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What Does "Made in the USA" Look Like

What Does "Made in the USA" Look Like

In case you somehow missed it, we just launched our hand-built, made in the USA trekking poles, and wow, has it been a challenge to make them! From building a new supply chain, to manufacturing tools, finding the best bonding materials and just teaching our bodies how to make things right, it was a tall order. This has been a two year long project that we are very proud to have accomplished; it even brought the company to the verge of closing at one point.

Though a huge challenge, it has been a very satisfying journey, and we wanted to share with you how it looks in our workshop. The poles that you are maybe holding right now have been made by real people: Devan, Nathan, Devo and Gilad. We continue to make every single pole here, with Devo now working as our main assembler with the occasional help from the rest of us (also known as "Nathan's Break").

The Assembly Team

Caring for the tubes

We have been fortunate enough to work with Goodwinds Composites in making our carbon fiber tubes. They make amazingly strong yet light tubes that come in a beautiful flat finish that really shows off the Carbon Fiber. What that means, is that once we get them, we need to turn them into a trekking pole tube: they need cleaning, printing and preparing to be bonded with other parts.

In our development process, finding the best way to transform them from plain CF tubes to trekking pole tubes was the most expensive part. We ended up commissioning a company to make us a bespoke Heat Transfer machine so we can print on the poles. To this day, it is the shiniest thing we have in our workshop!

Bonding, bonding and more bonding

It might be the biggest, and most important, part of our whole fabrication process: the quality of the bonding. This has also been the component we had to experiment with and change the most.  After testing dozens of bonds for each part, it ended up that the core of our bonds come from Italy: a material flexible enough to handle the vibrations of the poles while also being strong enough to handle your adventures.

Another big aspect of our bonds is that they expand: since so many of our parts are hand-made, our bonds need to compensate for slight difference in tolerance, allowing them to "fill-in the gaps" so to speak in the poles. 

Bonding part on the Cnoc Trekking Poles

What are sub-assemblies?

When we make your pole, we have a host of "small" parts that we need to make: the lever assembly or attaching the strap to the grip, for example. Though we see them as small, they are pretty important, including to confirm that your right strap (green) fits correctly, and not like the left (yellow) strap.

Sub Assemblies slideshow

Making of a part

Our poles come in a 2 or 3 segment configuration, and each segment will be offered independently soon in case you want to experiment with other grips or maybe if you have managed to break a section from having too much fun.

Each segment is called a part: tip part, middle part or handle part, and each of those becomes its own "sub-assembly", using a combination of boding, attaching more parts to finish the clamp or just adding the relevant accessories like the rubber tips and mud baskets.

Getting it all to fit together

Once we have all our parts made, it is time to assemble them into a pole. The assembly is a pretty straight forward process, and when assembling the pre-orders for our Kickstarter backers we made it into a little party: all of us sitting with boxes of parts, making them into poles and then packaging them so we could send them to you. We might still have occasional assembly parties, while staying safely distant, as they are such a great way to be together while making something. 

Assembling trekking poles

Ready for you

We are very proud of our poles. The process it took to get them to you was long and hard, but very satisfying. The ability to bring such a great industry in house means we can continue to innovate, update and take your feedback and make our poles a never ending improvement journey.

Thank you for trusting us on another great hike!

Goodwinds Composites and Pacific Northwest Sustainability

Goodwinds Composites and Pacific Northwest Sustainability

They helped NASA build a helicopter for Mars, but Goodwinds Composites is still a very down to Earth company. When we were looking for a US carbon fiber tube manufacturer for our Cnoc trekking poles, we knew we couldn't do better than a local, family-owned small business with a focus on caring for both people and planet. When we visited their modest factory in Washington, we wanted to get to know our collaborators.

“You know, I’ve got kids,” says Amelia Cook, who owns and operates the Mt. Vernon, Wash. manufacturer with her brother, Leland Holeman. “I want them to have a world to inherit that’s clean and happy and not polluted.”

Growing up in Ilwaco, Washington, the brother and sister duo bought the composites supply arm of a kite store in 2008 and began precision-cutting small diameter carbon and fiberglass tubes. When they noticed a demand for American-made rods as thin as a human hair, they set up their own micro-pultrulsion machine that would allow them to make wrapped carbon tubes on-site.

very thin carbon fiber tube

“We said, ‘Well, let’s figure this out,” Cook says. “‘We can do this, right? We can.’”

The American manufacturer built its reputation on a culture of excellence. “We weren’t just going to make something that was going to compete with Chinese tubes. We really wanted to make sure that we were making things that our customers wanted,” Cook says.

According to Cook, as customers (like Cnoc and NASA) look to replace metal with lighter-weight, less expensive material, they’re also seeking a speedy turnaround that’s only possible with manufacturing on US soil. Located in the Skagit Valley (north of Seattle on the I-5 corridor), Goodwinds is in the center of a national hub for aerospace, marine technology, machining, and composites.

“We don’t need any supply interruptions,” Cook says. “We do our own tooling for that pultrusion machine, we can do some of our tooling for the wrapped carbon tube operation, which is really nice to not have to wait several weeks to get it from somewhere else. And again, it employs people right here.”

Goodwinds employee holding French bulldog puppy

For Cook, having enough work to continue to employ folks is the model of a sustainable business. And Goodwinds is as mindful of preserving the environment as it is of its employees.

“If we have hardened resin at the end of the day, which unfortunately we sometimes do, it gets hardened out and it does have to go into landfill. That’s the only place for it,” Cook says. Byproducts are never dumped in a water source, and Cook donates rejected pieces that aren’t wrapped in carbon go to the local schools.

“I think we’re always trying to find ways to repurpose things,” Cook says, with the perfect attitude for creating the primary component of our fully repairable trekking poles. It's our goal, too.

Written by Erin Tillery

Cnoc Poles Are Fully Funded!

Cnoc Poles Are Fully Funded!

Our Cnoc Trekking Poles  were fully funded on Kickstarter in nine hours (and a few minutes). These fully repairable trekking poles are officially happening. We're sold out of some of our early bird prices, so pledge as soon as possible to get the best price on your poles.

Our Kickstarter was featured in Forbes, proving that tiny, determined businesses with good ideas can become major national players.

It's not over yet. Our Kickstarter ends October 31. We're thinking about stretch goals. Have a feature you'd like to see? Let us know.

Have you pledged yet?

Here's what Darwin on the Trail, Dan Becker, and Devin of Backcountry Exposure have to say about our durable made in the USA carbon fiber trekking poles.

"“I really dig these poles... Typically, you have to heat the end of a trekking pole up to get the tip off, but these actually screw off and same with all of these parts; you can easily swap them out in the field.” -Darwin

"I was bummed when Cnoc discontinued their original trekking poles because I loved them so much. Then they sent me the prototype for their new poles. One word. Amazing. They are going to be a game changer for trekking poles with their replaceable parts. It's amazing how lightweight they are as well. Love them." -Dan Becker

“I’ve started to carry just one pole and the Ultralight pole has been a solid piece for me on the trail. Should there ever be a failure with this pole, it's comforting to know that I can keep the good sections and replace only what is needed. This is not only a good sustainable approach, but it just makes sense! Invest once into good gear!”-Devin, Backcountry Exposure