I’ve been buying backpacking gear from smaller manufacturers for nearly 10 years and except for a handful of lemons (from manufacturers that don’t exist anymore), I’ve been well-satisfied with the products I’ve purchased and the extraordinary customer service I’ve received.
Let me give you a few examples:
- Gossamer Gear: Mariposa Plus Backpack (2008 model), Bug Canopy, Polycryo Groundsheet
- Mountain Laurel Designs: Superlight Bivy Sack, Duomid Tarp, Grace Duo Tarp, eVent Rain Mitts, and much more.
- Tarptent: Squall 2 tent, Scarp 1 tent
- Six Moon Designs: Starlight Backpack, Lunar Solo Tent
- ULA Equipment: Catalyst Backpack
- Zpacks.com: Blast 32 Backpack
- Cold Cold World: Choas Backpack
- Railriders: Ecomesh Hiking Pants, Winter Weather Pants, Madison River Shirt, and much more.
While I don’t have a lot of this gear anymore – because I’ve used it to death or sold it, I still feel like I have a special relationship with these manufacturers, their owners and the people who work at them. They’re always quick to answer my questions or return my phone calls and not just because I’m some blogger who they feel like they have to appease. I feel like we share a common passion for hiking and backpacking and can connect through it.
I honestly don’t feel the same way about the larger manufacturers whose gear I prefer using such as Outdoor Research, Helly Hansen, Montbell, Black Diamond or SOTO. They are big and faceless companies that seem quite distant to me. I don’t know their product designers or anyone who works there and my only interface to them is through their PR firms.
Maybe I’m just sentimental, but knowing whom I’m dealing with and having an ongoing relationship with them, like the ones I have with the cottage gear makers, is just as important as the gear that I buy from them. I know I’m not alone in this regard, but I’m curious how you feel about it.
In the long term, is it the gear or the relationship with these Cottage Manufacturers what keeps you doing business with them?