Our country was built on our ability to make what we needed. It’s part of our history, our independence, and everything we’ve done and accomplished since. We’ve been able to make what we needed and make it well, in some cases, the best. That craftiness is part of our identity; we’re a country of thinkers, builders, collaborators and makers. Recent history, however, has us outsourcing a portion of our national pride as we hire others to make goods for us. But lately, there’s been a resurgence of that pride, the sense of quality, community, and accomplishment that comes from local goods. People across the country and around the world are again appreciating and supporting the quality of goods made in this country… and for good reason, we really do make good stuff here! Around the Frost River shop, we’re happy for the American-Made movement, excited to be part of the wave of well-crafted made in USA goods and the benefits that it brings to us, to our partners, and to our customers.
What sets American-Made apart?
It’s the right way for us. We couldn’t imagine anyone else making Frost River gear. We take pride in what we make and take care of our team. American manufacturing must meet industrial environmental standards to help reduce pollution, labor laws to keep workers safe, ensure kids aren’t building bags, and promote safe working conditions. Energy costs and impacts are reduced when finished goods don’t need to transported across oceans, only to be shipped over and over. The American economy gets a bigger boost when products are built here, bought here, and money is re-invested in our local economy.
A 2013 Time Magazine article states that “American workers are busy making things that customers around the world want to buy — and defying the narrative of the nation’s supposedly inevitable manufacturing decline,” it goes on to cover the bottom line, “Every $1 of manufacturing activity returns $1.48 to the economy”. At Frost River, 100% of the manufacturing of our packs and bags happens here in Duluth, Minnesota USA. It’s important to us, we take pride in building the best bags around and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Sure, workers outside the US could build bags kind of like what we make at Frost River; the materials and designs are simple, tried and true, traditional, un-complicated. We don't make technical packs, with micro-porous nano-fibers in twenty different colors, and there are very talented sewers all over the world. Making everything here though, at the tip of Lake Superior, under one roof does allow us to offer better bags. We don’t deal in orders for hundreds and thousands of units for Q4 delivery, we handcraft small batches by hand. Having our own manufacturing operation affords us total control of the process. We can refine designs, adjust styles, customize packs, offer add-ons, and variations for straps and pockets. Building the bags ourselves and knowing how a bag is made means we can take it apart, make repairs with patches and new components, and get it back out in the world working as a trusty bag should.
Manufacturing independence allows us to control our supply chain, what goes into our Reliable Softgoods. The raw materials we use are specifically chosen for premium quality. Our field tan waxed canvas is made by the seventh generation of the Martin family in New Jersey. Frost River leather comes from the hard working Minnesotans at the S.B. Foot Tannery in Red Wing and comes to us in full hides. We get our solid brass buckles and hardware from Chicago, webbing from New York, buckskin from Wisconsin and possibly the most important…. our coffee is roasted down the street, by the folks at Duluth Coffee Co.
We put pride and integrity into each Frost River pack and bag. Each artisan builds our bags from start to finish, not piecemeal, part, assembly line robotaton-style. At the end of the day, each craftsperson can point to a set of bags and say, “I built those.” We’re proud to keep a craft alive, building our reliable softgoods the best way possible, blending time-tested materials with modern and traditional techniques, offering a lifetime guarantee to stand behind everything we make. There are easier ways to make things, less expensive materials, places where it’s cheaper to have someone else do our work for us, but this is the right way to build Frost River gear. It’s not easy being American manufacturers, but it’s worth it for us as a business, for you, for the bags, and for all of us in this country— helping to keep our neighbors working and our country strong and independent in a global economy.
Happy Independence Day, and thanks for supporting businesses making good stuff right here, in America. Cheers!