Cottage Updates: Black Rock Gear, Klymit, ZPacks

Greetings Hikers,

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!

Klymit Announcement:

Next up is the announcement that Klymit, the makers of the crazy awesome Inertia X series of sleeping pads, has announced that they are now selling a sleeping bag, called the “KSB 20“.

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.

ZPacks Announcements:

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.

Six Moon Designs has the Skyscape X back in stock!! (and yes, I bought another one – oh yeah!!) and their two-person Cuben Fiber Haven has sold out, which is awesome to hear!!

Gossamer Gear is still out of stock for ‘The One” and the “SpinnShelter” – hopefully they will have these back in stock for the 2013 hiking season, a whole lot of PCT hikers love their One!

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!)


In accordance of USA Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that the disseminated content within the review of this product(s) is free of endorsement(s) between myself and the manufacturer(s) of any product(s) disclosed herein and meets all FTC 16 CFR.255 compliance requirements.

9 thoughts on “Cottage Updates: Black Rock Gear, Klymit, ZPacks

  1. And, someone had to buy the very last Black Rock vest…and that was me! Proof:


    “We’ve got your order and will email you when your vest ships. You also got the very last Black Rock Vest in stock. We are sold out and simply out of fabric so there won’t be another Black Rock Vest made anytime soon. Lucky guy! :)

    Evan Cabodi
    Black Rock Gear”

  2. Hey John, thanks for the update. I talked to a klymit rep this week and had the same questions about the 550 down. Basically it boiled down to cost and entry into a new market. Cost bc 550 is way cheaper than 850+ and for the thousands of casual backpackers out there they see a “down sleeping bag” with “breathable fabric” for the price and they jump in.

    I was also told that this is essentially a prototype model to test a new market for them. They seem to have a good baseline with their “shark fin” footbox and montbell-esque stretch lower 3/4. If all goes well it seems that all they have to do is swap out the down to drop the weight (this was hinted at but not confirmed).

    Klymit is also debuting their XL pad in a 3/4 model with a tapered drop off ot OR this weekend (as opposed to the straight drop off of other 3/4 pads). All in all it looks like they have been busy.

    God Bless, Jeremy

  3. John,

    Thanks for the update on the cottage shops…

    I noticed the other day that message on the BRG site about the vest…that is a bummer. I will admit, I am not in any position to get a vest at the moment, but I had those in the back of my mind…maybe he will be able to come across some more 7D, or even use something similar… I know that the 8D is not the same, but I think it would make a suitable replacement…

    The 550 down was the first thing I noticed on the Klymit bag too… and then that prompted me to look for the weight immediately… All I can say, I hope it does well for them, but I would not be interested in a 550 fill bag… I bought my wife a SD bag as her first bag and it is 600 fill. Let me just say, there is a huge difference in feel when compared to my Helium which uses 850+ fill…

    I also saw that bivy by ZPacks. I am still up in the air about bivys having hardly used my own Borah Bivy. However, with the experience that I have with it at this point, I don’t think that I will be completely enclosing myself inside a tiny bivy… that bug netting would definitely be in place… :)

    Also, let me just say here [plug] that the Borah Bivy is a pretty nice bivy. I got the side zip with the M50 top shell, and since I couldn’t afford the cuben bottom, I went with the silnylon… however, I am still a bit curious as to the long term effects of cuben being used as a ground sheet. Anyway, John offers the bivies in a few different sizes (length and width) and made with a few different materials. Plus, he will take orders for custom bivies too…

    I did not see the repair patch kit that Joe has on his site though… but as you know, I have been pushing the whole tape thing for a while now at ZPacks… And it worked because he is taping his tents again… :)

    GooseFeet…I picked up a pair of Ben’s down socks (in M50) and they are great. I am looking forward to using them this winter and despite the extra weight, I would like to pick up a pair of his over-booties for them… I also want to get him to make me a pair of pants, which will be one of my next big purchases…eventually…

    GG…I am quite intrigued with the Spinn material…(I know…I am late to this party) I would really like to try out one of the GG SpinnShelters though…

    I saw those tarp pull outs on Dutch’s site and would like to try some of those out with my Borah Bivy (I could have opted for the stake loops on the bivy, but didn’t so these will do the same thing…)

    The Jetboil Sol Ti……………………………..

    I love my Evernew pots…

    Thanks for the time and the article!


    1. Hey Tim,

      Totally cool to have you over at HikeLighter! If you ever want me to push out any notices about new gear you are adding to your line up by all means let me know!

      Yeah Nate contacted me months ago with some ideas on a new knife and than I responded back and than he just went quiet. Keep emailing him but nothing.

  4. Hi John,
    I got here from the best of 2012 thread at BPL. I’d like to ask–when you say you don’t abuse your gear, does that include avoiding bushwhacking and sticking to on trail or open off trail travel? The Zpacks jacket seems amazing as both a rain and wind jacket, but I’m concerned that even on-trail travel where I live can sometimes be brushy and thorny.

    1. Hey Spelt,

      Ah yeah, I love those “best of” posts… they really are a way for me to get an idea of what I should be researching for new pieces of gear to try.

      Regarding the issue of bushwhacking, on/off trail hiking…

      Please forgive me if I get perhaps a bit off-topic for a moment… I will come back around to your question.

      When I was into the whole ‘survivalist’ aspect of my life I understand the term “bushwhacking” to be something very specific. The more that I moved away from that part of my life and into day/week hiking, and eventually into long distance hiking, my perspective of the term ‘bushwhacking’ grew ever so different, and distant.

      I am really glad I spent a number of years in that aspect of being outdoors, survivalist, self reliance, whatever you want to call it. There were things that I learned that I absolutely know I have been able to apply to very difficult times in my hiking life. The principles you learn in hiking typically do not include issues such as how to treat wounds, how to find your way when you loose your compass because you fell while crossing a river and lost your backpack, and so forth. For those issues along I am glad I invested a number of years in my life learning those issues of survivalism.

      My motto for many years has been “Managed Core Temperature + Proper Preparation + Proper Sleep + Proper Food + Proper Gear = A High Chance of a Successful Trip!”

      Just being a hiker, you will never truly learn all of what is involved in that. It took education from outside of being on the trail. Education I got while being in the middle of freaking nowhere honing my bushwhacking and survivalist skills.

      Ok, so bringing this back around to the questions at hand… I have pretty much always felt that the term “bushwhacking” involved grabbing your gear and going out into the middle of nowhere, just to spend some time out in the bush/woods/forests/whatever.

      So when I try to answer the question that you asked, please understand that this is how I personally define that term and thus how I approach your questions :)

      I think of the gear that goes with me on my long distance hikes, very very little of it would go with me if I were to go bushwhacking through the middle of the Redwood Forests here where I live at. The undergrowth of a large percentage of the Redwood forest is made up of 4-7 foot tall ferns, bushes of all kinds, and the most hated thing of all, blackberry bushes. I loath blackberry bushes. Like, vehemently utterly despise, I want to burn every freaking blackberry bush in the world kind of hate. They exist, I feel, to do nothing more than to destroy clothing, backpacks, and rip your arms and legs apart.

      So yeah, there is just no way I could go “bushwhacking” with the vast majority of the gear that I take with me on established hiking trails.

      Some of what I hike with could probably make it through a blackberry zone, but at the price of most of the gear that I carry these days, it is just not something I would care to do.

      Now all that said, I have spent the last three years, and will probably spend another four to six years, developing a new 400 mile trail. It involves an insane amount of linking together existing trails (some of which have not been maintained in over a decade) and at times finding ways to link together two trails that do not have any linkage trails. I am out there doing almost all of this with my existing hiking gear. There is going to be a 60 mile section of trail that I know is going to be totally overgrown near the end of the last section. For that, I will be ditching my existing gear and clothing and I will be out there with some of my old bushwhacking cloth and backpack.

      To specifically address this part of your question, ” Zpacks jacket seems amazing as both a rain and wind jacket, but I’m concerned that even on-trail travel where I live can sometimes be brushy and thorny”.

      I have taken my zpacks wpb cuben fiber rain jacket through some blackberry bushes and it handle it good enough. It did get caught and snagged a few times – as did my montbell dynamo pants, my backpack, and so forth. The jacket never ripped. That is not to say I was not greatly worried it would though. That said, I know without a doubt that something like those dry-ducks would have never survived. You have to remember that the WPB CF is a three layer material with a moderately high d-count.

      There is a lot of competition in the rain jacket market. This one from zpacks has a few things going for it and a few things it does not have going for it. You can read my full review on this jacket here. What it does have going for it is obviously its weight and I feel the softness of the material is also a key aspect (much nicer to sleep in a sleeping bag with this rain jacket than any other rain jacket I have owned). What it does not have going for it is a high breathability count. I, nor anybody else I have seen, has ever said that the Cuben Tech WPB cuben fiber has reached a point of being able to beat eVENT when it comes to breathability. Perhaps in a few years, but it is not there yet. Personally, I admire ZPacks for being willing to invest the huge up-front cost of buying the WPBCF and using it in their products. Without companies such as ZPacks buying and supporting this product, Cuben Tech (the company that makes it) would likely not continue doing R&D to make it better. I support the entire industry by buying cutting edge material and products in the hopes that it can get better and better.

      Anyway Spelt, way too much of an answer than what you were probably looking for, so hopefully somewhere in all of this mumbo-jumbo is a partial answer to your question :-D

      1. Actually, I love context, so the thoroughness of your reply delighted me. :) (Yes, I’m just getting back to this now. Whoops.) Thank you so much for all your information and opinion!

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