Have you seen our new camping collection yet? We love the classic styles of our Yukon and Haversack backpacks and Clawhammer tent, which were all modeled after the original versions used by the Boy Scouts of America. To learn more about them, we talked to Will Gay, owner and CEO, and John Delaloye, owner and COO, of Diamond Brand, the company behind the products. Read on to learn what makes their gear special and where they are hiking and camping this summer.
What’s the story behind Diamond Brand? How did the company start?
Diamond Brand has been designing and producing timeless outdoor gear in America for over 130 years. The business began as a fur and feather distributor in 1881 before transitioning into the sewing industry in the 1920s. During World War II we manufactured a great deal of military products out of our North Carolina mill — from canteen covers to canvas bags. We are also known for creating the original Boy Scout backpack, the Yucca Pack, in 1931.
Well, back in the day canvas was graded and stamped with a “Diamond Brand” if it was of top-notch quality. Since our products have been a matter of survival for people in the military as well as outdoor adventurists, we apply that Diamond Brand quality across the board. We take fun seriously, too. Even if you’re just using one of our tents for a farm picnic, we want it to perform flawlessly.
What are some of the first products you made? What do you specialize in now?
After fur and feathers we evolved mainly into creating canvas products — wall tents and bags. Today we still specialize in fabric-based, sewn products that we produce in our facility located in the mountains surrounding Asheville, North Carolina. Our authentic wall tents are sewn from our traditional patterns and paired with the latest performance technologies. Now we are placing more focus on our own line of Diamond Brand gear, like the Smoky Mountain Camping Equipment line now available at Williams-Sonoma. We also operate retail outfitters in our hometown base of Asheville, where we are the oldest outdoor gear shop.
Tell us about working with the Boy Scouts of America. What did you make for the organization? What was your goal with the products?
Eighty years ago we began making their wall tents and other gear. Our goals today are the same as they were back then: to give the Scouts time-tested equipment that enhances their experiences and keeps them returning to the outdoors for the rest of their lives. We also made their first backpack in 1931 and because it has been such a tried-and-true classic, we continue to make it with little tweaks here and there.
What’s unique about your products and the materials you use?
These Smoky Mountain Equipment products are replicas of what we started with in the 1950s. Remaking those timeless designs connects us to our heritage, especially since we are rooted in the heart of the iconic Blue Ridge Mountains. Since we have had a long history with canvas, we have a close relationship to this material and keep improving on our past innovations. For example, with the Clawhammer Tent, we updated the canvas and used a fabric that is waterproof and added screened doors, windows, and vents for better ventilation and a more comfortable experience. We also take great care with integrating functional details at every stage of the product. Each waxed canvas bag comes wrapped in paracord and there are instructions provided on how to make a paracord survival bracelet.
How are your backpacks and tents made?
Since the tents and backpacks are replicas, we use the same patterns from 80 years ago to sew them. Then we enhance these layouts with high-design features like leather, brass and paracord. We use quality waxed canvas for the bags and polyester fabric for the tents and all the products are assembled, sewn and packaged at our North Carolina facility.
Tell us specifically about the backpacks and tents Williams-Sonoma is carrying. What do you love about them?
Both products speak to our heritage and are innately functional. The tents have a more architectural and classic appeal for those looking for a little more of a stylistic edge in their camping experience. They are one of a kind and are patterned after our original wall tents. And whether you’re carrying fishing gear or city travel guides in these bags, they are versatile and handsome in the way only a vintage bag can be. We all love seeing our signature Smoky Mountain Camping Equipment Badge on these products.
How can they be used? Just for camping, or for everyday use as well? What makes them great for camping?
The bags are perfect for everyday lifestyles. We bring out the tents for backyard fun or when setting out for remote campgrounds. Our wall tent has been around for decades and we’ve improved it by making it lighter (with aluminum poles and lightweight fabric) and easier to put up and take down. These user-friendly tents also come with custom-made carry and store bags.
Our favorite places are the higher elevations spots in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and are usually close to a trout stream. This summer I (Will) have hiked and camped along the trails of Straight Fork and Enloe Creek.
Any tips for first-time campers?
A great complement to our tents are comfy cots with sleeping pads and sleeping bags so that you can rest easily. Be careful with food! Bears and raccoons are curious and love getting into food that is left out. Overnight, any food should be sealed and stored away from your tent or hung over a tree branch in a “bear bag.”
What’s the ultimate camping meal or snack?
Longenecker Lumps. They are basically cinnamon biscuits a la North Carolina camping style. Steve Longenecker is one of our most loyal customers who is known for blazing trails in the Smokies. He participated in our Diamond Brand Camping Cook-Off contest and kindly shares his decades-tested recipe.