American Survival Guide - - GUIDE GEAR -

Amer­i­can Sur­vival Guide: What is your pro­fes­sional back­ground prior to run­ning CLS?

Mark Laine: I served for 20 years in the U.S. Army (in­fantry), both ac­tive duty and re­serves, and the bet­ter part of a decade as an op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer in the Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency.


What in­spired you to start a com­pany such as CLS?

ML: It wasn’t planned or in­spired. I was lucky that in both the Army and the agency, I was around units/el­e­ments for which we were able to cus­tom­ize gear and the like. When I left the agency, I moved back home to north­ern Min­nesota and im­me­di­ately got back into hik­ing, camp­ing, bow hunt­ing and fish­ing—pretty much spend­ing all my time in the out­doors I’ve loved since I was a kid.

It didn’t take long to re­al­ize that the big-box stores did not have the type of equip­ment I needed. Or, it was poorly made junk that wouldn’t stand up to real-world pun­ish­ment. So, I took some of my down­range gear and started mak­ing mod­i­fi­ca­tions for hunt­ing. In ad­di­tion, I cre­ated an item spe­cific to a task (the Gear Roll was born this way). Then, a friend would see it and ask, “Where did you get that?” or “Can you make me one of those?” Next thing you know, I am mak­ing gear—which sure as hell beats go­ing back over­seas as a con­trac­tor or tak­ing a con­sult­ing job in the Belt­way!


In three sen­tences, how would you sell us on sup­port­ing your busi­ness?

ML: As a small busi­ness, we take great pride in the qual­ity and crafts­man­ship of each piece of gear we make, hand-craft­ing prod­ucts us­ing only Amer­i­can-made/mil-spec/berry-com­pli­ant ma­te­ri­als. I de­sign the gear based on my real-life ex­pe­ri­ences— me, not some guy sit­ting in an of­fice who doesn’t know the first thing about hunt­ing, sur­vival or tac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tions. And fi­nally, cus­tomer ser­vice: Call, and it is me, the owner, who an­swers your ques­tion or hand writes the thank-you note on each in­voice.


Peo­ple are go­ing to ask, “Why are your prod­ucts “ex­pen­sive”? ML: Qual­ity prod­ucts con­sist of qual­ity crafts­man­ship and qual­ity ma­te­rial. That is not to say you can­not find a great piece of gear for a low cost. Take a P-38 can opener: I still have the one my fa­ther gave me about 40 years ago, and it has seen plenty of use. But that orig­i­nal one was made of metal. Today’s ver­sions are of some cheap/flimsy alu­minum, and I have bro­ken two of those. [They are] cheap and eas­ily re­placed, and I can buy them in quan­ti­ties, so I have at least one or two in each piece of kit. If buy­ing cheap is your thing, go right ahead; you get what you pay for. Just be pre­pared to pay for it again and again and again.

We use the best plas­tics, web­bing, Cor­dura, etc., and we take our time to make sure it is solidly con­structed. Sim­ply put, this costs money, which im­pacts the cost of goods and price of a prod­uct. If I pay a seam­stress $10 an hour, you will get sewing com­men­su­rate with $10 an hour: The seams/stitch­ing will come apart af­ter the first hard use.

If I used a cheap ma­te­rial, you will get a prod­uct con­sist­ing of cheap ma­te­rial, which will then fail when you need it most. And if you don’t die dur­ing that “Oh, crap!” moment, you will have to buy a sec­ond or a third of the same cheap prod­uct. Qual­ity ma­te­rial and su­pe­rior crafts­man­ship pro­duce that piece of gear your kids are us­ing 20 years later; or that piece of gear which, af­ter five years of just get­ting the snot kicked out of it, fi­nally breaks and you look at it and say, “Hell, yeah, that was worth ev­ery penny!” be­cause you know you abused the liv­ing crap out of it.

The au­thor’s Mother Can­teen Car­rier is well trav­eled. He has taken it to the Arc­tic, the jun­gle, the desert and many points in be­tween. Af­ter pocket equip­ment, it is his next-line-of-emer­gency equip­ment, which he car­ries re­li­giously.

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