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Jolly Green Giant
(regultr) - MLife

Locale: www.jolly-green-giant.blogspot.com
BACKPACKER Acknowledges Lightweight Backpacking Industry on 04/14/2009 05:13:52 MDT Print View

BACKPACKER magazine is good for a lot of things which historically did not include acknowledgement of the lightweight backpacking industry - until now.

On page 59 of its current issue, Gossamer Gear, ULA-Equipment, Z-Packs, Granite Gear, Six Moon Designs, Mountain Laurel Designs, and even the description of SylNylon and Cuben Fiber are included. In a section regarding how to stay in shape, long-distance lightweight hiking legend Andrew Skurka is also mentioned.

Hopefully this is a sign of respect for the lightweight backpacking movement which will benefit everyone in the future.

Edited by regultr on 04/14/2009 05:24:56 MDT.

Matt Lutz
(citystuckhiker) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: BACKPACKER Acknowledges Lightweight Backpacking Industry on 04/14/2009 05:37:15 MDT Print View

I think they failed and perpetuated market stereotypes:

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=20270

Ryan Linn
(ryan.c.linn)

Locale: Maine!
Re: Re: BACKPACKER Acknowledges Lightweight Backpacking Industry on 04/14/2009 10:59:06 MDT Print View

I've got the article in front of me now, and it does have a few good points, as James pointed out. The seam-blowout mention is foolish, as well as a little gem like "your primary considerations still come down to weight vs comfort and durability." Is light weight supposed to be less comfortable?

I'd say good for BP, though, just for putting the names and web pages of several UL gear makers in the article. It's only a one page blurb on lightweight packs, but it does acknowledge that a 5 oz pack is lightweight (as opposed to 3 lbs, which is what they generally list as light).

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: BACKPACKER Acknowledges Lightweight Backpacking Industry on 04/14/2009 13:09:51 MDT Print View

To me, this is not a "black or white / all or nothing" issue -- and the magazine must consider the type of backpackers that make up the great majority of its readers (and it ain't us ULers). I wouldn't say the magazine has failed at all; indeed, I applaud the magazine for gently introducing its mainstream readers to the realm of ultralight possibilities.

Knowing the bulky/heavy gear that most all mainstream backpackers use -- to omit cautionary warnings and to just assume these hikers can make an instant "mental leap" to UL would be a HUGE disservice! Why? Because many of them might jump to UL prematurely -- have themselves a bad experience -- then come back and bad mouth the whole UL gear/approach for years to come! Easy does it IMHO.

Edited by ben2world on 04/14/2009 13:15:41 MDT.

Roleigh Martin
(marti124) - MLife

Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
Re: BACKPACKER Acknowledges Lightweight Backpacking Industry on 04/14/2009 14:03:14 MDT Print View

I understand why Backpacker acts the way they do, they need the advertiser dollars. What I don't understand is why the backpacking gear industry does not make more use of ultra-light fabrics and designs. They're the ones that are acting strange.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: BACKPACKER Acknowledges Lightweight Backpacking Industry on 04/14/2009 15:02:08 MDT Print View

IMHO, I don't think mainstream backpacking industry is acting strange at all -- but merely following the money.

Most hikers are traditional hikers -- and I've seen plenty of bulging packs with full-size lawn chairs strapped on. Their mantra: "better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it". Now, if those are your customers, what would you do?

#1: Make big beefy packs and charge higher prices -- and have very satisfied users who love how their packs can take any punishment (even if all they do is car camping)... or

#2: Push silnylon packs onto them -- charge less and earn less -- and also run huge risks of complaints for "shoddy" products?

There's a reason why mainstream stores like REI don't sell ultralight silnylon packs (never mind cuben). The industry is not strange at all -- it's us, the fringe ultralighters who are the small minority here.

Edited by ben2world on 04/14/2009 15:04:18 MDT.

Roleigh Martin
(marti124) - MLife

Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
Re: BACKPACKER Acknowledges Lightweight Backpacking Industry on 04/14/2009 15:16:10 MDT Print View

Ben,

I agree that the indusry has the mentality you describe but I disagree that that mentality is smart.

The way I see it, the industry could make some deluxe ultralight gear and charge more not less.

I would love it if Granite Gear made a "JMT Expedition" pack that is almost identical to the Nimbus Ozone but the fabric away from the body would be the ~1.5 sq/oz cuben fabric in a dark dyed color plus the upper third of the pack is wide enough to hold the bearikade expedition cannister horizontally, and the foam padding have embedded aereated holes reducing foam padding weight by 1/3rd, enabling the pack better suited for long unsupplied stints but weighing 2.5 pounds rather than the existing 3 pounds -- maybe the pack could be made to be 2 pounds.

I for one would be willing to pay $375 for a 2 pound pack with that degree of comfort, capacity for the expedition cannister horizontally, and lightness, and internal frame/support.

Matt Lutz
(citystuckhiker) - F

Locale: Midwest
money on 04/14/2009 15:40:13 MDT Print View

Ben, you hit one of the points I am making in my letter. It is not in REI's interest to make less than bombproof packs because then they will not make money on the sale of said packs because of their return policy. Using a light pack requires some knowledge in what to carry and how to carry it. Without the knowledge, the packs are worthless and it is a lose-lose situation for retailer and consumer. More later.

Roleigh Martin
(marti124) - MLife

Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
Re: money on 04/14/2009 15:44:19 MDT Print View

Matt, Ben, the large gear makers could have a different guarantee for ultralight gear, similar to how Sears has a different warranty for their Craftsmen v. non-Craftsmen tools. That is not an impossible impediment.

The two major areas where the major gear makers are weirdly absent are ultralight great packs and ultralight great tents. They've made the challenge with sleeping pads in the "NeoAir" area. why can't they in the other areas?

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
More to do with R&D on 04/14/2009 17:28:19 MDT Print View

A gear company spends a lot of time coming up with items - it has to be within how much it costs to make/daring but not too daring/will it last - the mass consumer isn't going to read the small print of the warranty - if it breaks they will be mad and badmouth the company - and as well on that daring - go to far on a trend and risk it biting you in the rear financially.

UL hikers are indeed a tiny minority in backpacking - no matter what we think. We are growing but...still. Many hikers also do other sports as well. A water filter or stove can be used for biking, hiking, kayaking...but a UL pack is one sport only.

And money speaks - most people won't pay $300-800 for a pack that looks like it will shred - beefier is still a seller. A $100-150 pack that looks bombproof says "I'll get you through anything! And look how frugal I am!"

In this economy justifying gear purchases is getting harder - so knowing the gear will last is one selling point for companies. The "you won't need to buy a replacement for years!" shill......

Roleigh Martin
(marti124) - MLife

Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
Re: More to do with R&D on 04/14/2009 17:44:42 MDT Print View

Sarah, I can imagine the gear companies are thinking that way but the truth is the opposite. ~1.5 oz/sq yd cuben fiber is super, super strong. Joe Valesko of Zpacks recently posted on this forum how rare any returns are and they deal with sizing issues not seam splits or tears. I have such a pack, 1000 cubic inches for 1.9 oz weight -- amazing fabric. It certainly seems far more rugged than silnylon or cordura which is what Granite Gear uses now for it's Nimbus Ozone. Joe's Blast backpacks of same cuben fiber material lasts for an entire PCT or AT hike. My Nimbus Ozone pack needed repair work after 16 days on the trail last year (only minor).

What gets me about these gear companies is how much alike they all seem to be. Why doesn't one of them make a thru hiker's pack that can fit the Bearikade Expedition cannister horizontally?

John Whynot
(jdw01776)

Locale: Southeast Texas
Re: Re: money on 04/14/2009 18:28:06 MDT Print View

Large gear makers determine what products to make just like any other for profit enterprise -- ROI, return on investment.

It's hard to imagine that there is enough of a market for ultralight gear to interest a major gear maker -- the market for regular gear is probably not very large.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: More to do with R&D on 04/15/2009 08:37:27 MDT Print View

AH, but while Cuben is stronger it doesn't "look" stronger - and that is everything - perception is a huge thing in people who are casual buyers.

"Why doesn't one of them make a thru hiker's pack that can fit the Bearikade Expedition cannister horizontally?"

How many people actually own Bearikade canisters though? They are not cheap! How many people actually use canisters on trips? If so, many are still rented Garcias (cheap for parks to buy/they take a lot of abuse).

We are a tiny niche upon a niche - which is cottage gear does so well - it can create the things UL hikers want. The desire to have gear work a certain way can be a strong encouragement to learn to create and sew ;-)