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Outdoor Brands find new purpose in being part of the pandemic solution

In addition to encouraging the curve-flattening behavior of social distancing even if it means staying inside, many of our favorite outdoor brands are also pivoting production and reorienting their resources to help the COVID-19 cause. In many cases, they’re selling products at cost, just asking for a donation, or donating items outright. These brands are putting their own profits on hold to focus instead on the immediacy of our collective need.

“If what we’re doing saves one life, it’s totally worth it,” said Craig Engelhorn, co-founder and head distiller at Spirit Hound Distillers in Lyons, which has repurposed itself to making hand sanitizer.

Read on to see who else is helping and how.

The Mask Makers

Mask production at Osprey. Courtesy Andrew Baxley.

By far, the most pervasive way to help out is to make protective face masks. Yes, in some cases these are the same types of masks my mother-in-law is sewing, but while Karen is pumping out a few masks a day (and props to her!), our outdoor industry brethren are churning out masks and other important protective pieces on a much larger scale. 

The Pacific Northwest is arguably the hub of outdoor industry mask production and little surprise, given that’s where the U.S. battle against COVID-19 began. Take Outdoor Research, which is retrofitting its Seattle-based manufacturing facility to make upwards of 200,000 masks per day. Their production of fabric face masks began last week; ASTM level 3 surgical masks will be available this month; and by May/June, it will add N95 respirator masks to the line-up.

OR Factory. Courtesy Outdoor Research.

The fellow Seattleites at Cascade Designs—parent company of Therm-a-Rest, MSR and Platypus, among othershave also transitioned their factory to mask production. As of March 31, they were making more than 1,000 ASTM Level 1 medical masks per day; once in full production, that daily count will reach 20,000. An hour and a half down the road in Ferndale, Wash., the insole experts at Superfeet are promising 30,000 respirator masks with 3D-printed elements.

Colorado companies are doing their part as well. Pack manufacturer Osprey has rededicated its warranty and repair team in Cortez, aiming to produce approximately 100 fabric masks per day. The wool apparel experts at Voormi, who call Pagosa Springs home, have donated neck gators to local hospital workers and supplied (at no cost) enough of their proprietary fabrics to make roughly 25,000 masks. 

Brands in other states are focusing on supporting healthcare workers on the frontlines in their communities. Burton Snowboards just announced it would donate 500,000 KN95 respirator masks to healthcare workers across the Northeast. Heavy hauler producer Mystery Ranch has dedicated its employees and sewing floor to building 500 masks for medical personnel at the local Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital, while in Old Fort, N.C., bike apparel manufacturer Kitsbow has pivoted its apparel production to make face shields and reusable face masks for first responders. Uncharted Supply, which specializes in emergency preparedness gear, has donated masks to healthcare professionals in Park City, Utah. Its founder, Christian Schauf, is also working to educate people on how to stay prepared and focused during this volatile time. 

Outside the U.S., the sock makers at Balega have repurposed their fine hosiery machines to supply approximately 250,000 masks to the South African communities where most of their manufacturing takes place.

PPE Producers

Those on the frontlines need more than masks. Portland-based Keen Footwear donated 100,000 pairs of their shoes at no costabout $10 million worth of productto essential workers and families at home fighting through the crisis.

Boulder-based Zeal Optics and Anon, Burton’s helmet and goggle division, are part of Goggles for Docs, “an effort to get used or new ski goggles into the hands of healthcare workers who currently have no eye protection as they treat COVID-19 patients.” Anon has already donated more than 1,300 pairs.

Sanitary Saviors

With Amazon selling out of Purell and other hand sanitizers, some outdoor industry brands have repurposed themselves to supply the demand. Mentioned above, Spirit Hound Distillers and New Holland Brewing (because yes, small-batch spirits and craft beer are outdoor essentials in our book) will have produced roughly 750 and 1,000 gallons of the stuff, respectively, by the end of this week. Likewise, natural insect repellent manufacturer Murphy’s Naturals has promised its first shipment of 6,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to the United States Navy, since its founder, Philip Freeman, is a U.S. Navy veteran.

Fervent Fundraisers

Some outdoor brands are raising money, or just donating massive sums outright, for the cause. The charitable arm of the VF Corporation—parent company to outdoor industry heavyweights like The North Face, Timberland and Vans—has pledged an initial donation of $1.5 million to a collection of organizations responding to the need both here in Colorado and around the world. It will also match donations 2-for-1 to the GlobalGiving Coronavirus Relief Fund, up to an additional $500,000.

Apparel and pack maker Cotopaxi and boutique ski manufacturer Rocky Mountain Underground have launched special edition products with all proceeds going to partners on the frontlines and those hard-hit financially in their local communities. Look for Cotopaxi’s “#OneUtah” t-shirt and RMU’s “Stand Apart, Not Alone” line. 

Matching the Love

A couple brands have launched matching donation initiatives. Coffee company Steeped launched a “You Give, We Give” initiative, which invites people to gift their coffee packs to those on the front lines, and promises to match all gifts, pack for pack. Anyone who purchases a portable water bottle from Hydaway will receive a coupon code for any size bottle and an accessory to give to an essential worker in their community.




Click here for more updates on the COVID-19 Crisis from Elevation Outdoors 

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