I had previously gotten rid of all of my camping equipment a couple of years ago. Now I find that I need to purchase all new camping equipment due to an upcoming mission trip (Building a house in Mexico). So, I was thinking there is no better time than now to buy camping gear, all made in the United States. I knew this would not be an easy task, because I knew it wasn’t an easy task when I vowed to make my entire wardrobe “Made in the United States” which I did.
So, I decided to purchase equipment that would be more considered “glamping” or glamorous camping, a term used by Sally Jewell, who took over as Secretary of the Interior, previously, the CEO of REI. Her version of glamp was “a cot or an inflatable mattress and a nice, comfy tent.” It does not sound very glamorous to me, but, at least, it is not sleeping on the ground in one of the mini-tents that fits into your backpack. (That quote about glamping came from the Joel Stein’s interview with Sally Jewell in TIME, dated 7/1/13 – it is definitely worth a read.)
The First Purchase – A Tent
It used to be that all tents were made in the United States. They were usually canvas and very durable. But not too waterproof. Over time, tents have been outsourced so that it is extremely difficult to find any US made tents. I selected a tent that allowed me to stand up, was very durable, and should last the rest of my life. The tent I selected was made by Springbar.
Springbar makes all their tents in South Salt Lake City, Utah. They have eleven different models. They go from mini tent to Taj Mahal. Springbar tents can be purchased through Kirkham’s outdoor products. The tent I selected was the Outfitter 3 model. The material is a blend of canvas and silicone material. The roof is made of Duck. The floor is 7 x 8 feet. Height 67 inches. (I need a tent that I can stand up in.) It is a little heavy – 34 pounds, but I don’t intend to backpack with a tent on my back. One giant plus: it has a lifetime warranty!
The Second Purchase – The Inflatable Mattress
Now, that I have the tent, the next item was to purchase a mattress pad. Once again there is very small selection of US made products in this category. There are so many inflatable mattresses made in China, that are simply junk – you will be lucky if you get one good night’s sleep without it deflating on you. I found a brand called Thermarest, it can be found at REI, as well as L.L. Bean. Thermarest makes mattress pads and cots, manufactured in the USA. (They make their sleeping bags in China, boo.) I purchased the Thermarest Dreamtime Mattress through L.L. Bean. The description of the product: ” Bring the premium comfort of a pillow top mattress to your next base camp or night at the cabin. This luxurious mattress has three layers for the ultimate in warmth and padding, a self-inflating base, cushy foam pillow top and soft fleece cover. Roll it up quickly for easy transport and storage. Fleece cover is easily removed for machine washing.” I found that the self-inflating part to be interesting. You remove the cap and it inflates somewhat, for the “just right” comfort, you will have to inflate more air, which is very easy and does not take much more air. This sure beats those cheap air mattresses that can double as swimming pool floatation devices. The Thermarest Dreamtime Mattress, also, has a lifetime warranty.
The Third Purchase – The Sleeping Bag
Sleeping bags used to all be made of cloth and rectangular and, of course, made in the United States. Now, sleeping bags are made of weird synthetics and they wrap you up like mummies, and, all made in China. But there is a American maker of sleeping bags called Western Mountaineering. This company is in San Jose, California and have made sleeping bags since 1980. They make 30 different models of sleeping bags from the very light, the Highlite, part of the Extremelite series, weighing 16 ounces and rated at 35 degrees to the extreme condition sleeping bags, like the Bison GWS, part of its Gore Windstopper Expedition Series, which is rated to -40 degrees. I selected the Summerlite which weighs 19 ounces and rated at 32 degrees. (See, I am a glam camper, if it is less than 32 degrees, I won’t be camping). Western Mountaineering brags that it makes the highest quality sleeping bags anywhere available. This should be the last sleeping bag I will ever need to purchase. It is so nice to buy quality. Other sleeping bag manufacturers made in the USA: nunatakusa.com, wiggys.com, equinoxltd.com (eco-friendly), butlerbags.com (canvas sleeping bags), zpacks.com, angeldreams4u.com, exxel.com (the largest American manufacturer of sleeping bags, they make 1 and 1/2 million sleeping bags per year).
The Final Purchase – The Hat
Have you ever heard of a hat with a lifetime guarantee? The hats made by Tilley do. Tilley hats are all made in Canada. This Tilley is not to be confused with Tilly, the grunge-clothing-skateboarding-type store. The hats are made to your hat size, like 7, or 7 and 1/2, 0r 7 and 5/8, etc, like proper hat wear. (I hate those adjustable caps – one size fits nobody approach.) The Tilley Hat was developed to be durable, comfortable, wind-proof and floatable. Yes, it is designed to float. Inside the hat is a whole set of instructions about how the hat is supposed to fit and another set of instruction on its care. I selected the LTM-8. The Tilley hats are practically indestructible. They will last indefinitely but it will also continue to look attractive. They call themselves the Rolls Royce of hats. Welcome to the land of quality.
Other Camping Gear
Although REI does not have made in the USA tents or sleeping bags, it still has quite a bit of camping gear, made in the USA, all in one time-efficient place. Here is their link to REI made in USA. I had thought that all of Coleman products were made overseas, however, I did find that Coleman still made some coolers here in the USA (on the REI website).
It is possible to buy camping gear made in the USA. The selection is small, but it is of very high quality. If you want disposable camping gear, go to Walmart and pay your hard earned dollars on some cheaply-made-imported-disposable camping stuff, and then buy it all over again for the next summer, and repeat each year. But, if you want something that will last a lifetime, buy American.