Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

The company’s American-made backpacks and accessories can accompany you on any adventure.

America’s oldest canvas and leather bag maker began producing bags in Duluth, Minnesota in 1882 — and 133 years later, Duluth Pack is still handcrafting 200 different styles of bags and accessories for every activity.

“Our story is really a quality story. It starts with quality and ends with quality,” says Tom Sega, Duluth Pack’s president. “We put quality first and we can back it up, or we wouldn’t put a lifetime guarantee on our products.”

Tradition is also a key part of the company’s fabric, which hasn’t changed its manufacturing techniques since 1882 and has operated in the same facility since 1911. Every pack is hand-traced from a pattern by a skilled American maker.

“My favorite thing about the employees is that they care. They came to us and asked to sew their initials into the bags because they’re proud of what they do,” Sega said. “Now, inside every pack, under the Made in the USA tag is another one that says, ‘hand sewn by…’ with the craftsperson’s initials.”

Sega contributes Duluth Pack’s continued success to the fact that it has evolved alongside the American market and continues to listen to consumers. “If someone says, ‘Wow, you guys make great packs, but it’d be better if I had a well-made briefcase that I didn’t have to replace every few years,’ we’ll take a look at the market, and we’ll start making briefcases,” Sega said.

"Our story is really a quality story. It starts with quality and ends with quality. We put quality first and we can back it up, or we wouldn't put a lifetime guarantee on our products." -Tom Sega

While Duluth Pack started as a canoe pack manufacturing company, it slowly has added outdoor and lifestyle products into its inventory to accommodate the ever-changing American culture. For example, in the 1940s through 60s, as recreation and commercial air travel became more popular, Duluth Pack began making recreation packs and luggage suited to better help their customers.

Duluth Pack still manufactures its original canoeing packs, but has added packs suited for hunting and camping, as well as men and women’s apparel. The company features its own packs and apparel on its website, along with products such as canoe paddles and pancake mixes from fellow Made in America companies like Juniper Ridge and Eagles Nest Outfitters.

But no matter how many products Duluth Pack may start making and selling, it remains focused on its most important objective: quality.

“Our products don’t break,” Sega said. “My kids have been using the same backpacks without any problems since third or fourth grade. One is about to graduate college and one has already graduated.”

And best of all, Duluth Pack promises to continue to Keep it Made in America.

“Made in America is who we are. We would cease to exist if we even contemplated outsourcing just to make a buck,” Sega said. “I’m very proud to say we never sold our soul to chase the mighty dollar, we’ve always been Made in America and we will always be Made in America.”