Dec 13, 2012 at 9:33 am #1297030
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?Dec 13, 2012 at 10:07 am #1935238
I'm held back from moving to cottage on packs and sleeping bags, but I'm all over cottage brands on shelters.
I feel like I'm not responsible enough for an UL pack, since I tend to occasionally fall, slide, or scrape branches in the woods. I shop from small brands and get a pack that mixes lightweight materials and tougher, heavy duty fabrics for 2-3lb range backpacks.
With sleeping bags, I guess I just have an image in my head of name brands like EMS being a little longer-lasting, but it could be blind brand loyalty.Dec 13, 2012 at 10:09 am #1935240
I'm with you absolutely on trying to use cottage manufacturers whenever possible, but would like to add a couple of other categories to your lise of when we can use them:
– Hammocks (Butt in a Sling, Warbonnet)
– Food (Packit Gourmet, Hawk Vittles)
The last three times I've been in either REI or EMS I've left without purchasing anything. It's still where I'd go for most accessories (headlamps, knives, etc) and some clothing, but that's about it.Dec 13, 2012 at 10:17 am #1935244
How do we decide?
What about phd? What about terra nova?
An the fact lightheart and crux mfg in china makes them what??Dec 13, 2012 at 10:20 am #1935246
Good thread. If I'm packing UL I find that just about all of my gear, other than accessories and clothing, come from cottage manufacturers. If I'm packing more in the 12-20 range then I am back to the big boys like Montbell, Big Agnes and Osprey. So depends on the trip…Dec 13, 2012 at 11:48 am #1935261
i tend to buy gear from places that have no questions asked return policies …
;)Dec 13, 2012 at 12:24 pm #1935268
I too don't know where to make the distinction between cottage and other.
I like that companies like Westcomb, Thermarest ( I know it's not the company name) and Wild Things among others manufacture their goods in North America but they're unlikely to be considered "cottage" manufacturers.
And then there are others like Big Sky which are clearly "cottage" like in size, but manufacture some of their equipment overseas.
All else being equal (and it rarely is) I choose to buy first from American manufacturers, then from cottage manufacturers, and then from anyone.
Of the non-cottage overseas manufacturers I tend to lean towards Salomon and Arcteryx for niche or high quality goods. I think they're under the same ownership now too.Dec 13, 2012 at 1:04 pm #1935272
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Let's look at what cottage mfrs don't make:
> Shoes- I think it will be a long while before we see shoe options from cottage guys
True. Given that (for example) New Balance make about 7 million pairs of shoes per year, how is a cottage mfr going to compete on either technology or cost? Reemember, to sell he needs BOTH.
> Clothing- aside from some rain gear and the occasional insulation piece
The problem here combines the cost of Asian mass production with the fact that the fashion market is hundreds of times larger than the real outdoors market. But customers want to pay the mass-production prices they see in the discount fashion market.
> anister stoves- I've yet to see a cottage canister stove available to the masses,
> but I suppose I haven't really looked.
Similr arguments about cost and technology, but things are changing. Stay tuned.
> Would you classify Fire Maple as a cottage gear maker?
SNERK! They are probably one of the largest stove mfrs in the WORLD. Western companies do NOT make stoves these days: they get them made in Asia by the likes of Fire Maple.
> Sleeping pads- Aside from some excellent CCF offerings and the now defunct(?)
> KookaBay, we generally sleep on mass-produced mattresses.
Again, technology rules, and you need the big volumes to pay for the technology. Ordinary coated fabric is simply not sufficiently air-tight for enough years for a mat, but to get the really good fabric (and the mfr technology) you need sales volume.
And so it goes.
CheersDec 13, 2012 at 2:36 pm #1935289
"> Clothing- aside from some rain gear and the occasional insulation piece
The problem here combines the cost of Asian mass production with the fact that the fashion market is hundreds of times larger than the real outdoors market. But customers want to pay the mass-production prices they see in the discount fashion market."
Integral Designs made excellent clothing products prior to being bought by Rab. Although they did sell through some re-sellers (as do other cottage manufacturers), they were definitely cottage.Dec 13, 2012 at 3:07 pm #1935293
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> Integral Designs made excellent clothing products prior to being bought by Rab.
> Although they did sell through some re-sellers (as do other cottage manufacturers),
> they were definitely cottage.
I guess when RAB bought them the accountants moved in …
Typical, but sad.
CheersDec 13, 2012 at 3:42 pm #1935300
Lightheart is back in the US. she has created her own sewing company to sew everything in house. The silnylon she used from China had better water proofing though.
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