Big Agnes is based out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and produces high-quality outdoor equipment while striving to do so in a sustainable manner. The Big Agnes Tiger Wall tent is ideal for any camping excursion and especially multi-day backpacking trips. I am a HUGE fan of the design, color, and weight of this tent (I personally own one named ‘Happy’), weighing at only 2 lbs, 3 oz.! The 28 square feet interior provides just enough room for two to sleep and move comfortably around. My Big Agnes Tent genuinely brings me happiness. It is my golden dome that radiates sunshine and warmth in any landscape I venture into. Not only does the color bring me joy but how incredibly lightweight it is to carry, and how easy it is to assemble with the minimalist pole structure. Its simple and efficient design makes backpacking and camping adventures so much more enjoyable!
I initially felt very hopeful and optimistic about this product. But as I looked more thoroughly into how Big Agnes tents are made, and where they are made, I am a bit disappointed with the company's manufacturing process mainly depending upon factories in Asia. Big Agnes tents are produced in the Guangdong Province of China, known as one of the world’s largest export and production cities of manufacturing goods. This means that the company, which lists people and planet as part of their "guiding principles," have quite a big impact on both people and the planet when they are manufacturing their products halfway across the world, shipping their products back to their distribution center, among several other environmental impacts the company is failing to address and admit to.
I feel disappointed to be reading all of these initiatives on sustainability on the company's website. I do believe they are doing great work by supporting organizations and non-profits protecting and preserving our environments throughout the country, but I am troubled by the work and support they say they are doing, while their impact on the environment is quite large considering their products are made halfway across the world, in working conditions that seemed "comfortable" to the founder of big Agnes. The company has people and the planet being listed at the core of their guiding principles and making products in a "sustainable manner" a part of their core mission, but this is just another example of corporate green-washing. All companies, ESPECIALLY outdoors companies, have a great responsibility to adopt and adapt to sustainable practices that benefit people, the planet, and especially communities and areas of our environment that are suffering at the forefront of environmental degradation.
Enough of this greenwashing act, and including people and the planet in core missions, when companies are not fully doing good for ALL people and the planet. The outdoors industry especially must be whole-heartedly committed to ensuring sustainability practices within their manufacturing, production, and distribution chains, that ensure the health and safety of individuals and our environment. I would like to see Big Agnes and other outdoor companies be more transparent about how their products are made and where they are made. I would also like to see Big Agnes truly commit to its core mission of producing outdoor equipment in a sustainable and ethical manner. I know Big Agnes can do better in a BIG way!
The Big Agnes Tiger Wall tent is broken up into two main “body parts” made up of different materials. The mesh of the tent body maximizes cross ventilation and provides circulation to fight condensations build-up, is made out of nylon ripstop and polyester mesh. The floor and fly are made out of silicone nylon riostop with 1200mm PU. The collapsible DAC Featherlite NFL poles that provide the freestanding structure are made from a proprietary aluminum alloy. DAC eliminated the chemical polishing stage and reduces the need for these two hazardous chemicals, resulting in safer manufacturing conditions. Dac also recycles wastewater which reduces water use and creates significantly less wastewater (DAC source). All of the tent’s seams are also seal-taped with waterproof, solvent-free polyurethane tape (no PVC or VOCs) to further protect the tent from the elements. All of this information was as easy as viewing the product online because it was located just beneath the product itself! This is what I would like to see from other companies when it comes to the transparency of materials of products and goods. Big Agnes has more information about the “technology” they use to create their products under the “Product Innovation” of Big Agnes tents and apparel.
Big Agnes has three guiding principles: people, product, and the planet. As part of their social responsibility, they are actively giving and supporting causes dedicated to conservation, sustainability, and equality both locally and globally (source 1). While Big Agnes may have sustainable principles set in place, their production is questionable. I could not find specific information anywhere on their website with regards to their manufacturing and production labor. The only “clue” given to me was the fact that there was a small tag, “Made in China” tag in my tent, so I was disappointed to not find anywhere on their website about products being made in China. According to one blog page on the topic of “US Made Tents?” one person claimed that many of the more expensive manufacturers have switched production to China because to, “cut costs,” for the company to ultimately make more profit. Sounds like the typical, questionable actions to me for big corporations to be exploiting people of color and their environments with the goal of making more profit for themselves. While I can’t say this is a reliable source or not, I just thought it was important to note in the production process of this product. I did some more digging to find an article from July 2001, from one of Steamboat Springs, Colorado’s newspaper, “Steamboat Pilot & Today,” with the title “Agnes Bags Big Business.” According to this article, a man by the name of Bill Gamber, who is well known among the business community and outdoors community in Steamboat Springs, started, “pulling deals” with in the Guangdong Province, China, where Big Agnes products are made and produced. Gamber visited China to have Big Agnes products manufactured at an economic price point, and has apparently visited the factories where the products are made, and is, “comfortable” with the working conditions there. I always think of the repercussions of the intentions to make a profit like Bill Gamber, and the people being impacted most in regions of the world where there are lax labor rules. The Guangdong Province in China is known as the “factory of the world” because it is where many of the products, goods, and things we have in our life are made by the hands of someone being underpaid, working in dangerous and unhealthy conditions, and where our ecological footprint ways heavy due to unsustainable manufacturing and production cycles.
Big Agnes was started 20 years ago with the goal of “making the best gear possible to help folks like you get outside and chase your dreams.” Based out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, they are the company that is known as the “mother of comfort" designing products that support people’s adventures. Bill Gamber is the co-owner and co-founder of Big Agnes who is always thinking creatively to create the best product. But as cool as basing a company out of Colorado is, especially when your lunch views are of the Continental Divide, the product is made, manufactured, and sewn together outside of the U.S. in factories located in China. Throughout my investigation of the product, I did not find any information that included the working conditions of employees.