I recall buying a Mountain Designs fleece jacket many years ago. I worked it hard and within three years it was threadbare and needed replacing. I bought the same type of jacket again, and was surprised to see that this one, unlike the first, was made in China rather than Australia. It is really only the last decade or so that we have seriously seen the flight of production facilities offshore from Australia. It is now, of course, standard practise, both for the big international brands based both in Europe and North America that sell here, and the well known local names and chain stores in Australia that have their own line of product. There is a long history of deregulation and the rise of neo liberal politics that facilitated, indeed made this flow inevitable. Yet there are still a few companies that stubbornly hold on, and make gear either here in Australia or New Zealand/ Aotearoa.
I have routinely been told in gear stores in Melbourne when I enquire whether there is an Australian made version of what I want to buy that “we cannot produce equipment in Australia at a price that consumers are willing to pay”. This seems like a bit of a cop out to me. Surely it is possible to support and stock the available items where they do exist and specifically identify them as being locally made? Sure, it is probably only a small portion of the market that can afford the ‘premium’ that comes with local production, but I am sure it would help those companies that still do manage to hang on, and get everyone else thinking a bit.
These are the following companies that I have been able to find that do produce equipment either here or in NZ.
Please let me know who I have missed. firstname.lastname@example.org
One problem that comes with wanting to support local products is that there is no guarantee that they are interested in sustainability or trying to reduce their overall impacts. Many of the companies outlined below provide absolutely no information on any of these issues. And, of course, often much of the raw materials, such as fabric, will have come from overseas anyway. So its all a bit of a trade off — ultimately it seems like one of those subjective questions – like do we want a locally grown but ‘conventional’ apple that’s had lots of pesticide used on it, or an organic apple from California that’s got a massive carbon footprint? Ultimately this is a personal decision, and in the case out outdoor gear, will include all the other criteria we all use – price, availability, style, robustness, etc. But with the phenomena of peak oil and coming years of climate change, it does seem to me that we will need to re-build much of our local production, to build resilience, to broaden and strengthen our economy. In this sense alone we need local products.
I hope this makes it easier to find – and support – locally made gear.
Australian and New Zealand/ Aotearoa based companies
Australis canoes: Based in Bellambi, just north of Wollongong in NSW, Australis make a range of canoes, kayaks and sit ons. I don’t even know where to start in terms of assessing their environmental credentials – they use plastic and fibre glass – but at least they are robust water craft that are still made here.
Cactus Climbing (NZ) – based in Christchurch and making a range of clothing, packs and other gear. Check here for a profile on this company.
Catalyst snowboards. Based at Smeaton in Central Vic. Details here.
Cecil & Co still make tin billies in Bayswater, VIC (Factory 1/ 2 Turbo Drive). Ph: (03) 9720 6645. I could not find information about where their products are distributed.
Crumpler. Hardly a standard outdoor company, but they do make a range of day and camera bags that would be useful for outdoor type folks. Based in Fitzroy, in Melbourne. Their website is very big on style, but very short on any details about the environmental credentials of their products. I suspect this is not high on their agenda. NB: it is difficult to know how much of their product is actually still made in Australia – apparently most of it is made in Vietnam, however, I have not received feedback from the company on this despite a number of approaches. Treat this inclusion here with caution – and inquire about the country of origin if considering a purchase.
Details on their products here.
Dagger kayaks, based in Melbourne – From their website: “We are proud to bring you a range of canoes and kayaks, made in Australia. Our range includes many different models from sea kayaking to recreation, and sit-on top kayaks. Fishing kayaks are our newest additions, with new models added every year”. As with Australia, I do not have information on ecological impacts of the products or any measures to reduce this impact.
Apparently the kayaks are made in Australia, the USA and elsewhere. Each country makes certain models for the rest of the world, and then they’re shipped around for local distribution.
Dagger kayaks that are made in Australia include:
- whitewater – RPM, GT Club, GT Pro, Animas & Vampire polo boat
- Recreational – Drifter, Echo
- Touring – Discovery, Spectre
- Sea kayaks – Halifax, Euro, Coorong, Trinidad
FirstLight Snowboards is a small company that makes all their boards (and surf boards) here.
Further information available here.
Flow State Surfboards. Hollow wood boards, hand crafted from recycled timber. Tasmania. Details here.
Hillbilly is a “family owned and operated business which began in 1987 as a partnership between Mick Mills and Col Jamieson”. They make “genuinely authentic Aussie cooking equipment and accessories with durability, versatility at an affordable price”. Located in Belgrave South in the Dandenongs in Victoria. Most of their cooking equipment looks like it is designed for car camping rather than the backcountry. There is not much information on their site about how or where it is made except for generic ‘Aussie made for the Aussie bush’ type statements.
From the company “Nadgee Kayaks Australia build innovative high performance touring Sea kayaks, using the best techniques and materials.
Not only are we Australian owned and made we are proud to be a CARBON FRIENDLY business by only using Solar Power in our manufacturing process
In order to supply the best sea kayaks we hand build each custom kayak to exact customer specifications. We are constantly seeking new technologies in order to continually improve our products and make our kayaks the most advanced and progressive available”.
Further details here.
Their blog can be found here.
Obsidian skis. Makes ’boutique freeride skis’ in Victoria.
One Planet – makes a range of outdoor gear. Based in Sunshine in Melbourne. Check here for a profile.
Pittarak kayaks provide a “range of authentic Australian designed and built expedition sea kayaks” and are designed by Larry Gray and made on the South Coast of NSW. No information about materials, sustainability.
Qualitops makes a range of clothing, including t shirts, vests, track pants, skivvies and safety gear. Probably the most relevant for outdoor use is its range of Polarfleece jackets. These are not technical/ back country items – more just jackets made from fleece. The company is strong on local production (everything is sewn here) but ecological issues are obviously not a priority.
From the website: “Qualitops Pty. Ltd. is a private Australian company manufacturing sportswear for over 25 years and is based in Collingwood, VIC.
All garments produced and sold through our ‘Wholesale’ and ‘Retail’ channels are manufactured ‘In House’ on our premises by our team of over 30 staff.
Since 2001, Qualitops has become an accredited manufacturer under the ‘Homeworkers’ code of practice and is entitled the use of the ‘No Sweatshop’ label. Qualitops is proud of it’s fundamentals to effectively produce high quality garments that are always delivered with utmost priority and customer service.”
To find details on their fleece range check here.
Ron D Swan. Based in Castlemaine, in Central Victoria, makes a range of gear for bike riding. Their attention to ecological detail puts Crumpler to shame. There is a profile here.
Sisson Kayaks (located in Methven Mt Hutt Village, Canterbury, NZ) they have been making kayaks for more than 35 years.
Summit gear, in Katoomba, NSW make a range of back packs. Details here.
Wilderness Wear – based in Melbourne. Check here for a profile.
Yowie snowshoes. Made in Victoria, for Australian snow conditions. Details here.
Many thanks to the various people on the Backcountry forum for ideas for this – especially bogong, climberman, Graeme, skifree, teckel and telewhippet!