Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Made in America and Yankee Ingenuity...

Maureen cruising icy trails with a Figure Four Pack.

A few weeks ago I spent time with Steven Demsky. He is a designer of cutting edge backpacks for his tiny company Figure Four. I had tested out his pack with Maureen while engaging some rough hiking and climbing.

I have always been fascinated by individuals that express themselves well in the design sphere and bridge their creativity with utilitarian necessity. When a product enhances not only the consumers mobility and efficacy navigating the wilds, the longevity of a resource and natural world, and also manages to be ecologically winning in terms of materials and manufacture location and processes -- I feel the shrinking optimist within me blossom with hope.

Over the years I have become expert at thrashing gear--commercial backpacking guide in the Grand Canyon and remote southern Utah and Yellowstone, avid trad climber, copywriter and photographer and gear review writer, I have tested and shot dozens of products from a myriad of companies. CRKT's knives and metal iPhone cases, Darn Tough unkillable socks and Patagonia's eco-groovy shoes  - as well as backpacks from Osprey, Lowe and Mile High Mountaineering... 
My feet atop the Prow
I had the amazing good fortune to interview Tom Frost and learn about design aspects and testing of vertical gear that paved the way for the clean climbing era. I profiled an eccentric Ojai artist Dennis Shives that has designed crazy bubble wands, rubber band guns and near-mystical carvings of bears and spoons... 

More questions than answers emerged as I spent time with Steven, the satellite engineer turned pack designer, at his house and World Headquarters for Figure Four in Vancouver Washington. I was given the grand tour amongst industrial sewing machines and bar tackers and boxes of rolled up material, watched his computer screen in awe as he crunched numbers and coaxed three dimensions from two, I watched fabric tear as he tested pack material with different bar tacks in his garage climbing wall/testing lab...

1. How does a new upstart pack company compete with the big boys without going overseas to manufacture?

2. What does Made in the USA really mean?Better quality product? Is it worth the extra cost?

3. How do you get prices down with smaller numbers of product when the big boys can get the bulk discounts and throw extra $ into the advertising behemoth and the world market?

4. Does it matter that this product could be the best out there if the consumer is to apathetic or uninspired to understand why it might be better to pay a little more for things like "Technical Fit" or the Made in the USA label? 

5. What dividends are reallized in the short and long term when buying a product manufactured state-side?

6. What does Yankee Ingenuity mean for America and American's today... Perhaps a business model where you engage Maquiladoras and employees you can easily exploit and pay way less than US ones? Hmmmm....

Maureen's feet at the Matilija Waterfalls in the Los Padres NF
This article 55 Reasons Why We Should Buy Products Made In America is worth a glance...

The Made In America Movement, via their website, claims they are a "nonpartisan organization lobbying for American made manufacturers, small business owners, mom & pop stores, local boutiques and service providers. We are dedicated to encouraging consumers to buy American made products; providing our members with resources to expand their use of U.S. made products; and serving as a place to share ideas to increase our members’ bottom lines. We are a conduit for change by uniting American voices to tell Washington to bring American jobs home."

Why buy American? -via the above link

If you're here you probably don't need any reminding, but if you're just looking for some more reasons, or some 
points to convince your friends of the benefit of buying American made products, here are some of the top 
reasons to buy American.

1. Jobs - Above all else, when you buy American you save or create AMERICAN JOBS! These are the jobs that 
are at the foundation of our economy, and have unfortunately been moving overseas, but by buying American 
you can help to reverse that trend.

2. Environmental - Many of the top countries where our goods come from have little or no regulations to protect 
the environment, and the manufacturers have no regard for the earth and they pollute and abuse the soil, air, and 
the water. When you buy American you know there are regulations in place to protect the environment so our 
children can appreciate this beautiful country as much as we do.

3. Human Rights - The countries the United States import from often have nonexistent standards regular working
conditions. Many of the factories producing US bound goods are worse than our prisons, and filled with children 
working extremely long days. No one wants to support that, and by buying American you know you aren't we 
have regulations and agencies in this country to prevent those types of atrocities.

4. Democracy - Americans believe in and stand up for democracy whenever we can, and by choosing to buy 
American you are supporting the ideals of democracy.

5. Conservation - When buying products that are produced overseas built into the price is the cost of shipping 
that product all the way from that country to the United States, usually crossing the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean. 
This wastes an extremely large amount of petroleum and produces unnecessary emissions into the atmosphere.

6. Domino Effect - When you buy American that money stays in the United States. That money goes to pay the 
wage of many people that are directly or indirectly responsible for creating your product. Each of them in turn 
spends this money on goods (hopefully American made) and services, and the cycle continues. The more you 
buy American, the more the economy is stimulated, and the more jobs are created.  Plus, American workers pay 
taxes on wages earned in America.

7. MORE JOBS - For every manufacturing job there are FIVE additional jobs created. Do the math. Dollar for 
dollar it is a great investment in this amazing country!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Beyond The Pale

 Following the fringe. Finding the edge.

Lifetimes of searches. Holding close and letting go.

Another step. Capturing moments, a shared collective.
Beyond the Pale.