“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.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on ““Might as well have the best ….””

  1. The kensignton I’m using is quite something. I Don’t know if it will last forever and it is a saddlebag instead of a backpack, but here it is anyway:

    http://shop.lenovo.com/SEUILibrary/controller/catalog.workflow:item.detail?GroupID=38&Code=22P7430&current-category-id=9F158457688E4B4EB9758B280F507B65

    On the other hand I’ve hear and read some good reviews regarding Mobile Edge’s Backpack:
    http://www.mobileedge.com/items_him.asp?cid=3&scid=3&pid=5
    (This is second hand advice, haven’t used them myself)

  2. I found the best back pack for business at http://www.jolt.com. Its made by Ogio. It has a qucik stash side pocket for the laptop (who would have thought of a side pocket). Lots of gadget pockets and compartments. It has a quick grab handle that keeps everything perfectly ballanced as well as shoulder straps that are better designed than any backpack I’ve ever tried.

    If you ever ipod or MP3 there is a zippered compartment with a hole for the ear bud cord. Zippered compartments all over.

    No it is not as New England as an LL Bean bag, but this one really works well at doing the job a business backpack needs to do. It carries a multitude of items including organizng papers, keys, id, etc.

  3. Good enough for the Klondike gold rush, good enough for me…I wear one of their wool hunting coats when I go ckukar hunting in Central Oregon & friends & customers have tried to steal & or, buy it from me! Makes a great pillow, too! Cheers

  4. I know this thread is old but it still popped up under my google search so my 2 cents..

    Honestly, go to http://www.frostriver.com Seems to me they try to emulate the style, material and ethos of Filson with a more specific audience in mind..

    As well as fill in Filson’s conspicuous absence of any sort of substantial pack.

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