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Benchmade Knife Company wins 2014 American Made Outdoor Gear Award

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Benchmade Knife Company ( today was named the overall winner of the second-annual American Made Outdoor Gear Award.


Conceptualized and hosted by Kokatat Inc., ( the leading US manufacturer of technical apparel and gear for paddlesports, the 2014 American Made Outdoor Gear Award was open to all American manufacturers with a compelling story. 

“Benchmade was a clear standout among the fantastic applications we received this year,” said Jeff Turner of Kokatat, the founder and host of the American Made Outdoor Gear Award. “Benchmade has built its brand and reputation from the ground up on its domestic manufacturing.”

Benchmade has been producing premium knives and tools in its Oregon City, OR, facility since 1988. Domestic manufacturing is a cornerstone of the brand’s DNA. Benchmade has used their domestic manufacturing as a point of differentiation in a market dominated by imported products, and has built a reputation for innovation and customer service.

“Benchmade Knife Company’s story is not one of a US manufacturer finding a way to survive in a category that is largely sourced and price-point driven. It’s the story of a US manufacturer redefining and reinventing a category that was created, well, about 10,000 years ago,” said David Fee, VP sales and marketing at Benchmade. “As a domestic manufacturer, we choose not to compete on price. Instead, we focus on superior quality, materials, service and customization. And more and more outdoor consumers choose Benchmade because they see that we deliver superior value.”

As winners of the American Made Outdoor Gear Award Benchmade will take one-year ownership of the “Sassy” travelling trophy — a hand carved, 3-foot-tall, redwood Sasquatch from Humboldt County, CA. An official “Sassy” presentation will be made on Wednesday, January 22, 2014, at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City, UT. 

Over 85 of the most innovative domestic manufacturers in the outdoor market entered the second-annual “Sassy” award program – a long overdue chance to raise a glass to the leaders in American made quality, craftsmanship and creativity in the outdoor world.

Kokatat’s hosting of the awards is rooted in its own history, as the brand’s founder and president, Steve O’Meara, recognized from the start that keeping production local was necessary in order to control quality and continually develop the finest and driest paddling apparel in the world.

“I began Kokatat at a time when there was no such thing as domestic manufacturing; all manufacturing was domestic,” O’Meara said. “In today’s global economy, companies have many choices for suppliers and manufacturers and it’s fantastic to see so many of them choosing American first and keeping manufacturing from becoming a myth like our friend Sassy.”

The 2014 American Made Outdoor Gear Awards harvested a variety of intriguing data regarding US manufacturing and sourcing. A sample of statistics from entries include:

  • 42% of applicants were founded in the last 10 years;
  • 76% of applicants created new manufacturing jobs in the last year totaling over 500 new jobs;
  • More than 50% of the applicants reported that 90% or more of all the goods they sell are made in the US.

 The data also revealed interesting geographical insights. Over half of the applicants representing 29 states hailed from six states: California, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington. While traditional manufacturing states such as Maine, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania were well represented a pocket of domestic manufacturing is growing in the Rocky Mountains with Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming accounting for 25% of applicants.

In addition to the overall winner, Kokatat recognized winners in several categories based on company size. The category winners will receive a miniature version of the Sassy award during the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market celebration.

Category winners of the 2013 American Made Outdoor Gear awards include:

Under 10 Employees:

o Winner: Lincoln Canoe & Kayak ( of Freeport, ME, manufacturer of canoes and kayaks.

o Runner up: Voormi ( of Pagosa Springs, CO, producer of technical wool garments.

10 to 50 Employees:

o Winner: RAMP Sports ( of Park City, UT, a ski and snowboard manufacturer.

o Runner up: Dahlgren Footwear ( of West Linn, OR, makers of performance socks.

50-100 Employees

o Winner: Sterling Rope Company ( of Biddeford, ME, a safety rope, cord, and hardware manufacturer.

o Runner up: Diamond Brand (, of Fletcher, NC, manufacturer of shelters, covers, and bags.

100+ Employees:

o Winner: Polartec ( of Lawrence, MA, producer of performance textiles

o Runner up: C. C. Filson Co. ( of Seattle, WA, makers of rugged luggage, apparel, footwear, accessories and headwear.

For additional information about the 2014 American Made Outdoor Gear Award visit For more details about the results please email

About Kokatat Inc.:

Kokatat has been manufacturing paddling gear in Arcata, California for more than 40 years. At a time when many technical apparel brands were moving manufacturing offshore, Kokatat continued to invest in infrastructure in the United States. Kokatat founder Steve O’Meara was committed to the development of the finest and driest paddling apparel in the world and recognized the need to control and continually evolve the development of our dry wear. In the early days, Kokatat worked closely with W.L. Gore & Associates, makers of GORE-TEX®, to refine the sewing and sealing techniques required for full immersion suits and tops. Today, our hands-on approach to manufacturing continues to set the standard in paddling apparel. Into the water with Kokatat! Please visit and follow Kokatat on Facebook and Twitter “@kokatat”.