On the (Bear) Line with Lawson Kline of Lawson Equipment

Ben LeBlanc

“The reason I went with the name Lawson Equipment—well, my wife says it’s my ego—but really it’s because I am proud of the products I make and because I stand behind them 100%." 

When Lawson jumped into the outdoor gear game in 2008, he set a simple goal: make and sell high-quality innovative outdoor products. But while buying a bunch of inventory from mainstream manufacturers, he got a glimpse through the operative lens of major manufacturers, and he was not impressed by the accepted ethos in the outdoor market.

As he navigated his avenues as a startup, he soon realized just how tangled up the corporate system was: “The same company that owns North Face also owns Wrangler. And they both make a pair of nylon shorts that are made from the same material, look similar, feel similar, and function similar—and probably are made in the same factory overseas by the same people...  But the North Face shorts cost 4x as much. So with the Wrangler shorts, you’re essentially buying North Face-quality but at one quarter the price. Why is that? Is it because they can get away with it, or because the customer is really getting a product that is four times better?"

On top of all the head-itching logistics of price points, Lawson found that most of the gear being sold seemed like it was designed by people who had never even used it before or didn't spend any real time in the outdoors, as a lot of stuff just didn't make sense to him. "The idea of carrying a gallon of water inside your dry backpack for a multi-day outing with all of your dry clothes, food, and sleeping bag is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. But now every backpack comes equipped to handle one."

He has been an avid outdoorsman since birth, and his values run counter to the labyrinthine logic behind big name establishments; for him, transparency, necessity, and customer-connection are all critical, which is why he chose to separate himself from the oily corporate landscape and get busy with his bare hands, crafting his own products out of his workshop. 

Lawson Equipment balances affordability and reliability with a well-deserved left hook to the face of engineered obsolescence. In other words, he’s here to leave a mark, and a big one at that.

At the moment, Lawson Equipment crafts top quality reflective cordage, ultralight bear line, tent stakes, hardware, trowels, and custom products for other companies using his own braiding, metal working, and custom built machines. It’s a small full time family operation far from a one-man-band: "Without my wife Danielle's help and support, this dream I call a business would not be possible. She takes care of our kids, our dog, the house, helps with the business, and most importantly she keeps me on track. I am honestly the luckiest guy on earth. She is the true unsung hero..." Their practice, procedures, and future objectives are more solid than a metric ton of Aerospace Grade 7075 T-6 Aluminum (which is, you guessed it, what his Apex stakes, Potty Trowels, and hardware are all made of).

Lawson's streamlined approach to production speaks to his philosophy on commodification as whole: “I see these companies selling thirty different backpacks, and there’s so much crossover between their features. Couldn’t you just have made three backpacks?” The point, he continues, is clear intention behind the design.

He's been a do-it-yourself guy since the very start. No fretting, dwelling, or floundering, unless we’re talking fish. 

“I wanted a boat when I was sixteen, so I built myself a boat.”

It’s this innate knack for self-sufficiency and hammer-and-nail work ethic that makes his manufacturing company so darn good at what they do, and his direct engagement with every product puts real force behind his no BS policy.

“If you buy something from me and it doesn’t meet your expectations, I don’t want to waste money you worked hard for. I work hard, and I know other people do ... and it’s not just a guarantee. You can stamp a pile of shit with a guarantee but it’s still shit. To me it’s just a simple principle, and one that I live by.”

This hard work takes many forms in his shop during the average weekday. When he’s not putting together the parts for custom machines—like the one he made to cut, bend and point his titanium tent stakes—you can find him winding industrial size braiding machine bobbins, spooling and hanking cord, and babysitting his metal beasts on and off the clock to make sure every inch of line is braided to perfection.

Sometimes, creation can be monotonous, but always fulfilling: “I know that the products I manufacture don’t necessarily make people ‘happy,’ but the stuff they get to do with the products I manufacture gets them outdoors, which makes them happy, and that makes it all worth it for me.”

Everything Lawson Equipment makes and sells is painstakingly created in their home based shop in eastern Florida. Lawson’s product line up will one day hopefully include the whole kit-and-kaboodle of outdoor necessities, including cookware, stoves, headlamps, knives, trekking poles, water filtration, tents, backpacks—all within-reach ambitions as limitless as the Everglades themselves.

Until then, you can catch him in his backyard workshop braiding line so good that it glows (literally).

Lawson Equipment

 

2 comments

Tye Kline

Tye Kline

First off I am Lawson,s dad. I have seen the amount of time he puts into making every product he sells. He really cares about his customers and what they think. I am very proud of his workmanship. ( If North face and wrangler would use some of Lawsons threads they would both have a better product). Thats made in the USA.

Nathan

Nathan

Not trying to defend TNF or Vanity Fair, but the argument that Wrangler and North Face are the same because they are owned by the same parent company is flawed. A basic understanding of fabric, materials, stitch counts reveals that they are in fact not the same. TNF makes some crap but they make some phenomenal gear as well. Wrangler does not.

Leave a comment

Most Read Articles

  1. 11 Pieces of Ultralight Gear Under $5 (Updated)
  2. The Controversy of Cairns
  3. Joe Chocolate Co Coffee Caffeine Thru-Hiking Backpacking Snacks Food

Featured Products

Save 5%
Ultralight Fanny Pack by High Tail DesignsUltralight Fanny Pack by High Tail Designs
Ultralight Fanny Pack by High Tail Designs
$ 52.24 $ 54.99
Only 3 left
Save 12%
Vecto 2L Water Container by Cnoc OutdoorsVecto 2L Water Container by Cnoc Outdoors