It’s been a while since our last American-Built brand spotlight, so today we’re going getting back into the swing of things with a brand that we discovered quite recently (though it’s been around in one form or another for quite some time)–Frost River. Frost River was founded in 2001 in Duluth, Minnesota, quickly gaining a reputation for being one of the best purveyors of rugged American-made luggage on the market.
Frost River isn’t the only bag maker out of Duluth. There’s also Duluth Pack, a company that’s been producing hunting and outdoor gear since 1882. The two brands have a shared history, with Frost River being founded by Steve Emerson, who was Duluth Pack’s chief designer for more than twenty years before being forced out of the company when Duluth fell under new management.
Steve Emerson ran Frost River for seven years, but was forced to shut its doors in September 2008 as a result of the economic downturn. Enter Christian Benson and his business partner Jared Rinerson. The two men approached Emerson about purchasing some of the equipment for a different venture. As talks between both parties continued, however, Emerson quipped about selling the entire operation outright–an idea that Benson had not initially considered, but quickly found interesting. The two groups entered into serious negotiations in December of that year, but it wasn’t until nine months later that a deal was finally struck. In September of 2009, Benson and Rinerson set up operations and Frost River was reborn.
But the two entrepreneurs were stuck. Sure, they had the facilities and the patterns, but they lacked the skilled workers and the raw materials necessary to get things moving. Rather than hiring all new staff, Frost River began pursuing former employees, eventually hiring some of the people who had lost their jobs when the company first shut its doors. With the skill finally in place, Frost River then turned to procuring the best raw materials on the market–solid brass hardware, rugged waxed cotton from a fabric mill on the East Coast, and premium leather from Red Wing Shoes’ own tannery, S. B. Foot.
Today, Frost River offers over 150 different products, ranging from clothing and cabin accessories to impressive Bushcraft packs and bike bags–all made in their Duluth factory. Despite the somewhat expansive catalogue, the team behind Frost River is fully committed to the brand’s core DNA, focusing on the production of rugged, hardwearing, American-made goods. How hardwearing, you might ask? The company offers a lifetime warranty against any defects in the materials and workmanship, and any wear and tear will be repaired at a reasonable rate. Below are four of our favorite bags from the brand.
This is Frost River’s quintessential all-around pack, striking the perfect balance between the company’s commitment to serious adventurers and people who just want a sturdy bag to schlep around everyday. In other words, you can wear it to class on a weekday, and out to the woods on the weekend. One of the great things about the design of this pack is that it is modular, so there are four different styles to choose from ranging in size and number of external pockets. Over time, the pack will take on a beautiful patina, with the oils shifting in the canvas cloth and the leather trim darkening to a deep chocolate brown.
Briefcases are a dime a dozen. But not all briefcases are made equally, and these two from Frost River are great alternatives for those of us not into the stuffy corporate look. The Document Briefcase is the simpler of the two, with one large internal zippered pocket and a few organizers for storing all your gear. The Correspondent Briefcase has a bit more room, featuring two flapped front pockets and an internal slip pocket for storing a laptop. Both are ideal for the daily grind.
Designed to be the perfect carry on, the Curtis Flight Bag doesn’t disappoint. Besides the large central compartment for storing clothes and other essentials, the Curtis Flight Bag features two external pockets ideal for storing a magazine or two, and an external zippered slot for securing all your important paperwork. The base of the bag is reinforced with a double layer of canvas, and the rolled leather handles ensure optimal comfort.