Ep. 18 - On Making Technical Apparel in the U.S. with Bill Amos

Feb 28, 2024

It’s rare to find American-made climbing companies. The shortlist includes the likes of Metolius, Organic, Misty Mountain, UnParallel, and a handful of rope producers.

It’s even rarer to find technical apparel made in the U.S., which makes NW Alpine so distinct. And by technical, I mean purpose-built clothing designed for the elements, not adventureleisure masquerading as such.

Anywho, the idea for NWA was born out of the 2008 financial crisis. Founded by Bill Amos, a quote-unquote “climber dude” at the time, he wanted to understand what was happening and brushed up on economics. He concluded that basing the economy on financial shenanigans instead of manufacturing wasn’t the way to go.

So, his solution to one of the worst recessions in the history of the country was to create a pair of pants. At its height, the company employed 75 people and put millions back into the local economy.

In this episode, we talk about how NW Alpine is developing innovative apparel (in the true sense of the word), the economic and free trade factors that led to mass offshoring, and how many of your favorite brands are making huge profits off the back of exploited labor.

NWA harkens back to an older ethos for climbing companies. I particularly enjoyed this chat and hope you do too.


02:00 - Bill's climbing journey 

05:57 - Adventures in the Cascades and Alaska

20:10 - The birth of Northwest Alpine

20:13 - Understanding the economic shift in the U.S.

24:41 - The impact of offshoring on the U.S. manufacturing

33:01 - Journey to Kachatna: Scaling manufacturing

37:37 - Rise and fall of Kachatna Apparel

40:59 - Innovation in apparel: The Fortis line and rainproofness post-PFAS

50:36 - The reality of how products are made overseas

58:03 - The Future of Northwest Alpine

Resources and links:

Bill is graciously giving away two Black Spider Hoodies for listeners — one men’s and one women’s. To enter, head to our Instagram @ice_ice_beta to find the details.

If you’d like to follow along with what NW Alpine is up to, their Instagram is @nwalpinegear. To check out their products head to nwalpine.com. They have several new lines dropping this year.

Here is the video of Sir James Goldsmith predicting the future impact of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in an interview with Charlie Rose (which we reference in the episode). And NW Alpine's blog also has a lot of great trip reports from the past 14 years.

This is the "contentious" IG post where Bill breaks down how much overseas workers are paid to make expensive outdoor apparel.


Episode cover photo provided by the NW Alpine courtesy of GearJunkie

Intro music by Hannah Noelle Enomoto (thanks, sis!).


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© 2023 Ice Ice Beta. All rights reserved.

© 2023 Ice Ice Beta. All rights reserved.

© 2023 Ice Ice Beta. All rights reserved.