Aussie Made Mates — One Planet

And we're back with a brand new installment of Aussie Made Mates! Last time we spoke to hiking food producer, Feed the Hike. Today, we feature ONE PLANET®, a Melbourne-based outdoor gear company that makes packs, sleeping bags, apparel, footwear and tents for outdoor adventure and travel.

So, over to the the yarn we recently had with Ben from ONE PLANET®.

Ottie Merino [OM]: So, tell us who you are! 

Ben W. [BW]: My name is Ben, and I have the pleasure of working at ONE PLANET® (in the Melbourne factory) whilst also spending as much time outdoors as is possible!

IMAGE: On the Western Arthurs “Trail”

OM: What ONE PLANET® is all about? 

BW: ONE PLANET® makes outdoor gear for Australian conditions, with a focus on good design and responsible production. We're based in Melbourne, Australian-owned and dedicated to our local Australian manufacturing.

Keeping it short and simple we make Backpacks, Tent, Tarps, Sleeping Bags, Rainwear, Gaiters, and a range of accessories. We believe good design entwines exceptional functionality and durability with the sustainable development of gear. And that there are no shortcuts in production, to creating
long-lasting kit or to keeping you safe outdoors.

We’ve always had an emphasis with the professional side of the outdoor industry. Alongside our retail products, we develop gear for and supply Australian Antarctic Division, State Emergency Services, Department of Water Land and Planning, Search and Rescue crews and more. We also focus on outdoor education equipment.

We have our own shop on Melbourne’s little Bourke Street, and distribute to independent outdoor shops around Australia and New Zealand.

See inside the factory here.

IMAGE: Pat Corden – Dreaming of what’s to come...

OM: How did ONE PLANET® start?

BW: ONE PLANET® began in the 1970s when passionate outdoor types began to focus on making the best equipment for local (aussie!) conditions and multiday journeys in the bush.

The ONE PLANET® you know today has continued down that same track: designing and refining technical outdoor equipment for use in antipodean conditions. Over the last four decades we’ve worked to understand the unique and varied nature of our bush environment, flora, weather systems, and the way we enjoy, play, and work in the outdoors. These unique aspects of Australian life directly influence our product style, making ONE PLANET® equipment most suited for life down under!

It’s quite an intriguing tale.

IMAGE: Andy Szollosi – A space to reflect in

OM: Why do you make your product in Australia?

BW: We make gear for Australian conditions – so it makes sense we make as much of it as we can here. But more than that, we love making gear, and we want to do it close to home.

Outdoor equipment is by nature, a hands-on style of product. To develop it well it’s important to understand the tactile nature of the materials, components, and machinery and simply to be on the factory floor with the machinery and staff. It just cannot be all conceptual or computer aided design (if you want to make it the best!)

Something that always impressed me, Andrew King, who is the owner and designer at ONE PLANET® can use (and service!) every machine in the factory. This level of manufacturing and machinery comprehension is rare for the owner of an outdoor business and means there is no compromise in build quality. Many of the machines in our Melbourne factory have been customised, jigged, and re-engineered to do specific tasks. We do this, because we want our equipment made in a particular way – the way that best suits its purpose. In turn it also means our Melbourne made gear cannot be manufactured overseas, other factories just don’t have the capabilities.

IMAGE: Tom Do – Traversing towards Mt Feathertop

OM: What's your favourite item in your product line, and why?

BW: It’s always hard to have favourites! Especially considering the wide of the ONE PLANET® range and the breadth of journeys you could have outside. Can I pick 3?

The Cocoon down sleeping bag – from a design perspective I love the intricacies in baffling and seam construction, the full hood for colder nights and real human sized shape/styling. More work than you’d think goes into Vapour Vent fabric development, zip selection and down sourcing, so I have an
appreciation for its build quality. Combined with the stunning finished weights, compact compressed size it’s a great value – which makes it a favourite for me.

Up next. The Goondie 2 tent with nylon (or mesh) inner and 30 D polyester fly. In many ways, it’s the simplicity, clever design and build quality that sets it apart. Yes, there is ample internal space, a solid footprint, reliable poles, ventilation etc, (all the things you’d expect). But for me is the individual details that add up to make it a pinnacle product. The tiny design decisions, exact material, and
component choices, dialled in manufacturing techniques, make a tent that I wholehearted love to live in – and tell people about!

From a personal perspective, my absolute favourite is my own personal Tarkine backpack. It’s the bag that’s accompanied me on each trip for the last 5+ years, and the one that will join me for the next 20+ years. Theres something about having good kit that you trust and love to use! The EXACT FIT® harness fits well and is always comfy (and I do load it up!). The pack design is clever, clean and functional – the culmination of 40 years designing pack for bushwalking (not tramping, rambling, trekking, hiking – but bushwalking! The WATERLOC® canvas is made here in Australia – and is superior to coated fabrics. I love that it’s got a unique patina developing, some scuffs from 100’s of km walking/skiing/moving about outdoors. Mostly I love it – because it signals time spend outside.

IMAGE: Tess McRae – A spacious goondie 3 at sunset

OM: What's the best selling product in your store? 

BW: Gosh! Hard to say! We’re lucky to have a driven direction with our product. If we make it, we make it well. The four main categories: tents, packs, rainwear and sleeping bags are always popular. But it’s somewhat seasonal – at the start of winter we sell more sleeping bags, as summer rolls around and the walking season opens its tents and packs. For those escaping our winter, the start of June becomes travel bags and wheeled luggage.

IMAGE: Gordon Pursell - those hot alpine days

OM: What are the challenges of manufacturing locally? 

BW: Being a smaller manufacturing nation there is a solid core of supporting industry and businesses – but not lots of options or suppliers. Whilst we do source a lot of our materials and trims (threads, zippers etc) locally we can’t buy everything here in Australia. Therefore, we must import some materials and components and manage the challenges involved. Currently (2022/2023) there are massive supplies chain delays and costs, and they look to continue for a few years.

OM: What do you think the future is for Australian manufacturing?

BW: Its great to see more general interest for Australian made goods, and support of Australian business. As prices for imported goods rise alongside greater desirability of locally made, I hope it will give opportunity for new and upcoming businesses in all sectors to manufacture here.
When you’re shopping for any item from any industry. I’d always encourage you to look around and research, it might not be the first brand the pops up in your search, but there are lots of Aussie made
mates out there!

IMAGE: Nick Covelli - outdoor education at its best

OM: What's one thing you wish you could buy locally made?

BW: Australia is a diverse country, chock full clever minds, of natural resources, and good adventurous people. I’d like to see us make most of each opportunity we’re given when we make purchases, when supporting local every dollar and decision counts.

OM: Would you rather go camping by yourself with gourmet food or go camping with friends and canned food only?

BW: I reckon you cannot go past good mates! But I do find it hard to compromise on quality – so I’d want the gourmet food as well (made and dehydrated at home of course!)

OM: Vegemite - yes, or no?

BW: YES! It’s always in our lunchroom!