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Breaking Free from the Mass Market Mentality: How Cottage Brands Empower Consumers and Create Positive Change

Breaking Free from the Mass Market Mentality: How Cottage Brands Empower Consumers and Create Positive Change

By John Gage

WHAT IS A COTTAGE BRAND?

A cottage brand is a small, independently owned business that produces high-quality products in small quantities. Cottage brands are often dedicated to supporting ethical production practices, and they may focus on a specific niche or market. In the U.S., cottage brands can be found in a variety of different industries, including outdoor apparel, food and beverage, and home goods.

One of the key characteristics of a cottage brand is its size and scale. Cottage brands are typically small operations that produce products in small quantities, sometimes by hand and sometimes using traditional manufacturing methods rather than high-speed automation. This allows them to focus on making high-quality, carefully crafted products rather than mass-produced goods. Generally, cottage brands are led by entrepreneurs who have specific knowledge or skill sets associated with the industry they serve, and they are often hands-on leaders with active roles in the company.

Cottage brands are typically associated with a sense of authenticity and craftsmanship, and they may have a strong connection to their local communities or the natural environment. Many cottage brands are committed to sustainability and ethical production practices, and they may use natural or organic materials, support local economies, and strive to minimize their environmental impact.

WHY CHOOSE COTTAGE BRANDS?

Are you tired of supporting large, faceless companies that mass-produce cheap products overseas? Consider switching to U.S.-based cottage outdoor lifestyle brands for a more ethical and sustainable option. Not only do these small, independently owned businesses support the American economy, they also often prioritize quality and sustainability in their production processes. Many use locally sourced materials and pay their workers fair wages, rather than outsourcing production to countries with low labor costs.

By choosing U.S.-based cottage outdoor lifestyle brands, you can feel good about supporting small businesses and ethical production practices. You can also trust that the products you are purchasing are of high quality and are made to last. Don't just take our word for it – do some research and see for yourself the benefits of supporting these brands.

WHERE CAN I FIND COTTAGE BRANDS TO SUPPORT?

If you’re not sure where to begin in your search for cottage brands, don’t worry! We’ve tapped several App Gear Co ambassadors who were thrilled at the chance to share their favorites. In addition to Appalachian Gear Company (naturally), here are some cottage brands these outdoor experts recommend: 

  • Heather “Anish“ Anderson: I love woman-owned and Oregon-based Gather Nuts because they are delicious and they soak the nuts before roasting to make them more nutritionally bioavailable.

  • Hallie Zolynski: One cottage brand that I like is Youer. It is a great women-owned business that makes their own clothing. I love the dresses for hiking. They are comfortable and come in a variety of sizes and can also be worn for a night out. I love the color combinations and they’re true to size which I really like so there isn't a guessing game! Mio Mi is another one. They make climbing chalk bags and clothing among other outdoor products and what I enjoy about them is the durability as well as the fun colors and combinations. I love their outgoing attitudes and passion for providing gear at a price I can afford!

  • Jeff Garmire: I love Katabatic because of their quality, durable, and functional quilts and sleeping bags. The flex design has worked perfectly in changing temperatures and seasons and my bag has over 15,000 miles on it. I am also a big fan of the Swiftwick National Park series socks. Not only are they fun and look great but they are also thinner and breathe well for long days on the trail.

  • Benny Braden: Evolved Supply Co. There’s something to be said about outdoor gear designed and made by outdoors enthusiasts. Especially those who have used a variety of gear in a variety of weather conditions. This experience can’t be overlooked. I feel that Evolved Supply Co. is implementing this experience into their designs and paying tribute to the more traditional look of outdoor gear. Another one is Zpacks. I personally love a company that gives back to public lands. Zpacks’ “Give Back Together” program should be a model that every outdoor gear manufacturer adopts and follows. They’ve given thousands of dollars to countless trail organizations and nonprofits all over the U.S. I’ve personally used their gear for years. It’s also good having the option to donate when I make my purchase and knowing they are triple matching my donation for all of 2023.

  • Jennifer Pharr Davis: Farm to Feet are hands down my favorite hiking and everyday socks. Made locally in NC and keeping U.S. textiles alive - much like App Gear Co - they are great people making awesome products. So comfy, cushy, quick-drying, and I pretty much stopped getting blisters when I started wearing them. Astral is a small footwear company with offices on my hometown of Asheville, NC. They have a great lineup for trail and water shoes and I always feel comfortable and trust my grip and traction when I have them on. Sawyer makes water filters and first aids out of Safety Harbor, FL. I’m not sure if they qualify as cottage or not but they are definitely unique because they donate 90% of profits to clean water efforts around the world. How cool is that?! 

  • Karina Ray: I love NW Alpine out of Salem, Oregon. They are a small American climbing apparel company. Here’s a quote from the company: “NW Alpine was launched in 2010. The founding mission of the company was to make clothes for climbing that are simple, functional, light, and of the highest quality; support domestic manufacturing; and provide the best customer service.” While I’m a mountain runner, I also rock climb, and NW Alpine is my go-to for gear that functions like a rock star but is made in the USA, which is where I prefer to source my performance clothing. 

  • Megan Wilmarth: Thuja VT is an outdoor adventure clothing brand that I sew for! We are a Vermont-based small company that has seen huge growth over the past year. We are a small team of five that handmakes each hoodie and have now begun to offer customized bulk orders for ski patrol teams, land trust organizations, brewery staff members, and trail maintenance clubs! The Burrows hoodie is our number one bestseller because the micro-grid fleece is the perfect layer for active folks in chilly weather. Kula Cloth: Over the past four years, I would still say that this is one of my favorite pieces of gear! This simple microfiber pee cloth has changed the way I feel about peeing outside because I no longer have to choose between smelling like pee for days or packing out wet toilet paper when deep in the backcountry. Anastasia Allison is an inspiration for any outdoor adventurer due to her focus on inclusion and creating a positive space to promote mental health awareness through community. 

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