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The Escape Route

Stay Wild

The members of the Escape Collective are making cool shit to get out there, together.

Words by Ayla Rose Gilbert // Photos & Movie by Alin Dragulin

It’s a mild, grey Portland day when I meet Kara to talk about all things Escape Collective. We order our coffees and sit down by the window. Kara stirs the foam of her soy latte with her finger and licks it off.  

We start by discussing Escape Collective’s three main products: geodesic domes, motorcycles, and hammocks (among other things). But it becomes clear that when you purchase something from the Escape Collective, you’re not just getting a killer handmade product. You’re also sharing in the good vibes that come to life through the people who make it up. The Escape Collective crew are having what seems to be the time of their lives. They’re camping, hiking, and getting outdoors. They’re manifesting things they love and think others will love, too. 

They’re working really hard, as well. “So many projects, at the end of it, I’m like, ‘That’s the hardest I’ve ever worked,’” Kara says. “‘I don’t think I can work this hard again.’ But then another project comes along and we work even harder.” They’ll stay up all night setting up a dome, racing against the clock, and then at the final moment it comes together. That’s the moment that makes it all worth it. 

Kara leads me into the small garage that functions as their sewing room. I’m baffled as to how they’ve made the cover for a 36-foot geodesic dome in this tiny room. Kara climbs over a table in the cramped space to show off some hammocks. She holds up the Sunset Hammock and the Shibori Hammock. Their fabrics are so, so soft. She hands me a slide toggle, the metal piece that cinches the rope to the tree for hanging the hammock without having to tie a knot. It’s a piece they also make in their shop, because the Escape Collective team wanted to make sure that when you buy their hammock, you have every single piece you need to be up and running (or relaxing, in this case) right away. “Everything we make aids someone in some method of escape, whether you bring your hammock to the forest or hang it up in your bedroom.” 

When I ask her what the magic glue is that holds the team together, Kara says, “I think it’s really important that we’re all friends. We are able to be honest and open about our dreams and visions.”

Next we head over to the shop where Hill and Trevor are working. Hill gives me the tour. Their shop is full of tools, machinery, and cool vintage cabinetry. Much of the equipment was passed down from Hill’s great-great-grandfather to his grandfather at their paper products and doily-making factory. Called Brooklace Paper Co., it was active from 1886 to 2003 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Hill and crew aren’t making doilies, but they carry on Hill’s grandfather’s legacy through the use of his tools.  

Hill shows me a pair of red tail lights he’s working on. He made the tool to make the snap rings for them on their metal lathe. I’m impressed that he made the thing to make the thing. Hill has an easy laugh. He points out an engine from India that’s the inspiration for his next project—which he intends to build almost entirely from scratch. “Every single thing we’ve done has been trial and error,” Hill admits with pride. At one point he even purchased FigureItOutIHadTo.com. It was a joke, but it was also true. “We don’t put limitations on what we can build. It doesn’t matter if we don’t know how to do something—we are going to figure it out,” Kara adds.

I meet Trevor and ask him what he’s working on. “Just drawing up ideas for some furniture,” he says. Trevor has a friendly smile and endearing dimples. He is a builder/fabricator, but also went to school for business. They’re all there, getting after it. Getting up every day to take ideas out of their heads and put them onto the page. To create things in space that didn’t exist before. “We are just trying to have the best time we possibly can,” says Trevor.

Their genuine and authentic passion is infectious. It’s something you immediately want to be part of. You want to be on one of Hill’s motorcycles, racing to the next adventure, the wind against your skin. You want to be setting up a dome, feeling the magic moment when it’s finally complete. You want to be hanging in hammocks inside the dome, chilling out with your closest friends. 

One day some years back, Andy had a 9-5 job, from which he would come home every day holding a briefcase. His friends would joke with him—“Dad’s home!” they’d say. So amongst their group, Andy became “Dad.” And when the gaggle of pals went to Sasquatch (the birthplace of Escape Collective’s very first geodesic dome), they realized that no one’s dad was probably at Sasquatch, so it could be how they found one another—by yelling out “Dad!” If someone was calling for Dad, they knew it had to be a person from their group. A few years and a few dozen geodesic domes later, this tight-knit group of friends have first and foremost one another to thank—their fellow Dads.

I’m grateful I got to have a peek inside the world of the Escape Collective. Thanks for showing me around, you guys. And thanks for calling me “Dad.” 

     Escape Collective is  Hill Hudson, Andy Carlson, Kara Jean Caldwell, Conor Kennedy, Marshall Birnbaum, and Trevor Thorpe.


Escape Collective is Hill Hudson, Andy Carlson, Kara Jean Caldwell, Conor Kennedy, Marshall Birnbaum, and Trevor Thorpe.

Learn More and buy a hammock at EscapeCollective.com

See Escape Collective domes, bikes, hammocks, and more at the Stay Wild EXPO this Summer in Portland!