My Trip to Yellow Birch Outfitters: The Place That Makes Gear for Your Grandkids

Nestled in the shadow of Peck Mountain in Cheshire, CT, Yellow Birch Outfitters manufactures gear for people who really like it "made like they used to".

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The trip to Yellow Birch Outfitters

As I wound down the wooded road leading to Yellow Birch Outfitters I was wondering what Jay was going to be like. We had only spoken through text and email when he invited me to come and visit the shop. After passing by the driveway three times I finally noticed the Yellow Birch Outfitters sticker on the back of a pickup truck and pulled in.

I knocked and waited a second. As the door opened I was greeted by a man with a huge smile, a gripping handshake, and an enviously large beard.

This is Jay.

Jay is the man behind Yellow Birch Outfitters in Cheshire, CT.

“Yellow Birch Outfitters has an old-fashioned view of how things should be. Gear built to be reliable and trustworthy, looks that are timeless, and quality that can be counted on for generations. Our handmade gear utilizes both modern and traditional materials and techniques to blend the past with the future, and we stock brands that think the same way so even though you may WANT to buy new gear, you never HAVE to again.”

The workshop at Yellow Birch Outfitters is a thing to behold. It’s an EDC paradise filled with brass buckles, knives, modified military surplus bags, and leather. Lots of leather. The walls are lined with bushcrafting gear and the workbench is covered with half-finished WW2-style, leather cribbage boards.

Behind the workbench, a filled bookcase dominates the wall. Tucked on the shelves are vintage books on bushcraft, sewing, and survival. Jay has even earmarked important passages with solid brass bookmarks. The shelves are lined with items that have been passed through many hands and generations. Every item has a history, a story to tell. This is the essence of what Yellow Birch Outfitters sets out to create. Gear that will last long enough to pass down.

“Hmmm, I could do that.”

Jay and I sat down. After talking gear for a bit, emptying out our pockets and me asking “What does that do?” about every single shiny object in the room, we got down to where it all started and the path that Yellow Birch Outfitters was on.

Jay has the unique combination of a background in the arts as well as the military. Sprinkle in some sewing work and you get a perfect blend of design, ability, and utility. All of the work that Jay has done in the past seem to have led to this place.

Nestled in the shadow of Peck Mountain in Cheshire, CT, Yellow Birch Outfitters manufactures gear for people who really like it “made like they used to”. Jay said he started out making notebooks and other leather goods. He pointed to a small frame hanging on the wall with a leather-bound notebook inside.

“That was the first one.”

Jay said that it all initially started with him needing a sheath for a knife. While shopping around and seeing some of the crazy prices, he said what any sane person who likes to make things says to themselves…

“Hmmm, I could do that.”

The rest was history. Jay began experimenting with leather, cutting, threading, sewing. The results are pretty phenomenal. This guy knows what he is doing.

Among the many things Yellow Birch Outfitters makes are leather knife sheaths, WW2 style leather cribbage boards, artfully crafted leather-bound field notebooks, and leather folders.

The piece that first drew my attention, however, was their EDC Pocket Organizer.

The PocKit EDC Pocket Organizer

The PocKit is an EDC pocket organizer made from 1000D nylon that features pouches on one side to hold your knife, pen, etc. On the other side, secured with YKK zippers is a compartment to store your more unruly EDC gear. It’s an incredibly functional design.

The PocKit Classic in Coyote Brown

The PocKit comes in two colors and two styles. You can get the PocKit in Coyote brown or Black. You can also get it with 3 front pockets (Classic) or with 2 larger pockets (Modern). Depending on what you carry and their size, either one can be a great choice.

The Modern PocKit in Black.

Fire up the Juki

Yeeehaww!

Jay pulled his chair over to one of the two giant sewing machines in the shop. One, “The Cowboy” is a beast of a machine. That was the one meant for leather work. It looked like it. Jay told me about his trek to the Bronx late one night to pick it up from a tall tenement building and his escapades getting it down the stairs. Like everything else in the room, it had rich a story behind it.

The Juki

The other machine, the one he was going to using to make my PocKit was a Juki from the 70’s. Though it is smaller than the cowboy, this thing is still a beast.

“They don’t make them like they used to, ” Joked Jay.

A PocKit ready to be made.

Jay pulled out a large box filled with Cordura nylon pieces. Each component was hand-cut and ready for assembly. He gathered the sections together and asked me what color PocKit I wanted. Being the snowflake that I am, I asked if we could mix it up. Jay obliged me and made me a Coyote/Black mix. He grabbed a YKK zipper and some tags to sew in.

As he pieced the PocKit together, he talked about the little details that most people would miss. The zipper is triple sewn in. It also doesn’t have a lot of the nylon from the zipper portion exposed. Not only does this aid in making it water-resistant, Jay explained that if you left that open it could be a wear point. He talked about why he made corners a certain way to maximize the durability and how if you stitch something incorrectly you can weaken the fabric. This is a guy who takes pride in what he makes. And it shows.

Everything at Yellow Birch Outfitters is way overbuilt. Jay likes to make sure things won’t break down.

“Everything I make has a lifetime guarantee. That’s the lifetime of the product, not the owner. You don’t guarantee an owner, you guarantee a product.”

Jay finished it up and I got to leave with the masterpiece below:

This is my PocKit. There are many like it but this one is mine. (Well, this one has a custom color scheme.)

I can’t recommend this product enough. I’ll do a full review on it but just take my word for it, it’s awesome. For something as simple as a pocket organizer, the amount of thought and care that went into this PocKit really gave me a new appreciation for hand-crafted gear. It’s the little things that make the difference between something that simply works and something that simply works well.

What’s in store for Yellow Birch Outfitters?

While Jay is usually busy cranking out gear he is also busy talking to other small manufacturers around the United States.

Here’s why (from Jay):

Up to now, Yellow Birch has been a purveyor of goods that we have produced ourselves. The time has finally come to be able to fulfill that dream and bring in goods that are proven, tested, and utterly reliable. Craftsmen (and craftswomen) that love what they do, and it’s evident in every piece they create. Items that you know that years from now will become treasured heirlooms because of the love you have had for them in their years of dependable service.

In the near future you will begin to see products trickling in from more of these incredible craftspeople. I can’t wait to show them to you.

This bag is among some of the new gear that Yellow Birch will be offering in the near future.

We are excited to see the next phase of Yellow Birch Outfitters. Jay let me take a look at some of the gear they are looking to carry in the very near future. There is some really exciting stuff in the works over there.

All in all, I would say it was a very educational trip. I have a bias towards large/thick knives. I like stuff that I can’t break, avoiding anything that looked like it couldn’t be used as a pry bar. Jay managed to convince me that an Opinel is actually a useful knife by sharpening one up and having me cut through a ridiculously thick piece of leather (like butter). I thought they were too thin to be of any real use. He then managed to change my mind about how incredibly useful small knives are to carry (by giving me one from his stash). Now it’s part of my daily carry. I have used it about a million times. Jay was right again.

Jay showed me how having someone who is really passionate and well versed in their gear can provide you with something you didn’t even know you needed. Yea, you can go on Amazon and grab gear based on reviews. But Yellow Birch Outfitters is trying to bring something back to the retail space that has been missing for quite some time:

Genuine help.

Quality gear.

Like they used to make it.

So before you set out on your next adventure, head on over to Yellow Birch Outfitters and check out the gear that they are making. I guarantee you will love it.

And so will your grandkids when you hand it down to them.

 

Have some gear from Yellow Birch Outfitters? How are you liking it? Leave us a comment below!

 

 

 

  • Ragged Viking

    I “met” Jay, like most people do, through his Etsy store – where I purchased two of his PocKits. A mutual friend had actually introduced us a few months earlier – but it was through this transaction that we started a dialogue which would lead to a great friendship and a business collaboration between my company and his.

    This guy is not only talented, but he’s a genuinely great person. A family man, a veteran, and a craftsman like we haven’t seen in decades. His attention to detail and patience are uncanny.

    Head to his shop of you want a piece of gear that you could drag through hell and back.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4299d38d80680448c387bb5db1b96ff7be5f766f9312955fabe17ed27b4bb9f0.jpg

  • Brian Evans

    Jay is a great guy and a great friend. I proudly carry my Evans Knife and Tool Dart in one of his sheaths every day. Gear you can count on for life at Yellow Birch Outfitters! Guys, YBO and Jay won’t let you down. I’d carry any of his his gear wherever life might take me.