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The Politics of Cottage Consumption
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Benjamin Payne
(bpayne) - M
Franco on 07/04/2013 07:03:14 MDT Print View

Aarn could do so much more, Franco. Innovation has to be tempered by a clear aesthetic in order to be successful, in my view.

By the way, Tarptent DR did well in Indonesia, tropical rain and all.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: cottage politics on 07/04/2013 14:37:53 MDT Print View

Fantastic article. It might be more clear to replace "outdoor industry" with "world" in the last sentence.

I assume a big part of what Mr. Payne is getting at here is that traditional cost-benefit models need to be rebalanced and broadened. While it may be foreign to our current definitions, it doesn't take too much imagination to see how various ethical and humanistic rubrics might be included. The world needs this, and in ignoring it I think Nick goes wrong here.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: re: cottage politics on 07/04/2013 15:06:49 MDT Print View

"I can say Dan McHale is an innovator."

Indeed, his invention of the daisy chain was...

Actually, I was surprised to see that he has adopted bottom compression straps similar to the Golite Jam packs and those available from MLD.

Viva la Cottage.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: re: cottage politics on 07/04/2013 15:24:39 MDT Print View

"The world needs this, and in ignoring it I think Nick goes wrong here."

Ah, but that is due to different philosophies. And this thread is not the forum to discuss them :)

Good news is we both like to get outdoors a lot.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: re: cottage politics on 07/04/2013 15:24:41 MDT Print View

"...traditional cost-benefit models need to be rebalanced and broadened..."

Yeah, I'd rather pay a little more if they paid their people a fair salary, or made in the U.S. (or some country we have balanced trade with), or used more environmental methods (although that can be hard to determine).

And ha, ha, ha, it's fun to think of examples where committees have made ridiculous decisions, but there are many problems that require many people to solve, computers and medical stuff and atomic bombs... Maybe making a tent or backpack can be done by one person.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Re: What innovation do you seek? on 07/04/2013 17:16:11 MDT Print View

Do people seek solutions that are substitutes for skill and experience?

Bottom line... There is a plethora of good quality lightweight gear available today. This endless search for the perfect item for each piece of grear to create the nirvana of kit is just plain rediculous.

I think people should forget about what is best and just get out and hike a lot. That is the bottom line, isn't it?


^^^^ whuddah he said

there are very few "innovative" gear ... show me one specific piece of gear BPLers use that are truly "innovative" ... and ill show you someone else who is going harder, longer, stronger, more who doesnt use that piece of "must have" gear ...

at best gear is incremental ... things get marginally lighter,marginally stronger, etc ... while the aggregate can make somewhat of a difference over time ... whether you use last years model, or this years marginally lighter shiny new one doesnt make one whit of difference except n your spreadsheet

the very few truly "innovative" gear designs are quickly copied ... witness the MEC $25 dollar patacucci fleece copies (which arent really "innovative" themselves) that work just as well ...

what is "innovative" then ??? ... its how you USE your gear, and what you DO with it ...

as to "cottage" ... what in the world does that mean ... there are "cottage" makers out there that make their gear in china, while there are "mainstream" makes out there that make most of their gear in the western world ...

buy gear that works, is backed up by a solid warranty, is at the price and weight you want, and USE it well ...

i mean what most people are doing here is walking on trails ... mostly in pretty good weather ... some ole grandma did that decades ago just fine without all this "cottage" or outdoursy brand stuff at a very light weight ...

basically most of us have devolved lower than a 1950s grandma ... where we need all the fancy gear to do what she did in Keds sneakers and carrying an army blanket, a raincoat, and a plastic shower curtain which she carried in a homemade bag slung over one shoulder"


Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Crowdsourcing on 07/04/2013 17:58:27 MDT Print View

Having said that I have long felt that a crowdsourced approach to building an ultralight data logger sized GPS device with the ability to display locations in multiple coordinate systems would be a great project.


The interest in the product is incredible. They met and surpassed their financing goal in less than a week.

Crowd sourcing is just a scam by wannabes who don't have a viable product that can secure financing through traditional means.

One of the problems in traditional manufacturing (and publishing), is that established companies want to keep their foot in the door and keep out any upstarts who might steal their parcel of land. Manufacturers will often (usually?) not give a new and unknown innovator the time of day. So many new ideas are simply lost along the way and no one ever sees them. Sidestepping the weeding out process and getting a product out there often gives new ideas a chance that otherwise never even get seen. Often the entrenched evaluation of those reviewing new ideas fail to see the value in something new. Much of the world of design and publishing is littered with rejection slips and overflowing slush piles, not all of which are bad design or bad stories.

It is important to distinguish between running a successful business and coming up with brilliant designs and ideas. They are not necessarily inclusive of each other.

I'm struck by your disdain and dismissal, Nick. Why so harsh?

Edited by butuki on 07/04/2013 18:04:26 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Crowdsourcing on 07/04/2013 19:20:50 MDT Print View

"I'm struck by your disdain and dismissal, Nick. Why so harsh?"

Yes, I guess I was a bit harsh.

I am a businessman. I have run, bought, started, and sold several businesses in my lifetime. None failed -- actually all were very successful. Since something like 50% of all new business ventures in the US fail within 3 years, I think that is a good record. Most businesses fail because they are under-capitalized and/or the owners have no idea what they are doing.

It is one thing to come up with a great idea. It is another thing to come up with a great idea AND successfully execute it.

I did some research last year and Kickstarter's own stats show that 87% of their projects do not deliver on time. Pretty dismal results.

To launch a product you need to have the idea. Then you need prototypes to test the theory. Now you need a business plan. In manufacturing you need design engineers and manufacturing engineers to ensure the product can successfully be mass produced. You need to be ability to handle liability problems, errors and omissions, product defects, quality assurance, fulfillment processes, concern resolution, accounting, etc., etc.

It is interesting to watch Roger Caffin and his product development projects. Roger is a smart guy, so he see the obstacles ahead of time. That is why an existing manufacturer is making his tent. He realizes that even with his sophisticated equipment, he cannot economically and consistently produce his stove prototypes yet. The design is not conducive to mass production at this point without some serious investment in equipment and materials.

There are tons of savvy investors and venture capitalists that are always looking to fund products. Products where both the developer and the investor can be successful. That is because the investors have teams of experts that know how to successfully launch a product or start a business.

For more thoughts, Brother Can You Spare a Dime.

Tanner M
Re: Re: re: cottage politics on 07/04/2013 22:10:43 MDT Print View

I have a Gregory pack I bought in '97. The model was a few years old at the time. It has two straps that run under the bottom of the pack.

The two straps can be used to secure a foam mat. They can also be used to tighten up (reduce volume) the rump of the pack. The bottom front/back of the bag are brought together. This is handy when not much is in the bag; the load is raised.

Is this the type of bottom compression strap Golite and MLD use?

Davey Jones
> Actually, I was surprised to see that he has adopted bottom compression straps similar to the Golite Jam packs and those available from MLD.

Edited by Tan68 on 07/04/2013 22:12:33 MDT.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: Re: re: cottage politics on 07/04/2013 22:41:41 MDT Print View


Not exactly. These compression straps only serve to reduce volume and will not carry gear.

Here is a pic of the Golite Jam:


Tanner M
Re: Re: Re: Re: re: cottage politics on 07/04/2013 23:30:17 MDT Print View

I see.

The Gregory straps run from the bottom of the back panel, across the.. bottom, and then join the front panel. The whole bottom can be pinched shut. Clothes or small stuff fit in the wedge created. A sleeping bag is moved up 5 or so inches.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: re: cottage politics on 07/04/2013 23:36:18 MDT Print View

Here is a pic of what Mchale is doing posted from the Mchale website to give you an even better look at the feature.


dan mchale
(wildlife) - MLife

Locale: Cascadia
innovation on 07/05/2013 01:03:21 MDT Print View

My large packs from the 70s, 80, and 90s could do this. I simply adopted it from my own past since it is back in vogue now. All of my older Alpineers from those years had the hardware for this. Plus, my current hardware allows somebody to carry gear down there as well as compress, like my old packs did, so again, it is inaccurate to say I adopted it from GoLite or MLD. Compressing the bottom of a pack is nothing new. It is something I quit doing in the later 90s to simplify packs. The way I do it now is simply a lighter way than I once did it.

Edited by wildlife on 07/05/2013 01:04:47 MDT.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: innovation on 07/05/2013 07:41:21 MDT Print View

You had mentioned previously that this was something "new" that you had added.

I guess what's old is new again and innovation recycles itself.

Anthony Huhn
(anthonyjhuhn) - F - MLife

Locale: Mid West
Innovation at Home on 07/06/2013 08:43:47 MDT Print View

The best products for YOU are the ones that YOU make for yourself.
Making your own gear is the epitome of the lightweight philosophy and self sufficiency.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Innovation at Home on 07/06/2013 08:47:27 MDT Print View

"The best products for YOU are the ones that YOU make for yourself."

Says you. While MYOG is great. Everyone does not like making things that can be purchased rather easily. By the time you factor in your time honing your design and materials for prototypes etc.. A lot of these cottage guys are selling pretty cheaply.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
"...toward greater consolidation." Hmmmm... on 07/06/2013 13:15:01 MDT Print View

We can see from the fossil record that in the "Bronze Age" of backpacking we had a choice of Kelty or Camp Trails for backpacks. Then came Gerry's innovative modular frame pack. Then Jensen's frameless compartmentalized pack, then The North Face Ruthsack internal frame. Then Gregory, Mountainsmith, etc., etc.

Now we have some good European and Aussie packs PLUS the many packs from US and foreign cottage industries and small makers like GoLite.

WHAT "greater consolidation" of the backpacking industry, pray tell is the author referring to??

Shall I go on about tents now as a further example of production and design proliferation? No, I'll spare our gentle readers that trouble.

Edited by Danepacker on 07/06/2013 13:16:34 MDT.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
innovation and weight reduction on 07/06/2013 13:17:22 MDT Print View

Innovation in lightweight gear runs into a basic fact; there are two ways to reduce an item's weight.

1) use less material in the item's construction.
2) use lighter materials.

There are no other ways to do it. So once you simplify and reduce the size of an item as far as possible (thus reducing the amount of material) and use the lightest material available that will do the job, you can't go any further until a new, lighter material is developed. And in the ultralite gear world, that means waiting for some other industry to come up with that lightweight material, since our market is so small that it doesn't pay to develop materials just for it - we have to adapt stuff that is created for other uses. Thus, the lightest canister stoves hover around 1.5 ounces for now because you just can't remove any more material without compromising the utility of the stove. Maybe you could get under an ounce if cost was no object and elusive alloys were utilised, but that pushes the cost up to where it won't sell.

So innovative design mostly happens in that area somewhat above the lightest weight end of the spectrum, where there is still room for "features" (and features always add weight). To get into SUL and XSUL base weights you basically forgo features and minimalism controls the design. When you are carrying a total packweight of 15 lbs, with food and water and everything, your pack can be a stuffsack with straps and still work fine, so that's what the SUL packs tend towards, and there's no room for innovation in a Cuben stuffsack with straps - any innovation you make adds weight. But a little further up the spectrum there is room in the weight budget for pockets and other conveniences, and the need for appropriate suspension design, and so innovation can happen, but it is always restrained by the two basic weight reduction constraints.

Innovation can also be using a material that nobody else has yet used for that particular purpose, and that generally involves increased cost - as with Cuben and titanium taking the place of nylon and aluminum.

It seems like there is a lot of hope that some new design for a tent will magically be lighter while using the same materials, but it just doesn't happen. We don't have lighter tents today because of innovative design so much as because of lighter materials and in some cases simply smaller size.

With all of that said I do think there is room for improvement in some of the gear that is available, which is why I still make some of my own gear. I make my own packs because I think mine are better for my use than what I can buy. But I wouldn't make my own tent for 3-season use since I know I can't do any better than Henry Shires does or a few others. I might make my own spring snow-camping shelter because I don't see what I need on the market - not surprising for a niche so tiny.

And that is truly the key here - size of market. When the market is truly tiny and product development is expensive, that's when you don't see innovation because it doesn't pay. Ultralight gear hovers on the edge of that equation.

I realize I'm veering into rant territory here, but basically I wanted to point out that if we want to foster innovation we had better be clear on the factors that affect it and constrain it so that we can at least attempt to push where the pushing will be effective.

j lan
(justaddfuel) - F

Locale: MN
Re: Re: Re: Crowdsourcing on 07/06/2013 13:29:02 MDT Print View

Nick, the time you spend congratulating yourself on this forum is impressive. If you truly are the midas golden touch,I would suspect less of that behavior, let's talk about your failures you are trying to compensate for. I relate to you and I will relate to you much more if we can come together on business failures, bad ideas, etc.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: innovation and weight reduction on 07/06/2013 13:31:39 MDT Print View

"Innovation in lightweight gear runs into a basic fact; there are two ways to reduce an item's weight."

It this the only goal?