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Bryan Hoofnagle
(bhoofnagle) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Lightweight Gear Excluding Smaller Wallets on 02/16/2007 11:08:29 MST Print View

Is it just me or shouldn't simpler designs and cottage industry manufacturing reduce prices in the burgeoning world of ultra-lite gear?

It's disconcerting to have to pay $200+ for a bivy sack or $300 for a simple quilt. Quite honestly it excludes those who just want to simplify their hiking experience with quality, well-designed and created gear.

I want companies like Bozeman MT works to make money on the quality they offer, but frankly the whole industry is becoming extremely expensive. If anyone can offer insight, please do.

Stephen Nelson
(stephenn6289) - F

Locale: Sunshine State
Re: Lightweight Gear Excluding Smaller Wallets on 02/16/2007 11:37:55 MST Print View

I am no economics genius, but this is the way I see it. Companies like Bozeman Mountain Works make specialty products on smaller runs than companies like The North Face. This requires that the price per item be greater. Also, they use expensive (and lightweight) high-tech fabrics. These cost a lot to manufacture and aquire because they are not very common. That's what drives the price up. Dr. J even stated in his Bozeman podcast that weight is the primary concern and that money is the last thing to be considered.

This being said, you don't have to drop a grand to enjoy the wilderness, just get lightweight and cheap stuff.
Get a Golite poncho/tarp and a Gossamer Gear polycro groundsheet. Use 2 L soda bottles, pepsi-can alcohol stoves. Those kind of ideas are what makes this fun, and you can still get below 12 lbs of baseweight. As far as sleeping bags go, I use the North Face Beeline 900 (2005 edition) at 20 oz and now available for about $175 online. Not extremely cheap, but for 800+ fill down and pertex, not bad. Kelty offer 650+ down sleepingbags for under $100. Going light doesn't have to bee too expensive, you just have to stay away from high-tech fabrics and small production runs.

Having said that, I think I speak for all of by stating that hopefully as lighter gear becomes more common, the price will fall.

Ernie Elkins
(EarthDweller)

Locale: North Carolina
Re: Lightweight Gear Excluding Smaller Wallets on 02/16/2007 11:47:40 MST Print View

This is an issue that I've wondered about as well, Bryan. There are two elements, though, that I would imagine have a big impact on cost. One is the cost of ultralight materials -- lightweight, high-performance fabrics are very expensive. The other is that many of the products in question are made in the USA and Canada, so I would expect that labor costs are higher. Frankly, I'm impressed with how competitive companies like TarpTent and ULA really are -- both produce high-quality, well-designed equipment at prices that are in-line with the offerings from much larger companies.

Ken Bennett
(ken_bennett) - F

Locale: southeastern usa
Re: Lightweight Gear Excluding Smaller Wallets on 02/16/2007 11:50:09 MST Print View

It takes some effort, but making your own gear is a satisfying way to have top-quality stuff without breaking the bank. You'll need a sewing machine, of course, and a fair amount of practice in using it. Top-quality fabrics are available from several vendors on-line. You can make a great bivy sack for about $60 in materials -- I know because I just did it. (Okay, technically my lovely wife did the actual sewing, because I am a fumble-fingered idiot. But I keep practicing.) You can make a terrific tarp at exactly the size you want, a pack with all the features you need and none you don't, even high-end clothing. There is something very primal about heading out into the wilderness with equipment that you made yourself -- plus you get to stick it to The Man at the same time.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Lightweight Gear Excluding Smaller Wallets on 02/16/2007 11:52:00 MST Print View

Learn how to sew and make your own gear.

Excellent material is now available that is just as good, maybe better or the same as that being used by the big and smaller gear makers.

Avoid the big mark-up $$$$$$ on gear and learn how to make your own.

Alec Muthig
(Alekat) - F

Locale: Wyoming, USA
Re: Lightweight Gear Excluding Smaller Wallets on 02/16/2007 11:57:54 MST Print View

I'll agree with the do-it-yourself approach. I recently bought a yard of silNylon for around $10 and started making some prototype shell/VB mitts. Takes time, but is very relaxing and very satisfying.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Lightweight Gear Excluding Smaller Wallets on 02/16/2007 11:58:09 MST Print View

Cottage Gear Industry isn't cheap to do-since if you don't make 1,000 packs at once, your cost for supplies will be much higher. Just one view on why small companies can be pricey.
Often you are also paying a fair wage to someone in the US to sew the items. You get what you pay for in some cases.
(Hence this also can apply to why Thermarest products are pricey: they make their stuff in the US, not in a sweatshop in Asia!)

Alec Muthig
(Alekat) - F

Locale: Wyoming, USA
Re: Lightweight Gear Excluding Smaller Wallets on 02/16/2007 11:59:53 MST Print View

Hey... I'll sell you a SUL silNylon Wallet for $45!

Steve .
(pappekak) - F

Locale: Tralfamadore
Re: Re: Lightweight Gear Excluding Smaller Wallets on 02/16/2007 12:04:19 MST Print View

What is a decent sewing maching to get that won't break the bank. Is the Brother LS-2125i any good? I have a WallyWorld gift card I have to use up...

Miles Barger
(milesbarger) - F - M

Locale: West Virginia
Materials + Time on 02/16/2007 12:05:34 MST Print View

MYOG is great. Satisfying, just what you want, a learning experience, money-saving, etc.

But buying gear is great, too. What I'd urge you to think about is 1) the cost of basic materials and 2) the amount of time you'd think it would take to make a particular item well. For 1, if you want the absolute lightest or close to it, the materials are expensive. The type of development and machinery it takes to produce fabrics like spinnaker and cuben are complicated and the market isn't huge, so there's really no way around that for small business owners. For 2, if materials cost you $60 for a bivy sack that costs more like $175 from one of our belov├ęd cottage manufacturers, $115 of that is for time. How long does it take to make? If it took 8 hours, that'd be $14.38 an hour. At that rate, the manufacturer would be making $575/week, $28750/yr with two weeks off. I understand that with outfits involving more than one person, added costs, website maintenance and bandwidth, customer support, tools, tax, etc., that it becomes much more complicated. But, at any rate, I'd guess that my estimate is higher than what's actually made by someone in the business. Personally, I am more than happy to pay for UL gear that is much better made and developed than something I'd make at home, supports manufacture in the USA, and supports wonderful individuals who have the guts to start their own business and support this community.

Alec Muthig
(Alekat) - F

Locale: Wyoming, USA
Re: Materials + Time on 02/16/2007 12:10:51 MST Print View

Or...

MYOG = stress therapy. Therapy costs, what, $100/hr? So by spending 4 hours sewing something myself I've actually saved $400 in therapy bills! :)

Ernie Elkins
(EarthDweller)

Locale: North Carolina
Re: Lightweight Gear Excluding Smaller Wallets on 02/16/2007 12:21:04 MST Print View

As others have pointed out, making your own gear is definitely your most affordable option. However, as Stephen indicated, there are definitely some bargains out there. I like how Ron at MLD has balanced his offerings. If you can afford the premium prices, he offers some really amazing stuff, like a catenary-cut cuben tarp that weights 4.5 ounces and costs $180. If you're on a tight budget, though, his Monk tarps offer great quality at very affordable prices (his 6x9 silnylon tarp costs about the same as a 6x8 silnylon tarp from Equinox, yet his construction techniques are clearly superior). Likewise, if you can afford to spend $200 on a bivy, then Ron's Soul Bivy is really impressive. If you can do without a few of the premium features, though, the Superlight Bivy is a much more affordable alternative. In fact, a Superlight Bivy plus Monk Tarp would cost about the same (or less) than any number of well-made solo tents from industry giants like The North Face, MSR, etc. So, for about the same price as a three-pound tent that's made in Vietnam, you can have an American made, ultralight shelter setup that weighs about a pound.

Edited by EarthDweller on 02/16/2007 12:24:07 MST.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Re: Lightweight Gear Excluding Smaller Wallets on 02/16/2007 12:32:19 MST Print View

I'll add that while I sew and make gear, there are things I am in NO way going to risk $16 a yard material on, and mess up. At that point it is just easier to buy said product and know that it will look good ;-)

Shawn Basil
(Bearpaw) - F

Locale: Southeast
Fair prices and MYOG on 02/16/2007 12:57:11 MST Print View

I hope I can offer a couple of thoughts that can help.

I've worked for REI since 2001 and one of the really big perks are the obscenely low prices manufacturers offer employees for select gear. I can often buy gear for a fraction of the retail price, and I have amassed a great deal over this time. However, when I buy from "niche" companies like Six Moon Designs or ULA, I have to pay full price. Still I have done so on a number of occasions and found the price for such gear to be worth EVERY PENNY despite getting mass market gear for sometimes as little as 1/4 the price of the specialty item. Why? It's just that much better than any thing on the regular market. The price is very fair to me.

As for MYOG, I often NEED therapy 1/2 way through the process. HOWEVER, when I am done, I am overjoyed at having a great piece of gear that really fits me well, and has saved me a substantial amount over what I might have bought from some one else.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: Fair prices and MYOG on 02/16/2007 13:12:40 MST Print View

Yes,
Good deals are hard to come by.
I do not believe any UL product should cost more than double of what you can purchase the parts for.

The thing that really gets me is sleeping bags.
For instance, if a baffled bag has 12 ounces of down in it, lets say it costs $275.

Now take a baffled bag that has the same dimensions but has 16 ounces of down in it. All of a sudden your paying about $375.
There is almost the same amount of material in it, and it took the same amount of time to sew it, but for $30 more down, you end up paying $100 more?????
I don't get it.

I believe the absolute best deals are back packs.
If you try purchasing the goods for duplication a pack, you can spend even more than the bag sells for.
You can also load up the back pack right there in the store and at least have an idea if it is comfortable or not.

Next time I'm in Rei, I'm going to grab a bag and ask to use there freezer.

Edited by awsorensen on 02/16/2007 13:18:59 MST.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Lightweight Gear Excluding Smaller Wallets on 02/16/2007 13:39:24 MST Print View

Don't forget most big companies outsource their labor to foreign countries who have very lax labor laws. If all companies were required to follow fair trade principles then most of the gear we own would be priced more in-line with the prices our cottage manufacturers here in the states are charging.

Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
Re: Re: Fair prices and MYOG on 02/16/2007 16:05:21 MST Print View

Aaron wrote: 'The thing that really gets me is sleeping bags.
For instance, if a baffled bag has 12 ounces of down in it, lets say it costs $275.

Now take a baffled bag that has the same dimensions but has 16 ounces of down in it. All of a sudden your paying about $375.
There is almost the same amount of material in it, and it took the same amount of time to sew it, but for $30 more down, you end up paying $100 more?????
I don't get it.'

I've wondered about this very same thing. A few ounces more of down filling really seems to pump the price up considerably.

I'll second the comments Shawn made about buying gear from cottage shops like ULA or Tarptent. I don't mind plunking down some extra money for a product produced in the states with local labor. I feel good about supporting the manufacturer's local communuity.

Also keep in mind that the materials for some of the more bleeding-edge gear (like BMW's stuff) is really premium material that isn't cheap for the manufacturer to obtain. And, as others have stated, the design & production costs are not amortized out of nearly as many units as a mass-market item from The North Face or the like. I'm surprised that prices on some of the cottage industry producers aren't higher than they are!

Kirk Beiser
(kab21) - F

Locale: Pic: Gun Lake, BWCA
Re: ULTRALightweight Gear Excluding Smaller Wallets on 02/16/2007 16:51:34 MST Print View

I remember someone saying awhile ago that it's really expensive to be a heavyweight backpacker (think all of the bombproof items). It's cheap to be a lightweight backpacker (simpler designs, simpler materials, less materials). It's expensive to be an ultralighter (simpler designs, very expensive materials).

Do you want the 22 oz 30deg bag or the 30 oz 30deg bag? The 32 oz tarptent or GVP's 24oz spinnaker tarptent? A $100 12 oz jacket or a $200 10oz jacket?

If you need to have the absolut lightest gear it will cost you. Of course there are many exceptions, MYOG for one. And there are many other creative ways to get around it.

Kirk

Dondo .
(Dondo) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Lightweight Gear Excluding Smaller Wallets on 02/16/2007 19:12:12 MST Print View

BMW isn't for those of us with smaller wallets. It's more of a UL boutique for those who want the lightest of the light and are willing to pay for it.

I noticed from your profile that you're in Boulder. You're in luck. Go to the Golite website, choose what you want and wait for the semi-annual warehouse sale. You'll be able to find most of what you want for half off the already reasonable retail prices. The last one was in November, so you'll have to wait a few months. Show up early on the first day of the sale for best selection.

Carol Brown
(brownwetdog)

Locale: Idaho
Re: Re: Lightweight Gear Excluding Smaller Wallets on 02/16/2007 20:12:56 MST Print View

<< I like how Ron at MLD has balanced his offerings.>>

Plus where else do you get features like this (found on the Grace Duo Spintex .97 Tarp) other than the cottage industries:

"Built from free-range Silnylon, no artificial growth hormones"