You don’t have to travel far to find finely crafted outdoor equipment that stands up to the highest standards. Here are a few of the many manufacturers producing high-quality gear right here in the Blue Ridge.
1. Bedrock Sandals Huaraches
When Dan Opalacz and Nick Pence met each other in the AmeriCorps program several years ago, they were both into the growing barefoot running movement. Seeking freedom and simplicity, they eventually landed on huaraches, the traditional Mexican running sandal. The two friends decided to create a prototype: a slip-on huarache design with a buckle and some climbing straps and Bedrock Sandals was born. Today, Bedrocks are made with military grade parachute straps, thermo-plastic buckles, and a recycled bike tube heel strap.
2. SMAX Bros. Duffle Bags
Ever wonder what those huge roadside billboard signs are made of or what happens to old ones? Roswell, Ga. brothers Sam and Max Ovett did, and when they found out the signs were made from giant sheets of heavy duty vinyl, they decided to do something about what happens to them. Sam and Max began procuring used billboards and using some previous sewing experience, turned them into cavernous 105-liter, heavy-duty duffle bags for their kayaking gear. Because of the repurposed material, no two SMAX Bros. bags are the same and each can be considered a piece of art. The bag you receive depends on the color and pattern of the latest billboard the brothers can get their hands on.
3. Recover Brands Recover Tee
Recover co-founder Bill Johnston wants you to think about where your clothing came from.Recover garments are made from recycled plastic bottles and recycled cotton from the cutting room floor. The two are then sorted by color and blended to make a new fiber and sewn into garments. The whole process takes place in North Carolina and cuts greenhouse gas emissions 35 percent and energy consumption by 66 percent, making them both eco-friendly and affordable. Recover also provides their garments wholesale for eco-friendly companies and leads local river cleanups.
4. Mountain Laurel Designs TrailStar Ultra Lightweight Shelter
There were only a few ultra-lite manufacturers in the game 10 years ago when Ron Bell began to make super lightweight shelters out of his garage in Roanoke, Va. Mountain Laurel Designs now produces a wide range of shelters, bivies, packs, sleeping pads, and accessories for the ultra lightweight hiking community – Bell claims 25 percent of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers carry a piece of his gear. The MLD flagship is the award-winning TrailStar; a five-sided, two-man shelter that weighs in at a scant 17 ounces. Made with no zippers or doors and pitched at a low angle, the TrailStar sheds the harshest wind, rain, and snow.
5. Oyster Fly Rods Handmade Bamboo Fly Rod
Bill Oyster’s career as a maker of fine bamboo fly rods happened almost by chance. When a crash wrecked his pro cycling career, Oyster turned to fly fishing, and became fascinated with crafting bamboo fly rods. His made-to-order rods are now scattered across the U.S. and the globe, including custom builds for President Jimmy Carter. From his studio in Blue Ridge, Ga., Oyster handcrafts and hand-engraves rods that can take anywhere from 40 to 200 hours to make. Your finished rod will have the classic smooth action of bamboo, but with the added touch of being a handmade work of art.
6. Polarmax Comp 4 Men’s Crew
For 25 years, Polarmax has been an industry leader in next-to-skin apparel based out of Candor, North Carolina. Every one of their base layers bears the Made in the U.S.A. label. Even better, their operations are one of the greenest: they recycle most of their yarns and fibers and concentrate all of their production and shipping in the same Carolina headquarters. So you can feel good about feeling good in your Polarmax base layers. The Comp 4 Men’s Crew is the warmest base layer on the market. Made from a comfy blend of high-performance polyester and Spandex, Comp 4 Tech Fleece provides maximum mobility, enhanced breathability and moisture-wicking comfort in extreme conditions.