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Handcrafted in the Neighborhood

In the center of Duluth, just west on Superior Street, a Craft District is emerging:

Plates, including signature BBQ ribs, get a final inspection before being tabled at OMC Smokehouse’s opening night. Photo David Hoole.

We’re a collection of small businesses, clustered together, with a shared vision of getting things done, crafting good stuff that discerning folks appreciate, and telling the story of how things are made right here. Visit us in the Lincoln Park neighborhood and you can see our waxed canvas gear being handbuilt. Across the street, thousands of gallons of beer can be seen being brewed at Bent Paddle Brewing Co. You could have a pair of shoes or a leather bag made at Hemlock’s Leatherworks, you can get measured for a custom protective motorcycle suit that’ll be built at Aerostich. You can make stuff yourself at the Duluth Folk School, learn about and buy clay cups, bowls, and more at Duluth Pottery. There are baked goods from Duluth’s Best Bread, delicious local eats at The Duluth Grill, and you can shop for skate and snowboards, and other rad stuff at Damage Duluth. There’s good stuff to eat, drink, see, and do in the neighborhood, and the list of handcrafted offerings keeps growing all the time.

The newest addition to the neighborhood is the OMC Smokehouse.

The OMC Smokehouse as seen from W Superior St. on their opening night. A full house! Photo Alex Messenger.

Standing for Oink, Moo, Cluck, OMC offers barbecued and smoked meats of the best quality, traditionally prepared right across the street from our front door. The OMC crew has spent a considerable amount of time learning the art of meat preparation from the experts of the craft in the American south. Folks at OMC have the experience of food preparation and presentation developed through years of successful work at the Duluth Grill, just eight blocks west of Frost River. During busy times at OMC, servers offer a text message based reservation service to allow people a chance to wander the area while waiting for their table. It’s another way this band of independent, locally-owned small businesses in the Craft District are working together, crafting something great in an emerging gem located in the best outdoor city in the land.

Duluth has so much to offer…

Cans of Bent Paddle Brewing Co.’s flagship golden IPA, Bent Hop in the Bent Paddle Brewery. Photo G1Studios.

It’s a great place to live and a fun place to visit, and it is getting better ALL the time! The people are awesome, not just the folks that live here, but the visitors as well. It’s a trustworthy and hearty crowd that calls The North home or choose to visit here. Lake Superior — the great, inland, unsalted sea — is a force all it’s own. Outdoor adventure opportunities abound during all four seasons (and all four really are distinct and sharply varied). We have trails, parks, river valleys, and green space all over town. It’s awesome.

We are a community of makers.

There’s a lot of great stuff being made here in Duluth. Duluthians have long been relied upon to create what is needed. From ships and sails to timber and taconite, we’ve done what needs doing and moved what needed moving. It’s part of who we are and what we do. It’s important to us and to our identity to be known and trusted to make, move, and deliver the commodities that people want and value.

In the Frost River shop harness rivets get hand pounded to attach padded leather backstraps to a waxed canvas canoe pack.
In the Frost River shop harness rivets get hand pounded to attach padded leather backstraps to a waxed canvas canoe pack. Photo G1Studios

Here at Frost River, we take pride in making all the waxed canvas packs, bags, and accessories by hand in our workshop above and below the store. We love offering tours of the shop, providing visitors a view into a bustling manufacturing facility that blends modern technology with old world artisanal techniques and tools to craft lifetime-reliable softgoods. It’s important to know where the goods you buy come from. We appreciate your support of American manufacturing; our business and our neighborhood depend on it. Thank you!

Duluth really is awesome. There are so many opportunities for living, working, playing, and doing. You should come visit us as soon as possible. You won’t be sorry!

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EDC for a Daytrip

Travel Like a Woodsman

Be Prepared is more than just a motto. Whether on a short jaunt into the woods, down winding roads or deep into the backcountry, it’s important to plan ahead and pack the things that you need, as well as the things you hope you won’t. It can not only benefit you, but your family, and fellow travelers, too.

Living a “Be Prepared Lifestyle” doesn’t take much extra effort and can be fun and rewarding mindset. You’ve got a trusty bag that goes everywhere with you right?

Here are some thoughts on handy items to bring along:

The Frost River Rollup Travel Kit, decked out with more splints that you’d hope to ever need.

-First Aid Kit – Our RollUp Travel Kit works great as a container for a well-stocked first aid kit. Bandages, gauze, antibiotic ointment, tweezers, ibuprofen, tape, a couple absorbent pads, some safety pins, emergency medicine (think Epi-Pens), and a few choice over-the-counter meds could save your day or someone else’s, and make you a hero to a friend in need of a bit of help. Make sure you know how to use everything in your kit, get training if you don’t, and remember to rely on the professionals if you get in over your head.

-Essentials Kit – Consider a Large Accessory Bag to contain tools to help you get out or bed down in a sticky situation: leather gloves, a headlamp (with spare batteries), folding saw, multi tool, compass, folding shovel, fire kit with lighter/wood matches and a chunk of birchbark or other fire starter, length of rope or cord, a bit of toilet paper, small notebook, pencil, and a knife (if not wearing one already, and follow the laws in your area). Having this kit together also makes packing for a canoe trip (or other grand adventure) quicker and easier.

Nalgene Water BottleWater in a sturdy container – Water is essential to life, being prepared by carrying a bit with you in a container that can be refilled as you go. If you’re going to be out for a while, consider bringing iodine or some other water treatment as well. Keep it protected and insulated with a BWCA Insulator.

-Snacks and/or a lunch – Be prepared and bring a bit of sustenance along, and avoid getting hangry (angry from hunger, which nobody really appreciates).

Using a Frost River Large Accessory Bag for an essentials kit, with all the gear you need for when you think you won’t need gear.

Yes, it’s a bit of weight, yes, it’s a bit of bulk, but these items could save the day for you, or that of someone close to you.

Whatever you choose to carry, be prepared with a few choice tools to help you out in whatever situation your adventure gets you into. We’ve got several daypacks that are well-suited to be carried everyday and in the woods and will keep you looking good while you’re at it. Happy travels on, and off the beaten path!

What’s in your Frost River Pack?

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For the Love of Waxed Canvas…

Need a hand choosing a gift for someone special?

These are some of our favorites that we’re confident will please even those tough-to-shop-for folks. Here are packs and bags that are made by hand in our shop above the store in Duluth, Minnesota. Scroll down and pick out something you like or would like to give away. Give a gift that’s crafted with reliability and is guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Temperance ToteTemperance Tote – A sophisticated tote for hard working folks. This crossover design is part purse, can be used as luggage, and has organization like a brief. The adjustable handles allow for shoulder carry, waxed canvas provides classic good looks that only get better with age and use.

558 Crescent Lake Shoulder Large. The Crescent Lake is a stylish purse, bag, or satchel. Available in small and large.Crescent Lake Shoulder Bag – Thoughtful layout and great materials give special appeal to this purse. Inside and out, there’s a full length slip pocket on one side and a divided slip pocket on the other. One solid brass snap keeps the top closed, and another one keeps the front exterior pocket secure. Available in two sizes, either provide portability and lasting appeal.

Shell BagShell Bag – Long ago, bags like these would be used to carry shells and tools for hunters and shooters to keep guns loaded in the field. Now, the same pattern makes a great purse or satchel. There’s a pocket inside, and a flap over the main compartment that buckles securely on the outside. The long leather shoulder strap works great for men and women alike.

Frost River Zip HoodieApparel – Cozy fleece, hearty hoodies, and sporty T’s, all made in America and printed with Frost River pride. Give her permission to steal your sweatshirt by giving her one of her own (then you can borrow it too)!

The Frost River Carry On Flight Bag (no. 65) is a classic piece of luggage handmade in Duluth, MN USA from premium waxed canvas, premium leather and solid brass hardware. Guaranteed for life and sized just right, it will serve you in your travels forever.

Flight Bag – Great go-to travel luggage. There’s no messin’ around with a Flight Bag- simple layout, classic style, and reliable construction, it’s got everything you need and nothing you don’t. Carry well on your travels and get in on the benefits of a soft sided bag (it’s crammable). Need pockets? Go with the Curtis Flight Bag.

399 Frost River High Falls Short Day Pack from the front angle

High Falls – Here’s a neat and trim daypack, streamlined for outdoor pursuits or urban commutes. Great for him or her! We build them in standard Field Tan as well as in two-tone with orange accents for high visibility.

Growler PacksGrowler Pack – Give a gift of craft beer portability! Growlers are kind of a pain to carry. We’ve got several different styles of Growler Packs, the Sling Pack is simple and straightforward, the Double Wide carries two. Insulated and beer resistant, they’re a great conversation starter in the tap room.

Frost River Cribbage BoardCribbage Board – You should not rely solely on this cribbage board to navigate the Frost River waterway in the BWCA… but you probably could! There’s great detail in the engraving of this solid wood board, it’s beautiful, just like the canoe county route it depicts. Made in USA, add a Field Deck for a matched set.

Field Deck – Regulation playing cards with artful illustrations of our Frost River outdoor gear. Hand drawn and painted here in Duluth, there are no bad hands when you’re holding images like this.

Pocket Folio – Be prepared to capture creativity throughout the day when you carry a pocket notebook. Our Folio is made from the premium leather from S.B. Foot tannery in Red Wing, MN. It won’t take long to break-in and start gaining character, but will last through many Field Notes notebook refills. The covers and pages hold up so much better with the help of leather, plus there’s slots for cards and spots to keep your small stuff together.

Northern Pacific Mittens - WMitts – Warm hands can help warm a heart when you’ve got a good set of mitts. Invite hand holding and be ready to present a warm handshake, even on the coldest days. They’re sized for wiggle room inside, our American-made mitts run big.

Timber Cruiser PackTimber Cruiser Jr. – To us, nothing says “I Love You” like the gift of a canoe pack. They’re the cornerstone of everything we make and are useful for more than just a portage. Ever thought of traveling like a Voyageur wherever you gotta go? There are few more distinctive ways to travel through a terminal than under a tumplined canoe pack. It beats the axles off a roller bag in our book.


Canvas My State Patches – Many of our waxed canvas packs and bags can be personalized with a buckskin state patch. Show some state pride on your Made in USA bag with a Canvas My State buckskin patch.

Still looking for ideas? Take a look at all our gift guides here. They’re chalk-full of reliable goods and lifetime guarantees, perfect for that discerning special someone in your life.

Thanks for reading. Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

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Field Journal: Winter Camping Out West

We left Duluth after one of the worst storms of the year…

…with travel crippled on both coasts, but our roads were open as we threaded the needle between systems and slippery roads. It was early January and we were on the way to the Outdoor Retailer Show, one of, if not the biggest outdoor shows in the world. We’d be meeting old friends and making new ones, finding more shops to support our Made in America waxed canvas softgoods, and talking about the future with press, media, suppliers, collaborators and competitors. But before we could embark on such a mission-driven week of trade shows, lights, and business cards, we needed some quiet mountain air.

The Frost River Van headed out to 2017 Winter OR Show
The Frost River Van headed out to 2017 Winter OR Show

The weather in Duluth had been bitterly cold, below 0˚ Fahrenheit. The engine starter groaned before it finally caught, and Henry the Frost River van hit the road at 7:30am. Lake Superior heaved thick columns of steam and in the east, the sun kissed the horizon, bathing still pack ice in deep pink. We drove Henry to the old fishing pier to watch the show. We were embarking on a classic road trip, with long hauls, greasy cafes, camping, new vistas, old friends, and always adventure on our way to Salt Lake City. In the back of the van was all the gear for the show, along with a Frost River 4-Person Campfire Tent, End Cover and a 2-Dog stove. We were ready for cold nights.

We drove south on I-35 to Des Moines, then east, through Nebraska to Colorado, to the mountains and a star-studded clear night sky stop eighteen hours later at Chateaux Chamonix in Georgetown, Colorado. Only mountains interrupted the astral view, and when dawn came, those same slopes glowed.


We spent the morning exploring historic Georgetown,

once destined to become the capitol of Colorado in a time when the booming mountain mines seemed the state’s future. The quaint shops, old banks and cafes were inviting, their brick and stone structures and tall windows seemed frozen in time. If it weren’t for the old stone jail and walls of snowy pines surrounding the valley, we could just as well be in Red Wing, MN.

With Henry back on the road, we hauled over Loveland Pass, winding our way across the Rockies until we were rocketing across the valleys on the far side on our way to Moab, Utah.

In the middle of endless snow-covered desert, we pulled off I-80 to head south on meandering Co. 128. The road was desolate, graffiti sprayed across derelict rail cars and splintered houses, “Keep out!” “No trespassing!” We motored on, following the lazy wind of the Colorado River as it carved its canyon through the red rocks.

We explored caves, ruins of an ancient suspension bridge, and, as the light faded, we finally turned off at lonely Fisher Towers Rd.

We hoped our rear-wheel drive van would bring us dutifully along the 2.4 miles of snowy gravel road. Half way, we stopped at the base of a steep, washboarded slope and looked up, then back at the van. Henry’s up to the task…

We hopped back in and hit the gas. Halfway up, the tires started to slip. “Keep it going!” We eased the gas, bouncing up and over washboards, their deep troughs and the sagging ton of Canoe Packs, Backpacks, Tents, Canoes, and Bent Paddle Brewing Co. Beer pushing our snow tires down until they found purchase. “Come on!” Up and down, the van bounced along, clearing the dashboard of phones and maps. In a few breathless seconds, we were up on flat ground, the obstacle and our lonely tracks behind us.

“Let’s hope that’s the only one,” we agreed.

The rest of the road was smooth, and we pulled into Fisher Towers Campground in twilight, owls calling from the amphitheater of contorted red rock towers. Co. 128 was a distant dark line in the snowy desertscape and but for the few silent headlights meandering slowly across the horizon, we were alone.

We lit our headlamps and set to pitching the Campfire Tent. We’d brought the End Cover with smoke hole and a two-dog stove. We couldn’t collect firewood at the site or in the surrounding plains or deep arroyos, so we had brought a bundle of good, dried, seasoned wood. With the tent up, and the end cover secured, we set up the stove and started carving feather sticks and breaking the big logs down to small bits of kindling, batoning with a handy knife.

Soon the tent was cheery and warm, glowing in the desert blue.

We cracked our Bent Paddle beers and basked in the glory of the silence and crackle of our hearty fire. We slept in silence under down and a pair of Frost River wool blankets.

We woke to a desert blanketed in fresh snow, the red rocks obscured by falling flakes. Trails through the red rock towers and amphitheater offered views of deep, hidden canyons and dripping red icicles. We explored as deep as we could in the ice and snow before turning back to break the silence with the turn the engine and our journey back out.

Before long, we’d gorged on heaping plates of huevos rancheros and were looping up the long drive into Arches National Park. Rocky outcrops, covered in snow, stood tall, camouflaged against the grey sky. Henry bounced along as we explored the fantastic formations and made our way to the desert playground of The Windows.

Too soon, we were back on the highway, motoring through the emptiness on our way to Salt Lake. The Wasatch mountains raged with snow, and traffic slowed to wait for plow and slush. If it weren’t for the tall mountains, it would have felt like home, Duluth in the thick of a winter storm.

At Outdoor Retailer, we met with friends and made new ones, folks who want to share the Frost River story, who appreciate the value of solid brass, the utility of waxed canvas, and the longevity of premium leather. Before we knew it, we were packing up, and heading out of town with our new friend SASSY, a 12” tall wooden sasquatch that symbolized our winning of the American Made Outdoor Gear Award for US companies between 11 and 50 employees strong.

We were sad to leave the mountains of Utah, they’ve got so much to offer, but we had friends and family waiting for us to ski Colorado’s Rocky Mountains under the coming full moon.

Besides, SASSY had never gone backcountry snowboarding, so it was up to us to show him the ropes.

The road to Colorado was smooth, and we were met with a dinner of smothered Mexican food and a nice bonfire with friends and family, spending the night meeting, greeting and reconnecting.

We woke early, eagerly checking avalanche conditions for the aspects we’d be skiing, and which ones to leave for another day. We reviewed the charts, conditions and reports. We’d been following the snowpack over the course of the week, reviewing the avalanche tree. 50” of snow had dropped on the mountains the week before, but stability had been increasing and we were good to go.

When you’re getting ready to leave the vehicle, hit the trail or get on the water, it pays to review your gear and that of your tripmates. Just like in the BWCA, you rely on each other and your equipment, but in the mountains, it’s even more important. Avalanches are a power that must be respected. We checked each other’s packs for shovels, probes, and full water bottles, confirmed the avalanche beacons were working and that we had comms with our walkie talkies.

We took SASSY up that afternoon, skiing until sundown at treeline in the quickly setting sun. We practiced setting up our tent and stove at A basin near the beach, before being told we had to move camp. So, we practiced packing the tent, too. Our final pitch was under clear skies and a rising full moon just peeking over Mount Montezuma on A Basin’s east wall. We wanted to keep SASSY comfortable, so we kept the fire roarin’ and took shifts to keep the fire going all night.

At 5:45, we woke to the whine of snowmobiles: our friends had arrived for sunrise skiing on Loveland Pass.

Once the commercial runs opened, we hit the slopes all day. We did a mix of side country and resort skiing at Keystone, hikes to bowls, including Erickson’s Bowl, a wide open piece of sidecountry that sits above treeline, with an adrenaline-fueled drop in from a cornice at the top. For hours, we turned mellow lines in deep powder.

The next morning, we checked avalanche control and got the snowmobiles ready and on the trailer. Leaving at 4:45am we were at Vail Pass parking lot at 7:45, so early we beat the rangers. We paid our dues when they arrived, two old friends. We talked current conditions, grooming reports and where to meet up later, walkie channels and skied amazing white powder all day via snowmobiles and skinning for transportation. SASSY loved it. We saw six people all day.

It was smooth sailing until a dead sled sent us home. We cleaned up our oil and packed it out to keep the mountain pristine. It was time to head home. We got the sleds loaded and cracked some victory Bent Paddle to close out the day.

Before dawn, we’d packed our gear into Henry the Frost River van and after two weeks and 3,000 miles on the road, were headed home, back in Duluth before Day’s end.

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How to Layer up for True Cold in the North

A below zero day— fahrenheit or celsius, it’s a sure sign you’re in a cold climate when the high temps don’t get above zero…

It’s a beautiful time of year— moisture hangs in the air like a frozen veil, ice crystals shimmer, vehicles are slow to start, and the snow squeaks underfoot. It’s unmistakably cold. In Duluth, towering plumes of steam rise from the much warmer water of Lake Superior. It’s gorgeous, but if you’re going to be outside, you need to be dressed for the weather. How do folks survive and enjoy cold so deep that it hurts to breathe? Good clothes, layered right, a heavy beard, and the promise of a warm bed at the end of the day all help.

Let’s take a look at the clothes, we’ll leave the other two up to you…

Layering is key

Several light and mid-weight layers are warmer and more comfortable than a single heavy layer… especially if you’re active in the cold. Big, puffy parkas are great for warmth when standing still, but as soon as you begin to move about and raise your core temperature, you’ll begin to sweat, and will soon regret being trapped in all the lofty warmth of a heavy parka.

To build a system for layering, start from the inside out. Begin with long johns, tops and bottoms. Merino wool and high quality synthetics work best— keep cotton away from your skin in the winter, it retains moisture and will make you damp and cold when you sweat. Keep layering up with more garments made from those good materials, making your way up to sweaters, fleeces, vests, and shackets (shirt/jacket), and don’t forget about your legs, a base layer plus an insulating layer, then pants. Avoid cotton here too. In deep cold you might wear several layers of clothing (five or more) on the top and several or more on the bottom.

Consider a light pair of gloves, for dexterity, coupled with a pair of mitts for warmth. Mitts are warmer than gloves because your fingers help keep each other warm. We use tried-and-true tricot-lined Thinsulate® in the mitts we make here at Frost River. And your Mom was right… wear a hat. We have a selection of great warm hats, both in the shop and online, all made in USA, that’ll keep you warm and a head above the rest.

Materials and fit

Choose your layering materials well, and be sure they fit. The wool vs. synthetics debate rages on. Wool is durable, it works even when wet, and won’t melt around a campfire. Synthetics are more lightweight, generally less expensive, and dry quicker than wool. Feel free to mix and match materials in your layering system.

It is handy, and space saving on a trip, to have all your layers fit together. Plus, you won’t need to take stuff off to put stuff on. You’ll likely need a selection of sizes as you layer out. For example, if you wear a medium base layer, you may need large insulating layers, then an XL shell. Some manufacturers account for layering in the sizing, others don’t, double check and try them on. Keep in mind that tight spots can turn into cold spots. Elbows, shoulders, and knees all need room to move. The more space you have, the more warm air you can trap to keep you warm.

Wool socks are the way to go for the feet, keep an extra pair in your pack for a quick change if you’re out all day. Be sure your boots and liners work with your socks. You’ll get cold with tight fitting shoes. Removable liners in your boots make drying so much quicker. Wool liners are the best, felt works, stay away from cotton. If you have room for a removable footbed you’re feet will stay warmer and dryer by having a bit of air between your feet and the ground.

Jackets and Overcoats

A shell is an important part of the system. Here, cotton can work well in extreme climes. In cold, dry conditions, far below freezing, cotton provides excellent breathability and wind protection. Be careful in waterproof rain jackets that you don’t sweat out in the tight, waterproof outer layer. You don’t want your insulating layers to get damp. Be on the lookout for anything that will decrease breathability, collect moisture, and make you cold. Your shell should have a good hood and a fur ruff works wonders to keep the wind off your face. A ruff even helps keep you warm when your hood is down. It breaks the wind around your neck, face, and ears. Natural furs, like coyote are some of the old standards, because it doesn’t collect ice from breath and snow.

Adjust as needed

Add and remove layers as required by activity and conditions. You won’t need as many layers to stay warm when skiing, snowshoeing, and moving about as you will while being stationary. As soon as you begin to perspire, stop and remove some clothing. When you stop for a break, add some insulation before you get chilled (a down vest works wonders). Having a pack handy will help carry extra insulation. Our Arrowhead Rolltop really shines here as it’s vertically adjustable for volume. Our Isle Royale retains the versatility and adds big buckskin straps, pockets, and a slot for an axe, handy when working a campfire. Winter camping expeditions often rely on toboggans, that’s the best spot to stash extra layers. Favor clothing with full zips, snaps, and/or buttons. You can dump a bunch of extra heat by opening up layers but keeping your shell closed against the wind.

Northern Pacific Mittens - BuckskinHead, Hands, and Toes

Wear a good hat in the cold. We’ve got great American made hats that’ll fit under a hood for extra insulation. For the hands and fingers, mitts are best. Give your digits some company to help keep ‘em warm. Our buckskin mitts allow better dexterity, the waxed canvas provides better water resistance. The Great Northern Mitts are cut to fit over cuffs.

Hydrate and Refuel

Winter is a dry time of year. Add water to yourself, and eat often to keep your energy up.

Build Your System

For staying warm in the bitter cold, you’ll often need to forego fashion and adopt function. Don’t dress like it’s recess on the middle school playground or you’ll literally be one of the cool kids. Bundle up, get out, and enjoy this “most wonderful time to the year”.

One of our favorite local makers of stuff for staying warm in the winter is Empire Wool and Canvas here in Duluth. Kevin walks the line of form and function and offers great clothing to stay “Winter Smart”. The good stuff ain’t cheap, but it’ll last for years of being worn everyday that it’s cold, and will keep you smiling through the worst weather you can imagine. We offer several of his pieces in our store here in Lincoln Park, and he also sells directly.

Happy winter travels!

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American Made Outdoor Gear Awards

Frost River has received a “SASSY” from the American Made Outdoor Gear Awards at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market.

January 11, 2017 – Frost River has been recognized in the fifth annual American Made Outdoor Gear Awards (AMOGA) in the category of 10-50 employees for its American made, waxed canvas packs, bags, and outdoor accessories. The announcement was made on Day 2 of the 2017 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City, Utah. Each year American manufacturers of outdoor gear submit applications for consideration in the national competition sponsored by Kokatat Inc. (, a fellow U.S. manufacturer based in Arcata, CA.

This year’s overall winner is Luna Sandals ( of Seattle, WA. Luna was awarded a two foot tall hand carved wooden statue of “SASSY”, a redwood Sasquatch from California. As a category winner Frost River received a miniature SASSY trophy.

Frost River congratulates Luna Sandals, thanks Kokatat, and encourages other American manufacturers to continue making great products here, along with urging customers to support domestic manufacturing and small businesses whenever possible.

Frost River takes part in the bi-annual Outdoor Retailer Market each summer and winter. It is a valuable and unique gathering of buyers, vendors, brands, and trends across an international audience.

The Frost River crew at Outdoor Retailer with a newly awarded “SASSY” statue. Pictured L-R Alex Messenger, Proprietor Chris Benson, Lynn Hopper, Dillon Malay.

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Year in Review: 2016

A lot has happened in the last 365 days.

2016 has been a big year, and we’ve been busy here at Frost River picking up old projects, working on new ones, some you’ve seen and some you’ll see soon. Always, we’ve been handcrafting reliable softgoods here in Duluth that are fit for the field and guaranteed for life. We don’t often take the time to look back and review what we’ve done, so it’s a great opportunity with the coming new year to take a chance to relive some of our favorite projects, collaborations, introductions and stories from the past year.

Frost River Buckskin Shoulder Strap Detail

Buckskin Shoulder Strap Upgrade – It’s a signature on our rugged, expedition-grade canoe packs, and one of the things that separates us from the field. Our buckskin padded backstraps are comfortable and durable. They were one of our most-requested customizations on our daypack line, and this year, we introduced just that. On most of our daypacks, you can now order our signature, premium buckskin shoulder straps to cushion your carry and haul with class.

frosted-fatty-winner-jump-img_3843In March, we hosted the first ever lift-accessed downhill fat bike race in the world at the first annual Frosted Fatty at Spirit Mountain. It was a blast, with lots of great contestants, speed, thrills and great prizes for winners from us here and from other great partners, too. This coming winter, we’ll be hosting the 2017 Frosted Fatty, too, and it’s expanding. It’ll be even bigger, with more contestants, more races and more awesome. Details here.

Frost River Canvas My State Patches showing all 50 United States. Handmade from deerhide buckskin in Duluth, MN. Available on certain new Frost River gear or as standalone patches so you can sew yer own onto whatever you'd like!

We rolled out our Canvas My State Patches in the spring to great response. We started out with twelve iconic outlines, including Minnesota, Lake Superior and the Lower 48, along with a handful of other states. People overwhelmingly wanted their own states, and we’re proud to now offer all 50 United States as buckskin patches — Hawaii was not easy, but we did it!

The Frost River Voyageur Backpack Crossovers are equally at home on a back or over a shoulder and fit in the great outdoors and the wood paneled walls of the boardroom.

We released our brand-new Voyageur Backpack Crossovers, bringing rugged versatility in a brief-sized and luggage-sized pack that is well-suited to however you like to travel. They’re highly functional, reliable softgoods that serve well in any carrying capacity.
We introduced another one of our collaboration collections with purveyors of fine men’s goods and supporters of cold winters, Askov Finlayson. askov-finlayson-fox-river-briefcaseThey’re an amazing team out of Minneapolis’ North Loop and for years, they’ve continued to bring great ideas to the table and push us to do bigger, better things, while keeping it local in the North. This year’s collaboration was featured in Gear Patrol and Gear Junkie, along with other high quality publications. It’s our gear, built right here, in an understated and bold black waxed canvas. Available through Askov Finlayson.

The Stahl/Frost River Firepit Sling collaboration brings enhanced function and portability to the Stahl Camper Firepit. Features pockets for the 5 steel and aluminum plates of the Camper, plus snaps to keep the sling shut or add a Frost River Accessory Bag. Firepit, sling, and accessory bags sold separately. Photo Alex Messenger

On the topic of collaborations, we worked closely with the good folks at Stahl Firepit out of Portland, OR to make their Camper Firepit even more portable by modifying and customizing our Firewood Sling to complement their firepit. With dedicated sleeves for each piece of the firepit, you can haul your campfire wherever you choose, with room for tinder and logs once you’re there.

Enjoying Bent Paddle Beer on Kelly Lake with Dave and Amy Freeman.

Freeman Resupply Trip – This year has been big for the Boundary Waters. Our friends Dave and Amy Freeman spent an entire year within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and we got the opportunity to bring them some food and supplies right before fishing opener. It was a great, classic BWCA trip. Read up on our resupply trip here, and updates on the Save the BWCA campaign here. Nice work Freemans!

The inside of the Leather Pocket Folio showing cards and limited edition Minnesota Field Notes Notebook in Red. The Frost River Leather Pocket Folio is built to last from premium full grain leather to hold a notebook, cards and more.

Pocket Folio, Pint Sleeve and Skyline Rolldown Backpack – A year of big little things. Whether you’re carrying your passport, Field Notes and Beer, a lot of gear, or all of the above, we’ve come out with some great accessories to pair with the daily grind or once-in-a-lifetime adventures. Check ‘em all out here.

The Frost River Limited Build Two Tone Collection in Field Tan and Olde Glory Red. September 2016

Limited Build of Old Glory Red – When we caught wind of a limited amount of classic waxed canvas made in Old Glory Red, we jumped at the opportunity and made a limited build of our own. In early September, we opened up preorders for two-tone packs built from the rare canvas for one week only. Now they’re all across the world. We’ve got a couple still remaining… Give us a call!

No.382o Sawbill Trail Handlebar Bag by Frost River. A simple bag built for bikes but great for attaching to other packs too with the included straps. Rings at the ends work to stabilize the bag to a bike or haul it by a strap. Hunter Orange body helps to stand out in a crowd, in the woods, or in the bike lane.

Orange Expansion and Two Tone – At Frost River, we’re all about function, and, while Field Tan is the original, most functional of all (more on that here), there’re times when you’d rather stand out than blend in. That’s where our Hunter Orange comes in. This fall, we expanded our Hunter Orange line to include a bunch more products to help you stay visible in the woods, on the trail and on the road. At the same time, we came out with a selection of gear in Field Tan and Hunter Orange Two-Tone for a contrasting best of both worlds. Find them all here.

What’s Next?

There’s a lot in the cards for the coming year, and we can’t wait to share them with you! We’ll be working hard, sewing rugged canvas and leather into reliable softgoods, securing it with solid brass hardware and guaranteeing it for life. What we do isn’t new, but that’s called building on a legacy. We work toward the future with knowledge and skills gained from the past and built on in the future.

Sign up for our email newsletter to be the first to know about all of our new releases, read up on our blogs and keep rugged and reliable in your inbox. We try not to take ourselves too seriously, but the work that we do is serious business. You need your pack to hold, your strap to carry, your seams to stay. It matters to you, so it matters to us.

Thanks for a great year, and cheers to more adventures in 2017!

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Frost River Holiday Greetings

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year!

From our family to yours:

All of us at Frost River want to say a sincere thank you for making what we do possible. Without folks like you, people who appreciate quality, value made-in-USA goods, and see the importance of quality materials and heritage craftsmanship, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to build reliable softgoods for you.

Thanks – From the Frost River Team

However you celebrate this time of year, we hope that you are able to spend time with friends, family and loved ones and get outside. If you’re looking for inspiration to get out into the cold, on the water or on a road trip. Take a read through some of our blog posts here.

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Winter Activities for the Family

Hoot, Hoot, Hoo-hOO, to- hoo… “Dad, that was awesome!” in hushed tone. The small group stands still, quiet, skis and poles steady, breaths held for one more Great Horned Owl hoot volley. Smiles and excitement show on chilly headlamped faces. Then an amateur owl reply chorus erupts of “HOOOT Hoo—too yooouu!” and giggles as kids imitate the owl call. Poles and skis get reorganized, pointed down the trail, and we continue our night-ski. A magical exchange on a darkening evening outing.

frost-river-get-outside-with-kids-photo-david-hoole-img_3574With winter in full swing, and a precious few daylight hours available, along with the crush of busy holiday schedules, it can be difficult to carve out time to get outdoors with the family. It’s even more difficult to get out on your own without ditching a zillion other things to do. It is possible, and certainly worthwhile to spend family time outdoors… even in the dark. Planning helps, so does snow, so do headlamps.

Winter Camping – Hot tenting makes winter camping so much more habitable. And our Campfire Tent makes a cozy winter habitat indeed! Yes, it’s extreme in a way, staying out in temps well below freezing, below zero, even more so. But with the right gear and skills, a little preparation, and some confidence gained through practice, winter camping can be a blast! Hot tenting is using a wood stove to heat a tent, dry your gear, and cook upon. Set up your shelter, get the stove going with the stovepipe out through a temp-resistant panel in the wall, and let the warming and drying begin! Most winter campers in hot tents will let the fire burn out at night and sleep cold with lofty arctic sleeping bags. Then re-light the fire in the stove in the morning.

Here in the north woods, we have it easy in a way. Cross country skiing is one of the best ways to travel in the woods. We have snow on the ground much of the winter, making areas ski-able that were hardly walkable in the summer. Plus, here in Duluth, there are a lot of lighted trails, great to get out for a quick jaunt after dinner. Most ski trails are well marked, many are one way, let the kids go on ahead and ski by yourself for a bit of solitude in the woods. “Meet me at the next intersection!” Our High Falls -Short Day Pack works great to stash some gear on an evening’s ski.

frost-river-winter-hike-photo-david-hoole-img_3575A Snowy Saunter – When was the last time you just strolled in the woods at night? With snowcover on the ground it makes starlight, moonlight, and any ambient light reflect around and allow you to nearly see where you’re going at night. Be patient and let eyes adjust and feel liberated from the flashlight for an adventurous night hike. A Grand Marais Mail Bag or Little Marais Messenger Bag will provide a spot to keep a light handy… just in case.

Give a kid some credit!

Youngsters are a bunch tougher than we think. They can often stay out longer, smile easier, and be up for more adventure than we give ‘em credit for. Get a kid their own go-to pack, our Book Pack is made just like a canoe pack, shrunk way down. Perfect for woodsy outing kid stuff. With some practice, a little assurance (chocolate bars help), some confidence, and a mindset for safety, a winter camping or wandering expedition into the wilds is totally within the realm of possibility for you and your crew. Get ready, get out, and enjoy some winter weather this season.

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12 Essential Holiday Travel Tips

There’s a lot going on. The temps are dropping, climbing, dropping, you’re tracking a bunch of packages all at once, packing your bags and figuring out how to get the whole family from here to Grandmother’s house. It all gets a little hectic when you’re traveling during the holidays.That’s why we’ve put together our…

Holiday Travel Survival Guide:

Read on for heard-earned lessons from your traveling friends at Frost River, and our top tips for holiday vagabonding.


1. Give yourself extra time – The holidays are stressful enough. Don’t add to it by waiting until the last minute if you don’t have to. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, but you can start with the little things. Get your gifts lined up. Get to the airport early. Get your family road trip going with plenty of extra time to deal with weather and traffic conditions. You’ll be able to be safe and take your time, take more breaks, react to changes and make those extra super-sized bathroom breaks.


2. Check the Weather before your trip – Snow, rain, sleet, high winds, bright sunshine, they all play a part in how you get somewhere, be it a positive or negative one. Take a look at what to expect and plan around it. Inclement weather + Lots of people trying to travel = increased travel time, hazards and headache. Plan for what you’ll be getting into.


flight-bag-low-res-high-color3. Use Carryon Luggage This is always a handy tip, but when there are LOTS of people traveling, it becomes even more so. During the season of flight cancellations and reroutes, overbookings and narrow connections, having a bag that you carry with you can make the difference between getting there with all your stuff and borrowing Grandma’s footed PJs until your bag arrives. Our soft-sided designs excel at fitting in darn-near anywhere, including the overhead kleenex-box-sized-bins on the regional planes if you pack it right. Here are some more tips for traveling with Carryon Luggage.


No. 652 Flight Bag by Frost River is airline carry on compliant.
No. 652 Flight Bag by Frost River is airline carry on compliant.

4. Pack by the rules – This is a followup to the previous tip for carryons. Check your airline’s luggage restrictions before you start packing. There are often rules for how big and how heavy your personal item (the smaller item under the seat in front of you) your Carryon Luggage (the larger items that should go in the overhead bins like our Flight Bags, Explorers or those goofy wheely things some people roll around the airport) and your Checked Baggage (for in the hold of the plane). Be sure to pack within the guidelines to avoid have to repack at the front of the ticketing line or have your gear


5. Plan out your personal item – That smaller item under the seat in front of you is the best place to put your books, iPad, snacks, sleeping stuff and all the things you’re going to want during the flight. Plan accordingly. If you’re reading War and Peace, just bring that, some water and your sleep stuff…You’ll be nodding off soon. Check out our Zippy Totes, Voyageur Backpack Brief, or smaller items like our Shell Bags or Skyline Rolldown Satchel for some great personal items. Accessory Bags make great organizers for your personal item.

The Frost River Voyageur Backpack Crossovers are equally at home on a back or over a shoulder and fit in the great outdoors and the wood paneled walls of the boardroom.

6. Bring Your Travel Tools – A journal, a good book, a phone (with extra battery), magazine, year-end reports, chargers, and ear plugs all go a long way toward making a trip that much smoother. Check out our Leather Journal or Leather Pocket Folio for some classic journaling accessories.


7. Organize – It can be frustrating looking for those spare keys, that little notebook, the checkbook, your passport, boarding tickets, chargers. There are so many little things to lose or misplace these days. Make it a bit easier by adding some organization to your life. Our Travel Accessories are a great start, so are our Satchels and Purses. Accessory Bags fit in with anything and hold more than you’d expect.


The inside of the Leather Pocket Folio showing cards and limited edition Minnesota Field Notes Notebook in Red. The Frost River Leather Pocket Folio is built to last from premium full grain leather to hold a notebook, cards and more.

8. Double-check your documents – This is critical for air travel, and important for other travel means as well. Make sure you have your proper identification like driver’s license or passport for air travel, and if you’re taking young ones along, extra double-check you’ve got their docs, too. Also make sure you have your boarding passes figured out (paper, digital, print at the airport). Again, check the fine print, some airlines make you pay extra to have boarding passes printed at the airport. Our Leather Pocket Folio hauls a notebook, as well as a passport, with style.


9. Get on the Same Page – Communicate with your family and friends that you’re traveling with to make sure everyone understands when and how they’re getting where. Communicate with the folks at your destination, too. It’s a bit awkward showing up early or showing up late. Get on the same page for when you’ll be arriving and if you need to bring anything (other than fruitcake, that’s a given). For extra points, bring along our Bottle Tote with your favorite beverage (if you’re flying, buy the bottle once you’re there).

Flight Bags. Simple, classic waxed canvas and leather luggage and carryon bags made by Frost River in Duluth, MN, USA (Nos. 650 651 652 653).


10. Pack Light – It’s easy to end up bringing more than you need when traveling. A good guideline is to take your gear that you’ve got ready for your trip and leave half of the clothes at home. At the same time, double the budget you have allotted to the trip. Some extra cash can come in handy when you’ve got your car up on a jack in some backwoods town. Our Flight Bags keep things simple and let you pack a little, or a lot.

11. Stay Healthy – Keep yourself well-hydrated and bring along some portable comfort items like teas, vitamin drink mixes and-the-like in a kit with you. Be sure to pack an emergency med kit with all your prescription and OTC meds like Ibuprofen & Beano. An Accessory Bag works great to keep ’em together (and out of sight).


12. Don’t sweat the small stuff – The Holidays are about coming together and remembering what’s important in life: friends, family and experiences. Don’t worry about things that you can’t change, and remember that that one Christmas you had to wear your Grandma’s footed pajamas will make for a great story down the line.