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American Made Travel Stuff

I did an online search for USA made travel gear. Except for Tom Bihn - most of what I am finding is outdoor/hiking - heavy duty gear. For backpacks - LL Bean has linked with a small Maine company called flow fold.
Maybe we should all consider diverting some of our travel "luxury" money toward USA products - even if the items are more expensive.

Posted by
8328 posts

SBF, I think RedOxx is another US manufacturer of travel gear. People have been making the same argument as long as I've been alive, and most people will still choose saving their money.

Posted by
6900 posts

I love my LL Bean lightweight daypack and their toiletries hanging kit! I’m using both of them in Cambodia right now.

Posted by
4431 posts

I bought a pack from a MEI...Mountain Equipment Inc...from Fresno, CA. I guess they fit in the 'outdoor' label, but their Voyageur bag was for many years on the One Bag travel blog. I bought it as it is aircraft sized and weighs 3 pounds. It has a proper internal frame and a good hip belt, but is a clamshell opening. It is luggage, not a hiking pack.

Posted by
6598 posts

Another enthusiastic vote for MEI packs. I've been using them for years and still do. Great gear.

Posted by
5835 posts

If the goal of "voting" our travel dollars towards made in the USA travel products is to help reduce the US trade deficit, the reduction will be of round off significance in comparison to the dollars converted to FX for on the ground expenses in foreign lands. And some of us are even choosing to fly overseas on foreign airlines. Keep in mind that the cost of an expensive travel bag over a 20 year life is the price of a couple of beers in Sandanavia.

But even if you fee the urge to Buy America, you choices are limited. An Alliance for American Manufacturing blog report looked at LL Bean (Maine) offerings. The AAM blog reported that while all of the LL Bean canoes were made in the US (in Maine), all of the Bean fly reels were made in Korea and waders and wading shoes made in China along with Bean's large duffle bags. You can by Bean ditty sacks made in Washington (USA).
http://www.americanmanufacturing.org/blog/entry/does-l.l.-bean-keep-it-made-in-america

The message is regardless of the politics of LL Bean owners, they and we are in a global economy. A look at Patagonia's (an American company) supply chain foot print illustrates globalization: https://www.patagonia.com/footprint.html

Posted by
3916 posts

We bought several JandD travel packs and our two backpacks, which we still use, from the manufacturer when they were located at a warehouse in Santa Barbara. Long ago they moved closer to San Diego but their products are still US made. In Santa Barbara we could watch people sewing packs and we’d shop in the seconds bins. I understand that they still have a warehouse near San Diego but I’ve never been there.

EDIT: We also had the big Patagonia facility and headquarters near us in Ventura and there’s an outlet store of a different name where we’d shop nearby.

My go to travel shoes are Teva and their facility and outlet store were nearby.

I’m missing my local outlet shopping this morning. It’s not the same ordering it online. 😢

Posted by
1838 posts

Thanks All! I know buying USA made can take some research. I understand that components can come from many countries. It's a job finding something purely made in USA. LLBean marks whether an item is imported or USA made if you check.

Posted by
1194 posts

Thirding MEI Voyageur travel packs. It has an incredible backpack suspension. I used it all over South America and it was very comfortable.

My trip was 5-1/2 weeks of mountain trekking, jungles, and a cruise. I was able to go carry on only with a single bag. (The personal item fit inside the main bag). It’s just as comfy as a regular suspension backpack, but follows carry on sizing.

Posted by
15791 posts

That Bean ditty sack “made in Washington” might be made in the Washington Corrections Center (medium-security prison) at Monroe.

When I toured the facility as part of my job years ago, we saw the sewing facility where inmates with good records and low security level could earn (low) wages sewing gear and garments, or using embroidery machines to apply logos. I saw brands like Eddie Bauer, Kuhl, and LLBean being made.

I checked their website and they have this page with lots of items on offer, with a disclaimer regarding branded Nike, North Face, Eddie Bauer, and other gear.

https://www.companycasuals.com/correctionalindustries/start.jsp

Quite a shopping opportunity. Now I know where our “District Made” tees that came in the swag for our REI Adventures Tour du Mont Blanc guided hike was made. Never saw that brand before. It actually fits and I like it.

On this page you can see the uniforms and underwear (including Playtex bras) they make too.

https://www.washingtonci.com/products-services/textiles/garments.html

All this stuff can be labeled “Made in the USA”.

Posted by
5835 posts

USA prison made is an interesting story. Another Made in the USA is the Made in (Saipan) USA story that thankfully came to a halt in 2009.

...in the 1980s, garment manufacturing became one of the main economic driving forces in Saipan when the U.S. government agreed that the Commonweath of Northern Mariana Islands would be exempted from certain federal minimum wage and immigration laws. While one result of these changes was an increase in hotels and tourism, the main consequence was that dozens of garment factories opened and clothing manufacturing became the island's chief economic force, employing thousands of foreign contract laborers (mostly young Chinese women) at low wages. *The manufacturers could legally label these low cost garments "Made in the U.S.A." and the clothing shipped to the U.S. market was also exempt from U.S. tariffs*. By 1998, the Saipan garment industry exported close to $1 billion worth of apparel products to the mainland. The working conditions and treatment experienced by employees in these factories were the subject of controversy and criticism [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saipan]

The End of an Era
The Garment Factory Era on Saipan has come to an end. From a high of 36 factories back in the mid to late 1990s, the last factory closed on January 15, 2009.
Gone are the throngs of Chinese girls walking arm in arm along Beach road. Gone are the vans shuttling the girls from their barracks to shop at and congregate at Fiesta Mall, outside Sunleader Supermarket, San Jose Mart or 99 Cents Store. The girls riding their bicycles to and from work, while holding umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun are few and far between.
But while the closures are beyond debate, opinions about the factories themselves, what they represented, and what their ultimate legacy will be in the ongoing story of Saipan rages on.
There are those who saw them as a good thing, a boon to the local economy, providing jobs and tax revenue. Others see them as a blight, a blemish on the reputation and perception of Saipan, CNMI.

[http://www.saipanfactorygirl.com/facts/]

Posted by
32155 posts

Just to confirm, Red Oxx is indeed a U.S. firm, based in Billings, Montana. As I recall, the owners are former Green Beret parachute riggers. The products they make are extremely rugged and exceptional quality, and they will probably outlast many of us.

I have a couple of their products and would highly recommend them. Incidentally, they now offer customizing services. If you want a special version of one of their products, they should be able to provide it.

Posted by
32257 posts

Can't you tell by the price tag? If it suddenly jumped it probably isn't?

Posted by
6598 posts

@Lola - Thank you so much for the link to the Washington Corrections Center online store. Just up the road in Monroe and I had no idea. Now maybe I can find a decent shirt that's blissfully free of annoying corporate advertising.

@Ken - Thank you, too, for the link to Red Oxx, I had never heard of them. Their gear looks great, and the company looks cool, too. I'm already eyeing an item or two and will surely make a point of visiting their B&M store next time I'm in/near Billings.

I'm still trying to find any trace of that so-called LL Bean Ditty Bag allegedly made in Seattle (my ditties are loose and scattered all over the place, I really need to bag them up). I searched all over the LL Bean site and could not find anything like that (made in Seattle or Saipan). If anyone ever finds a link to those, please post it.

This is a great thread, thanks to all who have already contributed and I hope others will continue to post links to their favorite high quality, perhaps-obscure gear manufacturers.

Posted by
1838 posts

Thanks! I really like the Red Oxx Lil' Hombre and Bihn Synapse 19. These smaller bags fit me better. I like more straight forward bags without a lot of bells and whistles. Red Ox uses USA-made paracord, then has its zipper pulls made in Guatemala. I outsourced my family by finding my child in Guatemala - so, I'm okay with that. I hope the Guatemalans are well-paid.
Fair-trade is an ethical business practice.

Posted by
80 posts

I would like to second Ken's comments about Red Oxx. We have a dozen or so of their bags (6 of them are Market totes which I use for groceries and the rest for luggage, toiletries, etc.) . My youngest grandson has used the K-12 Kat backpack for 4+ years (grades 2-6 currently) for his school backpack and it still looks great. He is hard on his gear so the fact that it still looks great is a testament to the quality of Red Oxx. My husband and a both have the Nomad toiletry bag as well as a PR 5, a Gator, a Lil'Roy, etc. My next purchase will be a Skytrain. I have given Lil Roys, Market Totes and Nomads as gifts over the years and they are still going strong. I use the Gator for my work briefcase to carry my Surface Pro along with various work essentials so if you have something similar, it will fit easily. Red Oxx has a guarantee that if it tears up, the company will either repair or replace it.

Posted by
32155 posts

I can also attest to the quality of Red Oxx products. I just returned from a short trip using my Air Boss and as usual it worked well. The thing is so rugged, it's almost bullet proof. Red Oxx prides themselves on having gear that can be thrown on the roof of a safari vehicle in Africa and even if it falls off it will still be usable.

I also have a customized Safari-Beanos PR-4 that I've been using for carry-on and camera gear. I had lime yellow lining added to the interior of each pocket, and it's really sharp looking. The company was exceptional in keeping me in the loop as it was manufactured.

Not to forget Tom Bihn, they're also an excellent U.S. made product, and I'm loading up my Tri-Star now for a trip I'll be making in a few days. It's my preferred bag for domestic air travel. I've often wondered whether it would suffice for a two week European trip, but haven't tested that concept yet. I haven't mastered the art of "packing light" yet.

Posted by
2630 posts

I am Scottish ,why should I buy USA made travel gear, like Trumps Make America Great Again hats I will stick to Chinese made goods.

Posted by
1838 posts

Unclegus,
Is there Scotland made luggage? I found that Oban is a great place to buy rain gear. We bought a really good coat for our child there. Unfortunately, she outgrew it and I could not find the brand in USA for a replacement.

Posted by
2630 posts

I have no idea,I just buy the stuff that suits my needs,share the love I say.
Just bought a new carry on suitcase from TK Maxx ,no idea where it was made but it was the size and style that I wanted and within the price range I was willing to pay. will have a look when I get home and find out if I can see a country it was made in.

Posted by
32155 posts

Many of the popular luggage products (Eagle Creek and others) are now made in Vietnam or countries in that part of the world. It's getting more difficult to find luggage made in North America. It's likely the TK Maxx product will be from the far east.

Posted by
14601 posts

Please remember that in the U.S. there is a new 10% tariff on Chinese made travel goods that increases to 25% in January.

Almost all of the "Made in the USA" travel items are from small, online only, direct to consumer companies. The cost would be prohibitive if a retailer was added to the mix that would have to make a profit as well.

Posted by
2630 posts

well my new carry on case is made in China,got it from TK Maxx,for £44.49 reduced from a RRP of £120. no idea of the make can't see any name on it just a logo I don't recognise .I went through a load of my travel gear, shirts and fleeces designed in the UK but made in China,Bangaldesh ,Pakistan and India.A compressable fleece from Harvey and Jones ,very English sounding but made in Hong Kong,trekking shoes made in India and China but I do have some polo shirts made in the UK. Brands are mainly Regatta, Mountain Warehouse and Craghopper.
I even looked at a leather jacket I bought at a market in Kuwait city several years ago and that was made in Bangladesh.
No American gear at all though I do have some beer glasses from the Granite City brewery in Kansas city. no idea where they were made.

Posted by
32155 posts

It seems to be harder to find locally made products in a lot of categories.

One somewhat humorous example last year was the Canadian government buying millions of small Canadian flags to celebrate our 150th birthday. These were of course made in China, which raised a few eyebrows.

This is a less humorous example of buying foreign made products - https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=114182073

Posted by
5835 posts

Made in the USA may not mean made to fair labor standards.
https://wwd.com/business-news/government-trade/sweatshops-persist-in-u-s-garment-industry-10716742/

Sweatshops Persist in U.S. Garment Industry December 5, 2016

The irony is that the Made in America movement might be fueling the
use of sweatshops, according to government officials.

The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Administrator David Weil said
after years of research, investigators have found that the root of the
problem lies squarely with the pricing structure dictated by retailers
and officials are addressing it by holding meetings with retailers to
show them their findings.

Posted by
1257 posts

I'm a Brit and my latest backpack is from US company Osprey. Made in Vietnam/China!

I've also got several Lowe Alpine packs, and I understand that this company originated in the US, but it doesn't seem to feature in any recommendation/use comments. Maybe it's been bought out by Europeans and now is mainly available here? Good kit whatever, and surely that's the most important thing?

Ian

Posted by
1221 posts

Both Red Oxx and Tom Bihn keep everything they can in-house and are glad to give you a factory tour if you let them know you're coming.

Posted by
7060 posts

Things change. Those jobs are not coming back. Loss of poorly-paid, repetitive-motion disorder causing factory work is not necessarily all bad for the U.S. There are now more Yoga instructors in the U.S. than there are people working in the coal industry. ("Daddy, Don't Go To The Mines, Today") This phrase replaces last year's "There are more Alternative Energy workers in the state of California alone than there are people working in the coal industry."

It's true that guys who hid in the back row of high school algebra are afraid to take a class to upgrade their Drill Press skills to programming the CNC machine their boss bought. But just as young people today have to adapt over the years, older people do too. My union spends gobs of "our" money (not the employers') for training classes, to make sure our employers are GLAD to call the office for (Gig Economy! ... ) workers.

Posted by
5697 posts

But if your only objection is sending US dollars abroad, consider scouting the local charity stores/ church rummage sales for previously-owned travel items. The money will stay local.