There are hundreds of backpack options out there – some made in the U.S. and many more made internationally. Whether you need one for day hiking, camping, skiing, or some serious alpine adventures, the options are virtually endless. We set out to help you make sense of it all. We did the research to find all the backpacks that are made right here in the USA. Check out our findings below, along with some shopping tips to find the country of origin.
Full List of Backpack Brands Made in the USA
Free Range Equipment makes simple, sport-specific backpacks for a wide variety of activities. They got started in 2012 by Tosch Roy when he started sewing his own backpacks and never looked back. Check out the Raven pack, one of their most popular options.
ULA stands out because of its light weight, strength, comfort, and weight distribution in its backpacks – all qualities (along with customer service) that ULA’s Chris McMaster says their customers love most about them. Starting with weight and strength, this pack is made from the newly developed ULA 210 Robic fabric, which is some of the strongest materials ounce-for-ounce we’ve seen on the market (even they say so too – talk about confidence). Sewing their packs in the U.S. helps them make innovations like this Robic fabric and introduce new ideas quickly, says McMaster – they can “control the production and keep things simple.”
MIS was founded in LA in 2014 and all their packs are manufactured in a factory built for military goods. All of the materials used in their products are even military specification (Mil-Spec). The Mesh Backpack from MIS is an awesome lightweight pack that you can be an everyday carry or a great pack for a day hike. The mesh is military grade with a water-resistant coating.
Made in their factory in Portland, Oregon, some Cilo Gear backpacks have been voted #1 by the American Alpine Institute and several other well-renowned climbing and hiking authorities. They are very light, but have some serious strength to carry the heaviest gear and last for a long time.
Exo Mountain Gear got started in 2014 and specialize in packs and gear for hunters. The K² 3500 pack, one of their most popular models, is a total behemoth of a pack. The price tag is higher than other typical hunting packs, but the quality is good. Everything is designed, built, and shipped from their headquarters in Boise.
Straight from Exo Mountain Gear on why they love to manufacture in the U.S.:
“We are proud to make our packs right here in the USA. By utilizing domestic production, we are not only keeping American factories and workers going, we are able to be much more involved in all aspects of production. It is very important to us that we don’t have to ship our design changes and new product prototypes overseas and then wait for those factories to return production samples; instead, we can work directly with the production lines here in the States to make our product come to life in a very hands-on way.”
Elemental Horizons is a relatively small pack maker, but is nonetheless making some incredibly high-quality backpacks all made to order. You can choose your color, hip belt size, and torso size to get the perfect fit for your next backpacking adventure.
Seek Outside is also a tent manufacturer and their lightweight backpacks aren’t too shabby either, especially the Unaweep 4800 Backpack. This pack is one of Seek Outside’s more popular options, and for good reason. If you are doing a variety of outdoor activities and need a backpack that can flex with you, definitely give the Unaweep 4800 Backpack from Seek Outside a look. Some small plastic parts are imported.
YouTube Video: How to Find Backpacks Made in the USA
How To Find Backpacks Made In The USA
A good backpack should last you years. If you’re looking for a quality backpack, you may consider a US-made backpack. Whether you are looking for a backpack for school, work, or travel, there is sure to be a made-in-the-USA backpack that is perfect for you. Backpacks made in the USA are held to high standards, usually made with better materials that last longer. Most importantly, buying backpacks made in the USA also helps to support businesses in the country.
But with most production taking place abroad, how do you find backpacks made in the USA?
What Does “Made in the USA” Mean?
First, let’s define what it means for something to be made in the USA. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defines “made in the USA” as a product that can claim that “all or virtually all” of the product is made in the United States. This means everything from sourcing the raw material to manufacturing the product itself must take place in the USA.
To learn more about this, check out our detailed “made in the USA” guideline.
To find a backpack made in the USA, it’s essential to research the materials used.
Canvas is a popular material used in backpacks of all sizes and shapes. It’s a sturdy fabric that can last you years of daily wear and tear. China is the largest producer and exporter of this product, but canvas can also be easily sourced in the United States. In fact, most of the canvas used in the American textile industry is produced domestically. However, canvas is also produced in Asia and Central America, so it’s always worth double-checking the source of the canvas if you’re after a genuinely American-made backpack.
Cotton is another popular material used to make backpacks. Thankfully, cotton is one of those raw materials easily sourced in the United States. The USA is one of the world’s leading cotton producers and is a 21 billion-dollar industry here! However, most of the world’s cotton is produced in China and India, so it is important to research where a company sources its cotton.
Nylon is a stretchy material that can handle heavy loads, so it’s another commonly-used backpack fabric. The USA produces roughly 2.4 million tons of nylon yearly, ranking fourth in terms of nylon production in the world. On the other hand, China is the top nylon producer, so it’s worth keeping a close eye on the country of origin when it comes to nylon backpacks.
Also a nylon fabric but softer, Cordura fabric is used for extra-durable backpacks. Although most companies produce Cordura abroad, Invista, in Kansas, is a major producer of Cordura fabric. In fact, out of 78 licensed Cordura partners, 13 of them are in the United States. So, the chances that a backpack made out of Cordura fabric is “made in the USA” is quite high.
Zippers are another major component in backpacks. Most zippers around the world are made by YKK, which is a Japanese company. However, YKK also has some manufacturing facilities in the USA. Due to this, it is definitely possible to find backpack zippers that are made in the United States. Other major US zipper brands include Coats & Clark and Talon.
After researching the materials, the next step to finding a backpack made in the USA is to look at the label. Title 19 Chapter 4 Section 1304 of the United States Code states that companies must properly label their products with the country of origin. So, when finding an American-made backpack, you should be looking specifically for the label: “made in the USA.”
Companies may use tricky wording and phrases to confuse some consumers into thinking their products are made in the US. Phrases like “assembled in the USA” indicate that only a product’s assembly takes place in the USA. Similarly, “made in America” can also mean the product is made in Mexico or Canada, per the free trade agreement (NAFTA) with these two countries.
It’s worth noting that although the FTC protects the usage of the “made in the USA” label, the reality is that they are not the best at policing it. In fact, there is no pre-approval process, so it’s up to the companies to determine whether or not their products meet the “made in the USA” requirements. And ultimately, it’s up to the consumers to report any incorrect usage of the label.
Another thing to look out for is the usage of the American flag sticker. The USA doesn’t regulate using American flag stickers or US symbols like a bald eagle or the Statue of Liberty on products’ labels and packaging. So don’t be fooled by these tactics.
Here are some more tips to help you find backpacks made in the USA.
Company’s Official Website
Browse the company’s official website. If a product is truly made in the USA, this fact should be loudly advertised on the company’s website. Specifically, check out the “About Us” section or the product page.
Unlike on labels, companies are not required to state the country of origin on their websites or marketing materials. So, it can be harder to determine whether or not something is US-made. But since “made in the USA” is a huge selling point, if there is no mention of the country of origin, assume it’s made elsewhere.
Call the Company
When in doubt, kick it old school and simply call the company. A representative will be able to help you and let you know where their products are made.