“Might as well have the best ….”

The motto of Filson — a Seattle outfitter that has been in business since 1897 — is “might as well have the best.” What do they make? Clothing and bags for serious outdoorsmen.

Sample testimonial:

“I was in a severe airplane crash while working as a guide in Alaska. I laid in the snow for 11 hours at 25 degrees … I certainly would have died of hypothermia had it not been for you fine products.”

The stuff that makes Filson different from other outdoor clothing companies — EMS, North Face, REI, Patagonia — is their stuff is made out of the same material used in 1897. No GoreTex, no “performance fabrics”, just bullet-proof canvas the company calls “Tin Cloth” and leather.

I own two pairs of Double-Tin shorts. I expect I will be wearing these shorts in ten years.


These things are so stiff they can stand up on their own. They are the only shorts I have seen with suspender buttons. The double layered seat makes them perfect for sailboat racing. The waterproofing makes them ideal for fishing and repelling fish blood. These are not linen Bermuda shorts to wear to a summer cocktail party. These are what you wear when you’re backpacking in the bush and not shaving for two weeks.
Some of the other stuff in the Filson catalogue will give you a sense of their target market — brush chaps, pack bags (one of which is illustrated carrying a 250 pound Volkswagen engine), and boots worthy of the Yukon, which is why Filson was founded in the first place, to equip gold bugs bound for Alaska’s Yukon fields.

I wish Filson made a decent backpack. I’m now in the market for something to replace my trusty EMS which I bought in 2000 to tote around my laptop, files, chargers, batteries, Rolaids, spare contact lenses, pens, passport, etc.. I really want something I can hang onto for more than a decade, and nothing from the usual suspects — Bean, REI, EMS — is fitting the bill

I’ve been looking at Glaser Designs, but they make $1000 briefcases worthy of a lifetime of courtroom litigation:


I’ve also looked at Gfeller Casemakers — a leather case maker in Idaho that makes marvelous stuff for field scientists — where else can you buy a case to hold your acid? But their backpack isn’t quite there:

I know, somewhere out there, is the Rolls Royce of backpacks, if you know where (and I suspect Switzerland at this point), please let me know.