Inside Outdoor | SUMMER 2021 16 M inus33 is making outdoor gear in New Hampshire again, starting with its Mountain Heritage hiking socks, and according to the company, “that’s just the beginning.” The merino wool outdoor specialty brand has more than 100 years of roots in Ashland, N.H., and they’re aiming to get the mill cranking again. The Mountain Heritage sock is a bit of a homecoming for Minus33, which in May bought back the historic Scribner mill building of its parent company, L.W. Packard, the textile business that re- mained one of the largest employers in the region from the late 1800s until free trade agreements disrupted textile busi- ness models throughout North America around the turn of the last century. Origi- nally built in 1880, the historic Scribner building is on the grounds of the original L.W. Packard textile mill and has been undergoing renovations by Minus33 since May, starting with the repair and restora- tion of the roof. Further plans include installing a wind vane from the original Ashland Knitting Company and a Hooper Bell, which was once part of the original mill. This bell would have been rung daily to signal various times throughout the day and alerts for important news. “Taking back the Scribner building is a huge step for the growing team here at Minus33,” said Lawson Glidden, vice president of L.W. Packard and lead sock designer. “To dedicate this space to really making things again, even if it’s just a part of this once massive facil- ity, is a feeling that’s so gratifying, it’s hard to describe. We’re proud to carry forward a tradition that reaches back nearly two centuries here in Ashland.” Although the reshoring aspect was an important motivation for Minus33, the move to return manufacturing to Ashland with the Mountain Heritage line also stemmed from issues of quality control, explained Glidden. “The socks we were importing just weren’t up to our standards. It really was a quality issue, and there was a definite communication issue with the sock manufacturers overseas,” said Glidden. “So, we decided to make our own. This has been a textile company for over 100 years, and we knew we had the expertise to pull that off.” Indeed, the attention to detail is not something Glidden takes lightly. Mountain Heritage socks benefit from a prototyping stage that Glidden said included nearly 1,000 iterations. “Outside my office, there’s a giant, yellow 80-gallon bucket. It’s just filled to the brim with socks all the time, because that’s how often I’m prototyp- ing. You can try to work on 10 things at a time, but generally it’s better to just focus on one or two,” said Glidden. “It really comes down to materials and fit. Once you get past that, there’s not much to it. We made a sock that’s very comfortable and works.” Part of the challenge in designing and manufacturing the Mountain Heri- tage line was the desire to have an in- credibly high merino wool content while still providing a comfortable, blister-free and chafe-free fit. Mountain Heritage socks, explained Glidden, use just enough nylon and spandex to stay in place without cutting into the leg, while still retaining that air pocket that keeps feet insulated and warm. “We strive to have more merino wool content than our competitors, but there is a limit to the amount of merino you can put into a sock before you start to sacrifice durability and longevity,” said Glidden. “It’s a balancing act of hav- ing enough merino wool to wick away sweat and having the nylon and elastic to keep the sock in place and keep it functioning for a long, long time. “I wasn’t aiming to make a fashion statement with the Mountain Heritage,” he continued. “It’s a utility sock. It’s a sock that has a purpose, and that purpose is to keep your feet warm and comfortable and blister free during any outdoor endeavor.” m Made in Americas Photo by Khai Ren Quek By Martin Vilaboy Minus33 Restores New Hampshire Manufacturing