Skyblue Overland may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article.
Established in Seattle in 1897, Filson is the leading outfitter and manufacturer of unfailing goods and apparel. Built upon a reputation for reliability, Filson has been trusted by generations of anglers and hunters, engineers and explorers, mariners and ranchers, and anyone who refuses to stay indoors.
125 years ago, Clinton C. Filson established his company to outfit prospectors driven to strike gold regardless of environmental obstacles. These miners were soon joined by hunters, anglers, engineers, and explorers. The hardiness of Filson Mackinaw Coats and Wool Field Pants made them unrivaled for keeping comfortable and staying alive in the wilderness.
History of the Filson Brand
C.C. Filson was born in 1850 with a pioneer spirit and a love for the outdoors. After roaming the country as a railroad conductor, he moved to Seattle, Washington in the 1890s. This was great timing, because by 1897 the Great Klondike Gold Rush was on and thousands of hunters were passing through Seattle, heading north. This is how Filson made his brand. He wanted to dress and equip the hunters with high quality clothes and gear. His statement in his 1914 catalog said it all: “To our customers: if a man is going North, he should come to us for his outfit, because we have obtained our ideas of what is best to wear in that country from experience of the man from the North – not merely one – but hundreds of them.
Filson’s materials are the very best obtainable, for we know that the best is none too good and that quality is of vital importance. You can depend absolutely upon our goods both as to material and workmanship.” The clothing he made was the best around at the time, and is very influential in today’s clothing. The hardiness of Filson Mackinaw Coats and Wool Field Pants made them unrivaled for keeping comfortable and staying alive in the frigid wilderness up north. First made for gold prospectors, Filson evolved to make clothing for hunters, anglers, engineers, and explorers.
Looking For An Amazing Adventure? Book A Guided Hiking or Mountaineering Adventure in Denali National Park, Alaska.
The Gold Rush Years: 1897-1899
During these times of the gold rush, Filson opened his manufacturing business – C.C. Filson’s Pioneer Alaska Clothing and Blanket Manufacturers. He specialized in goods to outfit those rushing up north to frigid conditions. Given the severity of the conditions of which people were going to, Filson knew his clothes had to be high-quality and very effective.
In 1897 on First Avenue in Seattle, Washington just steps from where the steamship Portland had docked with one ton of Klondike gold in its hold, “Gold in Alaska, untold riches to be found!” rang across the telegraph wires. Clinton C. Filson would equip his gold-seeking prospectors with purpose-built provisions to survive one of the harshest environments on earth. Operating his own mill, C.C. Filson manufactured Mackinaw woolens, coats, blankets, and knit goods.
For every prospector who struck it rich in the Klondike, thousands more sailed back into Seattle’s port either penniless or saddled with debt. Desperate for employment, these former prospectors turned to the immense forests of the Pacific Northwest to work in the booming timber industry. Filson had already sold protective clothing to the loggers who cleared the wagon trail from Sauk City to Monte Cristo during the brief Monte Cristo gold rush. He knew exactly what loggers needed to wear when working: a roomy yet agile and warm garment that could stand up to tenacious outdoor work.
He set about perfecting the design that would become the first Filson Cruiser, a garment so revolutionary that on March 3, 1914, the Filson Cruiser received U.S. Patent #1088891. With its trademark pockets built to accommodate surveyor tools, the Cruiser quickly became the gold standard in the forests. Clinton had never intended the Filson Cruiser to become a national sensation. He created it to service loggers in the timber industry, naming the garment after the “Timber Cruiser,” a logger who pierced the forest to locate the most productive timber zones.
Even though the Gold Rush is obviously a thing of the past, Filson continued to create clothing from the best materials available, and guaranteed every single piece of merchandise. If there was something a customer wanted that he didn’t have in stock, he would custom make it. Customers still flocked to Filson to get their outdoor merchandise. Filson transitioned to making clothing for the timber industry, where he created the Filson Cruiser, a garment that still influences Filson’s best selling items.
Filson Signature Materials
Part of what makes Filson so unique, is the consistent use of the best materials available. These materials have made truly revolutionary clothing over the years because they are so unique and distinct. Below we are some of the signature materials that have made such an impact today.
For every person who struck gold in the Klondike, thousands more fled back to Seattle with pennies or debt. Broke and desperate, many of these once gold searchers turned to the timber industry. It soon became a booming industry. This was not only great for the workers who were desperate for employment, but it was also a huge pivotal moment for Filson. He knew exactly what clothing and gear loggers needed and he had the materials to make it. This pivotal moment is when he designed and made the first Filson Cruiser. It received a U.S. Patent. It had trademarked pockets to accommodate surveyor tools and the Cruiser quickly became the standard piece for the forests. More than a century later, the 1914 Filson Cruiser is almost identical to today’s version. All clothes with a tin cloth finish are abrasion-resistant and rain repellent. This fabric has been proven to work for over 100 years. You can get almost any outdoor apparel with a tin cloth finish, like a baseball cap, chaps, a backpack, and much more.
Filson began making clothing out of wool to keep those traveling up north warm while they dig for gold. Filson believes in making the best products they can because sometimes their customers’ lives, quite literally, rely on it. If Filson gear is not warm enough, then people may fall victim to exposure. To this day, Filson wool is highly trusted and used by outdoor professionals including loggers, guides, backcountry packers, and the U.S. Forest Service. Filson uses virgin wool rather than recycled wool. Recycled wool is made from tearing up previously-woven garments and re-spinning the shredded fibers into yarns, making a scratchy, harsh and weak article of clothing. When using virgin wool you use sturdy wool fibers that have no nylon added. This makes it so that 100% of the fabric has the warmth and moisture-wicking abilities. In addition to only using virgin wool, Filson searches for the best mills available.
Mackinaw Wool was used to create the 1914 Mackinaw Wool Cruiser that to this day, is almost unchanged. When something is perfect, why change it? The Cruiser was designed for timber cruisers and is the perfect example of a purpose-built jacket. The wool was made from fleece directly from a sheep that was meticulously sorted through to find the most study fibers that are the most suited for fighting cold temperatures. It is extremely tightly woven till which provides warmth, wind-resistance, and durability without excess bulk. This thought is woven into all of Filson’s wool products to create the perfect outdoor gear.
Just like Filson’s other materials, the Rugged Twill is made to provide outdoor workmen or adventurers the warmth they need to fight some seriously foul weather. The Rugged Twill is used to build luggage and bags to transport adventurers’ gear back and forth, study enough to hold heavy weight and be protective enough to keep your gear safe and dry.
The Rugged Twill is 100% cotton fabric made from 2-ply and 3-ply yarns woven in a 2×2 twill pattern. This ensures that the horizontal yarns alternate crossing over and under two vertical yarns. This creates a very dense material, capable of holding heavy weights. The duality of the material allows for it to be used as a field bag, carrying your gear for adventures, or for it to be used as a briefcase, to bring your laptop to school or work.
Responsibly Sourced Down
Filson uses goose down for their warmest coats. Down is the soft under-plumage that lies under the tough exterior feathers of birds, providing them with insulation from icy weather. Goose down, has long been regarded as being the longest. Filson combines the goose down with an original water-resistant oil finish cover in their down products. This creates a warm, insulated, and water-resistant coat that weighs next to nothing.
Filson believes in sourcing this responsibly, meaning the down comes from geese that have been raised for the food supply, meaning the down is going to be disposed of. All the companies and sources that Filson is affiliated with in getting the down are concerned with sustainability and responsibility. This is important to Filson because unfortunately, there are goose farms on the market that are known to treat their animals horribly. Filson believes that to have a great product, it has to come from a great place. You have to respect where you get your materials from.
Filson works with organizations to create products that promote this idea of sustainability. Filson paired up with Ducks Unlimited to make some awesome tee-shirts whose profits go towards preserving wetlands and waterfowl.
Since Filson’s heritage is rooted in the outdoors and the entire point of Filson products is to enjoy being outside and be respectful, it makes sense that they are a company of sustainable responsibility. They are committed to supporting outdoor organizations with missions to protect and sustain outdoor recreation. Instead of focusing on bigger corporations, Filson believes that grassroots are where change happens, and so in turn is happy to support them.
One notable partner of Filson’s is the National Forest Foundation. Filson supports the National Forest Foundation’s 50-million Trees for Our Forests campaign because all of Filson’s customers work, play, or relax in the forests. Without the forests, these recreational activities would cease to exist.
In October 2020, the Ford Bronco® brand and Filson joined forces to celebrate wildland firefighters and support the National Forest Foundation, unveiling the Bronco + Filson Wildland Fire Rig concept to help fund reforestation and forest preservation. Unveiled amidst one of the most devastating wildland fire seasons in history, Filson and Ford Bronco hope to remind every American to educate themselves about fire prevention and responsible recreation. Filson and Ford joined forces to help support the NFF’s ’50 Million for Our Forests’ initiative with a goal of planting 50 million trees. This effort will help restore National Forests impacted by severe wildfire, pests, and disease.