Whilst preparing for a pilgrimage down I-5 to visit REI, I started thinking about the gear that cottage manufacturers either don't make (yet?), or rarely make, and what I still buy from large scale gear makers.
I realize GoLite, and perhaps a few others, breach this gap. Also, that makes me think I have no real way of delineating cottage and larger companies, aside from forum sentiment.
Things I don't usually bother looking at from large scale (REI brand) companies:
Packs - Cottage manufacturers clearly ahead of the curve in the UL world.
Sleep Systems, partial - Aside from a few larger companies like Western Mountaineering or GoLite, I generally look to cottage manufacturers for whats over me (quilt). To my knowledge, no "REI" brand makes an UL bivy (aside from WPB options). Pads are another story
Stoves, alternative fuel- Is it safe to say nearly all alcohol/solid fuel/wood options are made by cottage brands?
Shelters- Unless you are using free standing dome shelters, there are very few UL shelter options outside of cottage gear, or so it seems.
Things I don't look for in cottage manufacturers (some of these seem obvious, because of the R+D and cost of production)-
Shoes- I think it will be a long while before we see shoe options from cottage guys
Clothing- aside from some rain gear and the occasional insulation piece
Canister stoves- I've yet to see a cottage canister stove available to the masses, but I suppose I haven't really looked. Would you classify Fire Maple as a cottage gear maker?
Electronics- I don't use any while backpacking, but I know there is an iPhone contingent here
Sleeping pads- Aside from some excellent CCF offerings and the now defunct(?) KookaBay, we generally sleep on mass-produced mattresses.
And many of the little things- sunglasses, sun block, bug spray, knives (with some exceptions), etc.
Items can move (and certainly have moved) from one category to the other. Any changes you are excited to see?