Not only do the Outdoor Gear Builders, a collection of like-minded manufacturers based in Western North Carolina, know how to make rad outdoors gear, but they also know how to play with it…well. Calling the beautiful mountains of WNC home, a region brimming with mountains, National Forests, water, rocks and hikes, there’s a million ways to enjoy it, but here’s a few of their favorites.
1) Eagles Nest Outfitters – Creators of packable travel hammocks and fun outdoors accessories. Based in Asheville.
The Honeypot SwimmingHole
The Honeypot is a beautiful, natural swimming hole that’s always a fun trip. A trip to the Honeypot combines a satisfying hike with some epic scenery (and usually a whole heap of butterflies!) which always guarantees a great time.
Off 276 by the Big East Fork Pisgah.
Head to 276/ Cruso Rd, either from Canton or off the Parkway.
Park at the Big East Fork Pisgah Trail Head (over the river from Shining Rock Trail Head.)
Follow the trail by the river for about 2 miles, until it comes to a natural pool.
2) Swaygo - Refreshingly simple gear for extraordinary needs. The most durable, waterproof, low-profile caving backpacks ever. Based in Asheville.
The Big Room in Bat Cave, NC.
The Bat Cave is the largest known granite fissure cave in North America and is home to the endangered Indiana bat. Access is limited as the cave and surrounding area is protected by The Nature Conservancy, but there is limited access in the summer the The Nature Conservancy. The trek to the cave takes hikers a mile through mature hardwood forests that cloak the slopes of Hickory Nut Gorge – a great adventure for nature-lovers!
The Bat Cave is located off Hwy. 9 between Bat Cave and Lake Lure.
3) Threshold Provisions – Specializes in creating gear of the nutrition kind that defines the adventurous lives of those who push the boundaries of gear, themselves, and the world around them. ‘Fuel the Moment’ with delicious energy bars or salmon jerky. Based in Asheville.
You can’t go wrong in Pisgah Forest. Bike, hike, camp, swim, paddle, play. One of the first national forests in the eastern United States, Pisgah is a 512,758 acre forest with beautiful mountainous terrain that includes some of the highest mountains in the east.
There are a whole bunch of access points, but a good starting point is at Banner Elk, NC.
4) Recover Brands -Manufactures apparel made from 100% recycled materials using post consumer plastics and post industrial cotton. Based in Asheville.
Mountain Biking in Brevard/ Pisgah
Home to some of the best mountain biking trails on the east coast, the Brevard, NC area is where you need to head!
From Asheville take I-26 to the airport exit and then take 280 to Brevard. Once you get to Brevard take Pigah Hwy 276 and you’ll find trail after trail.
5) Astral – A focused group of paddlers, designers, engineers, and regular good people, Astral makes high perfomance kayaking footwear and arguably the best PFDs in the industry. Based in Asheville.
Linville River Gorge
Not only does the Linville River Gorge offer some glorious paddling and heart-pumping rapids for expert kayakers, it’s also an outdoor paradise for backpacking and hiking. It’s also rich in animal life – so watch out for those bears!!!
Head NE on State HWY 126 towards Linville Shores Dr. Turn left onto Gwaltney Rd. Turn left onto NC-181 N. Turn left onto NC-183 N. Turn left onto Old NC 105. Take the first left onto Biggerstaff Ave.
6) Sport Hansa – Imports and distributes some of the most intriguing European outdoor brands. Each of our lines has a strong innovation story combined with a compelling brand history. Based in Asheville.
Upper French Broad River (Rosman – Asheville Airport)
Kayaking on the Upper French Broad is a great WNC experience. Calmer than the lower end of the river, you can enjoy a leisurely paddle, tube or canoe and take in all the sights. If you keep going, you eventually get to the Bywater… a local riverside bar.
Head to Rosman, NC to begin your day!
7) American Backcountry – The perfect merger of test-of-time Outdoor Graphics with top quality Moisture Wicking Apparel and trend forward printing technologies.
Big Bald Mountain on the Appalachian Trail
Big Bald is a truly beautiful spot, offering 360-degree panoramic views of the Smokies, Mount Mitchell and Unaka Mountain – probably some of the best views of the Appalachian Mountains! Best for an over night or full day trip.
You can only get to Big Bald by hiking in on the Appalachian Trail. Take Interstate 26 and take Exit 3. From the ramp, take a right on Bear Brand and take a left onto HWY 23A. In about 3 miles, you’ll reach parking for the trail on the left side of the road. The trail head on the other side will take you toward Big Bald Mountain.
8) Rightline Gear – Getting your extra gear on your vehicle! Rightline wants your road trip to be a great experience, and we pride ourselves on our unique and innovative product designs. Based in Asheville
Mountain Biking and Trail Running at Bent Creek
Bent creek, part of Pisgah National Forest, is just 15 minutes from downtown Asheville. Boasting an unbelievable amount of rails, you can’t go wrong for an active day of mountain biking or trail running!
From Asheville, take I-240 west to I-26 east and get off on exit 33, NC 191. Turn left, pass the Biltmore Square Mall, and head south on NC 191 for 2 miles. Turn right at the stoplight onto Bent Creek Ranch Road (following the brown signs for the Lake Powhatan Recreation Area). Bear left at a fork after 0.2 mi. Continue for about 2 miles to reach the National Forest and the first (Rice Pinnacle) parking area.
9) TerraForma Outdoor Solutions – One of the great challenges to enjoying the Western Carolina Mountains is the inability to cook, sit, or sleep on a level surface. Our products will solve that problem. Based in Asheville.
Bent Creek – again!
It doesn’t have the most spectacular views as some other spots but over the last ten years, but it’s perfect for dog walking and it’s always fun and accessible. There are lots of trails, plenty of creeks/streams to play in in spite of how busy it can be, and it’s still possible to be out on the trail and not see too many people. Its a “go to” place to hike and it’s only about 15 minutes from Downtown.
10) Bellyak - Offers innovative lay on top kayaks for river, surf or lake. Designed to be ridden lying down, kneeling or seated without restricting straps or a confining spray skirt. Maximum fun with a minimum learning curve! Based in Asheville.
The Big Laurel River
If you’re looking for a quiet walk, beautiful scenery, some great fishing and perfect paddling conditions, the Big Laurel River is where you want to visit! Boasting some swift runs with deep, dark holes containing massive fish, you’ll always see something new. Hiking or Bellyaking, the Big Laurel River is an enjoyable day out.
Located in Madison County, NC. Hwy 25/70 to Madison County, park at intersection of Hwy 25/70 and 209, hike or paddle downstream.
11) Outrider USA – Builders of high-performance electric bikes. We take pride in building electric trikes that allow riders to sustainably explore the back-roads while getting exercise. Based in Fletcher.
One of the most spectacular balds in the Southern Appalachians, these treeless mountaintops are perfect for a picnic, day trip, or weekend hike. Featuring dark forests, streamside meadows and pretty waterfalls, it’s got it all!
Head south on the Parkway from Asheville, it’s beyond Mt. Pisgah to milepost 420.2.
Additional Outdoor Gear Builder companies to check out are Simpleshot Shooting Sports, Watershed Drybags, liquidlogic, Native Watercraft, LightHeart Gear, Blue Ridge Chair Works, Harmony House Foods, SylvanSport and Tsuga, and partners Mills Manufacturing, Prestige Subaru and SportHansa.