Made in America!

I recently had the privilege of touring the headquarters of Cascade Designs in Seattle, Washington.  Cascade Designs is responsible for a broad variety of some of the most important gear we use in the pursuit of outdoor fun.  MSR stoves, cookware, filters, snowshoes and tents, Platypus hydration products, SealLine water proof bags, and or course, Therm-a-Rest sleep systems.  With the exception of a few products, including MSR tents and some other sewn goods , the majority of products are manufactured in a complex of closely grouped buildings in Seattle, employing 350+ workers and operating multiple manufacturing and testing lines in three shifts daily.

If you’re like me, you like to see how things are made.  I’ve come to know that it is surprising how much goes into getting a product from raw material to retail-ready goods.  The two hour tour I took allowed me to watch manufacturing lines in operations making nearly all of Cascade’s products.   MSR stoves, snowshoes, filters, Platy reservoirs, Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads, camp pillows, and RF-welded SealLine dry bags and E-Case waterproof electronic cases were all actively in production during my visit.

While much of the gear we use seems expensive at the time of purchase – if you saw all the steps that go into building and testing of the gear you’d be amazed at how inexpensive the gear is! Here are couple things I didn’t realize going into the visit:

  • Every MSR stove is burn tested to ensure proper function and safety (the ‘S’ in MSR stands for safety)
  • Every MSR ceramic  filter is tested for water flow
  • Every Therm-a-Rest pad is tested for 48 hours to ensure there are no leaks
  • Every single SealLine E-case is tested to confirm complete water tightness
It was also great to learn that the compressible camp pillow was developed as a way to make use of the little foam cores that are removed from Therm-a-Rest pads in the process of lightening them.  The pillowcases were being sewn as we walked through.
Cascade Designs is an innovator in its design of consumer products but what few people probably realize is that this has forced them to become innovators in industrial processes as well.  Many of the Cascade products you use on each of your camping trips starts with a “what if,” coming from an employee or even a consumer.  Since many of these ideas come from out of the box thinking, part of the process to bring those products to market entails building new equipment that can meet the design demands of the new product specs.  Cascade engineers are responsible for this as well as the basic design of your favorite sleeping pads, filters, and stoves.

What struck me during my tour was that all of this was going on in our country while so much of what we consume in the outdoor industry is being made overseas and shipped here.  Building product in the US does more than provide jobs for Americans, it helps reduce the carbon footprint of these products.   It also allows a company like Cascade Designs to be nimble and responsive to the demands of consumers and to tweak design. While It can be a challenge to find Made-in-the-USA products in the outdoor industry, Cascade Designs continues to manufacture in Seattle and continues to grow and to innovate.   When you’re looking for gear for your next trip, remember that Cascade is not only making some of the industry’s favorite products, but doing so right here within our borders.

 

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