Photo by Regina Nicolardi

Why have so many outdoor gear companies settled in Asheville, North Carolina? Ask longtime local paddler and Liquidlogic Kayaks Brand Manager Shane Benedict. "Not only is the paddling great, but the mountain biking is world-class," says Benedict. "It's also named Beer City USA almost every year, the food scene is ridiculous and there is tons of great live music. What's not to like?"

The gear is pretty great too. Here are a few of our favorites.

Astral Designs

Life vests and river shoes made in a converted tobacco barn on the French Broad River

Liquidlogic/Native Watercraft

Offering a full range of kayaks for everything from fishing to whitewater


ZipDry closure and polyurethane-coated fabrics that have become the gold standard for video boaters

Eagles Nest Outfitters

"The community is relaxed, outdoor-loving and incredibly inspirational.”

Blue Ridge Chair Works

A a model of sustainability, comfort and Appalachian craftsmanship.