Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

The Washington company's products are designed to work in the harshest elements.

There are many stories about the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. From the first monkey in space to the fact that all the original American Astronauts drove Corvettes (seriously, no one will ever be as cool as those guys were), the legends that come from that period of history continue to inspire awe to this day.

One of my favorite legends, however, deals with a topic decidedly more mundane… pens and paper. According to lore, the first astronauts and cosmonauts realized that normal pens simply would not work in space.

Being the industrious and determined people Americans are, NASA spent years and invested millions of dollars in inventing a special pen that could withstand space travel. The Soviets? They brought pencils.

Now, this tale is almost entirely made up.

Rite in the Rain, on the other hand, is a real American success story of putting ink to paper in the face of unforgiving environmental harshness.

Founded in 1916 by a guy named Jerry Darling, Rite in the Rain started out as a husband and wife operation making waterproof paper for loggers working in the rainy Pacific Northwest. Since then, the company’s product lineup has exploded, along with their customer base.

The company now produces environment-proof notebooks, copy paper, binder kits, planners & calendars, and pens that work in the water, upside down, and in extreme temperatures. Their customers now include the construction industry, scientists working in extreme environments like the Arctic, SCUBA divers and even the Department of Defense.

Over a century since its founding, Rite in the Rain still produces all their paper products at a plant in Washington state.

I asked Jim Kopriva, product and media manager at Rite in the Rain, why they have decided to keep manufacturing in America. He told me that although they have had every opportunity to outsource production, the high expectations and demands of their customers necessitate quality control that “can only be achieved through partnerships with domestic producers.”

After more than 100 years in business, Rite in the Rain still makes its products in Tacoma, Wash., at a facility that follows high environmental standards and practices.

Moving forward, the company wants to start making their products more accessible to consumers worldwide, Kopriva said. Rite in the Rain recently concluded a deal to sell its products in Home Depot stores in Washington, Oregon, and New Jersey, with more expected to come. You can find them right next to the tape measurers, Kopriva said.

And while the company isn’t outsourcing production, they are keen on exporting their products and are working through deals with Amazon UK, France, and Germany. After all, as Kopriva pointed out, “we aren’t the only place with bad weather.”

And their stuff is good. Like, really good. I can personally attest to the ruggedness and effectiveness of Rite in the Rain products, having carried one of their notebook kits for the last few years. It has survived mountain treks, jumping out of planes… even a spring break in Cozumel.

Now I’ve got my eye on adding their .375 Mag Brass Pen to the kit. After all, you never know when inspiration might hit.

The next time you’re feeling adventurous, make sure to pack a notebook that can handle anything. Rite in the Rain has been outfitting explorers with American-made quality for over 100 years.

Speaking of exploring, you can feel great while doing so because Rite in the Rain has a huge commitment to sustainability. The only byproduct of their paper coating process is steam, and all their paper and covers are easily recyclable.

So, get out there and write your own legend.

Visit Rite in the Rain online.