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eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Re: Re: doubt it on 12/29/2011 00:00:28 MST Print View

I'm sure I left out a few as well. In some areas (alcohol stoves, for example) I'm hard pressed to even think of examples of mainstream gear (i. e. gear you could buy at REI). OK, to be fair, after Googling, I did find one or two alcohol stove sold at REI (Vargo). But, no offense, isn't the "mainstream product" for that market a cottage stove (Caldera Cone)?

ahh ... but ross ... the new jetboils is where its at ... who wants to fuss around waiting for stuff to boil ... simply light and WHOOSH ...

its my impression that quite a few people are moving away from the "fiddle factor" ... more "mainstream" gear is getting lighter these days ...

the "best' is all relative ... its what allows you to have the most fun ... plenty of people use light enough more generic gear that is "better" for them ...

dan mchale
(wildlife) - MLife

Locale: Cascadia
at ease on 12/29/2011 09:31:29 MST Print View

Samuel, as long as Ryan keeps making blanket statements about the Cottage industry somebody should call him on it. In his rationalization for saying the Spectra Grid in Spectra Grid Fabric is there for cosmetic reasons, he makes this blanket statement,

" I also agree with you that Spectra grid does indeed prevent catastrophic blowouts. I just think this is an incredibly small risk for the norm of ultralight backpacking, and that it's pretty tough to sell a poorly constructed pack that's going to fail in the seams under loading duress based on the merits of this - or any - fabric - unless the fabric is going to be the failure point in the pack. "

He is actually saying the cottage industry cannot sew a pack together well enough to merit using a fail-safe fabric. I realize he is not referring to me, but it is sloppy to carpet-bomb the rest of the community. If he does not single people out that make lousy gear then he hurts all of them and serves only himself. It appears that somebody needs to review the reviewer. I have known reviewers in the past that have succumbed to such a callous approach and they are no longer at their jobs. I would hate see this happen to Ryan. I also think his approach to all of this leads to a race to the bottom. Rather than promoting any kind of health, ease and good feelings in the community, he is setting people on edge and against each other.

Here is a quote from his article;

" Instead, the 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."

Then after trashing virtually the entire Cottage industry he picks his favorite. I won't mention who that is Samuel - I'll take your advice and not 'personalize'. What he is doing is bad form. I get the sense from him that he wants the industry at large to know he knows he's hanging out with kind of a dullard community and to not hold it against him.

Edited by wildlife on 12/31/2011 01:50:32 MST.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Re: Re: doubt it on 12/29/2011 10:38:59 MST Print View

>> I'm sure I left out a few as well. In some areas (alcohol stoves, for example) I'm hard pressed to even think of examples of mainstream gear (i. e. gear you could buy at REI). OK, to be fair, after Googling, I did find one or two alcohol stove sold at REI (Vargo). But, no offense, isn't the "mainstream product" for that market a cottage stove (Caldera Cone)?

>>> ahh ... but ross ... the new jetboils is where its at ... who wants to fuss around waiting for stuff to boil ... simply light and WHOOSH ...

Yes, but the convenience factor for canister stoves has been there for a long time. The greatest breakthrough in that area was when they made the canisters self sealing (so you didn't have to leave the stove on the canister). The addition of Jetboil style technology increases efficiency, but at the cost of even more weight. I can't imagine someone switching from alcohol to canister because of the Jetboil (or something similar). They both have their strengths, but Jetboil technology changes nothing. Canisters make sense if you are on a long trip (or a medium sized trip with several people) have a good handle on the amount of fuel in your canister and prefer the convenience (at camp). Alcohol makes sense if you are on a short trip and want to lower your overall weight. The use of Jetboil technology means that you probably have to worry less about the amount of fuel, but other than that, it actually complicates things. Just as there is a point where canisters make sense (from a weight standpoint) there is also a point where the Jetboil stuff pays for itself (from a weight standpoint).

>>> its my impression that quite a few people are moving away from the "fiddle factor" ... more "mainstream" gear is getting lighter these days ...

Yes, but this has always happened. There have been plenty of people who have tried various ultralight techniques and then decided not to bother. But I'm not confident that mainstream gear is catching up with cottage gear. My Pocket Rocket weighs about 3 ounces. It is about ten years old. I know there are lighter ones, but not much lighter. The canisters haven't gotten any lighter (which is the main weakness in the system). So for stoves anyway, I would say the mainstream folks have lagged behind. You can get really nice alcohol stoves that can heat really fast (or at least fast enough). I gave away my first alcohol stove because it was too slow. I couldn't imagine doing that with my Thermojet or Caldera Cone.

I keep going back to tents, in part because I really like tents. I bought a double walled tent this year that weighs 15 ounces. The thing is, there are others out there, that are similar (some single walled ones are lighter) but I chose that one because I liked the design better. Can a mainstream tent maker come close to that? I don't think so.

I think the best example of what you are saying is the NeoAir. This is a breakthrough product, in that it caused a lot of people to move from their lighter system (closed cell foam) to an inflatable. In some ways, though, this is the reverse of the "fiddle factor" and more the "comfort factor". A good example of "fiddle factor" would be Black Diamond poles, especially the new collapsible carbon fiber poles. But if you just want a fixed length pole, or if you don't mind fiddling with twist locks, then Gossamer Gear would be my choice. But other than that, I can't think of any cases of mainstream gear replacing ultralight gear because the mainstream gear became really light.

Here There
(cowexnihilo) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Re: doubt it on 12/29/2011 11:01:00 MST Print View

Ross, I had to chuckle at this line:

"I can't imagine someone switching from alcohol to canister because of the Jetboil (or something similar)."

I actually made that exact switch a couple of months ago and love it. I've had other canister stoves that I never used much, but the jetboil ti is such a beautiful -system- that it's a delight to use, and it's finally low enough in weight that I can justify the couple of ounces over an alcohol setup.

First Last
(snusmumriken) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Sad on 12/29/2011 11:06:21 MST Print View

Instead, the 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."
Ryan Jordan

This is a sad statement coming from a man who has spent the better part of the past decade publishing a website magazine that reviews cottage industry backpacking gear.

Katharina ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: Sad on 12/29/2011 11:18:49 MST Print View

Dull scissors??
I just bought myself a brand new pair of heavy duty, professional, sharp scissors. Just in time, phew..

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Sad on 12/29/2011 11:25:37 MST Print View

I took Ryan's comment, "made in my garage with substandard equipment from sketches on paper scraps using an uncalibrated ruler and dull scissors." as hyperbole - an exaggeration that has figurative, not literally truth to it. And it was funny.

So many people have an inspiration and interest in making better / different / lighter gear. It is rare that they are also skilled welders, machinists, seamstresses, combustion engineers, material scientists, and quality assurance managers. I'm actually impressed by how MUCH some people develop in all those areas over time.

Will many of them be able to quit their day job and retire to life of surfing like Chouinard? No. But if they can enjoy it as a demanding hobby that more than pays for the materials and tools - great! Other hobbies - bowling, boating, BACKPACKING! - don't do that.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Sad on 12/29/2011 11:35:24 MST Print View

I don't know. It's an interesting statement, to be sure. I have found it true for some cottage gear I've gotten, and not true for others. I'd say that I've found it untrue for the majority of cottage gear I've bought over the last 3 years, which I've found to be meticulously made and durable for the amount of time I use it (which, admittedly isn't a lot).

I'd be much more interested in chatting with Ryan on why he feels this way - what brought him to write that. He's an articulate guy, and a thoughtful guy, and pretty easy to chat with. This forum limits us a lot in trying to have an exchange of thoughts and ideas. His first response in this thread seemed a bit defensive, the second much less so. I'd be interested in hearing more.

Edited by idester on 12/29/2011 11:36:57 MST.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Sad on 12/29/2011 11:57:12 MST Print View

Dave: I stand corrected. :) Actually, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. I personally wouldn't care that much about the fuel savings of a Jetboil, but the convenience of it all is appealing. One of the things I don't like about my Pocket Rocket is having to fuss with a homemade windscreen. A Jetboil is definitely more convenient. Similarly, for alcohol stoves, this is one of the things I like about the Thermojet and Caldera Cone.

Kristin: Very good point.

I have thought about innovation and where it comes from quite a bit. I work in an industry (software) that is extremely innovative. Every day someone makes something that is just a bit different, or radically different than what came before. A big part of that is because of the cheap cost of the equipment. If I want to open up my own muffin shop, I have to spend thousands of dollars on equipment, not to mention rent. On the other hand, if I want to write software, I can do it "in my garage" or better yet, in my living room (my garage is cold). The funny thing is, while many software companies started this way, and have a "started in the garage" story, much of that is a myth. People like these stories, even though the truth is quite different. Google is a great example of this. The incorporation papers for Google were signed in a garage, but that was just for show. The hard work had already been done in the comfortable classrooms at Stanford, funded in large part by federal grants.

Google also serves as a great example of how innovation often comes from big companies. Although there have been lots of new ideas coming from independent folks, a big chunk of the innovation comes from universities and big companies. There are similarities of both factors in the outdoor world. You really can't expect someone to develop a new fabric in their garage (although stranger things have happened). It is far more likely to come from a big company that can afford to hire lots of researchers and buy lots of equipment (or from a university). The NeoAir is a good example of this. It is quite likely that other people had this idea, but didn't have the money or equipment to pursue it. An example similar to Google is Black Diamond. They are constantly coming out with new products, because they have the money to throw at it.

Nonetheless, there is still plenty of innovation in the cottage industry. I don't think it is any surprise that it happens a lot with tents, backpacks and stoves. These are all items that are fairly cheap to make and tinker with. If anything, it is surprising how well many items (like poles from Gossamer Gear) stack up against items from bigger companies.

In general, cottage gear makers in most industries are not known for innovation, but for quality. For example, Bose may make very innovative speakers, but few audiophiles would say they are top notch. To get top notch, you have to spend a lot of money to someone who hand crafts each speaker. I think the same is true with lots of high end outdoor gear. If you get a pack from McCale, it probably won't be especially innovative. However, it will be outstanding, which is why he is still in business, and widely respected, after all of these years.

What is most surprising, perhaps, is that the cottage gear makers provide great value, as well as quality. I can buy stuff (and have bought stuff) from MLD, but I would be the first to say that it isn't necessarily a great value (I could get by with lesser quality, but substantially cheaper stuff). On the other hand, tents from TarpTent and Six Moons Designs (to name a couple) stack up well against anyone's tents based on price and quality. There are trade-offs with every bit of gear, but those cottage gear makers provide, in my opinion, the best value in the tent world.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
replace on 12/29/2011 12:13:06 MST Print View

But other than that, I can't think of any cases of mainstream gear replacing ultralight gear because the mainstream gear became really light.

there are people here who use "mainstream" packs to go UL ... TNF verto, ospreys, granite gears ... or even those not so old go lite ions or others ...

stoves ... jetboil is the obvious one, the various canisters .... you can easily be UL without using alcohol or esbit

tents/tarps .. well they sell ID at mec for quite a while now so thats a bit more mainstream .... many here use the golite SLs ... terra nova in uk makes quite a few very light tents ... a decent amount of people use the BA light tents ... just because you dont have a MLD cuben tarp doesnt mean you can go UL

poles ... there are plenty of carbon poles on the market ... you dont need to use the LT carbons to be UL ... some people want that replace me at REI if anything happens warranty, and things DO happen to poles

clothes ... its gear ... and most people use mainstream brand clothes

sleeping ... WM is pretty mainstream, marmot heliums are a well respected UL staple bag, golite has their quilts, rab makes very good bags, montbell is well used ... etc ...

the reality is that if you look at gear lists here .. the majority have quite a bit of "mainstream:" brand gear, and many are going UL just fine ...

whats important is having gear that works and is light enough ... not the latest cottage gear that BPLers go crazy about ... and using that gear to have fun ...

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Cottage Stagnation and Recent Gems on 12/29/2011 12:26:59 MST Print View

I have quite a bit of cottage industry-made gear: tent (several), pack (several), sleeping pad, rain gear, mitts, gaiters, alcohol stove, lots of smaller items, and have found all of it outstanding. The only time I had a quality issue (6 years ago, so I won't mention names), a small section of stitching started coming apart after several months' use. I emailed the manufacturer. He asked me to send it back. Within a week, he fixed the problem and returned the item, all for free! All the "cottage" gear makers with whom I've been in contact have provided outstanding customer service, much of it beyond the call of duty. As a bonus, all the ones I've dealt with manufacture their gear in the USA. (Not all the cottage manufacturers do, but they do disclose the information on their websites if it's made elsewhere.)

I wonder if Ryan was having a bad day when he wrote this article?

Jane Freeman
(Janefree) - F

Locale: Paauilo
Re: Cottage Stagnation and Recent Gems on 12/29/2011 12:31:14 MST Print View

Well hmmm that was pretty much not-so-encouraging and left me flat. What is cottage industry and even better American made if not by definition starting small? Keeping it that way may very well be a choice so there is possibly more time to be where these people started out; in the out-of-doors. So perhaps it's partly about priorities. One thing I've found invaluable from these small businesses is inspiration in my own DIY projects. I'm going with a grateful approach for those currently working hard and taking financial risks to come up with products and business models. I've enjoyed supporting it.

Daniel Sandström
(sandstrom.dj)
After UL on 12/29/2011 13:14:16 MST Print View

During the last year I've been actively lightening my load. And a lot of that truly is because of BLP - reading what others have done, what could be done, how it can be done etc. I do not intend to go SUL, I really don't know if it's possible for me. Might blame the Finnish climate.

Either way. I come from a scouting background, still do it and I have noticed one thing. When I go out with my scouting buddies, versus alone, the pack weight tend to creep up. It does this because: I carry additional gear, because I want to contribute, I'm stronger (did they trick me?) etc. We also want to do something, once out there, so we'll take an axe, some rope, a snow shovel... We make a fire, and we cook food, real food, tasty stuff.
It must be the same for others too. You start packrafting, climbing, canyoning. The weight will increase. But it increases for a cause. You can do more. This is where the LIM philosophy belong. You lighten the load as much as possible, then go out. All this internet tinkering is theory, the real stuff happens outside.

So the motto "Pack less. Be more." is true, it's just people misunderstand it for 'Who's the lightest of them all' when it should be, who can enjoy them selves the most.

ps. YMMV. I realize some just want to do big miles, sleep some and do more miles, if so, then SUL might very well suit you.


Then we have my latest hobby, the one that will solve my gearfreakism - MYOG; and while doing that, I am truly grateful for this this site's real gem, the forum.

David Goodyear
(dmgoody) - MLife

Locale: mid-west
MYOGER'S rule on 12/29/2011 16:17:52 MST Print View

Daniel,

You hit the nail on the head. As I get into the things that I like to do, I find that the gear that I need is either not available or way overpriced for my needs. For me, I turned to myog. I get to do things that I enjoy - I get to research and I get to build. If I am lucky, then I get what I want (in gear that is) My seams may not be straight and it may look a little funky, but it works for me and I didn't have to shell out $$$ for a McHale :)

I remember as a woodworker I was asked to make a toy box for a friend of mine. The design he wanted was terrible, I was unmotivated and hated every moment of it. This was the last thing I made for someone else. I wonder if a little of this is happening in the cottage industry. At first you are the innovator and then you get customers and responsibilities - is the spark gone? creativity gone? did you sell out to the man?

IMHO,

Dave

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: MYOGER'S rule on 12/29/2011 16:31:49 MST Print View

"I remember as a woodworker I was asked to make a toy box for a friend of mine. The design he wanted was terrible, I was unmotivated and hated every moment of it. This was the last thing I made for someone else."

That's really amusing

Yeah, customers can be a real pain, demand unreasonable, be unsatisfied regardless

I don't agree with Ryan's premise that Cottage Manufacturers are stagnant, but I thought his essay and people's responses were great.

Keep it up! And people, try not to have thin skin...

David Olsen
(oware)

Locale: Steptoe Butte
dull scissors on 12/29/2011 17:17:39 MST Print View

I became of member of BPL for why?

Ryan, you really wax and wane (or is that warp and woof).

There is no way to cut cuben fiber with dull scissors!

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: non-cottage UL gear on 12/29/2011 18:13:56 MST Print View

holy smokes gunna agree with Eric ;)

as an owner of an Osprey Exos, BA air core pad, BD carbon poles, Exped air pillow, Solomon trail shoes, MSR pocket rocket and an REI sub kilo sleeping bag. you can get to a fairly decent base weight (12lb for me with a filter pump)

the only cottage-ish i own is a TT contrail.

making the leap to a quilt or better bag and chemical water treatment i could probably be at 10lb almost exclusively from REI available products

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Re: boilerwerkx on 12/29/2011 18:31:46 MST Print View

I also disagree that they "broke the mold"

Kelly Kettle designs have been around for a while. he just made it lighter.

Anthony Weston
(anthonyweston) - MLife

Locale: Southern CA
cottage on 12/29/2011 18:51:38 MST Print View

I disagree.

I like the innovation of the cottage industry.
I like tarptent's notch, MLD's exodus with frame and trailstar in cuben.
I love my mld cuben solomid!
I love my zpacks exo backpack, at 12 oz it's very comfortable, functional.
I like my epiphany cuben quilt where I can adjust the loft and so use it for a
wide range of temperatures. ULA has new packs. Where is the stagnation.

I think you guys just have too much gear and have become jaded.
There is great innovation going on out there.
Screw it all let's go backpacking!

Edited by anthonyweston on 12/30/2011 00:18:25 MST.

Daniel Sandström
(sandstrom.dj)
Re: After UL on 12/29/2011 23:32:20 MST Print View

Small rant.

I think focusing on grams to SUL is kind of absurd. Especially if you don't use skin out, the thoretical base weight doesn't really matter when walking. I don't cut labels, I can cut straps, but that's because loose straps are anoying. Othervise I do think in terms of %, but cutting 3 grams of labels and cord out of a 112 gram wind jacket, that's 2.6%, not sure if you'll even sence the 3 grams, given you might have needed the cord function. Talking base weight, the standard deviation of clothes and consumables will easily eat up the labels.

That said. Yes one should lighten ones load to the extent it's possible. Like people do when it's critical, say on a longer trip/expedition. But seriously, are people really in such bad shape, that lightweight backpacking isn't possible?!
One should though, be careful to consume more gear, think twice on that one.