Indie vendors and backpacking
The joy of being a customer of small, specialist vendor
I had the pleasure of talking backpacking gear with one of the readers of this newsletter. I sent him this study done by Professor Ray Lloyd’s on the Aarn body packs. I read the article again and wondered what would motivate someone like Professor Llyod to measure biomechanics of a unique product like the Aarn body packs. I think it is because, inherently we all want the small, independent vendor to be successful. They are doing something out of passion and competing against huge corporations and we want them to be successful, even if their products are more expensive and they may not offer all the warranties a large manufacturer can afford.
I thought I can take the time to truly appreciate the following small vendors who make my backcountry life really enjoyable.
Aarn featherlite freedom pro is the core of my backpacking experience. I have stopped worrying about the weight I carry, added a Helinox chair zero to my kit and really leaning in on the comfort factor of backpacking. It has truly freed me up. Aarn is rumored to have retired and sold his rights to a small New Zealand based outdoor group, who thankfully continue to manufacture and sell his packs.
Aarn suggested I look at Pacerpole. Pacerpole is run by a one person company. Heather Rhodes is a great person and guide and she will make sure you understand how to use the poles properly. When I told her I was not using the poles daily and only for hikes, she was disappointed that I am losing out on an opportunity to really fix my posture :).
Kevin Leahy custom boots
Kevin Leahy’s custom hiking boots are one of those things you regret not spending early on. I have not done much hiking since the JMT last year, but I have been wearing the boots all through winter to break them in as they start taking the shape of my feet. Can’t wait to get to the mountains wearing them again. Kevin is also a great person to geek out on foot mechanics, orthotics and the various foot issues he has seen.
If you spend any amount of time with backpacking forums, you will run into Henry Shires and Tarptent. The Double Rainbow Li is my favorite tent. I was telling someone today that I was able to set it up in under a minute on the JMT in 2021 with thunder storms coming in and move all my gear and boots inside the tent before it came in. Henry’s posts on tent design are great reads. Another artisan at work.
Great bear canisters. The bearikade weekender is my current carbon fiber bear canister. I used to have a bearikade expedition in the past as well.
Zpacks goose socks
I don’t know how big Zpacks are, they don’t seem too small, but they definitely are not big. I am not a fan of their packs or their tents, but I am a fan of the goose socks. My feet freeze first and this has been a welcome addition.
Almost all my backpacking freeze dried food now comes from Outdoor herbivore, a Sacramento based indie firm of fine vegan and vegetarian freeze dried food. A friend bought their Lemongrass Thai Curry, cooked a meal and convinced his family that he is a great chef :).
I am sure I am missing a few independent vendors here. I have been eager to check out Western Mountaineering at San Jose for their sleeping bags. I am losing all ability to withstand cold and walk in downtown Pleasanton most winter mornings as if I am going up Muir Pass, covered head to toe. That additional warmth Alpinlite provides may come in handy.