126: Cottage Gear

Show Notes: Episode 126

Today on the First 40 Miles, a little small talk about small backpacking gear companies.  Then we’ll share some benefits of buying from cottage gear manufacturers.  Next on the SUMMIT Gear Review, we’ll review a piece of gear we found by accident then we’ll share a hack that will reduce your productivity at the office today by 20 percent.


  • Cottage gear refers to micro to small companies who make backpacking gear that is not typically sold in big box stores or chain outdoor stores. Finding these cottage gear companies can be like finding a hidden treasure.
  • Not all cottage gear companies are the same:
  • Sometimes these cottage gear makers have a full time job (or they’re retired), and they just want to make one product just for fun.
  • Sometimes they make specialty gear that may not appeal to the general population—like maybe a company who makes backpacking gear for animals
  • Cottage gear may mean experimental gear…like a hiker who has found a way to repurpose worn out wool socks into a pot cozy…and now he’s marketing them
  • Cottage gear could be gear that would be cost prohibitive if sold in a retail store with retail markups… An example of this is the QiWiz Titanium Big Dig Trowel.
  • Cottage Gear often means made in America, and to be more specific, made in America in someone’s garage on a table that’s set up right next to boxes of Christmas decorations, their kids bikes, and a non-working 92 Ford Tempo.  Garage grown gear is real.
  • How do you find cottage gear?
  • Forums
  • There’s a newish company who is trying to help small gear businesses. It’s called Garage Grown Gear
  • Kickstarter
  • http://hikingthedream.blogspot.com/p/cottage-backpacking-gear-companies.html
  • http://blackwoodspress.com/blog/12378/cottage-backpacking-gear-directory/

Top 5 Benefits of Buying from Cottage Gear Manufacturers

You’re supporting the American dream

  • These cottage gear manufacturers keep it small—not because they can’t grow bigger, but because they often are family owned, sometimes operating out of their home or a small shop in town.
  • They came up with some idea for clothing, packs or a tent that the big guys weren’t doing and decided to throw their hat over the wall and put their time, creativity and resources into what they’re doing…often inviting friends and family into the happy mess.

Your purchase allows them to continue innovating

  • Pushing their creative resources toward things that larger companies may not have an interest in

You typically have more connection with the company

  • That means that if you email the company, you might just get a response from the owner…not a customer service agent thousands of miles away.
  • It also means that your suggestions go straight to the top.

You may be able to order customized gear

  • Not all cottage gear manufacturers can customize their gear, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

You’re going to get something that can’t be found in a large outdoor store

  • High quality—because their name is attached to product—with a touch of handmade charm.
  • Unique


  • These are small operations and they’re often swamped with orders—so if you order it may take a while
  • Sometimes you bump into these companies COMPLETELY BY ACCIDENT. They don’t have a competitive advertising budget…so they advertise by word of mouth
  • And, sometimes cottage gear companies disappear…

SUMMIT Gear Review: Cascade Wild Ultralight Backpacking Table

We found this ultralightweight backpacking table completely by accident while checking out Liz Thomas’s blog http://www.eathomas.com/


  • Made of white corrugated plastic
  • 6 plastic snaps (4 of the snaps put the legs together and 2 of the snaps help keep the table closed when it’s in your pack


  • Gets your stuff about 3 inches off the ground
  • Multi-use
  • Very easy to snap together
  • Also very easy to take apart
  • It’s one piece, so you don’t have to worry about losing pieces or parts.
  • Fits on leg for notetaking
  • Not heat proof, however you can put your stove on it, as long as your stove doesn’t get hot on the bottom. (Jet boils and other isobutene canister stoves are fine)


  • Weighs 2.3 ounces
  • Measures 12”x 7.5”


  • Weight limit of 10 pounds
  • Waterproof
  • Don’t sit or stand on it


  • $10 + shipping


  • Meal prep, contact lens, clean surface (because sometimes you just need a clean surface), note taking—the perfect size for that since it’s about the size of a piece of paper, medications, art project, photography, etc.

Backpack Hack of the Week:  Backpacking Comic: Boots McFarland

  • Boots is a female wilderness backpacker
  • bootsmcfarland.com/
  • By Geolyn Carvin

Trail Wisdom

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson