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Meet the New Designs: Clutch, Caddy, Lumbar Pack

Summer’s start brings out new designs from the Frost River shop. One offers a way to streamline your pockets- Something your shorts will appreciate! We’ve got a new handbag, it has the speed and security of a zipper, plenty of spots for cash and cards, and carries handcrafted charm. Then, it’s finally here…. we’ve got a great new lumbar pack to offer, just wait ‘till you see what we’ve done to make it among the best around.

The North Shore of Lake Superior is stunning… Rugged, raw, natural beauty where the rocky northern landscape meets the clear, cold water of Lake Superior. The shoreline is beautiful, durable and adventurous. So is our new clutch that shares its name. Handcrafted from waxed canvas and leather, our North Shore Clutch carries its own charm of good looks, resilience, functionality, and grace. The Premium brings extra class in a full-body of highest quality, full grain HH Vintage Boomer leather. Click through the links to get more details on what it can do for you and your stuff that needs to be brought along.

Summertime is here, gone are all the handy pockets that cool weather layers provide. Our new Leather Card Caddy can help you, and your pockets, transition to summer and cut a bit of pocket clutter. The new caddy holds fast to a phone (or other object, via rugged peel and stick adhesive) and provides a slick spot to stick some cards- no matter if for business, credit, or identification. You may have seen something like this around, but this one’s the pick of the litter, the top of its class, none are this nice. We make ‘em with full grain leather, a vinyl backer, and top quality double-sided adhesive for a secure cling. Lay claim to your phone, portable hard drive, glove compartment, tackle box…. whatever, and keep some cards handy!

Possibly the most exciting new arrival of the summer. We’ve been working on this new design for quite awhile and are happy and proud that it has finally come together and is ready for you. The Back Bay Lumbar Pack has several new design elements and technical features that help make it a winner. Straps are secured to the waist belt to cinch and stabilize your gear onto the hips, while load transfer straps can be routed around or behind the spacious twin side pockets.  The pockets feature drawcord tops to secure bottles or smaller items inside. The back of the bag is padded for carrying comfort. There are plenty of attachment points inside and outside to hang and attach gear. It is more technical than many of our other packs, but maintains traditional materials, no nonsense features, made in USA quality, and our lifetime guarantee. Plus, it’s built from our hardwearing and lightweight 10.10oz Waxed Canvas for a surprisingly lightweight pack. Get more details through the link in the Spec Image below.

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Field Journal: 2,000km with the Campfire Tent

In summer 2016, Ulli Mattsson and I paddled two thousand kilometres through Alaska, following the Yukon River from the US/ Canadian border to the Bering Sea.

The longest free flowing river in North America, it is one of the most remote parts of the planet. It was the first river to be travelled by Pleistocene hunters, and the last to be travelled by white explorers. The Yukon’s watershed is over 99% forest and tundra, its population less than 0.1 person per square kilometer. And it is also the longest salmon run in the world, fish travelling more than three thousand kilometres to reach the tributaries of their birth.


The purpose of the trip was to explore how the recent and rapid decline of the king salmon has been affecting the many people and the ecosystems that depend on it. I had been in Alaska several years previously, and had written about how the fishing ban had been impacting the communities around Bethel. Now I wanted to travel the whole of the Yukon River, canoeing downriver at the same time that the salmon would be running up it, to explore how entwined the fish was with the people and the places that it passed.

Frost River Campfire Tent by Adam Weymouth

It is wild country. Most villages have no road access, and except for the occasional flight the river is the highway: snowmobiles in winter, skiffs in summer, with long months in between the seasons when the ice is rotten or still forming, and travel is impossible. For the most part the population is Athabascan and Inuit, peoples who have depended on the salmon run as reliable protein for many thousands of years, and are now starting to question what it means if that run were to vanish for good.


Frost River Campfire Tent on Kings of the Yukon Trip in Alaska photo by Ulli Mattsson

But despite the villages, and the occasional cabins where individuals live remote lives in the bush, we knew that there would be weeks at a time when we would see no one. Self reliance was key; more crucial than any trip I have planned before. I knew that the tent would be at the heart of that. With Alaskan summers being notoriously volatile, we needed something that would be suitable for whatever we might come across, as well as affording us the extra comfort that we would want during several months lived on the river.

We landed on the Campfire Tent from Frost River, and it was perfect.

Its beauty was in the variation that it offered. In hot June days of 30 degrees centigrade, when the sun scarcely sets and it is dry for weeks on end – the interior of Alaska is a desert by definition– we could open all the flaps up and allow the breeze to blow through. The canvas kept us cool and shaded in a way synthetic tents cannot do. As much as we could we slept on sandbars in the middle of the river, far from where we might stumble on a bear. There was fresh water from the creeks, piles of drift to build a fire, vast space and total silence. Camped on an island, watching a 2am dusk that merges into a dawn, watching a moose swimming a channel to the far shore, we felt very lucky to be there.


As the trip went on and we approached the Arctic Ocean, we increasingly found ourselves dealing with driving rain and sleet, and battening the tent down. Our first storm came at the end of July, which is pushing autumn in the north. The cumuli had been building all day, the wind picking up the waves. By the time that we moored for the night the sky was so black it was blue. Camped on a soft mud bar, we had to weight the guy ropes down with stones, with float barrels, with anything we could find. You could hear the rain coming from miles away across the river, like horses. We lay in the tent with the rain hammering the roof, the sides taut and straining, but warm and dry inside.


Photo of the author and Ulli Mattson under the awning of the Frost River Campfire Tent on Kings of the Yukon Trip in Alaska photo by Robert Neu

It rained without cease for two days. We sat in chairs beneath the canopy, we cooked beneath it, lived beneath it. We carried a piece of corrugate that we had pulled from an old cabin, and when the weather was cold, we used it to reflect the heat of the fire into the tent, us in our sleeping bags, our wet clothes hung in the porch. Having spent many a day rain bound in tents before, and knowing the inevitable cabin fever that sets in, the luxury of the extra space to move about was something that we very much welcomed.


Drying gear on the Frost River Campfire Tent on Kings of the Yukon Trip in Alaska photo by Ulli Mattsson

The locals loved the Campfire Tent. It reminded Alaskans of the wall tents they had lived in when they built their cabins. The old-timers remembered time pre-statehood when they had packed similar designs. Camped on the beaches in the villages we passed through, it was never long before we drew a crowd, watching us set up, giving us pointers on the guy ropes. And crucially, it was protection from the bugs. Not just from the mosquitos, but from the miniscule no-see-ums which could slip through the holes in the bug nets we wore, but couldn’t make it inside the tent. I had been told that a naked man, tied down, would last four hours in Alaska. This felt unscientific, but it proves a certain point. Many evenings, the tent was the only sanctuary.


I am more accustomed to hiking, and unused to the space that a canoe provides. But having the space to carry the Campfire with us made for a completely different experience, a tent that felt more like a home, even in the remotest of locations. I’m itching for the summer and more canoe trips, and to get it out again.


– Adam Weymouth is a freelance writer who has worked for a wide variety of newspapers and magazines, including The Guardian, The BBC, The Atlantic and Lacuna. He is currently at work on his first book, Kings of the Yukon, about the salmon and the canoe trip, to be published by Little, Brown in 2018. More of his work can be found at & @adamweymouth

Frost River Campfire Tent by Adam Weymouth

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Graduation Gift Ideas from Frost River

Graduation ceremonies are commencing and studious students across the land are being elevated to new roles out in the world. Don’t you think they could use a new bag to go along with new adult status? It would set them up for success and go along with all the training, preparations, enthusiasm, and exuberance amassed through a career of school, now heading onto new courses, into their new vocations out in the world. Work bags, Travel luggage, totes, purses, and accessories handcrafted here in Duluth could help them get head-and-bag-toting-shoulders above the rest. Add a monogram to make their new go-to bag super extra special.


Working in Bent Paddle Brewing Co.'s taproom with the Frost River 898 Premium Carrier Brief Messenger Bag, 826 Padfolio, and 933 Lunch Bag.Work Bags 

Our heritage quality, waxed canvas and leather briefs and messengers set a tone of lasting quality and trustworthiness to help make positive first impressions wherever they’re carried. Job interviews, first days at work, meetings, sales calls… a good bag will help a busy professional stay organized, carry what needs to be brought along, and in the case of Frost River bags, bring along an air of the outdoors. We hold all of our work bags to the same standard as our canoe packs, they’re made to hold up to hard use outside and look great while they’re at it. Waxed canvas is weather resistant and stands up to the working world’s abrasions like a seasoned professional. Experience and character stand proud on a bag that gets better with age and use. The charisma of a good patina sets a tone of honest know-how and valuable lessons learned. Set a new graduate up for longstanding success with a bag that can last through a whole career.

Travel LuggagePremium Laurentian Luggage 

Graduates are gonna need to travel… to and from college, for new jobs, and simply utilizing their new-found freedoms (hopefully vacationing with their own new-found paychecks). Our soft sided luggage, will help to get new grads there and back again in unique and trustworthy style. We craft a full line of CarryOn bags that are great for bringing on board airline flights without  the hassle of checked bags. Waxed canvas duffels are great at conforming to the confines of an airline overhead bin, an automobile trunk, hatch, or pick-up box. Rugged and trustworthy, our weekender bags are refined enough for five star hotels, easy going for cozy bed and breakfast stays, and rugged for travels to out of the way hostels.

AccessoriesFrost River Accessory Bag XP 

 Portfolios, purses, Lunch Bags, water bottle covers, wallets, totes all add to a professional appearance, promote reusability, help keep a busy person organized. Being made to the standard of the outdoors, with a function-first philosophy, Frost River bags can remind a carrier to get outside, and use their trusty work bag on fun weekend jaunts as well. All our gear is made to be outside and designed to hold up to canoe country camping trips, that means they’re at ease on more urban pursuits. No, you probably won’t bring your Padfolio or Heritage Brief on the next canoe trip… but we make ‘em tough enough, so you could!

Heritage Black Premium Carrier Brief

 Timeless styling, hardworking materials, lasting durability, all in a classic carryall – Our Carrier line blends professionalism with the easy going messenger bag. The Carrier Brief is a great base model, blending style, ease of use, and value. The Bike Messenger Bag adds a waist belt to stabilize the bag while on a bike, perfect for commuting to work. The Premium Carrier adds a padded laptop sleeve, extra leather, and two color options, Field Tan or Heritage Black. All are built to last right here in Duluth, Minnesota at Frost River.

Single BriefSingle Briefcase 

Rugged elegance with a perfect blend of waxed canvas, leather, and straightforward layout. There’s a spot for standard sized laptops on the inside and a pair of zip closed slip pockets that are perfect for papers on the outside. Reliable leather from Red Wing, Minnesota dresses up this brief, handcrafted construction at Frost River in Duluth, brings it all together, our lifetime guarantee ensures it’ll be at your side for years. 

Premium Mesabi Range DaypackMesabi Range Daypack 

A brief for your back. Dressy enough for work, rugged enough for the trail, here’s a pack that can and will do it all. There is a padded sleeve for a laptop and just the right amount of space to carry what’s needed but not overburden you on daily commutes. Feel free to upgrade the shoulder straps to padded buckskin leather… It’s a nice upgrade, built just like the straps on our canoe packs.


 A briefcase with capacity to carryover for longer stays, too. The side pockets are big enough to stow a change of clothes, rain jacket, and stuff. Part brief, part luggage, all made to last and keep you moving forward.

693 Imout Bag CarryOn. All of the get up & go of the Frost River Flight Bag, in a round duffel. Waxed canvas utility with just the right amount of class.

ImOut Duffel

 A classic round duffel made from premium materials. Our waxed canvas, leather from Red Wing, Minnesota, and solid brass hardware come together with the skilled hands of an American workforce to create a great bag ready and willing to accompany you on travels near and far. It’ll remind you of those round nylon gym bags you carried as a kid, only these are much nicer.

810 Premium Laurentian Luggage Medium. Great Luggage, premium leather bottom, lots of pockets, lots of class.Laurentian Luggage

 Premium luggage for the greatest of travels. Compartments are the rule with this design. There can be a spot for everything, and a reliable way to keep it where it belongs. Big side pockets for bulky items, a zip pocket on the front offers ready access security, magnetic snaps allow quick storage to the front pocket.

Voyageur Backpack Luggage

 Crafted as a backpack first, luggage second. The contoured backstraps are robust to comfortably carry a load, and stowable to stay out of the way when carrying it by the handle, loading into planes or with an accessory shoulder strap. The main flap opens wide for easy loading and unpacking. There are several lash points outside and Accessory XP snaps inside to allow flexibility in lashing and storage compartments. Need a size down? The Voyageur comes in briefcase-size, too for the daily grind or for service as a personal item.

826 Padfolio. A portable desk– for a lap. Made from waxed canvas and premium leather, with slots for a legal pad, papers, cards and a writing utensil.Padfolio

 Like a writing desk for your lap, there’s spots for papers, envelopes, cards, and a writing pad. Stiffening panels provide just enough structure without undue bulk. There’s a snapped leather strap to keep it all together. You’ll like the way this folio feels.

Frost River's Waxed Canvas Lunch Bags help you haul your lunch sustainably for a lifetime. Made in the USA, usable just about anywhere.

Waxed Canvas Lunch Bag

 Add a bit of sustainability to a lunch break and help promote healthier (and less expensive) lunches to a new graduate with our lunch bag, modeled after a real brown paper bag. Get the SB version if you want the security of a solid closure, the standard version has a simple strap with a friction lock. It works to keep the bag closed, but strap on the SB version doubles as a handle.

Dopp KitTravel Kit 

Moving on to the next stage of an education or the daily grind often involves travels near and far. Help a graduate bring those bits and bobs necessary for good hygiene with a Travel Kit. Heavy duty zippers keep contents secure in the large main compartment and slim front pocket, while durable double bottom, waxed canvas or leather, keep countertop spills out and bottle mishaps contained. Monograms make them personal.

Leather Bi-fold WalletWallets 

We’ve got a couple options for wallets for a new grad… Our Leather Bi-fold Wallet is classic, made to last, and laid out as you’d expect with spots for cards and cash. The Card Holder is all leather, sized to carry a couple cards on each side, and works great in a front pocket. Our Circle Tour Wallet offers the security of a zip and more capacity to carry a bit more. A Pocket Folio will keep a pocket notebook protected and does wonders to keep papers together. For those of us who still write checks, this Check Book cover is among the best around. Feel free to add a monogram to any or all of the above.

Shop the whole collection of graduation gifts in our Gifts for Grads category and find something they can carry for a lifetime.

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Prep Your Canoe for Paddling Season in 10 Steps

De-winterizing a canoe

You’ve heard about winterizing your house, or your boat, spring cleaning, pulling your fiberglass-hulled bass-hunter out of storage, swapping out snow tires for summer wheels, storing your packs properly and keeping your goods in good order…

But there isn’t too much talk about taking your canoe from hibernation to summer paddling season.

Sure, there’s no pistons, no oil, no gas, no plugs, no electronics, but it’s a tool just the same, and there are some important points to take a look at to help get your canoe ready for summer so you don’t delay your all-important secluded summer getaway to pristine canoe country (or wherever you hit the water!).

Tips for Prepping a Canoe for Paddling Season

If you put your boat into storage for the season properly, you likely won’t have an issue with any of these, but it’s still good to give your boat a good inspection; it’s a matter of pride, and it is, after all, the only thing standing between you and the water!


  1. Check for rot or mold If you store your boat outside, especially on or near the ground, there’s potential for rot and mold, typically in wood or other natural materials. Check the thwarts, yoke, gunnels and any other points that were close to the ground or any wetness. If the wood looks like it needs some attention, consider refinishing it, repairing it, or replacing it. When in doubt, check with your local shop.
  2. Check for cracks, deep scratches and holes Regardless of what material your canoe is made from, stuff happens. Keep your boat ship-shape and make sure it’s watertight. Give the whole hull a once-over, especially if there was any incident that might have caused problems, which brings us to:
  3. Think through the history Did your boat wrap around or go over any big rocks? Did the thwart crack? Did you drop it in the middle of a portage? Think through what your boat went through the past couple seasons and take a close look at affected areas, they might need some repairs, and if they don’t you’ll feel confident knowing you’re good to go!
  4. Check your registration In a lot of places, Minnesota included, canoes are considered a watercraft that requires registration. Check your local laws and make sure that your boat is legal. It’s easy, not too expensive and a lot better than a ticket.
  5. Check for stowaways Who knows what’s crawled into the cracks and crevices of your canoe during the long hard winter months. Keep those creepy-crawly feelings at bay by checking for and removing those four, six, and eight-legged stowaways before they meet you at eye level with the canoe on your shoulders or wriggle down the back of your hand on your way to the car. Nuff said.
  6. Inspect seats This is where the rubber meets the road for most canoeists, and you don’t want to have to do repairs in the field. Take a look at the seats and make sure that they’re secure, that the frame is in good working order. If you’ve got cane or webbing seats, ensure the material isn’t dry-rotted or cracking. If you run into troubles, talk to your local canoe shop, consider re-varnishing, re-finishing or repairing. If it’s all in good order, take a look at our Canoe Seat Pad.
  7. Get it shiny Your boat’s been dormant for a few months, odds are it’s gotten some dirt and dust and duff. Make it shiny and keep your khakis their original shade of tan by giving your boat the ol’ spit-shine by cleaning it. It’ll thank you for it, and you and your packs will look better in a purty boat.
  8. Canoe Seat Pad & BagMake those upgrades Remember that dream of kitting your boat out for whitewater, or that day you lost your hat because you didn’t have a bag to put it in, or a strap to tie it down? Think about those little upgrades you wished your boat had and make them happen now. Knees sore from taking the pommeling of big waves? Look at installing knee pads. Bow and stern looking a little rough? Think about skid plates. Portage Pads uncomfortable? Get some new ones! Butt sore from all-day sitting? Consider a Canoe Seat Pad!
  9. Are your portage pads installed? Don’t get to your Boundary Waters entry point and realize that you’re about to embark on a more traditional trip than you planned on… (portage pads have only recently become a mainstay of canoe travel). For whatever reason they came off of your boat, be it repairs, safe storage or upgrade, ensure that you have the pads with you. Your trapeziuses will thank you.
  10. Check your gear and transport materials What’s a canoe without a lake and without a paddle? Don’t forget to make sure your paddles are good and ready and that you can haul your boat to where you’re going to paddle it. Most of us don’t have the luxury of water on our own property, which means we’re moving the canoe from where it’s been stored or lives and bringing it to the water. There’s nothing worse than throwing your Camp Cook’s Kitchen and Thwart Bags into the trunk, getting ready to hoist the canoe to the roof, only to find you’re missing a strap or a pad. Get your gear in order, keep it organized (a zip-top tote like a Brighton Beach keeps is all in order) and put it where you can find it.

Most importantly…

…make a point to take your canoe out, dip your paddle and experience the water. Put it on your calendar, schedule your BWCA trip, grab your PFD and go canoeing. We all need a good paddling after all!

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Heritage Black Collection

Starting May of 2017, a limited selection of 15 Frost River designs will now be available in classic black waxed canvas, premium leather, and hand-antiqued solid brass hardware. Make a statement, of boldness or subtlety, with the wide selection of handmade softgoods from Duluth, MN, USA.

Field Tan. The classic, enduring color of waxed canvas is great in the field. It’s the original way to blend in, offering camouflage among earth tones, and a neutral complement to match most any color you wish to wear with a trusty pack or bag. It’s become the signature color of Frost River.

But modern travels can be a bit different. Field tan still blends in today, performing great in the field, blending in, forming a harmonious connection between a traveler, carried equipment and the natural environment. It’s a definite nod to the past, to the heritage of heirloom-quality goods, a time when each tool was precious and cared for, built right from the start and repaired again and again until all that was left was character. The Heritage Black Collection emulates a similar notion among the professional cityscape, where the earth tones turn to Pantones®. Today’s environment sometimes requires something different to blend in, to not stand out…


…there’s just no substitute for black. What Field Tan is to the natural world, black is to the urban landscape. It’s the color of space, poetry, judges, graduates, formal attire, business and success (y’know Black Friday?), limousines, elegance, bow-ties, and little black dresses, slate, darkness, space, night.

Heritage Black is built for those in suits: of silk, wool, ripstop, plainclothes, fire resistant Nomex®, nylon. You demand performance, premium materials, premium build, durability and the ability to disappear into the shadows of a crowd or stand out in the solemnity of the boardroom. Frost River Heritage Black was built on those ideals. Not straying one bit from our commitment to quality materials, premium solid brass hardware, waxed canvas, and Made-in-USA construction, design and durability, we’ve taken some of our most popular designs and crafted them from deep shadow: black waxed canvas, straps and trim, heavy-duty made-in-USA YKK nylon coil zippers, oil-tanned premium leathers from Red Wing, Minnesota, and our signature hardware in hand-finished antiqued solid brass. You can expect the same resilience, durability, character, and class that comes with everything we build in a whole new style of understated.

Frost River Heritage Black packs offer all-black and antiqued outers (with the exception of our subtle red taffeta), while the interiors offer some field tan accents for visibility where it helps. These packs are built to the same standards as the rest of our gear that only get better with age, and, just like everything we build, they’re backed by our lifetime guarantee so you can carry with confidence.

Black helps you stay out of the spotlight, and that can be a good thing.

The bags in Frost River Heritage Black represent some of that and more: Durability and function first of all- then style, outdoors, and value…Yes, value. Here are bags built to last a lifetime. They could be all you’ll ever need because they’re repairable. Add a patch, replace a rivet or zipper, we build ‘em right here so we can fix ‘em if you break something. These bags are all awful tough to begin with though.
Made for wilderness use, they will hold up in the city, allowing you to blend in, yet stand out, moving as a shadow, subtle yet attention-grabbing. It’s a bit of outlaw elegance with a stoic stance of enduring quality – classy, clean, and solid black.

Our designs remain unchanged. All three sizes of Isle Royales are available in Heritage Black. They still offer the best bushcraft-carrying utility in waxed canvas, with black buckskin padded backstraps and the signature axe sleeve dutifully on the front (have you heard we carry made-in-USA axes?). Twin 2-in-1 pockets straddle the axe sleeve and are sized for the smaller items in your kit like bottles and stoves.

The same utility can be found in the Summit Expedition, with twin high-capacity 2-in-1 side pockets, plus a zip pocket on the the front, one that hangs inside, and a zipped compartment in the lid. That’s all riveted and sewn onto a round drawstring-topped bag and is available with upgraded padded black leather backstraps. It’s a perfect pack for wandering the canyons of the city or the Grand Canyon.

The Premium Carrier Brief is pure professionalism in black. The leather will age gracefully, the canvas will stay sound for years. The durable 2” cotton web strap and bridle shoulder pad inspires confidence, while the padded sleeve ensures you can do what needs doing. A lasting bag, made for adventure at work and beyond— Reliable construction and no-nonsense design makes this a great companion for high-stakes meetings and rainy-day sessions at the local coffee shop.

Our Heritage Black Shell Bags are crafted for long-wearing function. Call ‘em cute, call ‘em rugged, it won’t matter. They’ll work just as hard no matter what you’re carrying, whether it’s your small camera stuff, your everyday, gear for seasonal exploits, or a phone and wallet for nights on the town. Black keeps it bold, yet subtle. Antiqued brass gives these Shell Bags old-school bling.

High Falls – A small pack built for big things and now available in Black. It stays out of the way but can really haul on your back on a bike, for a quick walk in the park, wherever! A Small Wood Craft Axe fits in fine, so does a growler. Great as a day pack or part of a bigger loadout, too. Padded back makes it handy for water, a small computer or tablet and a lunch.

Our Vintage Pack, like Frost River, has canoe heritage in its roots. It’s part of the essence of what we do. The Vintage is sized and built to carry a day’s load, perfect for books, a computer whatever you need. But don’t let its daypack distinction fool you, there’s room here to spare— No problem bringing a change of clothes along, or a rain jacket, your EDC, FAK, AXE, heck you could stow a case in there if required. Frost River Heritage Black brings downtown styling to the Vintage for work, school and beyond.

The get up and go of our Curtis Flight Bag in Heritage Black is perfect for the sophisticated sojourns of today’s overnighter and weekender. This is the bag to grab for your quickest gotta-get-up an go departures. A true go bag, it works great for gear or in the gym, too. The reinforced leather handles are a pleasure to carry and this bag is carry on compliant for most airline travel. The sturdy brass D-rings on each side of the zipper make for a balanced shoulder carry, while a Heritage Black Leather or Buckskin Padded strap pad are available if you desire more comfort.

Accessory Bags – What’s more to say about Accessory Bags? They’re so darn handy. The Small is cigar and charger cord size. The Medium is suited to use as a small toiletry kit. The Large holds more, acting as a possibles kit or carrying leather gloves and a scarf, extra socks, or camera accessories. All feature a zip top with a wide bottom in black waxed canvas, and our heavy duty zipper: they’re made to last and keep your stuff together.

The Frost River Heritage Black Collection brings our hard-working, made-for-the-outdoors, reliable softgoods into a new sort of light. They’re perhaps more refined in appearance, but unchanged in function. From our shop in Duluth, Minnesota to you, wherever you may roam with them, they deserve a spot on your shoulder, in your wardrobe, and among your collection.

Carry a legacy, with Frost River Heritage Black— Made by hand, and guaranteed for life.

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In the News: Duluth’s Lincoln Park Craft District is Rising

There is a new craft culture blossoming in our neck of the woods on the west end of Superior Street—

and it is thanks to the skilled craftspeople making things that people want to buy, visionary business owners that are willing to take calculated risk, and a city willing to help help with funding and resources. Minnesota Public Radio visited the area recently and found “Craftsmen, backpacks, beer build hope in a needy Duluth neighborhood”. The article is paired with a roundtable discussion “Conversations of the Creative Economy” set to take place April 20 here in the neighborhood, at Clyde Iron Works restaurant. Several of the key players of the newly formed “Lincoln Park Craft District” will likely discuss what the draw is to our neck of the woods, along with the challenges of making a craft business work in our current economy.

MPR News visited the shop recently for a story on business in the Lincoln Park Craft District

Our neighborhood in Duluth’s Lincoln Park has been getting some press lately…. and it’s good news! When we moved into our current building in 2011, news coverage of the neighborhood often included lights and sirens, but now those are increasingly being replaced with pictures of construction equipment, grand openings, and quotes like “This is economic development at its finest, it’s exporting products around the country, and importing capital into Duluth.”

Lincoln Park has a lot going for it. We see why people want to live, work, and visit here. It is a crossroads of main traffic channels situated right in the middle of Duluth. There are classic buildings, that have been neglected in recent decades and now wait to be repurposed. There are new incentives for business to grow in the neighborhood, spurred by a new program to “Advance West” into Lincoln Park, and it’s working! Take a look at what the Twin Cities Business Magazine found of the craft culture developing here.

Twin Cities Business investigates what goes into a Craft District in Duluth.

For us here at Frost River, we love having great neighbors that make things people want. The Duluthian, our Chamber of Commerce magazine, visited us at the shop and found lots of good stuff happening. Read about it here. The Frost River Trading Co. storefront continues to impress new visitors, and brings return visits. Many shoppers are well fed and happy, just coming from the brand new restaurant across the street, the OMC Smokehouse. We can tell when the Bent Paddle Brewing Co. Tap Room is open, people stream through the back door, on their way to or from a growler fill or a pint of craft beer. The handcrafted shoes and leather bags at Hemlock’s Leatherworks provide a complementary contrast to the rugged and woodsy packs and bags that we make in our shop. Motorcycle entourages rumble past the shop on  two wheeled pilgrimages to Aerostich, whose custom protective suits have a loyal following. Duluth Pottery staff and contractors are working hard to renovate the neighborhood paint store into a pottery studio to host art, classes, and retail. The Duluth Folk School has all sorts of classes for people to get “hands on” in Lincoln Park, too.

It’s an awesome time of renewal and renovation in the neighborhood.

There are more shoppers and visitors now than there have been in years. There’s even a community mural going up on the side of the building this summer. It could be said Lincoln Park is “blooming”.

With all the good that’s happening, and the easy access from downtown Duluth, Highway 53 and Interstate 35, there’s no reason not to come over and see us sometime… we’ll have the coffee pot going!

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The Sustainability and Suitability of Frost River

In the Frost River shop harness rivets get hand pounded to attach padded leather backstraps to a waxed canvas canoe pack.
At Frost River, we pay attention to the way we do things.

It’s not just our commitment to make rugged gear that’s guaranteed to last a lifetime—  we pay attention to the way we do things because there’s an opportunity to do more: There’s opportunity for increased environmental stewardship by decreasing our footprint, waste, and consumption. There’s the chance to keep things out of the dumpster by making it right in the first place. There’s the ability to build things that help us do good works and recreate out in the wilds of our great country and the world. There’s the possibility that through our small actions we can help be better members of our community, right here in Duluth and beyond. Read on to learn about some of the ways that we’re constantly working towards better sustainability practices on our corner of the world.

There’s a lot that goes into our bags, from time to materials, here’s a bit about how we make ‘em good for the earth and community.


A Frost River Canoe Pack repaired with a waxed canvas patch at the top left corner.

We build them all ourselves. That means we know how to put a bag together, and how to take it apart. Repairs can be made, components replaced, and patches applied so we can get a damaged bag back into service hauling the things that you need to carry. This repairability keeps our bags out of the scrap pile longer, saves materials, and allows more character and memories to be made with a favorite bag.

Efficient Processes:

Using an automated cutting table helps keep canvas out of the trash and out of landfills.
Using an automated cutting table helps keep canvas out of the trash and out of landfills.

We constantly and consistently work to be better users of resources in our manufacturing. One example is the addition of our automated computer aided design (CAD) cutting table. Through digitizing our patterns and utilizing computer programs to nest the pattern pieces together, we have greatly increased efficiencies and reduced the amount of waste. It’s much more sustainable, accurate, and safe for the machine to do the cutting. There’s value to the Earth to be as efficient as we can with our raw materials, throwing out as little as possible. In our leather cutting operations, we click out smaller and smaller pieces until there is nearly nothing left. Our quality inspection workflow helps too, catching and repairing instead of scrapping the whole bag or sending it back and forth across state lines and borders.

Made in USA:

Sewing leather to canvas at Frost River in Duluth, MN

All our waxed canvas bags are made right here. Production based near retailers and partnering with domestic producers reduces transportation costs, energy consumption, and pollution. Having our workshop in-house means we don’t need to have containers of finished goods shipped back to us from across the planet. We work with several domestic suppliers for our raw materials, some even come from right here in the Neighborhood. Others may not be within walking distance, but they’re still nearby. Our leather comes from the S.B. Foot Tannery just to our south, in Red Wing, Minnesota. The tent and shelter fabric is sourced from Chicago, our waxed canvas is from New Jersey.

Domestic manufacturing:Sewing waxed canvas shoulder bags at the Frost River shop in Duluth, MN USA

Relying on a local workforce makes a community more financially sustainable. More money stays here as part of our local economy when we build the goods right here, and it allows us to employ a local workforce of skilled artisans, operators, craftspersons, and characters.


Riveting a D-ring on a waxed canvas bag at the Frost River shop in Duluth, MN USA

We talk all the time about the high standards we hold our gear to, but being a manufacturer in the US means that we’re also held to environmental and workplace standards as well. Our packs and bags are made here, not in a sweatshop overseas. There’s no forced labor, no children running sewing machines, and employees here are offered benefits. We build gear responsibly and ethically at 1910 W Superior St. in Duluth, Minnesota.                                                                                                                             


Frost River's Waxed Canvas Lunch Bags help you haul your lunch sustainably for a lifetime. Made in the USA, usable just about anywhere.
Frost River’s Waxed Canvas Lunch Bags help you haul your lunch sustainably for a lifetime. From left to right 934 Lunch Tote, 933 Lunch Bag, 966 SB Lunch Bag. Made in the USA, usable just about anywhere.

There are several designs in our line that offer alternatives to disposable products.

  • A Waxed Canvas Lunch Bag can displace thousands of disposable lunch bags.
  • A Gooseberry Tote (along with several other totes) can take the place of, and do a better job than, lots of plastic grocery bags.
  • Growler Packs promote growler fills and that reduces bottles and cans …. Double good (not to mention the craft beer)!
  • Bottle Totes beat brown paper bags, especially when given as a gift
  • Speaking of gifts— Lunch Totes and Accessory Bags make great gift bags!


The Frost River Voyageur Backpack Brief at Jay Cooke State Park. One pack, any journey.

Frost River packs and bags are suitable for many different uses. Some, like our Canoe Packs, are purpose built to carry camp gear up and over the wilderness portages of canoe country. But they’re just as useful car camping with the family, on hunting trips to the shack, out for summer forays lugging gear to the cabin (and to the beach), or using them as standard luggage, traveling as a woodsman, going wherever you need to go with the load on your back not in your hands. Our Growler Packs pull similar duty for carrying craft beer, or using a stainless growler as a reusable water bottle with a great waxed canvas cover. Our daypacks are happy to go from woods to work assignments without missing a step. The small to mid-sized packs like a Sojourn, Mesabi Range, High Falls, or Nessmuk are great multi-use candidates that are aptly suited to jobs from an office cubicle to the Outback. Accessory Bags, we can’t imagine a use unsuitable for an Accessory Bag. They’re just so dang handy!Old No. 7 Pack

The classic form of Frost River bags allows them to transcend trends and not go out of style. They’ve been there, done that, come back, and are here to stay. Frost River bag owners often say things like “it’s the last bag I’ll ever need” or “I’ll be able to pass this down to my kids!” And they’re right, we build them the best way we know how, and will stand behind them to keep ‘em out in the world, doing what they do best… accompanying you on a lifetime of travels.

Happy trails, thanks for traveling well with a good bag, and Happy Earth Day!

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Meet the Wood Craft Axes

The axe is arguably the most versatile tool a woodcraft practitioner can carry.

Our new Wood Craft Axes from Council Tool blend portability with power, durability and good looks, Made in USA manufacturing with a Frost River logo. Council Tool’s Wood-Craft Pack Axe line harkens back to traditional axe construction with no paint, polish, frills, or extras. They’re just hard working axes, made as they should be, right here in the USA.

The axe has a good bite, and digs into wood heartily.

It’s not difficult to get chips flying when using it. The handle has a very useable profile, it is comfortable to grip, and provides assurance that you’ll be able to hang onto it through a swing. On a recent firewood gathering outing, we were able to cleanly take limbs off a dead and downed tree and chop the tree into lengths effectively. This axe is a pleasure to use! It has enough heft to allow it to work effectively, yet the size and weight remain quite portable.

Frost River Wood Craft Axe with 24″ handle.

There are two options to choose from in our Wood Craft line, both have the same 2lb. head, the choice hangs in the handle length. The 24” handle (measured before the head is attached, so it ends up finished around 23”) provides more power and better safety for legs and feet. The shorter 19” handle (again, measured before its joined to the head) offers better portability in a pack. The 5160 steel in the head is fully heat treated for edge retention, durability, and hardness. The cutting edge is ground and honed to a very sharp edge, it has been described as “a chisel on a stick” because it cuts so well. The poll is fully functional as a beater as it is also heat treated. Still use care, as it is not hardened like the poll of a splitting maul, but this axe makes a better hammer than most, as the whole head is heat treated, not just the cutting edge. The hickory handles are premium grade – A, selected for grain orientation and runout. Council Tool guarantees the steel in the axe heads for a lifetime so they can be in a family for generations.

Frost River Wood Craft Axe with 19″ handle.

Each of our Wood Craft Axes has a Frost River logo branded into the wood handle. The premium Boreal Sheath is made here in Duluth from our harness leather. It is sewn and riveted with hand pounded harness rivets. It has a substantial leather welt and a solid brass snap. Those additions are what make a Frost River Wood Craft Axe unique and worthy of special consideration.

Though they would do well displayed above a mantle, these are not wispy wall hangers, they’re rugged, robust, built to last, and work hard for years. Either size of the Wood Craft Axes would be at home in the axe sleeve of our Isle Royale Bushcraft Pack. The shorter 19” handle is slightly better suited to the Isle Royale Jr. and Mini as they’re more compact. Having the same 2lb. axe head you don’t sacrifice much power. This 3/4 axe is more of an axe than a hatchet.

Frost River Wood Craft Axe with Boreal Sheath.

Utility with just the right heft, here’s a hard working, elegant tool that’s made right here in the USA.

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6 Reasons to Visit Isle Royale National Park

Here you are… finally! On the biggest island in the biggest lake on the biggest island in the biggest lake on the biggest island in the biggest lake in North America— and the ONLY way you got here was by rambling a few miles of rugged trail, canoeing, then tromping through thick North Woods brush and then back in the canoe again. And you hardly noticed the Isle Royale Bushcraft Pack on your back.”

There’s a good reason we named our most woodsy, bushcrafty pack after Isle Royale National Park: It’s a mystical place. Here’s just six reasons why:

The biggest island in Lake Superior is home to one of the nation’s least visited National Parks. That’s certainly a statistic that owes to the remoteness of the island, and the effort required to reach it, but that it is the most re-visited national park in the system speaks volumes to what a special place Isle Royale is. If you haven’t yet been there, you need to add it to your list. If you’ve been there already, you know what we’re talking about.

Why go to Isle Royale National Park?

If you’ve got a taste for adventure and a desire to get out, here’re some reasons to help you get inspired to put an Isle Royale expedition on the docket. It may be remote, and there may be a limited number of ways to get there, but the journey is worth it, and once you get your itinerary in order, it’s a grand journey that you’re sure to remember fondly, and want to repeat.

It’s beautiful. The island is filled with wildlife, unique plant species and a sense of wilderness that’s hard to get anywhere else. There’s a concentration of hundreds of moose on Isle Royale, and if you tread lightly, you’re likely to see one. Always remember to respect wildlife for both your and their safety. Bring along a Field Satchel to keep your nature guides and binoculars handy!

It’s quiet. One of the beauties of exploring a wilderness is the serenity that it can bring. Isle Royale doesn’t allow motorized travel, so aside from the few boats and float planes coming and going, it’s just you and the wind. Being a wilderness area, visitors and employees practice Leave No Trace, which includes packing out gear, detritus, and minimizing audio impact on fellow visitors.

Go for a short trip, or a long one. You can visit Isle Royale for as short as a few hours on a day trip, or as long as a season, and people do both. Most folks go for one to two weeks. This gives you the opportunity to hike longer loops, paddle more lakes and explore the different areas of the island. The park covers 894 square miles and offers over 165 miles of trails and 36 campgrounds, so there’s ample opportunity to wander, with ample views of the big lake, the flora and fauna and the fascinating geology.

It’s got history. With shipwrecks, lighthouses, old mines, and a human history that dates back thousands of years, there’s a ton to learn about and see on Isle Royale, and besides, there’s not much better than hiking your way through wilderness to find them.

There’s great fishing on the many lakes, and who doesn’t want to fish in a lake on an island in a lake on an island in a lake? Be sure to get a Michigan fishing license and follow local regulations. Bring along a Grand Marais Mail Bag as a handy fishing kit.

Just getting there is an adventure. As we mentioned, it’s an island, so access is limited, so to reach Isle Royale, you’ll need to book a ferry, a spot on a passenger or private ship, or hop in a float plane. Ferries are the typical means and take just a couple hours from Minnesota’s Grand Portage to reach the Windigo Visitor Center on the western end of the island. The weather at the time of the crossing will dictate how much of an adventure you’re in for.

To start planning your visit to Isle Royale National Park, get outfitted with some gear that’s fit for the field, like our Bushcraft or Woodsman Packs, then head on over to the National Park Service’s Isle Royale NP info page to find more info on transportation, permitting, regulation and more.

Cheers, and happy trails!

All photos on this page by Lacey and Alex Messenger, unless otherwise noted.

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Recap Frosted Fatty 2017

It is a crazy idea in a way…. racing down the snowpack of a ski hill, on a bike.

That was the scene at Spirit Mountain in Duluth for the running of the second annual Frosted Fatty race, and 2017 was the best yet!

The day started early with a cross country race, a new event for the 2017 Frosted Fatty. It was the first stage of the three tiered event. Racers pedaled with minimum 3” wide tires on either a 12K or 25K course through the woods, up steep hills and down through white knuckle turns on Spirit Mountain’s beautiful cross country ski trails.  Many of the bikes sported tires 5” or wider. The extra surface area allows riders to travel over the snow of the ski trails. Air pressure adjustments were made, many deciding to lower their air pressure. Harder tires allow more speed and easier pedaling, but softer tires provide better flotation and improved traction. It’s a balance that was still being adjusted on the trail, racers dialing it in until it was just right. At the end, prizes were awarded to the men’s and women’s race winners in both circuits, and smiles, high-fives, slaps on the back, and handshakes were exchanged heartily.

Onto the downhill!

After a safety inspection, competitors prepared for the increased speed that the slopes would offer. Race officials inspected each bike to be sure everything was tight. The race was a combined two run course with an open format where riders had an hour on each of two runs during which they could take as many runs as they wanted to get their best times in. The first course had more technical turns, the second course had bigger bumps for more air on the jumps. There were spinouts, spills, and wipeouts as the racers sped downhill. Spectators camped out along the course and enjoyed the interactions with racers as they whizzed by on the way down the hill. The open format allowed a more relaxed race and it seemed like everyone was having a blast on a beautiful, sunny, early March day. It was a fun afternoon for all involved. There was plenty of ski patrol and medical support on hand, happily there were no serious crashes for them to attend to… everyone stayed safe and got to the bottom of the hill in one piece, though one rider was forced to change out his handlebars after they bent on the landing of the last jump on the second course. He went on to win the race.

Dual Slalom

The main event of the competition was the evening’s Dual Slalom course. Open to fat bikers, skiers, and snowboarders, racers lined up two at a time to race side by side to the bottom of the course. There were jumps, berms, tight turns, and drop-offs to contend with as riders pushed down the course. At the top, many figured the skiers had the advantage, but the boarders and bikers kept up and gave the skiers a run for the money. And there was money at stake… $500 to the “king of the hill”. Dual elimination rules applied as riders worked to keep out of the consolation bracket. Kids competed against adults, skiers vs. boarders vs. bikers. The bikers needed to keep pedaling all the way down to keep up. The berms provided great banking to keep up the speed. There were perfect conditions all day and into the night as the well-built course held up to a solid three hours of side-by-side racing. On the final run for King of the Hill,  a biker and skier were neck and neck coming down the course. The skis carried a bit more speed than the bike though, and the skier finally took the win.

The whole day was so much fun! Great weather helped, but the overall atmosphere carried unique camaraderie brought out by the fat bike riders and fans. The bikes themselves instigate their own brand of fun-loving excitement. They carry a bit of comical-whimsy in a way. The oversized tires, like monster trucks and the contrast of spandex bike gear and costumes —The Surly team had some amazing garb— stood out on the bright snowpack of winter.  A person almost can’t help but smile seeing one of these bikes, it would be nearly impossible to not have a grin when riding over packed snow… especially when accelerating downhill with the help of gravity— carrying the knowledge that you get to ride the lift back up the hill to do it all again.

The Frosted Fatty.


You’ve never seen or even heard of anything like it. Cheers to Spirit Mountain and all of the other sponsors, racers, athletic supporters and everyone that made this great event happen. We already can’t wait for next year’s, the 3rd Annual Frosted Fatty!