Hi, I'm Kyle Meyer.

A web developer living in sunny Portland, OR

Pissing on the Fire

Ryan Jordan, founder of the online publication BackpackingLight and accomplished outdoorsman and backcountry guide:

While pondering the state of equipment innovation for wilderness travel, I've reached the same state of despair that I find myself in when questioning why economists have lots of answers and no solutions, why politicians (pretend to) have lots of solutions but no mechanisms for validation, and why consumers have an unquenchable thirst for more (innovation, newness, shine, and storage) or less (cost, weight, time required to acquire).

Oh sure, there will always be a small influx of brand new customers into this little ultralight niche that will keep the cottage industry in business just enough so they can write off their backpacking trips and make payments on their logo-emblazoned trade show campers, but their quest for pursuing innovation doesn't seem to reflect the availability and cheap costs of new manufacturing technologies, state of the art fabrics, and real design. Instead, the cottage industry reinforces that paradigm of gear that is "made in my garage with substandard equipment from sketches on paper scraps using an uncalibrated ruler and dull scissors."

He sure pissed off a lot of people in the ultralight backpacking community he had a large hand in creating by posting this diatribe of the current state of innovation with cottage manufacturers of ultralight backpacking gear and the rampant consumerism of what he considers increasingly subpar products.

Mainstream backpacking companies have come around to the idea of lightweight backpacking over the last few years, and the industry is beginning to see the results of years of product design from the major players. It's easy to see cottage manufactured gear as subpar in the face of true industrial engineers and designers creating products with real R&D budgets now using the same innovative fabrics the cottage industry has been using for years. Ryan Jordan could have written an article as a rallying cry for the cottage industry to improve their process and products or die in the face of large organizations zeroing in on their market.

But, he decided to piss in the campfire instead of throwing a log on.