I had put two carriage returns after each photo when I originally posted them and the result was the line of photos above. Being that I don’t know HTML, this is about as good as it is going to get from me.
The turn out at Trail Days this year was a little lighter than in years past. The weather was fairly humid and there was a 60% chance of rain both days which may have influenced vendors and visitors. Oddly enough, despite getting pretty dark at times, it never did rain of any significance.
I took most of the pictures above on Friday night and Saturday morning and I can’t say I really saw a major influx of people at any point, but I did leave at noon on Saturday to avoid the heat and expectation of crowds. Even the tent cities weren’t as vast as I’ve seen in years past. I was very surprised to see nearly NO lightweight options (as discussed on these forums) in the tent cities. I think I saw two Tarp Tents and the rest were MSR, Eureka, and other off-the-shelf stuff. The same is true for the packs I saw AT hikers carrying. A lot of Osprey with a handful of Granite Gear and no silnylon, cuben, or even dyneema-x fabrics.
Other than crafts and outfitters, there really weren’t many other manufacturers other than those I’ve listed above. Ron Moak with Six Moon Designs had most of his shelters and let them do the talking. Ron Bell of Mountain Laurel Designs had a couple of tarps, packs, bivies, other shelters, and a few other products. Hands down, there were more hammock vendors than anything else. After not finding a hammock that worked for me in years past, I’m a bit biased and was searching for more lightweight tarp/tent/bag/pack manufacturers, but it was still nice to talk to the various hammock vendors and to take a look at their craftsmanship and engineering.
I spent a good deal of time talking with Brandon of Warbonnet Outdoors (http://warbonnetoutdoors.net/blackbird_h.htm) regarding his very popular Blackbird hammock which incorporates a genuine footbox and also a nifty little gear shelf. He, like most other hammock manufacturers, is having issues with Tom Hennessey who constantly claims someone is infringing on one of his patents. Tom makes great products and I appreciate his desire to protect his livelihood, but in my opinion he is doing a disservice by claiming he invented so many things where there is reasonable proof that they existed long before his products.
I also spent a good amount of time talking with the Jack’s from Jacks R Better. They’re a lot of fun. I had a chance to lay down in their Bridge Hammock which I found to be terribly comfortable, just a bit too tight in the shoulders and slightly too short for my big frame. They offer a nice product though, to include their quilts. Even if you aren’t interested in their gear, it is worth swinging by merely to talk with them.
Ron Bell of MLD is building me a custom pack and I hadn’t seen any of his shelters up close and personal. I was really quite impressed with his workmanship and the overall quality of his products. The DuoMid and GraceDuo both caught my eye and made me really want to empty my wallet.
There were two other lightweight vendors at Trail Days who I had seen online but hadn’t seen in person. One was Appy Trails (www.appytrails.com) who had a floorless tent for slightly over 1 pound. The also had a larger version for just a few ounces heavier and it looked to me like it was about 6’ tall which I hadn’t seen before. Light Heart Gear (www.lightheartgear.com) had a 1lb 10 oz full featured tent which utilized trekking poles on the inside of the tent which connected to a handmade piece of PVC piping to give the roof some shape. They claim it is for 1+ and mentioned having a genuine 2 person tent in the works which should make an appearance next month or so. My observation is that both of these companies are attempts by new retirees to get into the lightweight backpacking industry. In my opinion, they both offer solid “foot in the door” products, but after seeing the detailed craftsmanship of MLD and SMD, their products could use a bit more polishing. That’s not to knock them at all as they were both good products, it’s just that it is tough to compare a first design attempt to others in the industry that have been around for awhile.
One product which I hadn’t heard of was “nuun” (www.nuun.com) which claims to be a 100% electrolyte hydration solution without all the calories and sugar. It comes in a hard tablet form which must be stored in their silk-lined container (about the size of a roll of quarters). It appears to be a good way to get the allusive electrolytes without all the other stuff.
Outdoor Equipment Suppliers were indeed there with their MatCat hammock tarps. They were stationed right in front of the Warbonnet tent and their products looked very similar. I also don’t think Outdoor Equipment Suppliers did a very good job with displaying their products as they were butted up against another vendor and it drew little attention to their stuff. I think one thing worth mentioning about OES is that they offer good products at very good prices. I think my one complaint about other mainstream manufacturers within the cottage industry is that their prices are so expensive. Course, that’s easy for me to say and I’m sure I completely under appreciate how hard it is to start a business, keep it running, and the costs of providing top-notch gear.
Adventure Medical Kits had some of their products and handed out quite a bit of stuff. I think they do a nice job with their products and I appreciate their research and experience. Anti-Gravity Gear and Enertia Foods also had displays. Because I own most of their stuff already, I simply passed through and thanked them for their nice stuff. Gossamer Gear and Backpackinglight weren’t there which was a bit of a disappointment to me as I feel both significantly contribute (if not lead) the lightweight backpacking industry. It is always nice to see the differences between manufacturers too.
I’m sure I’m missing out on a lot of stuff that was intriguing to others, but I was focused on the lightweight world and gear that could benefit me. If you were a hammocker, you probably would have had a pretty good time with all the offerings from Speer, Hennessy, Jacks R Better, ENO, etc. Otherwise, it was still nice to see quite a few vendors in the same place.