Why Buy Western Mountaineering?
Because it's Made in the USA

By Jordan Gardner, A16 National Park Road Team Member and A16 San Diego Store Assistant Manager


Traveling around the country has allowed the A16 National Park Road Team to visit a lot of local attractions and also some of our key vendors. In San Jose we had the opportunity to visit the Western Mountaineering factory. We were able to see firsthand the care and attention they give each bag to create high quality down sleeping bags that are still made right here in the USA.


Adventure 16 is a company that prides itself on representing the highest quality gear and customer satisfaction. And because of this, customers often ask why are some coats and gear so much more expensive than similar items located down the street at their local sporting goods store. I think that definition of the store there in itself helps explain why Adventure 16 chooses to carry certain products over other similar items.

One of the major areas that Adventure 16 likes to pride itself in, is being one of the few stores to carry this awesome company called Western Mountaineering. Located in San Jose, CA on a quiet street in the middle of warehouses was Western Mountaineering. It took us a circle or two around the block to find the signage seeing as they aren’t the largest manufacturer. 

Once inside though we were greeted with a kind “Hello!” from Gary Peterson, the production manager. Gary began at Western Mountaineering in 1991 and has seen it all. On the left is Gary and I standing next to the Adventure 16 National Park Road Team vehicle.

The factory in San Jose is one of three stateside that they are currently using. There are 30 to 38 seamstresses working on the floor at any given time and usually a single sleeping bag is only ever touched by two of them.

Below is a walk through of the factory from a bag being cut to the final inspection table. These bags are truly hand made in the U.S.A. using as many U.S. sourced materials as possible.

Yes, they use to have garments made in Canada. but found that even there, quality control became too difficult to control.



Western Mountaineering Sewing Floor


Sleeping bag templates. You'd think that would all be digital but paper is still the best.


A stack of 100 Badger sleeping bag shells being cut all at once.


Homemade tools are sometimes the best. Fashioned-together scissors and razor blades to trim sheets that are roughly 5ft wide.


Baffle spacing. A simple chalk mark tells each seamstress where to stitch & pleat the fabric to make each bag


A seamstress hard at work putting together a Mitylite.  One of the few bags that is stitched entirely by one worker.


Baffles being sewn into the inside of the sleeping bag. The mesh strips help keep the down separated in each baffle and also to help dictate the volume of the baffle by varying the height of each baffle.




Besides the sleeping bags, they also sew down coats and booties. This was just one of the stacks of items ready to be finished.


Gary standing in front of sleeping bags awaiting baffling to be sewn in. All of the bags in the background are filled with high-quality goose down fill from Poland. Western sources their down from a mother goose farm where the geese are not bred primarily for food. This means they have a longer life span, they don't spend their life in confinement or cages and their plumage is gathered from their nesting area, which all results in better quality down.


Down was floating all over the factory since it wasn’t quarantined in its own area. The feathers were piled like dust bunnies in every corner.


Filling the bags in an artwork. On the scale at the top of the photo was a small disc with increments written to tell how much fill should be in each section of whatever bag it is they are filling.


One of the new ideas being instituted by Western this year is having the two seamstresses who made the bag sign it. This helps demonstrate the quality and care that each bag is given and ensures that they would not send out a bag they wouldn’t want themselves.


All finished up, these are sleeping bags going through quality checks before being boxed and shipped to their respective retailer. I looked for some earmarked Adventure 16 but couldn’t find any. 

Yes many of the Western Mountaineering bags don't look very exotic, or come in a wide selection of colors, but the devil is in the details. The fine details like double-stitching in high-wear areas or creating a new zipper cave to prevent air from entering at the draft collar.

When you start your search for the perfect sleeping bag be sure to go through the details and not just trust its warmth rating. There is a lot more to a sleeping bag than meets the eye. Don't let the simple looking design fool you.