A Wealth of Choices for Made in USA
I admit there have been certain product categories that have been downright depressing to review. There are categories like air fryers and toasters where brands like Cuisinart and Breville who were once champions of manufacturing in their local countries have gone all in on China.
These brands are digging their own graves; by going all-in on China manufacturing they are giving all their intellectual property and design know-how away to subcontractors. MAYBE these subcontractors will abide by their NDAs. But think of the junior employees within these subcontracted companies. In 5 years, they’ll be starting their own companies, taking all of this know-how to manufacture products that are mysteriously indistinguishable–at at half the price.
Of course, the CEOs of Brevile and Cuisinart don’t care–they know they’ll be long gone by then and that’ll all be someone else’s problem. And the politicians who are supposed to be watching out for us are themselves either too busy focused on belittling their opponent on the other side of the aisle, or are themselves being funded–and these days the funding doesn’t take the form of cash in an unmarked envelope, but stock portfolios.
And so as I build this site, I see first-hand how industry after industry are falling into this trap. But there are a few industries that seem immune to it. Surprising, mattresses are one of them.
If you’ve been following the reviews I write you’ll see a pattern. Outsourcing started with low-end consumer products being sent to China. But then as China began to build its manufacturing capabilities with these “small things” (at the same time the USA and Europe were closing factories and dismantling decades of manufacturing skills) brands like Breville (who mainly sell medium-to-high end consumer products) started shoveling their more expensive consumer products to China.
In any given industry it’s the commercial and industrial equipment that seems to continue to be made in the USA and Europe. Why? Because the profit margins are much higher on these products and because businesses need quality equipment that’s going to last (whereas a consumer can be brainwashed into thinking that buying a new $500 coffee maker or a new $15000 phone every 3 years is not just normal–it’s the way to “keep up”).
If you’ve ever shopped for a mattress, you’ll know quickly that the margins on these things must be sky-high. Walk into a Mattress Firm and you’ll find yourself paying a minimum of $1000 for what is probably just $50 worth of cloth and metal. In my mind, it’s always been worth paying extra for a great mattress since you spend a third of your life there.
So why hasn’t China dominated mattresses the way they’ve dominated every other industry that uses cloth and metal? It comes down to logistics. Even if China could produce mattresses at $5 a mattress, there’s the logistical costs of shipping them and storing them that provides a natural protective barrier that give domestic producers an edge–for now (technology is going to continue to drive costs down–you can bet that someone, somewhere is working on the concept of self-driving cargo ships).
How I came up with this list
Happily, for this list I just looked through the top consumer review sites. Normally I need to sift through hundreds of made-in-China choices before finding the needle in the haystack that is made in the USA. But in this category there is an embarrassment of riches.
Unfortunately, some popular brands like Nectar and Casper are tight-lipped about where they’re made, and you know what that means. From what I can see, a large number of Nectar mattresses are made in China. Some say Caspers are made in China, some say in Mexico. The bottom line: when there are so many highly reviewed models made in the USA at competitive prices, why on earth would anyone choose to spend 1/3 of their life breathing in materials made in China?
1. Avocado Green – Rated best by Consumer Reports and US News and World Report
Say what you will about Consumer Reports, but they’re still my go-to when I want to find reviews of products where someone has actually purchased the product and tried it out. And since they don’t accept ads on their site I find them a bit more trustworthy than other review sites. Granted, they do use affiliate links to monetize their reviews, but so far I don’t see any evidence that this compromised their objectivity (just a reminder that I also use affiliate links on this site, but I don’t let them cloud my judgement either, and I will NEVER link to a made in China product no matter how much it pays, unlike some other “not made in China” sites).
Out of over 250 mattresses that Consumer Reports reviewed, their flagship Avocado Green mattress was the most highly rated, getting a 5/5 rating for nearly every sleeper type (large and average side sleepers; large, average, and petite back sleepers) except petite side sleepers (people who weigh less than 130 pounds. US News and World Report also named it the #1 best mattress, and it has received rave reviews from Good Housekeeping as well.
Avocado entered a packed market in 2016 but they did a lot of smart things to stand out. They use only certified organic materials and either own or are a co-owner in every part of their entire supply chain which includes organic Dunlop latex (manufactured in India from latex sustainably harvested from rubber trees by a farmer’s society), as well as GOTS organic wool (sheared from a Himalayan herding collective of over 200,000 sheep on over 40,000 hectares of organic pasture), and organic cotton (sourced in the USA with no chemical adhesives). There’s even a vegan option where no animals are harmed or even disturbed in the making.
Multiple reviews say this is particularly great for hot sleepers to stay cool during the night, as well as for back sleepers. It’s on the firmer side, but you have the option of adding a pillow top to make it more of a medium-firm.
The design is unique, and uses a combination of foam and coils that give you a nice balance of comfort and support. It comes shipped in the “mattress in a box” approach pioneered by Casper, and has a 365 night trial period and a 25 year warranty (although judging by reviews the warranty only covers manufacturing defects`, so use the trial period wisely).
2. Helix Midnight Luxe – Rated best by Sleep Foundation, Wired, GQ, CNET
Helix Sleep is another one of those brands that seem to be sweeping up all the awards. Like Avocado, it comes with a nice balance of form and coils and is shipped to you in a box.
There is a dizzying number of options, with a equally dizzying list of names–Luxe, Moonlight, Sunlight, Midnight, Dusk, Dynamic Foam, Polyform. Someone needs to tell the Helix marketing department that if you need a PhD degree and a decoder ring to figure out your product line, maybe you should consider naming them differently.
But here’s what I made of it:
The mattresses are broken into feel (soft, medium and firm) as well as type of sleeper (side sleeper vs back and stomach sleeper). Each of the combinations is named after a word that has to do with sleep times, but there’s no logic to them at all. Luckily, Helix has a “sleep tool” you can use to find the right mattress for you.
All of their models come in “Luxe” models which adds more thickness (they’re 14 inches thick and contain six layers instead of four). Overall they have a much more premium feel (as well as a more premium price). By far their most popular and best reviewed model is the Helix Midnight Luxe. In naming it its best mattress of 2022, GQ praised how they balance their high-tech foam with traditional inner springs.
Their Web site says that it’s “100% Custom Built in the USA”, although watch out for the pillows and mattress protectors, which are made in China
3. WinkBed – Rated best by Sleep Foundation, Wirecutter
Most of us grew up sleeping on traditional innerspring mattresses like Beautyrest, Serta, Sealy and Sterns and Foster. Mattress technology advanced with the introduction of memory foam and then hybrid mattresses (with a combination of a coil layer and at least two layers of foam or latex). But a lot of us still prefer the breathability of innersprings, despite their tendency to sag over time.
Even though WinkBed is technically a combination of microcoils and polyfoam, the Sleep Foundation calls it an Innerspring mattress, and Wirecutter named the WinkBed as their best innerspring mattress. This is probably because the foam layer is relatively thin, and the individually wrapped pocketed coils much stronger than hybrids. It’s definitely the first one you should look at if you like the feel of a traditional innerspring.
The Sleep Foundation calls the Luxury Firm model of the WinkBed the best mattress for those who have back pain, and the Softer model the best for those who are side sleepers.
Like the other brands above, these beds come in a roll-pack box and feature a 120-day sleep trial and a lifetime warranty. And yes, it’s made in the USA.
4. Saatva Classic – Rated best by Good Housekeeping and Techradar
Saatva’s best-selling Saatva Classic mattress was named as the best overall mattress by Good Housekeeping. Like the WinkBed, it’s more like a traditional innerspring mattress than a hybrid bed. It provides excellent back support and excellent temperature regulation, just as you’d expect from the best innerspring mattresses. And you don’t get the “sinking in” feeling you get with memory foam mattresses, if that’s not your thing.
Even if sites didn’t rank Saatva as the best, Saatva showed up on just about all of them somewhere. More than a few sites compared the Saatva Classic to the feel of a luxury hotel mattress. I especially like how Saatva has dedicated a whole page on their site talking about how they proudly make all their mattresses in the USA.
Bear in mind that unlike the brands above they do charge $99 for you to return a mattress under their “180-night home trial”.
Do you know of other mattress companies worthy of mention here? Let us know in the comments!