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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Cottage Stagnation and Recent Gems on 12/27/2011 15:47:28 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Cottage Stagnation and Recent Gems

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Why I'm not part of the cottage industry. on 12/27/2011 16:45:13 MST Print View

Ryan: Thanks for your thoughts and reflections on stagnation of the cottage industry. I've been BPing since the 70's, worked in a BP/X-C ski shop for a few years and led trips semi-pro in the 80's.

I've just joined BPL, been reading Ray Jardine's stuff, etc, because I've always had an itch to do the PCT and AT, maybe a few times each, my 11-year-old is excited to do more hiking with me, and I can't think of a better father-son activity.

I'm technically pretty darn competent (chemical engineer, built my own house and boats, have built my own computers, teach science and math, and can clean up a toxic-waste site with a Home Depot, a Radio Shack, a Grand Auto, and a credit card). And I have a deep pocket so developing a prototype and then knocking out a thousand of them is financially easy.

So why aren't I marketing something better than the Backcountry Boiler (more stable base, a pot stand on top to multi-task off that flame), or actually bring a wood-fired USB charger to market? Because:

1) My day job pays really well
2) My wife's job pays even better
3) I value time with my family more than time spent with suppliers and demanding customers
4) The creative rush for me is mostly statisfied when the garage prototype is done
5) every year I come up with patentable ideas but the fun part is coming up with them, not spending my life in court chasing some guy in Taiwan selling knockoffs on eBay

I've known lots of BPers who made their own UL stuff but never wanted to take it to market. Including people who were doing it in the 1940's.

That said, I am encouraged by what I've just become aware of in the cottage industry. As you mentioned, innovative financing and much greater visibility come through the internet. And because every niche group can develop a virtual community, what you created with this forum helps disseminate new ideas and products much faster (and cheaper) than an REI catalog ever could.

Just as my ability to research the BTU content of a fuel or find a source of titanium sheet metal or aluminum heat exchangers is so easy on Wikipedia. More importantly, if I want to learn how to vacuum bag carbon fiber / epoxy composites or see what others have done with clever stoves, there's youtube.

So to paraphrase Andy Warhol, maybe in the future, everyone will be their own cottage industry for 15 hours - until they make the equipment they wanted to have.

Brian UL
(MAYNARD76)

Locale: New England
Re: Cottage Stagnation and Recent Gems on 12/27/2011 18:37:12 MST Print View

Agree on the Backcountry Boiler.
I like gear that lasts, works well, and looks good. Its not easy finding gear that meets that criteria especially when you account for personal preference.
I still look at weight but quality and function will weigh in just as much. I could go XSUL easily but I cant get with packs that don't last in the long haul and shelters that compromise too much to save weight. When there are alternatives that last and give better protection and still offer very low weight.
Not to mention the narrow range of fair weather so much gear is made for. I don't like having separate gear for every minor change in weather. Especially when that gear is expensive and takes up valuable space in my closet and thus my mind.
I am especially disappointed in pack design. They all seem to be variations of the same old Ray way pack and I have to say Im totally sick of dyneema grid stop!
Personally I would like to see more gear focused on sustainable materials and manufacturing but the market isn't big on that.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Point of Stagnation on 12/27/2011 20:17:27 MST Print View

Very good article. I agree there hasn't been a lot of innovation.
Here's what I'd like to see.
1. Lightweight gear thats more functional. I don't really see the point of going from a 6 pound baseweight to a 4 pound baseweight. In the real world it doesn't make that much difference in your performance or enjoyment of a hike. On the other hand it would be nice if a 6 pound kit could be made that didn't involve the trade-offs in functionality and/or durablity that it requires now. Examples would be more light shelters with all around bug and insect protection, UL packs that can carry more weight when needed, etc.
2. I want to see some crazy new gear that opens up a whole new way of exploring the wilderness. UL backpacking meant I could go farther and faster. As I mentioned above we've pretty much reached the limit of this, now its time for something new. I'd like to see someone do an Artic 1000 type expedition with the UL rifles and fishing gear now available and some knowledge of edible plants. The challenge would be to see how far you could travel by combining foraging for food with what you carry on your back. I'd also like to see summer camps and more scout troops adapt UL backpacking. Imagine how much for fun backpacking cuuld be for a 13 year old if he wasn't hauling a 40 pound pack.

dan mchale
(wildlife) - MLife

Locale: Cascadia
. on 12/27/2011 20:43:37 MST Print View

.

Edited by wildlife on 12/27/2011 20:53:47 MST.

dan mchale
(wildlife) - MLife

Locale: Cascadia
. on 12/27/2011 20:55:09 MST Print View

.

Edited by wildlife on 12/27/2011 20:59:55 MST.

dan mchale
(wildlife) - MLife

Locale: Cascadia
. on 12/27/2011 21:23:45 MST Print View

.

Edited by wildlife on 12/27/2011 21:39:40 MST.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
OMG on 12/27/2011 21:25:02 MST Print View

if anyone else said what was said in the article ... they would get skewered by the BPL faithful ... and mr jordan may still get burned at the stake ;)

my favorite comments ... hope BPL will forgive the short quote ...



you don't need to waste time and money storing (or disposing) gear you don't love, and you don't need to lighten your pack from 5.2 to 4.6 pounds.

......

he cottage industry reinforces that paradigm of gear that is "made in my garage with substandard equipment from sketches on paper scraps using an uncalibrated ruler and dull scissors."



the gear from more mainstream retailers is getting quite light and affordable ...

what matters is less the gear, and more the person anyways ... all that gear has one SOLE purpose ... for you to go out and have fun ...

Edited by bearbreeder on 12/27/2011 21:29:08 MST.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Cottage Stagnation and Recent Gems" on 12/27/2011 21:42:35 MST Print View

Great entry Ryan.

Edited by Eugeneius on 12/27/2011 23:22:32 MST.

dan mchale
(wildlife) - MLife

Locale: Cascadia
put down on 12/27/2011 21:58:49 MST Print View

"First, the pack. It was designed by Ryan Jordan and built by HMG. They should have it up for sale on the site soon."

That is a quote from a staffer at BPL.

When you put down a blanket criticism of practically the entire cottage industry without disclosing your own interest in the brand you are singling out and promoting, you have a conflict of interest - especially at a site that reviews the gear being put down!

I'm talking about normal, accepted, ethical rules of conduct.

This statement down below in quotes is simply untrue. Dyneema and Spectra Grid added to fabrics make the original fabric far more failsafe. At the SAME time that they make the fabric lighter, they make it stronger. It's not there for cosmetics. The comment below is laughable - the fabric has proven itself more than worthwhile over the years. Here's what Ryan says,

"They change fabrics to the latest new mylar sandwich or some finer denier of nylon with a mostly useless HMWPE-laced ripstop pattern (it's there for cosmetics, you know)"

Ryan Jordan might have a PHD but it sure does not speak truth to these fabrics. It is very easy to demonstrate with sharp scissors or a knife that these fabrics can be slashed and the dyneema or spectra fibers will remain unscathed while all of the fabric in between is cut.

Edited by wildlife on 12/28/2011 02:59:30 MST.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
"Cottage Stagnation and Recent Gems" on 12/27/2011 22:00:11 MST Print View

How far we come...I agree with the general sentiments here, though I could care less about the state of the cottage industry because I haven't really been looking for anything new to buy. Seems a little contradictory; searching for, and yet lamenting the lack of innovation in new gear, while simultaneously saying "you don't need the gear"...It does leave me scratching my head when I think about the history/trajectory of this site.

Considering that this was written by the man that pioneered a website largely based on ruthless ounce-counting and testing, writing about, and/or purchasing/selling just about every conceivable UL product ever made, this article seems to express an attitude that probably would've sounded significantly contradictory to BPL's general tone about 5 or 6 years ago. Wasn't BPL formerly the community of ruthless weight-weenies, nutjobs cutting labels off jackets, and zealots sawing toothbrushes in half and removing map borders? And suddenly "you don't need to lighten your pack from 5.2 to 4.6 pounds"? Didn't BPL build an empire, so to speak, by actively advocating the saving of that same .6 pounds? Is this the same Ryan Jordan that used to argue with GVP about a weight handicap in their SUL showdowns because GVP is so tall?

We're all certainly entitled to change...it's life. I've gone on the same full-circle journey described here. But how far we come. Round and round we go.

Seems a more appropriate slogan than "Pack Less. Be More" might eventually become "Who cares, just get out and enjoy". That's where I've been headed, anyhow...

Edited by xnomanx on 12/27/2011 22:10:34 MST.

James Castleberry
(Winterland76)
Cottage Stagnation and Recent Gems on 12/27/2011 22:28:47 MST Print View

For me, the key lines of this article were these:
"You don't need the gear, you don't need the debt, you don't need to further tax our resources, you don't need to spend your children's social security on your gear addiction..."

I firmly believe that UL backpacking is excellent training for the period of time we are entering. It is clear that we as a species need to ratchet things way back and find some way to reconnect with nature without overtaxing resources. In fact, we have forgotten that nature is the primary economy. I'm afraid that lots of people will soon realize that their "wealth" merely consists of digital markers for industrial production that will never take place due to lack of resources. One thing I will mention is that although it is one world and we are one people, it is better to buy american whenever possible (MLD, Gossamer, etc.). We bear the cost one way or another. If we import the cheap overseas goods, we inevitably import the standard of living, too.

Angela Zukowski
(AngelaZ) - F

Locale: New England
I second that sentiment. on 12/27/2011 22:36:05 MST Print View

"Seems a more appropriate slogan than "Pack Less. Be More" might eventually become "Who cares, just get out and enjoy". That's where I've been headed, anyhow..."

Although... I still care a little. I mean, I still weigh things when I'm bored/planning a huge hike. I just tend to shrug my shoulders and keep the gear I have after I put away the scale! And I think my personal slogan is "Pack less. Eat more."

:)

Marc Eldridge
(meld) - MLife

Locale: The here and now.
Re: Cottage Stagnation and Recent Gems on 12/27/2011 22:49:33 MST Print View

Hard to thrill.

Stephan Doyle
(StephanCal)
Re: Cottage Stagnation and Recent Gems on 12/27/2011 22:52:12 MST Print View

Two quick comments about the article:

1) Thanks for making this one available to ALL of us!

2) I appreciate Ryan's sentiments, and I look forward to reading more of his writing.

About the weight: I think (and I might be wrong here) that Ryan is saying: we've lightened up our packs, now it's time to eat our cake too. At a 5 pound pack weight, it really doesn't matter if you gain or lose a half pound. The industry has gotten to a point where we can safely achieve sub-5lb packs without sacrificing everything, and for only a few ounces we can enjoy much more.

Backpacking light isn't being hypersensitive to grams, but a philosophy about function. I have a sub-7lb base weight – coming from 20+ pounds I was religious about it, but these days I care more about the experience. I like a 3-layer eVent shell AND a wind shirt AND I carry sleeping pants AND an inflatable pad. The NeoAir revolutionized UL sleeping pads: for 9oz I have a bona fide 3-season pad that gives me more comfort than anything in its weight class from 2009. When are we going to get more products like that? Cottage manufacturers, I'm looking at you – be revolutionary, not evolutionary.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: "Cottage Stagnation and Recent Gems" on 12/27/2011 22:55:14 MST Print View

Love this article. Nicely said Ryan.

Regarding the Porter Pack - regardless of the degree of input from Ryan on it's design (it should be noted that HMG already had a pack line out), he has no financial interest in anyone purchasing the pack so I see no issue with providing opinion.

dan mchale
(wildlife) - MLife

Locale: Cascadia
$$ on 12/27/2011 23:18:38 MST Print View

"Regarding the Porter Pack - regardless of the degree of input from Ryan on it's design (it should be noted that HMG already had a pack line out), he has no financial interest in anyone purchasing the pack so I see no issue with providing opinion."


What do you know of Ryan's financial interests? Interests like these can be dynamic and ongoing and don't necessarily portend to immediate or visible dividend.

Yeah David, it was nicely put the way Ryan said HMWPE fibers in the grid of HMWPW grid farics are 'mostly' useless. It's simply untrue. There are as much as 9% to 13% of these fibers in the fabrics and they are there for far more than cosmetics as Ryan claims. He may as well say the dyneema mixed into the weave of climbing slings is there for cosmetics.

Edited by wildlife on 12/27/2011 23:52:45 MST.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: $$ on 12/27/2011 23:51:20 MST Print View

"What do you know of Ryan's financial interests? Interests like these can be dynamic and ongoing and don't necessarily portend to immediate or visible dividend."

I guess I don't. Why so paranoid?

Edited by FamilyGuy on 06/16/2013 09:22:10 MDT.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Re: $$ on 12/27/2011 23:55:39 MST Print View

"it was nicely put the way Ryan said HMWPE fibers in the grid of HMWPW grid farics are 'mostly' useless. It's simply untrue. There are as much as 9% to 13% of these fibers in the fabrics and they are there for far more than cosmetics as Ryan claims."

I would agree with this. I think his point was that apart from fabric innovation, there is less and less innovation in design.

On the other hand, if the wheel has been perfected then why innovate in design. Clearly the next step would be fabric innovation.

dan mchale
(wildlife) - MLife

Locale: Cascadia
design on 12/27/2011 23:58:02 MST Print View

Ryan did not design the packs he bought from me. I designed them. There was absolutely nothing about them I had not done before, and if there was, I designed it. Picking features out of a hat for your personal pack is not the same thing as doing design work for another companies products. Poor analogy.

Edited by wildlife on 12/28/2011 03:16:08 MST.