While the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market trade show is customarily centered around winter sports instead of water, paddling made at splash on the second night of this year’s show with the announcement of the American Made Outdoor Gear Awards, founded and presented by made-in-the-USA paddlesports apparel-manufacturer Kokatat.
First awarded in 2013, the American Made Outdoor Gear Awards is a celebration of American manufacturing, recognizing companies with compelling domestic manufacturing stories who are leaders in American-made quality, craftsmanship and creativity in the outdoor market. In addition to year-long, feel-good bragging rights, the Grand Prize winner receives one-year ownership of 'Sassy,' a hand carved, three-foot-tall redwood Sasquatch from Humboldt County, Calif. Category winners receive mini versions of the award. This year, more than 110 domestic manufacturers in the outdoor market participated, with paddlesports well represented.
"With each award cycle the number of participants has grown, as has the quality of the applications," says Kokatat sales manager Jeff Turner, whose company recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. "All of the finalists have amazing and inspiring stories to share. It was difficult to select for each category let alone one overall winner."
At the inaugural awards in 2013, Liberty Bottleworks won the Grand Prize with Bending Branches topping the 10-50-employee category and Jackson Kayak winning the 100+ employee category. In 2014, Benchmade Knives was the Grand Prize winner, with Lincoln Canoe of Freeport, Maine, winning the under 10-employee division.
And the envelope for this year, please (especially as it pertains to paddling) …
Winning the 100-plus employee category was Seattle, Wash.'s Cascade Designs, whose brands include MSR, Therm-a-Rest, Platypus, Seal Line, E-Case, Pack Towel, Hummingbird and Tracks. Its Seal Line division has long been known as a maker of some of the paddlesports industry's leading dry bags. Other paddlesports-related companies in the finalists running include Duluth Pack in the 50-100 employee category, and Jackson Kayak and recreational sit-on-top manufacturer Lifetime Products in the 100-plus employee category.
Sterling Rope, Biddeford, ME – www.sterlingrope.com
Under 10 Employees:
Voormi, Pagosa Springs, CO – www.voormi.com
10 to 50 Employees:
Dahlgren Footwear, West Linn, WA – www.dahlgrenfootwear.com
Polar Bottles, Boulder, CO – www.polarbottles.com
Cascade Designs, Seattle, WA – www.cascadedesigns.com
—See MORE GEAR reviews and news from C&K.