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Lawson Kline
(Mountainfitter) - M

Locale: LawsonEquipment.com
Product Ideas and Feedback Wanted on 02/23/2012 10:24:46 MST Print View

As most of you know, I had a sale last week to sell off some of my extra inventory so I could add more products and finally grow my business. I will most likely add more accessory type items since their are very few cottage gear makers that offer such products, plus I can bring them to "market" much quicker then something like a tent, pack or sleeping bag.

One of the products I am exploring, is the idea of offering closed cell foam pads. I found a foam manufacturer that can manufacture an ultra soft 1.2lb density cross linked closed cell foam with 20% EVA, which means it has more resiliency and is lighter then Evazote. I was thinking of offering the pad in three sizes. 20"x50", 20"x72" and 24"x78". As far as thickness goes, I am a bit unsure since the lighter weight foam will allow you to go thicker with no weight penalty, but here are the weights:

20"x50" in 1/4" is 2.8oz, 1/2" is 5.6 and 3/4" is 8.4oz
20"x72" in 1/4" is 4.0oz, 1/2" is 8.0oz, and 3/4" is 12.0oz
24"x78" in 1/4" is 5.2oz, 1/2" is 10.4oz, and 3/4" is 15.6oz

I will most likely start off with one thickness since I have to buy alot of it. So feedback would be great..

I am also interested to hear about other products ideas people may have..

Thanks,
Lawson

Rob E
(eatSleepFish)

Locale: Canada
MYOG kits on 02/23/2012 10:59:02 MST Print View

Hi Lawson,

Although I haven't bought one, I do really like your cuben fiber shelter kits that you sell. For the MYOG maker, buying materials can sometimes be quite prohibitively expensive, due to the small quantities that are needed, and that they have to be bought in usual minimum quantities, usually 1 yard. Then there is the fact that designing/building an ultralight shelter is tricky, and there will likely be some mistakes... some revisions, etc.

I like how your kits provided the right amounts of the material and that the tricky part of cutting the centenary curves are done.

So perhaps think about adding more MYOG shelter kits? You could sell the materials and plans do a little bit of the prep work like some cutting and bring these to market without having to assemble the entire shelter.

Cheers,

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - M

Locale: Southeast
One thought on 02/23/2012 11:01:01 MST Print View

Seems like people are always asking about where to get all the different cuben adhesives & tapes. Which one is best for my application, etc. Many of the industrial suppliers don't want to sell just one & if they do, will rape you on shipping. Might be some opportunity there for you.

Also, seems Thru-hiker has the monopoly on 900fp down for us MYOG'ers. Very popular product. Some competition there would be nice, especially since you have better shipping.

Edit: Rob beat me to it on materials. The kits are a good idea too. Maybe the MYOG kit prices fall in between the finished product price and raw material price.

Ryan

Edited by ViolentGreen on 02/23/2012 11:09:33 MST.

Eric Lundquist
(cobberman) - F - M

Locale: Northern Colorado
Re: MYOG kits on 02/23/2012 11:10:29 MST Print View

I agree, there is a missing market for these kits other than the Ray Way tarps. Perhaps carrying different materials for the MYOG shelters such as Cuben and Silnylon (30D/70D). Essentially what thru-hiker is for MYOG clothing, Mountainfitter could be to MYOG shelters. You could also consider a bivy in this lineup as well. It's something no one else is offering as far as I'm aware.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Pads on 02/23/2012 11:23:59 MST Print View

Pads that do not tear easy and are water proof so a long one can eliminate the need for a ground sheet. That is what would be of interest to me.

nanook ofthenorth
(nanookofthenorth) - MLife
.. on 02/23/2012 11:30:59 MST Print View

+1 above, maybe a plastic laminate over a oversized 5mm EVA pad?

Lawson Kline
(Mountainfitter) - M

Locale: LawsonEquipment.com
thanks for the feedback on 02/23/2012 11:43:54 MST Print View

I didn't realize there was so much interest in pre-cut kits since the three tarps I have for sale havn't really been hot sellers. Maybe that's because of the color, the price, and the fact that they use cuben rather then silnylon. So with that said, I wonder if they would be better sellers if I offered them in sil-nylon at say half their current price? I know at one time, pre-cut kits were the in-thing but it seems as if no one currently makes such a product. I would say with such things as tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, etc.. the savings would be much greater. If there is alot of demand, I would like to fill it : )

Hey Nick and Nanook,

What thickness are you thinking? Something very thin and light that would replace a ground sheet or something thicker that could be used alone and has a good R rating? As you can see a 20"x72" pad in 3/4" is very light for its thickness plus I am pretty sure the R value is 6 per inch so this would be 4.5 which is insane for such a lightweight pad..

Edited by Mountainfitter on 02/23/2012 11:50:05 MST.

Eric Dysart
(ewdysar) - F

Locale: SoCal
Pads on 02/23/2012 12:00:10 MST Print View

For me, a thin waterproof pad that could be used as a groundsheet to protect one of the higher end inflatable mattresses would be great. Slightly larger is better, so that things don't come off the edges.

Eric

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Pads on 02/23/2012 12:14:54 MST Print View

+1 on a waterproof pad to double as groundsheet. Also can you get an r-value/thickness for that foam source?

I agree on the adhesives. If you could carry Hysol and a lighter tape than the other companies (can't remember the number, but the type of tape used by MLD) that would be amazing.

I think kits fell by the way side for tarps because it's really just a big square. I think having the cat cut kits (and silnylon) is a bigger selling point since people are wary of how to make a cat cut properly. Now if you offered more/customizable sizes with appropriate cat cuts for the new dimensions that too may be a seller, but not sure.

EDIT: Just saw you posted R-values of 6/inch right before my post.

Edited by upalachango on 02/23/2012 14:53:37 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: thanks for the feedback on 02/23/2012 12:19:14 MST Print View

Lawson,

I use pads in two ways. 1/8" X 20" X 72" as a ground sheet and tiny insulation help -- almost the same weight as a ground sheet. On top of this I might use a torso size pad or an air mattress. With an air mattress it is to help protect it from the desert stuff that can puncture. I use a thicker one for snow with other insulation padding on top.

I like the pads that Suluk46 sells, but they tear really, really easily. Even rolled up, they will tear where a small rubber band is wrapped around them.

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: foam pads on 02/23/2012 12:27:55 MST Print View

I would be most interested in a 24" x 74" x 1/8" pad. I too use it as a supplemental ground sheet to add a small amount of insulation and protect my inflatable pad.

Ron D
(dillonr) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
Re: foam pads on 02/23/2012 12:34:38 MST Print View

+1 on the 24x72x1/8 pad. I have a 24in inflatable and would buy a 1/8in pad as groundsheet protection if I could find one that was somewhat durable.
Ron

Casey Bowden
(clbowden) - MLife

Locale: Berkeley Hills
Re: Re: foam pads on 02/23/2012 12:43:39 MST Print View

Lawson,

I would also be most interested in 24" x 74" x 1/8".

As Nick noted above, Suluk sells a similar pad, but it tears easily. Is your material more durable?

Barry P
(BarryP) - F

Locale: Eastern Idaho (moved from Midwest)
Re: Product Ideas and Feedback Wanted on 02/23/2012 13:03:51 MST Print View

“I am also interested to hear about other products ideas people may have.. ”
For CCF pads, I feel most comfy on the ¾” thick versions. Other accessory ideas:

1. First aid stuff
2. BPL pillows that you blow up with a straw. The double cylinders were the most comfortable.
3. 8 fl oz flexible alcohol containers. I like to roll mine up or flatten it out as it empties.
4. open top jet alcy stoves. My favorite is like Mechanic Mikes on eBay.
5. associated pot stand and wind guard for above.
6. cheap aluminum wide-bottomed pots
7. ProBars
8. Digital and mercury thermometers
9. thick, cushy, coolmax socks


-Barry
The mountains were made for Teva’s

Brendan L
(mechB) - F

Locale: Washington DC
Re: Product Ideas and Feedback Wanted on 02/23/2012 14:37:46 MST Print View

Lawson,

The foam pads sound great, I would definitely like to see those. I have been wondering for a while whether there was a better foam out there than Evazote. I don't know whether this is possible or not, but maybe you could explore adding an aluminized coating to the sleeping pads (like you had with the cuben fiber). They recently did this on the Ridgerest sleeping pads [link] , and it added +0.2 R-value and didn't seem to add any weight (according to the listed weights, which stayed the same). It might be something that could further differentiate your product from existing sleeping pads. I think it would be a subtle but exciting advance.

As for size, I think the 1/4" thickness is the most appealing. Most people seem to use these Evazote-type pads as a groundsheet of sorts, or to protect/supplement inflatable pads, so a thinner option might had greater widespread appeal. Also, you can always order more than one and stack them at no weight-penalty, but you can't split a 1/2" thick pad into two halves.

However, the 3/4" thick pad is 1/8" thicker than the Ridgerest, and ~16% lighter for the same size. Also, if the R-value numbers that you posted are correct (R 4.5 for 3/4"), it would be 60% warmer than the Ridgrerest (R 2.8). Sounds too good to be true. If these numbers checked out, you could really be onto something here. The Ridgerest is a staple pad for all types of backpackers, but this would blow it out of the water.

Definitely keep us updated on these pads.

Bill Reynolds
(billreyn1) - M

Locale: North East Georgia Mountains
pads on 02/23/2012 16:03:21 MST Print View

I would be interested in the 1/2 inch 72 inch pad for winter use with my Neo Air.

Emily B
(emilyb)
Product ideas on 02/23/2012 16:38:27 MST Print View

Lawson,

If after some testing, the R-value of 6 for 1” is felt to be accurate, it would be amazing to have a 1” foam pad with a 6 R-value. If the pattern holds, seems like a 1” thick, 20x72 would weigh about 16 oz? This would put it in competition with the Neoair Xtherm. Personally, I have been strongly wishing for something of that R-value and weight range that is less thick than the Neoair, because such thick cushy inflatables make it uncomfortable for limbs hanging off the sides of the 20” width. Also, if offered at the 24” with, people could get the wider width and cut it down to their desired length, which is less risky (and hopefully less expensive) than shortening an inflatable. Wide, high R-value mats seem to only come in extra-long lengths at the moment.

I wonder if the DIY cuben tarp kits would sell more if they were in a lighter weight cuben, and/or if absolutely everything needed (minus the sewing machine) could be purchased from the website—the right thread, adhesive, perhaps even pre-constructed tie-outs, etc. Personally, as someone who has done a lot of research looking for my first cuben shelter, if a rectangular 8.5x10-ish flat tarp were offered in .51 cuben at a DIY price, with all the recommended materials in one place, I’d snatch it up.

+1 on Barry P’s double-cylinder inflatable pillows and cheap lightweight aluminum pots, perhaps similar to the ones that come with the lighter-weight Trangia kits. Not as easy to find as one would think.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Product ideas on 02/23/2012 17:12:08 MST Print View

+1 for quilt materials especially in one spot. M50 and/or M90 and down would be cool.

i don't like Thru-hikers "mystery shipping" what the hell is that? oh we'll charge you a ton and then give "some" back? who does that?

Brendan L
(mechB) - F

Locale: Washington DC
Re: Product Ideas and Feedback Wanted on 02/23/2012 17:39:53 MST Print View

So I've thought it over a bit more, and I have a stronger opinion now. Keep in mind that I'm not a marketing guru, but I really want to see your business succeed.

If your goal is to expand your business and gain traction in the market, I would strongly advocate against producing a 1/8" pad as many others have suggested. My thought process is this:

1. The market for these ultra-thin 1/8" foam pads is already saturated. Off the top of my head these are already sold by: MLD, Gossamer Gear, Prolite Gear, and Suluk.

2. A 1/8" foam pad is sort of a fringey item. It's really only useful as a marginal supplement for warmth, a pseudo-groundsheet, or protecting an inflatable pad. As a groundsheet and warmth supplement, the bulk and annoyance doesn't really justify the benefit. I can't speak to the inflatable pad aspect since I gave up on those things.

3. Even though a 1/8" pad made from your proposed foam is an improvement over existing Evazote pads of the same thickness, it would be a relatively marginal one. For example, assuming correct weights and R-values, a 1/8" pad in your foam (72" size) would be about R-0.67 and weigh 2.0oz. Existing pads of the same dimensions are ~R-0.42 and 2.7oz. This is a nice improvement, but as you scale up the thickness, the differences become much more substantial. Consider the difference between putting a $10 item on sale for $5, and putting a $200 item on sale for $100. Proportionally, they are equivalent. But the second looks like a much better deal. It's the same concept with the pads--the weight savings appear greater in real terms as you scale up in thickness.

Given these three things, I would say that offering a 1/8" pad would be a weak, conservative move. The same goes, to some extent, for a 1/4" pad. However, this thickness would exist in an awkward no-mans-land: it's too thick and heavy to use as just a groundsheet, and too thin to use on it's own.

=========================================================================

If it were me, and assuming the weights and R-values for this foam are accurate, I would try to develop a pad marketed as a "Ridgerest-killer". Lighter. Warmer. More durable. More comfortable (Evazote has a memory-foam quality to it, Ridgerest foam is fairly stiff--plus you describe this new foam as even more comfortable than traditional Evazote). Here are my thoughts:

1. As described above, it would be significantly better than other existing products of comparable function, namely the Ridgerest. A 72"L/20"W Ridgerest is 5/8" thick, weighs ~14.0 oz, and has an R-value of 2.8. Again, assuming the numbers you gave are accurate, the same size and thickness of your foam would weigh 10.0 oz and have an R-value of 3.75. That is an insane improvement.

2. The Ridgerest is an established item, and is widely used by all sorts of backpackers and other outdoor enthusiasts. If you introduced an item that was directly comparable, but clearly superior to a trusted item like the Ridgerest, it would be an easy and comfortable transition. On the one hand, you capture traditional backpackers who are used to this type of sleeping pad. On the other, you pull in thru-hiker types and ULers for whom foam is just slightly too uncomfortable and heavy compared to the rapidly improving and sexy inflatable pads, but who also hate the hassle, high expense, and unreliability of inflatables. In short, this would have much broader appeal and a much higher-ceiling in terms of capturing market share.

3. In terms of thickness, you would have a couple of good options. The 1/2" would be the lightest and have a comparable R-value to the Ridgerest (which is just about ideal for hikes like the PCT and general summer and late spring / early fall use). However, you suffer from the problem that it's thinner and therefore less comfortable than it could be (may be more of a psychological issue for people--they may be reluctant to go thinner than a Ridgerest). Secondly, (if you could get it manufactured in this thickness) you could match the Ridgerest thickness of 5/8". This makes it easy to make a direct, one-to-one comparison to the existing and trusted staple (Ridgerest), only it would be lighter/warmer/more comfortable. The R-value on it (~3.7) would be perfect. Lastly, you could go for the 3/4" thickness, which would have the marketing advantage of being much warmer and thicker than a Ridgerest, while still being 2.0 oz lighter. Each of these has their advantages, but if it were my decision, I would go for the 5/8" thickness as a happy medium. Plus, you are going for blood and making a statement about the superiority of your product.

4. Also, if I were in your shoes, I would push this as your flagship product. If the foam material is indeed as you describe, it is filling a massive void in the market and is a major leap forward (in my opinion). It could become the defacto standard for people like PCT or AT hikers, just like ULA packs did (noticeably, by striking the happy medium between ultralight and traditional backpacking, just like this foam pad would). From there, it would spread to other hikers. In addition, if you have one flagship item that is associated with your name, it builds trust in your brand and draws people into buying your other products.

5. Aside from the significantly better objective qualities of this pad, you could differentiate it by giving it a distinctive name and color scheme (I don't know about the extra production costs of dyeing the foam, you would know better than I). Everybody knows and recognizes the woodsy green color of the Ridgerest, and it is instantly recognizable if you were to see it on the outside of someone's pack. I think a bold but restful/inoffensive color like indigo or cobalt would be awesome (you'd have to make it a different enough shade of blue compared to Walmart blue foamies). It would look like a million bucks if you could go two-tone: a grey/silver on one side and a deep blue/green or blue/purple on the other (again, this may or may not be feasible depending on your supplier. Here's an example: colors

You may also be able to cut out or imprint a small logo into the foams somehow. Anyways, my thought is that if you have a distinctive look to the product that generates interest and questions on the trail, it would help it catch on faster. Also, the plain blacks and greys are extremely dull and generic (looking at it from a marketing standpoint).

Sorry for the long post, but I think you could hit a grand slam if you went for the "Ridgerest-killer" approach. I know it's probably different than your vision of mainly supplying accessories and so on, but I think that this slightly more assertive approach would be a good move in terms of growing your business. Plus, the risk of this more focused strategy is not much higher than the alternative, which is offering a slightly improved version of existing Evazote pads (i.e. 1/8" or 1/4"). The rewards are potentially huge (IMO). I'd be interested to know what you think about this.

John West
(skyzo) - F

Locale: Borah Gear
Re: Product Ideas and Feedback Wanted on 02/23/2012 17:45:20 MST Print View

+1 for more MYOG fabrics/supplies
Like someone else said, some 800+ down at a reasonable price would fly off your shelves.
Maybe some silnylon/Momentum fabrics?