If you thought American manufacturing had all gone to Mexico or China, then a pleasant surprise awaits you right here in the Mt Washington Valley. Ragged Mountain Equipment on Route 16 in Intervale has been quietly producing specialized outdoor clothing and gear since Ronald Reagan was in the White House. Starting this month, they are offering factory tours almost daily so you can see the entire fascinating process from start to finish. If you’ve been a regular at local farmers’ markets because you want to know where your food comes from, doesn’t it make sense to apply that same standard to the clothing you wear, and the gear you use?
You’ve driven by the Ragged Mountain Equipment factory countless times and probably stopped to grab a few items from their shop. But you may never have realized that skilled local designers and stitchers are hard at work right out back, producing those jackets, vests, gaiters and dog packs you see everywhere around you. And this isn’t one of those high-tech start-ups where robots follow a computer program to produce some mysterious widget; this is actual people handling actual fabrics and hardware, producing items you actually use. And, they’ve been doing it non-stop since 1985.
The Ragged Mountain Equipment factory tours run every Monday through Thursday, beginning at 10:00am. The guided tours only take about twenty to thirty minutes, and you’ll be able to witness the entire manufacturing process. Tours begin with fabric cutting, then progress through the kitting process and right on to the actual stitching. You’ll see products being inspected and prepared for stocking in the retail department or boxed up to ship to other vendors or special order customers. Those customers include local non-profits, international retailers, and the US military. And finally, you’ll visit the design room and pattern library to see new products in the midst of the design process, with prototypes being tested and features being refined.
You’ll recognize a lot of the Ragged Mountain products–from Powerstretch Tights to TuckerMitts to Tuff Duffels–and wonder why you always assumed they were made somewhere abroad. There are ample opportunities to ask questions and chat with the craftspeople as they go about their work, and you’ll leave the tour with discount coupons for the products, some free samples, and the knowledge that American manufacturing is alive and well in Mt Washington Valley.
For more information on these new factory tours, call Ragged Mountain Equipment at 603-356-3042, visit their website at www.raggedmountain.com, or swing by their business at 279 NH-16 in Intervale.