormi Drift Jacket ($249)
Pagosa Springs, Colorado
When starting Voormi, Microsoft alum Dan English assembled a team of outdoor-apparel vets to prioritize small-batch manufacturing and constantly revamp products. One staple item, the Drift, uses thick merino fibers reinforced with nylon for a midlayer that’s stretchy and soft on the inside while providing abrasion and wind resistance on the outside.
Gear Capital: Portland, Oregon
According to the Portland Development Commission, over 800 firms employ more than 16,000 people in the athletic and outdoor industry in the state of Oregon, with around 80 percent of those jobs in the Portland area. Sure, giants Adidas, Columbia, and Nike account for roughly half of that. But they draw a talented workforce, and folks tend to put down roots in the City of Roses. Many have created their own offshoots, like Nutcase Helmets and Looptworks, which makes upcycled bags and apparel. “There’s a lot of networking and sample labs, and companies have popped up to help anybody who has an idea get started,” says Looptworks cofounder Scott Hamlin.
Liberty Bottleworks Hide-N-Seek 24-Ounce Bottle ($24)
Union Gap, Washington
Liberty uses U.S.-sourced aluminum, and bottles like the Hide-N-Seek are topped with a lid made down the street from recycled plastic. We keep one clipped to a pack at all times, and it’s lasted us through years of knocking around in the backcountry.
Vivix 659 Buster Hybrid Shorts ($65)
The classy solid color of these coastal California-born swim trunks is a welcome contrast to many of today’s loud prints. And the thick brushed-polyester exterior will look good for decades.
Filson Shelter Waterfowl/Upland Coat ($395)
Filson’s Pacific Northwest heritage comes out in its rain-ready packs and clothing. This hunting coat’s water-resistant, oil-finished, 11-ounce cotton exterior shrugs off torrential downpours, and a bloodproof nylon liner won’t get mucked up during hours spent crouched behind a duck blind or lugging your spoils home afterward.
The North Face Backyard Full Zip Hoodie ($90)
Nearly two years ago, the North Face launched its U.S.-manufactured line of lifestyle apparel. Since then it has cranked out about 17,000 garments—like the Full Zip hoodie—for its Backyard Project using cotton grown in Arizona and California and spun in South Carolina.
Arbor Fish Premium Skateboard ($190)
Arbor builds its boards, including this 39-inch mellow carver, amid the rolling topography of Orange County and San Diego. The Fish’s long wheel base is perfect for arcing lazy turns down gentle hills.