View Full Version : Independent Gear Manufacturers?

09-29-2004, 16:46
Can we start listing quality gear makers here? I can only think of Patagonia and Chaco.

09-29-2004, 19:33
My favorite is Mountain Equipment Co-Op that makes a lot of their own in-store brands...it's kind of like the Canadian version of REI. For all you Americans out there with the exchange rate it's a pretty good deal. They have an excellent mail-order program as well as a great return policy if you're not happy. I can't really think of a piece of gear I've bought from there that I've been dissapointed with. Check it out at www.mec.ca

09-29-2004, 19:42
MEC is pretty killer. I wish we had them in the States, but supposedly the business model that they operate under would make them illegal here. I've gotten nothing but fantastic gear from them at ridiculously low prices, particularly in the clothing area. The Vancouver and Calgary stores are top notch, the Toronto one is so-so. Far, far better than REI. Unfortunately, with mail order, many of the items (Arc'teryx, Gregory, MSR, Charlet-Moser, Boreal, etc) cannot be shipped to the US because of price differences: The Canadians pay much less, and the American distributors don't like it, so they filed suit. All the MEC branded stuff can be shipped.

09-30-2004, 09:10
I was in Calgary over the summer and would have loved to check out MEC. I will definitely check them out. I like supporting the smallerish independently owned guys.

09-30-2004, 10:18
I don't know what your definition of quality gear makers is but I have a list. I thought Chouinard sold Patagonia long ago.

Most of the equipment makers fall victim to the SUV syndrome. SUVís are good on neither roads or off roads because they are a compromise. A lot of equipment makers are started by people that want to make good, practical products. Then they realize that to become big companies they need to appeal to occasional users. Additional features are added and the weight of the product increases. To meet the price point for mass marketed goods the production is moved overseas and the quality of materials is reduced.

It seems that the quality makers have made the decision to stay small.

Bozeman Mountain Works


Dancing Light Gear


Feathered Friends


Gossamer Gear


Light Weight Gear


McHale Packs


Nunatak Gear


Oware Gear


Moonbow Gear


Six Moon Designs




ULA Equipment


Western Mountaineering


Antigravity Gear




Hennessy Hammock


Speer Hammocks


09-30-2004, 11:03
Thanks! That's a list and what I'm talking about. The Lost Arrow Corp is parent to Patagonia. Whhhhoopps. Still some of the best clothing. And I really liked your SUV comparison.

10-01-2004, 13:48
Lost Arrow Corp, which is owned by Yvon Chouinard, is the parent company for Patagonia as well as Lotus Designs (PFD's and other paddling gear), Water Girl (womens surf and beach/island wear), Point Blanks (surf boards - at least I think that is the name of the company), Beneficial Tees (organic cotton tees), and Great Pacific Iron Works (retail shop out in CA, similar to the Patagonia stores). Several years ago,due to a lawsuit over liability, Chouinard sold Chouinard Equipment to an employee ownership group and it became Black Diamond.
A few other "outdoor conglomerates", if you want to call them that, would be Cascade Designs which owns MSR, ThermaRest, Sealine (drybags and paddling gear), Pack Towel, and Camp K-9 (I think). Columbia owns Mountain Hardwear, Salomon owns Arc'teryx. Moonstone is currently owned by the London Fog Corp (moonstone has had numerous owners over the years), and The North Face is owned by the Vanity Fair Corp. A few years ago Dana Gleason sold Dana Designs to the K2 Company. After a few years of retirement, he then founded Mystery Ranch.

Jack Tarlin
10-01-2004, 14:05
Even the former "Independent" companies such as MSR or Mountain Hardwear are generally given a good leaving alone by their new corporate parents.

My all-time favorite gear companies, in no particular order:

*Osprey Packs (16,000 plus miles wearing their stuff)

*Mountain Hardwear (7 consecutive A.T. Thru-hikes using the SAME tent;
also, great sleeping bags, outerwear, etc).

*Outdoor Research (Great stuff, especially clothing accessories such as
hats, gloves, etc).

*MSR (Consistently provided top-quality gear;
great customer service)

*Lowe Alpine (Great outerwear)

*Merrell Boots (I've worn about everything over the years, but was
happiest with Merrell).

If I were ever going to switch, and money was no object, I think Marmot makes consistently top-notch stuff and Western Mountaineering is probably the best I know of for sleeping bags.

Best newer gear company: Granite Gear, who probably now makes the
most popular packs seen on the A.T.

10-01-2004, 14:10
nice. Marmot is indeed quality. Will Ma Boyle market Mountain Hardwear now?

I read up online somewhere that stated Columbia wanted more of the adventure/mountaineer segment, and got it thru Mtn Hrdwr. Being outside is one thing, being in the business of being outside is another! As is evident with the conglomerate faction.