Photo by James Woodcock - Gazette Staff. Perry Jones and Jim Markel Jr., owners of Red Oxx Manufacturing, celebrate winning the Outside Buyer's Guide 2004 award for luggage. The national award is one of 15 given by Outside Magazine each year for excellence in design and performance. The Billings Gazette published this article about Red Oxx and our Outside Magazine Gear of the Year award. Here's an excerpt:
By Jan Falstad, Of the Gazette Staff
Outside Magazine Buyer's Guide has selected a bag made by Red Oxx Manufacturing of Billings as one of this year's 15 best outdoors products.
The competition wasn't a beauty contest either.
James Glave, who edits the popular magazine's annual Outside Buyer's Guide, said the winning products must offer cutting-edge design and be really rugged.
"Our testers dragged it with a car down the sidewalk and threw it off the second-story balcony and tried to destroy it," Glave said. "We really place enormous emphasis on rigorous testing."
The product is the PR5 Safari Beanos, a ruggedly built airline legal carry-on duffel bag that features zippered outside end pockets and a large top access inner compartment. It's available in 13 colors.
Gear testers don't have years to drag luggage around the world, Glave said, so they compress that normal wear and tear into a few months of abuse. Then they send the product back to the company without immediately saying whether the gear won. So, the companies call wondering what happened.
"They're usually pretty shocked," Glave laughed. "They ask, 'Did it pass? And what the hell did you do to it?' "
The winners receive letters of congratulations just before the 400,000 copies of the guide are released. Other than a few advance copies sent out earlier, the Outside Buyer's Guide will hit news racks starting April 27, 2004.
Jim Markel Jr. and Perry Jones, who own Red Oxx Manufacturing hope the award will generate plenty of publicity and sales for the bag.
"Outside Buyer's Guide gets passed around beyond the subscribers. It gets read by a lot of other readers," Jones said.
His partner is equally excited.
"This could just blow the roof off this bag," Markel said.
Their hopes seem to be borne out by previous winners...
Glave said when a one-person tent made by Recreational Equipment Inc. won an award, sales tripled expectations.
...Outside Magazine, with a regular circulation of 650,000, has published for 27 years, the first few years in Chicago and now in Santa Fe, N.M. Outside Buyer's Guide was started 10 years ago, and the gear awards started three years ago.
Markel's father, James Markel Sr., started Red Oxx in 1986 in his Billings basement when he retired from the Marine Corps. Red Oxx initially sold weight-lifting accessories wholesale.
In September 1994, Markel Jr. and Jones bought the company from Jim Sr. and started making luggage as well as other products like backpacks, horse packs, dog leashes and gun cases. They also used their military experience to design tough products.
Red Oxx sells directly to customers all over the United States and in more than a dozen countries.
Try out the Red Oxx Safari Beanos PR5 Carry-on Duffel Bag, a perfect, carry-on bag for your next adventure.