20 Top Outdoor Gear Brands Making a Difference in the Pandemic

Outdoor Industry
Erin Brosterhous (InsideOut)

To evoke Patrick Henry, Founding Father and hero of the American Revolution, “now is the time.” Now is the time for all good men—and all good women, all good individuals, period—to come to the aid of their country. While the severe health and economic fallout of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had ripple effects across the globe, individuals and communities alike are organizing and stepping up to help front-line responders and medical personnel. The outdoor industry, a tight-knit community that prides itself on encouraging people to “play outdoors,” is being particularly proactive.

The list grows every day as more and more brands retrofit factories to make personal protection equipment (PPE), such as visors, masks, gowns, gloves and goggles—as does the number of companies who are donating dollars, supplies and manpower to help hospitals, SAR teams, firefighters and police. An added bonus is that these brands are also able to keep employees working.

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The net impact of outdoor companies, both big and small, who are getting creative with their contributions is expanding as well. Columbia Sportswear Co. CEO Tim Boyle hacked his annual salary from $950,000 to $10,000 to free up more money to pay employees. The brand has started a #toughertogether campaign to help athletes inspire and entertain the homebound. One the smaller, local level, one-man-brands like Cubicle Surf in Bend, Ore., parted with some of its essential gear, such as filters for respirators. “I shape surfboards and rely on respirators, but when I heard Oregon’s AirLink was running short on filters, I went through my closet and donated them,” says Cubicle Founder Travis Yamada. “It’s not much, but I wanted to help. I can reuse the one in my respirator; I’m building surf boards, not saving lives.”

Here are a few top U.S. outdoor gear manufacturers who have figured out a way to give back.

Melanzana Leadville, Colo.
Melanzana has a near-cult following for its cozy fleece hoodies. Now the brand has suspended all apparel production to exclusively focus on making masks for local healthcare workers. The two-layer masks are sent to hospitals where they are sterilized and sealed in autoclaves. The immediate goal is 1,000, but the brand says more are on the way.

Thule Malmö, Sweden and Seymour, Conn.
Thule, the Swedish luggage, rack, pack and stroller powerhouse, has put its U.S. headquarters in Connecticut to work to help in the fight against COVID-19.  The brand is using 3D printers to create plastic components for face shields to aid hospital staff at St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, Conn. Production is in full swing and Thule hopes to expand its outreach.

outdoor brands

Chaco Rockford, Mich.
If you like the water, chances are you’ve sported a pair of Chaco sandals. Chaco has shifted the focus of its Michigan-based ReChaco factory and mobile factory bus from sandal repairs and product customization to the production of face masks and other critical protective equipment. It deployed its ReChaco Mobile Repair Factory Bus that’s outfitted with sewing machines and hot knives to help Pacific Northwest protective equipment production.

Salewa Bolzano, Italy
Salewa is based in hard-hit Italy. The brand makes apparel, footwear and backpacks for alpinists. It’s partner, TuTwo manages Salewa in China, another area heavily impacted by COVIF-19. Through its contacts with TuTwo, Salewa has flown six plane-loads to Italy, with millions of masks and hundreds of thousands of protective coats for use in the South Tyrol region (northern Italy and southern Austria, including the world-class alpine playground of the Dolomites). See how the logistics are handled:

Q36.5 Bolzano, Italy
Another Dolomiti company, Q36.4, a manufacturer of high-end bike apparel, has tackled the problem of athletes needing to wear masks. And it is keeping people in the shell-shocked country employed. The Q36.5 Face Masks are made from a proprietary UF Hybrid Shell, a super high-density woven fabric functions as an excellent barrier while not restricting air intake. The hydro-repellency feature blocks bacteria and water vapor. Silver fiber in the fabric adds antibacterial properties. These masks are being sold to the public.

Kitsbow Old Fort, N.C.
Sartorially savvy mountain bikers know Kitsbow. The North Carolina-based apparel company has changed over its production of bibs, jerseys and gloves to make face shields and masks. Most of the PPE is going to healthcare workers and first responders in Western North Carolina, although they are expanding production, shipping outside the state.

NRS Moscow, Idaho
This employee-owned innovator in all products paddlesports is now focusing on a new mission. The Idaho-based company has redirected a portion of its supply chain to providing surgical masks, goggles, and gowns to the Moscow Volunteer Fire Department. It’s also offering medical facilities fair-market pricing. So far, about 30,000 respirator masks have been distributed from NRS’s Moscow headquarters.

Mystery Ranch Bozeman, Mont.
Dana Gleason, the owner of the Bozeman-based pack company, has lead the outdoor industry for five decades. It’s no surprise that he was among the first to find solutions to the PPE shortage. The brand has made and delivered more than 300 “mystery” masks to local healthcare providers and is ramping up to produce thousands of masks (per week) for public consumption. The company is creating a better fitting mask, using high-end materials (polyester with an antimicrobial finish) found in shoulder pads and footwear. The washable masks wick moisture and sweat, are comfortable, and add protection for hiking, biking and shopping.

Mystery 1
Making the Mystery Ranch mystery masks Erin Brosterhous (InsideOut)

Simms Bozeman, Mont.
Social consciousness is alive and well in Bozeman. Simms Fishing Products makes waders, footwear and technical apparel for anglers worldwide. Upon hearing about PPE shortages, the brand quickly went into action. Simms dug through its inventory of on-site fabrics and found a three-layer waterproof, breathable material that met medical requirements for gowns. Simms is supplying Bozeman Health Group with the protective gear and is working on broader distribution.

CLIF BAR Emeryville, Calif.
As Napoleon said, an army marches on its stomach. Nurses and doctors get hungry too. CLIF BAR is donating 3 million CLIF BARs to health care workers worldwide. The bars are made in CLIF BAR’s bakeries in Twin Falls, Idaho and Indianapolis, and then shipped to hospitals and healthcare facilities around the world.

Osprey Cortez, Colo.
Osprey has been lightening the loads of backpackers, hikers, skiers and bikers for years, but now they are stepping up to help first responders and healthcare workers in southern Colorado. The southwestern Colorado facility usually handles pack repairs; now the facility is dedicated to making fabric masks.

Metolius Climbing Bend, Ore.
Metolius, a lead designer and manufacturer of climbing equipment, sent 1,000 surgical masks from its own stockpile to China when the outbreak first occurred in Asia. Now Metolius’s partners in China are returning the favor. The factory that makes belay gloves shipped 900 masks to Metolius’s headquarters. The brand’s training board source is sending another 500. All the masks are being donated to St. Charles Hospital in Bend.

Canada Goose Toronto
Canada Goose, known for its puffy down jackets, dedicated its Toronto and Winnipeg factories to making scrubs and gowns for local hospitals. The company has pledged to make at least 10,000 units, and distribute them to local medical centers, free of charge. That’s also good news for the 100 employees who are working on the project.

DPS Skis, Goal Zero, Petzl and Eastman Machine Company
In the greater Salt Lake City area, DPS, Goal Zero, Petzl and Eastman Machine Co., have teamed up to manufacture medical-grade reusable polycarbonate face shields for the Utah Department of Health. All four companies are uniquely positioned for rapid prototype-to-manufacturing. The face shields are being made at DPS’s Salt Lake City factory. Eastman is donating the tooling, Goal Zero has sourced the necessary raw materials, and Petzl figured out that retrofitted headlamp headbands work perfectly to secure the shields. Read more on the effort, plus other outdoor brands pivoting to the production of emergency protective gear.

Courtesy DPS, Petzl, Eastman, Goal Zero

Arc’teryx Vancouver, B.C.
The coronavirus doesn’t recognize borders. In North Vancouver, high-end apparel and pack manufacturer Arc’teryx worked with local health authorities and neighboring manufacturing and design partners to prototype a medical gown. Their team of sewers, engineers, sample and pattern makers provided the first production of 500 Level 3 certified gowns to healthcare workers in their own backyard. Production is ramping up to fulfill the next order of 25,000 gowns.

Outdoor Research Seattle
Outdoor Research has always been one step ahead in sensing trends and developing unique product. OR has pivoted production in part of its Seattle to produce hundreds of thousands of ASTM (American Society for Testing Materials), Level 3 surgical masks, and N95 cup-style masks a day (you read that right) by early summer. In addition to converting an entire floor to facilitate production, OR invested in five new machines. Mask deliveries will begin in early May.

Dakine Hood River, Ore.
Dakine has is a community brand at heart. At its headquarters near the Columbia River Gorge, the apparel, pack and luggage brand has shifted production in order to build 5,000 to 6,000 face masks. The company is also making cotton-base mask kits for home use. We’re hoping for some fun patterns.

Eddie Bauer Bellevue, Wash.
Considering that Eddie Bauer developed the first baffled down jacket, we aren’t surprised it is doing some sophisticated problem-solving to meet PPE shortages. It realized that some of its manufacturing partners in China are able to make the much-needed N95 masks. Eddie Bauer converted some of its production in China and ordered masks instead. So far, 20,000 masks are making their way to Seattle-area hospitals.

DaleBoot Salt Lake City
DaleBoot has applied its expertise in making bespoke ski boots and orthotics into creating much-needed protective face shields. The brand put on hold all boot and orthotic production at its Salt Lake City headquarters and is ramping up support for our medical communities.

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By this point, you may have also read about the Goggles For Docs effort, with brands like Vermont-based Anon, as well as both Smith (Portland, Ore.) and 100% (San Diego) announcing programs that will provide PPEs to those working hardest against the spread of the coronavirus. Smith is currently sending out goggles to fulfill hospital requests and it is asking the riding community to donate goggles or money to the cause. 100% has announced that so far it has donated over 1,000 pairs of eyewear to caregivers who are being asked to buy their own PPE. Meanwhile Bell and Giro have donated over 3,000 protective goggles to healthcare workers, distributed from Vista Outdoor’s Rantoul, Illinois manufacturing and distribution facility and delivered to hospitals and other public health facilities in 18 states and 41 different healthcare facilities.

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More and more outdoor companies join the ranks by the day, with Orvis, based in Vermont, working together with local partners near its Roanoke, Va., fulfillment center to manufacture masks for their vulnerable homeless population, directly supporting Roanoke-based nonprofit Rescue Mission, and collaborating with local furniture manufacturer Chervan to cut patterns, which Orvis uses to stitch together the masks. ExOfficio, headquartered in Rohnert Park, Calif., is supporting healthcare professionals and patients across the Bay Area with brand new underwear, expecting to deliver 10,000 pairs once all inquiries have been fielded and locations fulfilled—with more than 1,200 pairs already shipped to Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco. On the opposite coast, athletic apparel manufacturer Boathouse (Philadelphia) is shifting its factory production to create PPEs for local healthcare professionals. And Swiftwick Socks (Brentwood, Tenn.) announced a Buy One, Give One initiative where the brand will donate a pair of ASPIRE Twelve compression socks to medical professionals and support staff for every pair purchased, or every $5 donation collected at checkout.

Orvis employees, working on masks for Virginia’s vulnerable homeless population.


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