Cottage Updates: Black Rock Gear, Klymit, ZPacks
There are three updates regarding cottage companies that I thought I would pass along this week.
I am sure that with the OR show taking place the hiking blogosphere is going to be flooded with new gear and such, but as most of my readers know, I like to stay focused on the cottage outdoor gear makers.
Black Rock Gear Announcement:
First up is that Black Rock Gear has announced that the BRG Vest is no-more. It appears that they have used up their supply of 7D material and are not going to be switching over to 7D(s) or any of the 10D that is out there. This is a rather sad day because even though they seemed a bit expensive, when you compared them to other vests of near identical quality and features, they were actually very reasonably priced. I am very glad to have been able to acquire one. Here is the official verbiage from the BRG Vest page:
All of our Black Rock Vests are now gone. We have no more 7D fabric and will not be making anymore vests. We have no idea when if ever we will get more fabric and have no timeline on future vest production.
As somebody who has bought every piece of gear that BRG has made, I am hopeful that they will be able to source some additional material and restock their vest. Every time they released a batch of them they seemed to have sold out within 24 hours (though I think the last batch had one size that stayed in stock for a week or so) so clearly the hiking/running community was very much wanting what the BRG Vest had to offer!
Yes, a sleeping bag.
Odd, you say, that a vest/pad maker would branch out into the sleeping bag word? Yeah, that is what I thought too.
Here is what their description for their new sleeping bag:
The newest addition to Klymit’s camping line. A 20 degree down sleeping bag that is compact, comfortable, and is a great complement to any of the Inertia or Static camping pads.
And here are the specs for their first sleeping bag:
20 Degree 550 Down Sleeping Bag
2.59 lbs / 1175 g
84.5″ x 31.5″ x 21.7″
Lightweight breathable fabrics
Neck collar to minimize heat loss
Includes large mesh storage sack
If you are like me you are immediately going to notice one very interesting aspect. No, not the fact that is it is 1175 gram (2.59 pound)!! sleeping bag – the other part of that… the “550 down” part.
Now this sent me on a quest… a quest to find who in the world these days uses 550 down. First I stopped off at Marmot to see what the Helium uses (850 down) than I bounced over to Sierra Designs just to see what the lowest quality bags out there use (600 down). From owning them I know that Mont-bell uses 800 and 600 down depending on their product line. Nunatak announced in late June of this year that they ran out of 950 down and “no word if more will be available yet.” Mountain Laurel Designs uses… oh wait, they do not even use down, they make their quilts with ClimaShield APEX. ZPacks is using 900 down in their hoodless bags. And Western Mountaineering uses… well, I am not really sure, but I am going to guess they use 850 down. So this leaves me to wonder, why in the world did Klymit go with 550 down. Lots of reasons I could speculate on, but I will leave speculations for the campfire.
I am going to guess that a fair amount of that 2.59 pounds has to do with the amount of down that they are having to use in order to maintain a loft to heat ratio, giving its 550 down.
It would have also been nice if they had announced exactly what this “lightweight breathable fabric” actually is.
Based on the photos, it appears to be in two different colors, a dark blue and a red, but their order form does not list any option to select a color.
The price tag for this 2.59 pound, 20-degree sleeping bag: a very impressive $224.95 — probably a result of the low cost of 550-down.
Compare this to the Western Mountianeering AlpinLite at $465 bucks, the Nunatak Arc Alpinist at $464, the Marmot Helium at $399, the Mont-bell U.L. Super Spiral #1 at $419, and a ZPacks Sleeping Bag at $375 and you have a pretty good idea of what the cost difference is between 550-down and 850-950 down. (btw, all prices listed are for a large, 15/20(f) bag, msrp)
Based purely on listed specs, I think this new Klymit sleeping bag, is going to be a great way for a new hiker, or one concerned more about money than weight, that is looking to acquire a cold weather sleeping bag to be able to do so without spending a lot of money.
I suspect most of you who follow my articles are fully aware of anything and everything that ZPacks does, but here are three new items that I have found on their website that caught my eye.
I keep hoping that one of these days ZPacks will create a mailing list, or use their facebook page, or twitter or something to announce new products listed on their website. But until than, it is just a matter of digging through all of their pages looking for new goodies. (and hey, that is always a fun thing!!)
First up is a Pertex Quantum Bivy. I have known for a while that ZPacks was in the process of making a bivy and when I saw this hit their website I was a bit queasy. I have been a rather vocal advocate against hikers using bivys for the last year, as I spent a good part of the 2011 hiking season in one – read my post-thoughts. Ron “Fallingwater” Moak, owner of Six Moon Designs, also had some thoughts about them that everybody should read before buying a bivy. I also highly recommend this article and its associated spreadsheet to really understand issues with hikers using a bivy. The only bivy I would even consider buying these days (and I want one!) would be the Titanium Goat Bug Bivy – or one identical made by somebody else if it had a CF bathtub.
But anyway, a number of things stood out to me about this new bivy by ZPacks. First is the top-entry system. A rather odd, but rather crazy awesome, way of approaching an entry system. It has a massively long top-zipper, but it also has the ability to velcro a quasi-bug netting into the area where the zipper is. That is not something I have come across before.
It has a 1.0 oz/sqyd Cuben Fiber bathtub floor. I have used 1.0 CF for a number of things and I in-no-way-what-so-ever would use 1.0 cf directly on the ground. Rocks will punch right through it. A stick or a very clumpy tough piece of grass can also push right through it. So keep in mind that this is going to require an additional ground cloth of some sort. My ground sheet / bathtub for my 0.34 cf tarp setup uses 1.0 cf and I never ever sleep with the cf directly on the ground without another ground cloth of some kind.
It is also rather narrow. Compare its 70 inches of girth to the MLD Superlight Bivy (unquestionably the most popular UL bivy out there. note: I use to own one) at 72 inches up to 82 inches. The Titanium Goat Bug Bivy that I want has a 76″ girth at the shoulders.
At a max of 178 grams (6.3 ounces) this is right at the same weight that the MLD Superlight Bivy is at if you go with CF.
ZPacks has priced their bivy at $175 – a very very nice price point compared to the $239 for the MLD CF Superlight bivy. The TiGoat is 5.3 ounces and $90 bucks – and should never ever suffer any condensation issues because of its all bug-net top. (remember, your sleeping bag is for keeping you warm, not a bivy – I do not buy into this whole “use a bivy as a wind blocker” thought that some bivy hikers like to throw around).
Next up for ZPacks is “Repair Patch / Reinforcement”, which can be found on their tape page. Basically it is just some 2.92 oz/sqyd Cuben Hybrid material that has had some tape attached on one side. I really like this. This 2.92 cf material is crazy tough stuff. I bought a big patch of it to put into my Six Moon Designs Skyscape X, where the poles come into contact with the bathtub floor. SMD already has a secondary layer of CF in that region but because I usually use dedicated carbon fiber poles rather than hiking poles, I have a much smaller pole (and thus more pressure per square millimeter) and thus a greater chance of it pushing through. A piece of this stuff attached to the bathtub should totally alleviate any of my worries/concern about this. ZPacks has this stuff priced at $0.75 cents for a 2.5×2.x square or $9 bucks for 13 x 7 inches (33 cm x 17.8 cm).
Last up, and a product released back in May (slacking off on my cottage gear updates, sorry) are the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Pants. Back in January of 2012 I had the honor of publishing the first in-depth review of the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket and gave it my highest praise and review. Two months later I followed that up with a follow-up review. No need for me to get into the details of these new WPBCF rain pants. Suffice to say I did not think ZPacks would actually make them – given the cost of this material and the fact that so very few people would probably spend this kind of money for a pair of rain pants. At $175 bucks and 3.1 ounces (for my size) they have tempted me a few times, but I have not yet pushed the “pay button” and ordered up a pair. Anybody out there buy some of these yet??
In Other News:
A few other quick blurps here…
GooseFeet still is does not have a jacket for sale on their website, sadly.
Dutchware (Dutch Clips LLC) is continuing to add a few new products to his line up, including a new wood stove that I would very much like to try out and see how it compares to the QiWiz FireFly wood stove that I have. One thing I really want to buy a few of are the little Dutch Hook, which seems like they could be a rocking awesome way to secure a tarp or for just generalized camp use.
Jon over at Flat Cat Gear has released a stove called “Epicurean Titanium stove” that has been proven to last for over 50-minutes from a *single* esbit tablet – now that is just crazy awesome!
The guy that was making the Titanium knives that I wanted still has not returned any of my emails after months and months, so guess we can give up on those things.
In the on-going drama that is Jetboil, Nielsen Brown has published an article talking about how his new Jetboil Sol Ti has been drastically redesigned. Did he get a fake knock-off or has JB actually made some changes to the Sol product line? If you know more, please let me know!
Trail Designs has finally got a restock of Evernew products!! Seems the boat finally made it across the pond with a resupply for us Americans. So I finally bought the 900ml short/fat pot that I have been wanting! Only had it a week or so but I have already fallen in love with it. Pretty sure the rest of my cook-kits are now going into the closet. The QiWiz FireFly wood stove fits perfectly inside of it along with my spoon and backup esbit tablets and so forth. Heavy at 6 ounces – yep, but guess what, I just do not care, I love this pot and pan. Eggs in the morning have never been so easy!
Nothing new from TarpTent, Katabatic Gear, Nunatak, Western Mountaineering (or anybody else that I try to keep track of) as best as I can tell. Please let me know if a cottage hiking gear maker has released something in the last three months that I missed!!
(ok, I have spent two hours typing all of this up… time for me to stop typing and get back to work!)
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