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Cottage industry:

  1. an industry whose labor force consists of family units or individuals working at home with their own equipment
  2. a small and often informally organized industry

Within the outdoor industry, wherever I search, be it on Wild Backpacker, this blog post, etc., it seems a lot of it is focussed on ultralight backpacking. Perhaps that works in sunny Arizona but I tend to hike in bad weather and ultralight is not for me (I want weather protection, I tried ultralight and I have no intention to try again, thank you very much).

I don't want ultralight. Is there anything for me in the "cottage industry"?

  • Backpacks, dry bags, hiking poles, fording poles, mattresses, sleeping bags, tents. Anything that contributes significantly to overall pack mass (I will always consider the idea of an ultralight toothbrush to be ridiculous). – gerrit Oct 26 '15 at 19:00
  • It's not a very good question (my question). – gerrit Oct 26 '15 at 20:32
  • Are you asking if you have outdoor stuffs available in cottage industry apart from ultralight backpacks? – Ricketyship Oct 27 '15 at 6:17
  • I don't understand this question? – user2766 Oct 29 '15 at 17:06
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    Voting to close as I could make no sense of this question. – Ricketyship Oct 30 '15 at 5:40
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To be honest, the two terms, "Ultralight" and "Cottage Industry" are orthogonal - there are cottage industries producing many items.

You are probably seeing more Ultralight items in this space because cottage industries are more likely to succeed where big business doesn't have the volume to play properly. So this usually means "normal" kit that is suitable for the majority of potential customers.

Ultralight items have a very small market so can be profitable for cottage industries, while being less profitable for big business.

  • Hmm. But surely there are other categories where markets are small, such as expedition gear for people crossing Greenland or Antarctica or so? – gerrit Oct 26 '15 at 19:38
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    Small, yes, but those are so specialised the demand allowed prices to be hiked way up - which makes them interesting to the big players again. Also they can use those expeditions as good PR so it's a big win. – Rory Alsop Oct 26 '15 at 19:45
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    I think Rory's answer really hits it. It's really a matter of what's worth it for a big business vs what's worth it for s small or cottage business. Specialty items can be sold for high margins but never have enough volume to warrant a "production run" of the product. Even if it's something that could last for years on a shelf, now it's taking up space that could be used for inventory that moves a lot faster. – Escoce Oct 26 '15 at 20:03
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I'll answer anecdotally.

I started lowering the weight of my pack by - weighting stuff I put in, - considering whether I need each item or if it could be replaced, - considering that some cottage or myog could be as or more efficient for less weight

The first home-made gear I used was a sleeping quilt. It is good to ~0C comfortably, is synthetic (2 layers of primaloft 133g/m^2 - that's 4oz/sqyd) (because around those temperature you get a lot of cold humidity), weights ~850g, and fits in a 13L bag without effort.

Now, for UL, that's still heavy and big. But that's still much better than what I had before, a 1.3kg 5C bulky bag. Also, it is a quilt, which I find way more comfortable (for those temperatures. Below, I would still use a sleeping bag).

Several cottages have quilts that, beside being lighter, would be more comfortable that traditional sleeping bag.

As for shelters, I find that I prefer tents that use straight poles vs domes (e.g. the MSR twin sisters). I find them easier and quicker to set up, simpler and more reliable. (and also lighter, but that's just a bonus)

There are cottages that offer that kind of shelters using various fabrics, in various sizes.

Clothing is more tricky, because you want to test them before wearing them. (And making jackets yourself is extremely long, I find.)

Packs, finally, come last. I find it a much more complex piece of equipment, and I find anyway that comfort comes first (once the volume is decided, based on the rest of the stuff). Comfort is obviously hard to test without trying the gear. I would probably not consider a cottage pack, unless I could try it from someone.

Overall, I would recommend considering cottage gear not solely in a weight reduction perspective, but also because they offer different shape and type of gear.

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