Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Lightweight Backpacking Cottage Industry

One of the things I’ve found that often gets overlooked in lightweight backpacking is the fact that this remains a small cottage industry. Hikers just like you and I, likely on a trek, thought to themselves, “hey, I can make that better” – and then went home and did it. The motivation for someone to take an idea from scratch and not only make it for themselves but to offer it to the masses while dealing with the stresses of running a small business is something that can’t be appreciated enough. “Offices” for these manufactures are often their kitchens or garages and customers are often calling them on their home phones at all hours, day and night. For me, and because backpacking is a hobby I greatly enjoy, I felt it was appropriate the day before Christmas to pass along a well deserved T-H-A-N-K-S as it is these little things which make life just a little more enjoyable. It is also for the sake of these cottage manufacturers that the latest and greatest technology and fabric is available to people like you and I so we don't get stuck with merely whatever sells to the masses from the big name guys.

Because these guys have a vested interest in lightweight backpacking, they are quick to offer innovation and switch product lines with little to no fuss. Their business model is to use the lightest and most durable fabrics and technology at whatever the cost instead of targeting a price and figuring out how they can fall under it with less than stellar parts and fabric. Customer-need drives their products and they almost always offer some of the very best customer service in any market.

In appreciation for their continued diligence, I wanted to publicly recommend the following vendors. Each offer great products and have provided great customer service to me over the years. I should mention that this list is incomplete as no doubt there are many who have provided me great service along the way which included telling me that their product would not be the best option for me. Some of these vendors, without prompting, even provided me their products for free when I described to them an idea I had as they too were equally interested in the various uses and durability of their product. With that said though, I also must admit a complete lack of sharpness in my own mind, a fact my wife reminds me of with some frequency, and therefore others of equal merit were simply forgotten at the time of this posting:

Backpacking Light –
Gossamer Gear –
Mountain Laurel Designs –
Six Moon Designs –
Titanium Goat –
Brass Lite –
Bushbuddy -
Feathered Friends –
Anti-Gravity Gear -
Ultralight Backpacking Equipment -
Granite Gear –
Western Mountaineering -
Wild Things Gear –
GoLite –
McHale Packs -
Adventure Medical Kits -

Now that I've got my holly-jolly all geared up, I wanted to wish everyone who spends even just a few seconds every now and then reading my rants a big ole THANKS and Merry CHRISTmas!


samh said...

On behalf of Backpacking Light let me say thank you for your support. We are backpackers and we love to serve our fellow backpackers. They are the lifeblood of our existence and help keep us on the trail. - Sam H

Philip Werner said...

McHale has some pretty interesting backpacking options, but I'm always overwhelmed when I go to their site. How do you decided what options to select?

Jolly Green Giant said...

Thanks BPL for checking in. Keep up the good work in leading this movement!

McHale's website is terribly confusing and hard to navigate - so much so that when I ordered a pack it was done 100% over the phone. The pack is well made, but quite honestly, it is a little too expensive and up to par with other less expensive packs already on the market (at least for the options I wanted). Generally speaking, at least for me, unless you're looking for something very unique, many off-the-shelf options will work just fine. He does make a good product though and is one of the few manufacturers in the marketplace which will customize your product 100% to your specs which is really a great service. After getting tired of paying other folds to make gear for me, lately I've been thinking about sewing some of my own stuff instead of just modifying things here and there. Course, this might not be worth the hassle, but it sure is intriguing. I'm not overly concerned about my sewing skills, more with the difficulty of obtaining the fabric that I want and making sure the pattern I make actually works for me.