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12 Days of Crafting

The bustle around the finishing table during a busy day at the Frost River shop.

Welcome to the Frost River shop! It’s a bustling place throughout the year, but it gets extra crazy building up to the holidays. An active workshop has a commotion all its own. Each step of the way, you’ll find skilled folks making it happen. It takes a long time to make good stuff, with many steps involved. Bags go upstairs and down, between machines, from station to station getting a bit more of what makes them special at each stop. Most often, there’s far more than twelve steps to build our goods because it takes a lot to make quality gear that’ll last. Scroll down to see a bit of how Frost River goods are built without compromise and follow along as we share some of the sights, sounds, and action going on.

Welcome to our “12 Days of Crafting” – Cheers!

It all starts with one roll of canvas. Our part in the shop starts with carrying the canvas from the delivery truck to the cutting table one roll at a time. Luckily the trip is mostly downstairs.

Two sides of leather are used to make a bundle of handles. Here, Dan uses a hydraulic press called a “clicker” along with a cutting die with a sharp edge to punch out the necessary leather pieces.

Three kits of bushcraft packs. The kits for the sewing staff get assembled so they have all the straps, reinforcements, lash squares, logos, and necessary canvas panels they need to put the packs together. Three bundles of six-packs will equal 18 Isle Royale bushcraft packs ready to hit the portage trail.

Four steps to make our signature buckskin padded backstraps for our canoe packs. Click out the hard harness leather on the clicker, stretch the buckskin for a perfect fit, sew the two together with a bit of foam padding, and trim appropriately. That’s how we do that!

Five golden things…

Okay they’re not actually made of gold, because gold wouldn’t hold up! Hand pounded harness rivets are the best way to secure straps and buckles to our Isle Royales and other rugged packs. The pounding table lends unique syncopation to the production floor.

Six sewers sewing… at least! It’s all hands on deck this time of year as the production crew works hard stitching seams to fill orders. Even on a Saturday the machines are buzzing, building bags to last a lifetime.

Seven Finishers Riveting around a bustling center station. Tyler and Jen do the bulk of the riveting, but this time of year they often get help with the finishing. Straps & buckles added, the packs are done right here. There ya go!

Eight steps of quality assurance. Everything we make takes a trip through QUIP: All seams inspected, rivets surely set, buckles and straps get stressed. We make it all here, best be sure it’s done right. Overbuilt is the standard.

Nine Frost River hangtags. They’re more than a place to put a price. It’s a stamp of approval, a name tag for the model number, a statement of quality and heritage— it’s a reminder of where our goods come from: Frost River.

Ten orders picked from the store. Just as Santa loads his sleigh, we gather frostriver.com orders from the shelves of the store and set them up to ship. This time of year we get a bit of exercise as we’re at it!

Eleven packed packages, ready to ship. Inside each box we wrap with care to send across the country and around the world, we try to add a bit of character, present it so it’s fun to open, and there’s no doubt who made it and where.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas drivers pick up the day’s packages that we’ve carried, batched, built, buckled, made, sewn, finished, inspected, tagged, picked, packed, and shipped. It’s a lot of work by a whole team. Thanks to all, and to you!

So there ya go! Twelve days of Crafting, from our shop out to you, Thanks so much for the support, business, and opportunity to keep building packs and bags in our home port, Duluth, Minnesota.

Happy Holidays from all of us to all of you and yours!

-Frost River

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Frost River Discounts and Coupons: Why you won’t find ’em

Folks ask all the time when our goods will go on sale. Some websites even pretend to offer coupon codes for FrostRiver.com to try to get a discount, but they’re not even real, they’re just trying to get traffic so they can make money with ads.

The thing is, our goods don’t go on sale. We don’t run promotions and gimmicky specials, and that’s because we believe that it’s better to price the goods right from the start.

Fixed and fair pricing comes from building a pricing model off of what goes into a bag. Each bag uses a certain amount of canvas, a specific number of buckles and rivets, a set amount of leather, and takes our team a different amount of time to build each one from start to finish. All of the parts that go into our goods are the best we can find. Solid brass hardware, heavy duty waxed canvas, and tried-and-true leather from Red Wing, MN mean that Frost River goods are built without compromise. They’re not cheap materials… they’re the right materials, and that’s the start of our goods.

We take all those raw materials and put them together by hand in our shop in Duluth, MN. Our team of artisans and craftspersons work diligently sewing, kitting, riveting, cutting and building reliable softgoods while earning fair pay and benefits like dental insurance, health insurance and PTO so that they can stay healthy, get care when they need it, and spend time with their families. It’s important to Frost River that our team is rewarded for their hard work, that their attention to detail and skills in craft are appreciated by not just their fellow Frost River teammates, but by the end user. You can feel confident knowing that the pack on your back or the bag over your shoulder wasn’t built through exploitation, it was made by American workers who take pride in what they choose to do.

Our goods aren’t cheap, because they’re not cheap to make, and most importantly, they’re high quality when they’re done, because our gear is built to last.

So many times in the softgoods and apparel industries, companies push their production costs down, down, down, while driving their retail prices up and up to what they think they can squeeze out of consumers. How high can we go? That model lines up just right with outsourcing, offshoring, seconds, specials, discounts and blowouts. An item priced high in order to go on sale a bit lower is simply smoke and mirrors to you, the consumer; it gives the perception of a deal, the idea that you’re saving money, when you’re just being pandered to by the big corporation.

Seasonality comes into play, too. Goods that are perishable with the time of year, based on trends and the whims of fashion are goods that must be cleared out, moved to make room for the next best things and the new season’s line. Chasing colors and styles that change over the year isn’t our style. We make goods that are generation-proof, gear that is just as relevant now as it was back in the day. When a company doesn’t chase after the consumer’s ever-present urge to acquire things, and to get a deal, it doesn’t have to be priced it up to sale down. Making Frost River softgoods pricing fixed and fair means it’s up to you, the consumer, when it’s right to get our goods. You don’t have to feel the pressure of a sale, the urge to buy something online out from under the hardworking folks at your local retailers. You get to make the decision based on what’s best for you. And we think that’s right.

Another reason we don’t get into the discount game is because we truly value our Retail Store Partners. Those are the good folks at retailers across the country and around the world that work so hard to stock shelves and create an engaging experience in their curated stores. We ask them to adhere to our pricing model because it’s important for them to be able to succeed. They pay rent, utilities, wages and taxes and help support your local economy. Because our prices are the same from Kansas to New York, our partners won’t be undercut by some big box across the country.

…but the one who really makes all of that possible is you, the customer.

You are not the norm, you are not the center of a bell curve: you are a rare breed, a classic purveyor of quality goods— whether that’s born from an attraction to the aesthetic and the ideals that these goods embody or a requirement that your gear remains steadfast in the backcountry, reliable in the front-country, or consistently stable in the urban wilds — you are what makes Frost River.

Without folks like you, who appreciate quality, value rugged materials, recognize timeless designs and rely on equipment that’s built to last a lifetime, not made to be cheap and disposable, without you, Frost River wouldn’t be a possibility and a reality. That takes a certain personality, an appreciation that is born out of an understanding of what it is that makes quality gear. We won’t let you down, we’ll keep building the good stuff so you can use it over a lifetime and pass it down as an heirloom. Thank you for supporting American Manufacturing, American Jobs, American Goods and believing in Frost River now, in the past, and going forward.

 

A view into the Frost River shop. See stuff being made at 1910 W. Superior Street in Duluth, MN.
A view into the Frost River shop. See stuff being made at 1910 W. Superior Street in Duluth, MN.

 

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A Frost River Thank You Note:

We’re thankful for… you!

It’s that time of year to take a moment, get together, take stock on life, family, friendships, health, and well-being… to inventory the people, places, activities, and things we’re thankful for. All of us at Frost River have much to give thanks for this year. As a brand and a business, first and foremost, we have You to thank! Thank-You, for buying and supporting what we have to offer. If we didn’t have customers who come back and help us spread the word of reliable waxed canvas packs and bags being made in our corner of the world, it would be a tough, lonely existence ‘round here at the shop. So THANKS! We appreciate your support and please keep coming back and telling folks where you got that trusty pack that you keep wearing all over the place.

Along with all of you out there, we also have to thank our talented production crew right here.

The men and women who come to work at the shop here in Duluth each day to keep us in stock with great bags to sell. It’s not an easy job, working with rugged and robust raw materials day in and day out. The materials are heavy and tough. The work takes skill, and is hard for sure — it takes a physically hearty and mentally tough craftsperson to keep creating good stuff day in and day out. We all take pride in a job well done, and enjoy working side by side as a talented and dedicated team that makes good things, and gets them ready for you, right here in the USA.

We’re thankful for our neighbors here in the Craft District of Duluth. They help make coming to work more enjoyable. They also add character and hand crafted commerce to a visit to our neck of the woods.

From all of us to all of you…

We hope you get a chance to get outside a bit during a long weekend, get to spend quality time with family and friends, and if you have a moment to do a bit of shopping, please consider the little guys, working hard to make good stuff in our corner of the USA. Please consider buying local and shop small for any holiday shopping left on your list.

Cheers – Happy Thanksgiving from the Frost River crew!

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Top Ten Packs in Heritage Black

Have you seen all the bags now available from Frost River in Heritage Black? We keep rolling out new designs, and wanted to take a moment to highlight some of our favorites. The black waxed canvas is sourced from our trusted supplier Fairfield Textiles in New Jersey. The seventh generation of the Martin Family supplies us with the Field Tan canvas that we’ve been using for years, so getting black from them as well was a no brainer. Same with the leather for our Heritage Black collection. The S.B. Foot Tannery in Red Wing, Minnesota has been getting us the good stuff for years, so we sourced the same grades, and styles from them in black. We feel privileged and proud to be working with companies of such good reputations for longevity and pride of manufacturing in the USA. All our Heritage Black bags are made here at our shop in Duluth, Minnesota right next to their Field Tan brethren.

Scroll down, check out the featured items in the collection and pick out something you like!

Summit Expedition in Heritage Black – A hard working rucksack with features aimed to please. The pack body offers good capacity in its round shape. There’s easily room for a day’s worth of rambling gear. Internal volume is in the range of 32 liters. Dual 2-in-1 side pockets will each house a 1L bottle, while the slip pockets  offer storage for long, lean items like a folding saw, big knife, or whatever else you wanted to stow back there. The medium size front pocket is secured with a zipper and offers ready access to often used items like a pair of mits or a notebook and sunglasses. Our Northern Pacific Buckskin mitts fill the pocket well. There’s additional zippered storage space under the top lid. Lash squares on top offer even more spots and ways to attach gear to the pack. Have you noticed we added additional Leather Accessory Straps to go with our lash squares? They work very well together.

Curtis Flight Bag in Heritage Black – All the rugged simplicity of our classic Flight Bag along with convenient side pockets cut from Heritage Black waxed canvas. Handcrafted, soft sided luggage rules the overhead bins of carry on airline travel and the the cramped quarters of vehicle trunks and cargo areas, because it’s crammable! Just that little extra wiggle room puts a waxed canvas and leather reinforced bag head and shoulders above their hard-sided brethren. Invest in a good bag for your getaways, travel well with luggage you’ll look forward to carrying. You and your next generation will thank you for it.

High Falls -Short Day Pack in Heritage Black – A small pack for big things… Our High Falls Pack is streamlined and rides out of the way. Yet it still offers decent capacity, good backstraps, options to hang stuff on and in the bag via loops stitched in, daisy chain style. Inside, there’s a full length slip pocket, perfect for a water bladder, tablet, or slim laptop. Now in Heritage Black, it’ll blend in, yet stand out wherever you choose to roam.

Premium Carrier Brief in Heritage Black – Our top of the line messenger bag has it all! There’s a padded sleeve inside along with the pockets and compartments to keep a professional organized and movin’ forward. The long, wide shoulder strap has a leather pad to spread out a heavy load and offer a bit of grip for a shoulder. Black leather accents and dark waxed canvas give this rugged and reliable work bag just the right amount of hard working attitude.

Sojourn Pack in Heritage Black – Classical canoe pack pattern shrunk down to daypack size, the Sojourn is a ready and willing companion on forays on and off the beaten path. It’s a box style pack, with side gussets for more capacity. This pack is just right to tote a day’s worth of gear no matter if woods wandering or heading off to work. Heritage Black waxed canvas and premium leather will dress up any ensemble. Be set for success, traveling as a timeless wanderer with this pack built to withstand the ages.

Field Satchel – A satchel fit for the field in our standard Field Tan or dressed up a bit in Heritage Black. Pockets, dividers, and compartments abound in and on a Field Satchel. It’ll work great as a haversack in the woods, or as a purse ‘round town. Either way you’ll be carrying well with a trusty shoulder bag built right here in Duluth, Minnesota.

Big Saganaga – Named after the biggest, deepest lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of Minnesota, here’s a shoulder bag that’s built to last and designed to perform. It’s a simple bag that keeps cost down yet exceeds expectation with unmatched quality. The long front flap is held closed with button magnets. Inside the bag you’ll find dividers and compartments to stash your stuff and stay organized. Heritage Black waxed canvas offers understated style and durability to spare.

Accessory Bags – Handy for carrying all sorts of things, Frost River Accessory Bags hold more than expected with a wide-bottomed design. Great to get a handle on your charger cords in a briefcase, keep your tinder and fire kit together for a bushcraft outing, or shaving supplies and/or make-up in a travel bag. With the addition of Heritage Black you can color code your essential accessories. Slick!

Boardwalk Tote – Just a bit bigger than a purse, our Boardwalk is great for toting a bit more along on your daily rounds. Adjustable black leather handles, antiqued solid brass hardware, and black waxed canvas set the Heritage Black collection apart. Exterior side pockets provide convenient spots to stash items and keep them handy. Carry well with an American made tote!

Isle Royale – Our top of the line pack, now in Heritage Black. All the premium features remain, including the axe sleeve, twin flap covered pockets, black buckskin padded backstraps that are comfortable and distinctive, along with plenty of lash points all combine to provide options for your bushcraft kit (or whatever you choose to carry in there). All the materials and construction are the same whether your Isle Royale is crafted in black or field tan.

Shell Bags – Purse, haversack, possibles pouch, Shell Bag… whatever you wanna call it or however you want to use it is up to you, just know that we now make ‘em in Heritage Black or Field Tan to help you carry what needs bringing along. The leather strap with a pad breaks in and feels great on a shoulder, plus it’s adjustable for length. Four sizes available to carry a lot or just a little. Male or Female, young or old – anyone can appreciate a trusty shoulder bag ready to accompany you on your outings.

 

 

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Meet the new Axe-cessories

A good axe is nothing without a sharp edge and good technique, so along with our Wood Craft Axe from Council Tool, we’ve sourced a sharpening stone and come up with some great pouches to bring it along. The combination works great to keep a sharp edge no matter where you are. The pair of pouches add portability and protect your stone and would work great carrying other stuff too. They’re all made in USA, check ‘em out!

Frost River Wood Craft Axe

We’ve had these around awhile now, and like them better all the time. They’re truly functional axes that are made to last, and are a pleasure to work with. We’ve got two models to choose from, both have the same 2 lb. head forged from 5160 steel at Council Tool in the USA. You get the choice on handle length -19 or 24 inches. Both are premium American Hickory handles with a circular steel wedge to ensure a permanent connection between head and haft. We craft the heavyweight leather Boreal Axe Sheath with a welt, rivets, and a brass snap. There’s a Frost River logo on the handle as well as on the sheath, and they ship sharp, ready to go straight to work.

Arctic Fox Sharpening Puck

Experienced folks know that a sharp axe is a safe axe, so we’ve found a stone ready to help keep a keen edge on your blade wherever you roam. Made by the Baryonyx Knife Co in the USA, it has 240 grit on the darker, coarse side, 400 grit on the other. The manufacturer recommends a thin film of water be used to keep the pores of the stone clear while sharpening, but you can use it as an oil-stone as well if you prefer. The coarse side of the stone readily erases scratch marks from a file as well as minor dings in an edge. The “Arctic Fox sapphire ceramic blend” makes up the fine face. The manufacturer states it will “bring the edge to a hazy mirror finish that easily shaves.” The sharpening stones are made in the USA and strike a sweet spot of portability, performance, and value. Pair it with a pouch to keep it all handy and contained!

Weight: 7.8 oz

Diameter: 3”

Thickness: 7/8”

Canvas Belt Pouch

Sized perfectly for our Arctic Fox Sharpening Puck, our Belt Pouch offers protection of the sharpening surface and edges from damage, adds portability, and offers a great way to keep a stone handy when in the field. Made from our 18 oz waxed canvas, there’s a leather loop on the back to use on a belt, strap it to a pack, or even fit it on our padded waistbelt. Feel free to use it for carrying other stuff too, like a compass, or a miniature first aid kit (great idea to keep handy anytime using edged tools in the field), ammunition reloads, round tins, Lip Balm, cookies, you name it, there are all sorts of items to put in a small, handcrafted belt pouch!

Buckskin Drawstring Pouch

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to think of things to put in a small buckskin bag. We sized it around our sharpening puck, so there’s that. The size and shape, along with the drawstring top is reminiscent of a bag where a kid might carry marbles. It’d work great for treasures of coins or trinkets and the bounty will be magnified with the added value of a really nice bag. The leather is soft and supple yet strong and resilient. It feels good in the hands. You could easily stow it in a pack, pocket, or purse; the leather drawstring provides just enough friction to stay closed fairly securely on its own. It’d make a great gift bag! The leather will last for years of use and will change and patina over time, just like our rugged backstraps faced with the same material. Starts out super supple, break yours in today!

 

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Enjoying Autumn’s Chill

Get your autumn gear out!

Autumn’s chill is in the air. With the changing seasons in northern Minnesota, leaves once burnished red and yellow give way to bare branches, and with that irrefutable sign of autumn, so come crisp winds, longer nights and, before long, falling flakes. It’s the perfect time to explore an ever-changing environment, to reconnect with old friends, get out those sweaters and enjoy campfires and the bounty of the autumn harvest.

Time to pull out those layers.

They’ve been put away in closets, tucked in nooks and crannies, but it’s time to bust out those sweaters, coats and jackets and welcome the chilled air. Layering is important in every season, but especially when temperatures range as much as they do during the fall. A day begun with warm October sun can end filled with snow, rain and sleet, so…

Remember to prepare for the possibilities when you venture out:

Be smart and pack extra layers to go from being active when it’s warm to holding still while it’s cold.

Base Layers: Wicking, synthetic or performance base layers are a great place to start, and some of our favorite materials for this purpose are wools and synthetics, like polyester. In general, you want to steer clear of cotton. It’s a great material when you want to lounge and be comfy or don’t mind your clothes holding onto moisture, but when you need performance and a layer that will breathe, dry quickly and let your body do it’s temperature-regulation-thing, cotton can do more harm than good. Our appreciation of cotton changes once it’s nearly cold enough to freeze boiling water in mid-air, but we won’t go there yet!

Grab a hat to stave off the sharp edge of autumn’s wind. Mom and Gramma have been reminding you for years, and they’re right, heat gets lost out top. Wear a good hat, consider bringing another, warmer one along just in case. Ours work great!

Your shirt and mid layer are just as important. We suggest a cozy mid layer that you can unzip or open up a bit to allow for more temperature regulation. Most of our Made-in-USA shirts and hoodies are a nice blend that mixes performance fabrics with just the right amount of comfy cotton to allow for easy-wearing layers that go from happy hour to trailhead without skipping a beat.

What’ll I do with all these clothes?!

Bring a pack. You should have water and some supplies along anyway, a good backpack is a great place to store extra layers. Choose a pack big enough for your gear, but don’t try to bring too much and find yourself overburdened. It’s a fine balance between having too much and not enough. All those layers add up to extra stuff you’ve got to carry. Consider bringing along a solid pack for the layers, snacks, and other gear that your adventures require.

Our Sojourn PackSojourn Box Style Pack  is a classic pack, with room for layers and more. Slim side pockets carry smaller water bottles or other essentials handy and accessible.

Our Back Bay Lumbar Pack is perfect for high-output activities in changing temperatures. It’s just big enough to fit plenty of layers, and your snacks and drinks, plus there’s room to keep any extras on the outside via an array of webbing attachment points. A waist belt keeps the pack off your back so you can move freely and avoid building up extra sweat.

Summit Expedition PackOur Summit Series can be perfect for whatever gear you’ve got to bring along, and come in three different trim levels to suit your needs. Really, these backpacks are the real deal!

Left to Right: 396 Arrowhead ECO, 397 Arrowhead 15 Eco, 398 Arrowhead 15, 395 Arrowhead. Available in two different sizes and trim levels, these waxed canvas daypacks have a rolltop pack design to keep water out. Available in standard 12″ width, or upsized to 15″ for more capacity, both widths are available as Ecos, with extra inner and outer pockets and sleeves. All options include burly construction, a comfy & unique brass ring yoke, inner zippered pocket, side slip pockets and front lash squares and accessory loops. Simple, reliable and adaptable, just roll the top. Guaranteed for life.

Our Arrowhead Trail Rolltop Packs are great for forays in the field and on your day-to-day. They each offer a large main compartment with adjustable height, ring yoke strap system and burly made-in-USA construction

Cliff Jacobson Signature PackOur Cliff Jacobson Signature Pack is a classic canoe pack rucksack. It’s a modern version of our Nessmuk, refined with input from Cliff Jacobson himself. This pack offers two large side pockets, lots of organization, our 10.10oz lightweight waxed canvas and is available in both Field Tan and Hunter Orange.

It’s Campfire Season

Another way to beat autumn’s chill is to gather round the campfire. There’s no better time to enjoy a bonfire than in the crisp fall air (check with your local regulations and fire-safety folks to make sure that you’re practicing safe and legal fires). The glow of firelight, the camaraderie and sense of well-being that comes from flame and wood is something that is engrained in us, an integral part of the human experience, and taught in survival training for both it’s objective benefits (keeping warm in cold) and the sometimes equally important boost in confidence and level-headed thinking that comes from building a fire. All that aside, campfires are the perfect place to sit and enjoy a drink, stories and laughs with those you care about.

 

Stahl Firepit – Bring a beautiful and functional firepit with you with the Stahl Camper Firepit and our custom-made Firepit Sling. Both are crafted in the USA and built to last (and keep you warm and surrounded by good company!).

Blanket – A good blanket can help to make a fireside chat comfy, provide a platform and organization for a picnic or help make your sleeping arrangement just that much warmer. Our blankets are made from USA-milled wool that’s a high-performing blend of 85% wool and 15% polyester for durable loft that’s warm, comfortable and made to last. Available in Olive Drab, Red Plaid and Black.

Axe – Campfires need fuel and there’s no better way to get firewood ready to get to glowing embers than with a quality axe. Our Wood Craft Axe from Council Tool is made completely in the USA from premium materials like 5160 steel and American Hickory Wood. They ship sharp (don’t worry, they come with our Boreal Axe Sheath) and ready to make your autumn bonfires a crackling success!

Sharpener – Though our axes ship with a hand-honed razor sharp edge, like any good axe, they’ll eventually need to be resharpened. Hone your axe to a near-mirror finish with our Arctic Fox Sharpening Puck. With two grits, you can take an edge from dull to shaving sharp in the field. Add a Canvas Belt Pouch or Buckskin Drawstring Pouch to make hauling your puck that much easier.

Add some seasonal beverages to your campfire for a bit of extra festive fun.

Breweries across the land are crafting seasonal pumpkin brews to accompany Octoberfest. Bring some local beer along in one of our Growler Packs and share the joy of the season. Even heft your haul on two wheels with our Rolltop Growler Pack. Add some of our Pint Sleeves to help keep your hands and fingers warm. Enjoying suds a bit further from the tap? Keep a can or a bottle cozy in our Can Insulator. It’s handcrafted from waxed canvas and foam (the insulation kind, not the beer kind!) to keep your fingers cozy and your beer cooler longer. Looking to keep your water bottle cool or warm? Our BWCA Insulator brings the features of the Can Insulator to the liter-level, adding a lash square, D-rings, and web for versatile connectability.

Dave Freeman tests the lower awning of the Two Person Campfire Tent and it meets his approval.

Campfire turning into an overnight?

Consider one of our canvas tents for the ultimate in portable livability. Our Campfire Tent is the perfect solution when you’re looking for a versatile shelter that can transition from hot summer days to the coldest winter nights. With an integrated awning and sidewalls, plus the option for an End-cover that is wood stove compatible, this tent is built for comfort.

However you enjoy your autumn, do it safely, with good gear and with good friends. Feel free to Contact Us for any questions, and if you’d like to keep up to date with more Frost River goodness, fill out the form below to sign up for our email newsletter. Cheers!

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The Antiqued Brass of Heritage Black

The Frost River Heritage Black Collection of packs, bags, and accessories have several special features unique to the line that combine to infuse character and experience right from the start. We craft the whole collection right here in Duluth, Minnesota alongside their Field Tan counterparts. Everything we make, no matter the color, is purpose-built for a lifetime of durable performance both on and off the beaten path. We don’t make replicas or imitations of the real thing. This is the good stuff: hard working gear that’s meant to be used, hold up for years in field, and get even better with age and use.

The materials utilized in the Heritage Black Collection are sourced from the same suppliers we’ve relied upon for years. The waxed canvas, premium leather, zipper, binding, thread… all remain unchanged except for the color. What is different is the solid brass hardware. The buckles, slides, machine rivets, grommets, rings and snaps each go through a process here at the shop to infuse a bit of age and experience upon the brass. In designing the line, we found our normal bright new hardware in contrast with what we were working to achieve— we wanted to add as much old world heritage and character into the collection as possible. The pristine brass didn’t match. We inquired our suppliers, and searched out other sources, but we could not find solid brass quality with the look we were hoping for. Most all the commercially available antiqued hardware is made of steel with thin plating, odd paints, and various varnishes applied to them. We doubted that the surface finishes would last as long as the bags they’re attached to. The finishes would wear off, and the hardware would turn to a shiny silvery steel… we’ve seen it happen, and we don’t want that on gear with our name on it.

So we made our own.

Improvising an antiquing process to infuse more age and use onto new materials isn’t easy (and that’s part of the reason why the Heritage Black line carries a premium price compared to standard Field Tan). There are several steps to get more heritage to stick to the metal and bring more subtlety to the look. The processes have undergone some changes since we started for both efficiency and effect. Early on, we faced challenges getting all the polishing compound off the patina-ed hardware. If you get, or have, one of those early models, a quick rub with a rag will easily take that extra material off. So will use in the field. Once it’s clean, you can rub in a drop of oil or wax and the brass can really glow, too.

We hope you’re as fond of our hand-antiqued brass as we are. We’ve always had a thing for gear that looks the part as much as it walks the walk, and our antiqued brass does just that. This isn’t paint, plastic and pleather trying to pretend it’s the real deal. This is real brass hardware, with an old-world patina on classically-built heritage-quality gear that’s made by hand. The Heritage Black collection is handcrafted right alongside our rugged and reliable Field Tan canoe packs, luggage, and other outdoor gear. All of our reliable softgoods are built with integrity and made to last a lifetime.

 

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Packs, Bags, and Gear for Fall Outings

Fall’s a great time for rambling! The woods are filling with color, the bugs are (mostly) gone, the temps are more comfortable, hunting and gathering are in season, it’s a great time to grab a trusty pack and get out into the field! Scroll down to get the scoop on of some of our favorite, Duluth-made packs that are perfect for this time of year.

Isle Royale Bushcraft Packs 

The No.732 Isle Royale Jr. moving fast with the Windigo and Orange Sawbill Trail Bike Bag.

Three sizes to carry what you’d like to bring along, all now featuring the option for a padded or unpadded waist belt. They each feature plenty of pockets, lash points, an axe sleeve, padded straps… it’s our top of the line pack, built without compromise from the best classic materials around. These are solid packs, made the way they should be, right here at Frost River in Duluth, Minnesota U.S.A. Consider adding a Windigo Signal Bag to increase visibility and stay safe when out and about during hunting seasons.

Hunter Orange Utility Packs

Hunter Orange Packs
A Cliff Jacobson Signature Pack in Hunter Orange

No matter if hunting or not, for safety’s sake, it’s a good idea to be visible in the field during the fall. Field Tan helps you blend in, our Hunter Orange waxed canvas stands out. It does a great job alerting fellow woods ramblers of your whereabouts. We make several shapes and sizes of packs in the material, and, while highly-visible, the color is rich enough for more civilized pursuits as well.

 

High Falls -Short Day Pack

399 Frost River High Falls Short Day PackSuperior Hiking Trail
No.399 High Falls Short-Day Pack by Frost River

Long, lean, and stays out of the way when on the move. The High Falls will carry a water bladder or bottle for you along with a bit of lunch, an extra layer… just enough for a jaunt out there and back again. Consider going two-tone with Hunter Orange, and you’ll get a stripe of orange visibility along each of the shoulder straps, plus the front panel. The High Falls Pack is a winner in any color, Field Tan, Hunter Orange or Heritage Black!

Urban Foraging Tote

Urban Foraging Tote No. 837 by Frost River
Urban Foraging Tote No. 837 by Frost River

A big, foldable, foraging bag comes in handy for bringing nature’s treasures home with you. Waxed canvas holds up to rock collections, resists spots and stains, and simply carries a bunch of stuff. Once home, turn it inside out, spray it with a hose, and you’re reset, cleaned up, and back in business. We make ‘em in both Field Tan and Hunter Orange.

 

 

Pack Basket Pack Basket

Perfect for carrying odd-ball strangely shaped stuff. Like a screw gun and construction materials for making deer stands. Or food and supplies on a late season canoe country expedition. Once valued highly by trappers, the utility and grace of a hand made basket carries over to decoration when off duty from the woods. Find some stuff to stick in there around the house. Three sizes, use them with the optional harness, or use in a pack like the Vintage (13” basket), Timber Cruiser Jr. 18” basket), or Old No.7 (20” basket). Click through to the Pack Basket to see what other packs we’ve tried ’em in!

Apparel 

Mitts, hats, hoodies, Chaps and more! All our apparel is made in the USA, just like our bags. We value American manufacturing in the shop and support fellow makers in the store as well. All our waxed canvas goods are made here in Duluth, everything else we sell, even the stuff we don’t make ourselves is still made in USA. All is as it should be, appreciating quality and supporting American workers is simple when shopping at Frost River.

Frost River Crossed Paddles hoodie in the Frost River store.

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5 Perfect Packs for Every School Year

Whether you’ve got a little tike getting ready for the first day of class, a teen taking the next step into high school, a grad preparing for the move on to higher education, or a budding professional heading off to the start of a career, we’ve got perfect packs for every chapter of life.

Elementary – You’ve got a little one taking the first big steps in school. Kids have smaller frames and require a much different pack from their older siblings. Choose a pack that’s scaled down in both size and capacity to suit the little loads that little folks need to carry. Our Skyline Rolldown Pack offers a small profile, with capacity to spare, thanks to the adjustable rolltop.  A front zippered slip and back slip pocket offer spots for quick to reach items, while narrow side pockets give a spot for pens and pencils.

 

North Bay Daypack No.435 by Frost River, at home on campus or on the trail. Built in USA from waxed canvas, premium leather, solid brass.Freshman – The step into high school is a big one, a watershed moment. Classes and schools get bigger, talents are refined, brains get filled and books get heavy. For the halls of high school, we’ve got a few options to keep a student ready for period 1-7 and all the adventures beyond. Take a look at our Mesabi for classic pack lines with brass roller buckles and the Itinerant for a more simple zippered pack. Our favorite though is the North Bay. Inspired by daypacks from the 80’s and built like they were in the 1800s, the North Bay is an amalgamation of thoughtful features in a clean silhouette. Students appreciate the spacious interior, organizing panel and two front pockets. Adventurers appreciate that it doesn’t skip a beat going from classroom to road trip.

Ivy-Covered Halls – For many, a higher education means opportunity, and the fundamental development of a student into their professional adult self. It’s a time of transition, often away from home, living with folks from different places and doing all sorts of activities from sports, to class, to volunteering and studying abroad. Our Arrowhead Trail Rolltop Packs excel just about anywhere you use them. They feature a leather-strapped roll top that adjusts to small workloads or a pack full of 1000-level textbooks. A brass ring yoke with wide cotton web straps carries the pack comfortably, and can be upgraded to buckskin-padded leather for even more cushion. Slip side pockets and padded back panel or expandable ECO pockets with padded sleeve give options to suit personal preference.

The 9 to 5 – There are many packs and bags suited to the workweek, but with the start of a career is the beginning of an evolving journey. Pick a pack that’s ready to go with them every step of the way with our Voyageur Backpack Brief. Excelling at the polished look and function of a brief, and carrying comfortably as a backpack, the Voyageur is ready for high-speed adventurous pursuits or hauling a laptop, reports and lunch to the boardroom. It’s a great pack to cover all of life’s big and small adventures. Available in Field Tan or Heritage Black to suit an array of different styles.

The Everything – All of the packs above excel equally well at education and outdoorsy pursuits, but our Summit Expedition is in a class by itself. Patterned after classic rucksacks of olde, the Summit is upgraded with twin 2-in-1 side pockets that each comfortably hold a large water bottle, the front boats a gusseted zippered pocket, and the lid has four leather lash squares to attach more gear. It shares the classic features of its two siblings, too, with a drawstring top, zippered pocket lid, and brass ring yoke for the shoulder straps. Like the Arrowhead, the straps are upgradeable, and like the Voyageur, this pack is available in both Field Tan and Black. Use this pack anywhere.

Accessorize – Good gear goes best with quality accessories. Paired with our favorite packs above, consider these smaller items to help kit out for success.

Frost River Accessory BagAccessory Bags – There seems to be no limit to how these little bags get used. Carry cords, haul batteries, bring a set of pencils – whatever – our Accessory Bags come in three sizes and multiple colors, with the option for snaps, or not, to clip into bags like the Voyageur or Roll-Up Travel Kits.

Dopp KitTravel Kit – Everyone has to carry the essentials they need to be clean, presentable and healthy. Our Travel Kit keeps those goods together and ready to move, plus keeps unwanted spills contained.

RollUp Dopp KitRoll-Up Travel Kit – Like the Travel Kit, but made to be rolled up and hung from a hook or bar for easy organization and access, the Roll-Up Travel Kit keeps little bits handy. Made for toiletries, but carries a small cook kit, electronics and more with ease and visible organization.

Flight Bag– Journeys near and far require gear. A good pack is our go-to for your everyday essentials, but our Flight Bag is just the ticket for hauling clothes, shoes and all the bigger, bulkier items that go in the overhead compartment, trunk, closet etc.

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How to Light a Fire in the Field – the Basics

The ability to make and manage a fire is what separates humans from the other inhabitants of our planet. It is a unique skill set that offers the benefits of keeping us warm, enabling us to cook our food, while providing us with light, companionship, and a sense of security and comfort in the wilds.

 

Before we look at how to make fire, let’s start with a word of caution and etiquette. Be smart out there! Keep some water handy in case the fire gets away from you, and be sure your fire is completely out when finished. Please don’t burn down the woods! Also don’t leave fire scars on trees, rocks, and fragile soils. Evidence of poorly placed fires can, and will last for years. Note the current fire danger and follow all precautions and laws from Smoky Bear and the land managers in your locale. As a side note, our Waxed Canvas Bucket works great at carrying water to help extinguish a campfire.

At the most basic sense, fire requires three elements— air, heat, and fuel.

When these ingredients are combined and are of good quality, ignition and combustion can take place and you have fire. If any of the three elements are missing or lacking in quality (like trying to use wet wood), you’ll have problems and face a tough time getting your fire started and keeping it going.

  • Air – Oxygen in the air provides combustion for a campfire. Construct your fire loosely, allowing plenty of spaces for that oxygen to get in as you’re setting up and adding to your fire. It’s a common mistake to add too much wood and smother the flames. Start small, add slowly, be patient. A lot of smoke often means there’s not enough air.
  • Heat – Flame, sparks, friction, you need a heat source to get your fire going. A butane lighter is one of the best and most common portable sources of ignition. A Ferrocerium (ferro) rod is also a reliable way to start a fire using hot sparks. Matches work as well. Flint and steel offers cooler, yet still combustible sparks. You can also make fire using friction with a bow drill or even a hand drill.
  • Fuel – Do your best to start with good, dry wood. Be sure not to move firewood, as that can spread invasive insects like the Emerald Ash Borer. Source your firewood locally or buy it from a reputable dealer. Gradually increase the size of fuel for your fire, starting your fire with tinder, moving up to kindling, then adding larger pieces of wood.

Tinder – the type of tinder to use depends on your heat source. You can use different (heavier) tinder if you have a butane lighter than you can if using flint and steel or friction.

Good tinder for use with a lighter:

  • birchbark
  • dry grass and fine, dry, natural materials
  • newspaper
  • dryer lint
  • cotton balls with petroleum jelly
  • commercial fire starters

Good tinder for use with sparks or friction:

  • char cloth (cotton that has been charred, but not burned)
  • finely scraped birch bark
  • jute twine
  • certain fungus and other natural materials

Good kindling to add once the tinder has caught fire:

  • Finely split firewood (not big, quarter rounds, you’ll need to split much finer than that to get your fire established)
  • Small, dry, sticks and branches gathered from off the ground, not from standing trees. Collect fire materials only from dead and downed trees, but try to gather kindling that has not been laying directly on the forest floor as that material is usually damp and therefore makes fire lighting more difficult.
  • Best size is anywhere from matchstick size to finger or thumb size sticks.
  • Add larger fuel once the kindling is burning well.

All fire making materials should be collected (preferably away from camp), prepared, and placed nearby before any sparks are struck.

Our Firewood Sling can help haul fuel from an its source to the ring. It is often easiest and most effective to build your fire as it’s burning, rather than constructing an elaborate setup beforehand. One reliable method is to begin with a backstop and a raised platform. The platform is nothing fancy, just a couple sticks laid side by side. If you can get your tinder off the ground it will burn much more easily (especially in the wintertime). The backstop gives you a place to rest your kindling while providing space to keep air circulation going, plus it’s nice to get one of those bigger pieces going as soon as possible. Once the tinder is involved with flame, it’s time to add the kindling a bit at a time. Place one end on the ground or on your platform, the other end on the backstop so the fuel is at an upward angle. Let it catch, don’t add too much too soon. Once that catches, add some more kindling, then wait again. You may add larger fuel once it begins to crackle and really get going. If it begins to die out, go back to some smaller stuff, maybe all the way back to tinder, especially if you’ve got plenty of birchbark handy.

As your fire is burning, you’ll need to replenish your fuels. Add larger pieces as the fire gets going and keep good airflow going at all times. Keep a piece of kindling handy to help reposition stuff that’s already burning. Fires for heat and light should have more air spaces, fires to be used for cooking will likely require less air space as you don’t want or need an especially hot fire to cook with. Consider splitting larger pieces of wood with an axe or hatchet (ours work really well). Wrist sized pieces are usually as big as you’d want to try and burn in a smallish campfire. Splitting the firewood helps it to burn more effectively and completely.

Plan ahead, burn your fire down as much as possible before you extinguish it. You won’t be leaving as much evidence lying around and it’s easier to put out when there aren’t big chunks still blazing. Keep it small, put it out completely. The rule of thumb for a properly extinguished fire is that it should be cool to the touch and drenched.

Bush Cooker Titanium Stove as sold at Frost River made by Four Dog Stove Co.
Bush Cooker Titanium Stove

Well-maintained open fires are great, but we offer several handy cookstoves to contain a fire and support cookware. With many of our offerings you get the best of both worlds. A contained burn, that’s easy to keep together, plus, cheery flames that are useful for cooking, heating, and raising the mood ‘round camp.

Practice your fire skills safely, courteously, and often. Challenge yourself by mastering various forms of firelighting and campfire construction. Share what you’ve learned and teach someone (who’s ready to responsibly start a fire) what you’ve learned. You’ll be a better camper because of it!

Fireside chats with Dave and Amy Freeman on the Frost River trip to resupply them during their Year in the Wilderness.

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