How Outdoor Gear Companies are Responding to COVID-19

May 1, 2020
Massachusetts-based New Balance has shifted its manufacturing from shoes to masks. Photo courtesy of New Balance

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ripple across the country, we’re all thinking about how we can best support efforts to limit the spread of the virus and to help protect the frontline workers most at risk, from health care workers to grocery store clerks, first responders to public transportation operators.

In the outdoor gear world, companies are stepping up in a variety of ways, from transforming their manufacturing facilities to produce masks, gowns, and other protective equipment, to donating food and supplies to those most in need. Here’s a round up of companies in the Northeast that are step-in up to help out in these unprecendeted times.



All L.L.Bean retail stores have closed indefinitely—even its flagship store in Freeport, Maine, famous for its 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, 365-days a year operating hours. Meanwhile, the company has retooled its factory in Brunswick, Maine to produce 10,000 masks a day for health care workers in Maine. The company has also partnered with a local food bank and is using its distribution center to pack food for pantries around the state. 


New Balance

The Massachusetts-based footwear manufacturer responded rapidly once the COVID-19 crisis hit and it became apparent that there was a dire shortage of personal protective equipment for frontline medical staff. The company quickly transitioned its manufacturing facilities in Massachusetts and Maine to produce masks for healthcare workers, and has been donating or selling them at minimal cost to medical facilities in those states.

New Balance has also made a $2 million pledge for nonprofit grants to COVID-19 response programs from local, regional, and global organizations fighting the pandemic, including the Boston Resiliency Fund, Groundwork Lawrence, and Good Shepherd Food Bank. You can read more in this letter from New Balance CEO Joe Preston.


Darn Tough

I’ve highlighted this iconic, made-in-Vermont sock company before. To help cushion the feet of health care workers across the Green Mountain State, Darn Tough is donating 10,000 pairs of its socks to Vermont hospitals. If you’re also in need of some warm, cushy, ultra-durable socks for padding around the house, it’s hard to go wrong while supporting this local New England company and its workers.


Ragged Mountain Equipment 

This small New Hampshire gear maker has shifted to producing general use face masks and to date has generated more than 7,000 masks.  First responders in New Hampshire have received 25 percent of these as donations; the remainder are available for sale online and by curbside pickup in the company’s home town of  Intervale, N.H.


Vermont Glove

This Randolph, Vt.-based company has shifted its entire production facility over to produce fabric masks for frontline workers and the general public. While overwhelming demand is currently exceeding the company’s limited capacity, they are also offering useful resources for DIY masks at home, including this step-by-step guide.


It’s a strange and difficult time for all of us. As we each struggle to adapt to this new abnormal, I for one am heartened by the community spirit and willingness to help that these companies demonstrate. I encourage you to support them and all the other local businesses and their workers who are being hard-hit right now by the pandemic.

Be well, be safe, and take care of yourself.


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Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.

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