The northern Minnesota town of Ely, perched on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, earns the distinction of America’s canoe capital—so it makes sense that the community is also home to great manufacturers of wilderness gear. Kondos Outdoors stands out for its high-quality canoe packs and accessories, constructed out of simple, durable materials and sold at prices that seem far too reasonable. Product manager Mark Bartell says everyone working at the company’s downtown Ely facility spends time at a sewing machine at one point or another. “My hope is that we can grow so that I never have to sit behind a machine except to do prototypes and design,” he admits. The 40-year-old company’s Cordura nylon canoe packs range from traditional envelope-style portage packs to designs that borrow features from modern hiking packs, like hip belts and sternum straps. The build quality is just right—water-resistant, quick to dry, and not over-engineered with redundant features—speaking to the small team’s canoe-tripping experience.
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