Backpack Light — My Trail Update — Oh Dear

A reader has been in touch to tell me more more about the My Trail company. I have to confess to not following the lightweight gear scene in the US that closely these days.

My Trail is a company owned by owners of Golite, a company which collapsed pretty spectacularly a few years ago. My advice to anyone is to avoid them like the plague!  Why?

The financial collapse of Golite came about following some pretty weird business practice and attitude to export. The company effectively pulled out of Europe. They then pulled out of retail, but before that they offloaded a load of surplus stock at rates that completely screwed their retailers. When they moved to a web only operation they adopted a policy that only USA credit cards could be accepted — effectively ignoring the rest of the world. If this seems odd the background to this is even odder.

For a while the folks who had the distribution contracts in Europe tried to keep things going. They looked at taking a container load of products from the Asian producers. They touted this around to UK online retailers, effectively looking for orders or cash upfront. Unsurprisingly this didn’t work. I did feel sorry for these guys as they had been effectively left in the lurch as well.

I was told that after the banking crash the GOLITE people in the USA had been ‘advised’ that the European economy was collapsing. Yes collapsing. So, they pulled out. Then it became apparent that the company had over ordered, had too much surplus stock and were in real trouble. Whether they really believed Europe was a basket case or whether this was an excuse, it was pretty sure behaviour.

As my reader says “This is a new company formed by the people behind the old one. Seems a typical phoenix company situation – leave all the debts and losses behind in the old one and start a fresh with something pretty similar”.

I’ve left the original post up as, to be fair, it looks like a good product and other readers have recommended it.  But me. I don’t really ant to now anymore …

… these are the attitudes that saddled us all with Trump.

Alternative to Golite Packs — Backpack Light 70L

Reader James ‘Jay’ Keen has emailed to bring this pack to my attention.  Jay’s old pack — a Golite Pinnacle — has finally bitten the dust and he’s been searching for alternatives. I must admit I’ve lost touch with the Golite debacle; I know they are not available here in Europe but I presume they still have a presence in the USA.

Anyhow, Jay has been considering other option, most notably the ULA Catalyst until he came across the Backpacklight 70 L.

The BPL 70 is two packs in one. Created with comfort in mind, it has a great suspension for moderate loads and its ComPacktor system quickly converts it from a multi-day load hauler to a 25L day pack.

The BPL 70 is packed with light features you’ll love, from the dual compartment front hip pockets to the roll top closure. It’s tough: the white Dyneema® threads are 3x stronger than Kevlar and 15x stronger than steel.

It looks promising not least as it offers some decent back length options. It’s another international order but my experience of this has always been pretty positive, so long as you allow enough time for delivery and customs clearance.

North Face Make Gear Breakthrough

North Face have been a top brand for many years, truly international and truly innovative. But, arguably, they have just created their most innovative and most important product for many years.

I need one of these. No, I need at least three!

North Face launches range of gravy-proof clothing for the ‘indoorsy type’

The State of the Outdoor Industry — Update

I may not be posting here as often as I used to but I still try and keep up with those in the industry who keep their fingers on the pulse.

Earlier this year I took the decision not to post about gear very often. In all honesty it is hard to keep up. My current collection of gear is both very functional and lightweight and there is no pressing need to replace much of it. Indeed — and this may be sacrilege to some ‚ I’ve noticed that such ultralight gear has reached a natural limit. It is impossible to reduce weight that much and so the focus is more on innovative design and functionality these days. But guess what?  As a result weight is creeping up again!  Still, we rely on our outdoor designers and manufacturers and there is still a lot to think about.

If the last few years for the outdoor industry have been tough — as they have for many — the future looks even more challenging. Continuing austerity means people have less cash inter pockets and now rising inflation is set to eat into living standards both decisively and quickly. As I write I’m listening to a radio report that focuses on what amounts to an almost collapse in consumer spending. And, of course, uncertainty about what Brexit will mean to the sector is a major concern.

Small, niche, retailers are reporting that they are living in increasingly hard times. But it is now just the small operators that face difficulties, small and even large manufacturers are finding things getting harder. In the face of tighter margins the big retail chains are putting the screws on manufactures. I was recently told of a major award-winning outdoors chain (one with a major high street presence) that has written to all suppliers telling them that they will be discounting their invoices by 5%. In other words if the suppliers are given an invoice for X thousands they will be paid X minus 5%.  This kind of tactic is not unknown and has been the backbone of the supermarket world for years.

For us the consumer, this means that we are likely to see even less variety and choice on the high street. And while this is sad in many ways you, like me, might feel that you are honour bound to once nitrate what spending power we have left into the hands of the small online retailers.

Yes sir, of course we have a lot of jackets to look at. But you can only have the jacket this this one company and only in fluorescent blue.

What does the team think?

TGO Preparation 2017: Lightweight Footwear/Trail Shoes

In this latest instalment of articles aimed at first time TGO challengers I take a look at the thorny question of footwear, including the use of lightweight trail shoes.

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The PHD Sleep System

For some years now I have been utilising my down gear as a ‘sleep system’. UK manufacturers PHD have now produced their own complete system. This is not cheap but install might appeal to new TGO challengers who have yet to compete their kit (and who have a decent credit card limit).

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Tramplite Evolves — Catching Up with Colin Ibbotson

I’m still grounded as a result of this dreadful lurgy that is going around the West Midlands. Fortunately mine hasn’t turned into bronchitis as it has with some people; the damn thing keeps coming back. Hopefully I’ll be able to get out for a walk later this week but in the meantime it has offered me a chance to catch up with people I haven’t spoken to for a while, including Colin Ibbotson. I’m always being asked what Colin is up to.

Since finishing the Pacific Crest Trail last autumn Colin has been hard at work with his Tramplite Gear. Colin’s gear is not mainstream and is expensive but it is full performance stuff that is properly proved over thousands of miles.




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The Going Lighter Guide Revisited

A few of you have noticed that I took down by Going Lighter Guide recently. For some reason this one post was attracting a lot of spam. I have re-lanched it as A Guide to Going Later. You will see a link for this at the top of the page.

I realise this is a bit old now. The general principles remain the same but I shall have a good look through over the next week or so and bring the whole thing back up to date.

The State of the Outdoor Industry: Post Brexit?

In general I’m sticking to my recent rule about not banging on about gear all the time. Still, I’ve always had a good response to this occasional series of posts on the Outdoor Industry. A lot has happened since I wrote the last of the these, the most dramatic occurrence I guess being Brexit. Brevity — or rather the issues around it — are likely to have a profound impact on the Outdoor Industry and that will have an impact right across the board.

While we don’t know yet the future of the UK in relation to the Single Market or the Customs Union the dramatic reduction in the value of Stirling is already having a big impact. 

The first to feel the impact seem to be specialist and niche producers who are — classically in Britain — importing raw materials and turning them into a finished product. One small, specialist producer, has already told me that some product lines may have to end. Materials like cube fibre and titanium are rising in price so dramatically as to price goods out of the market. We’ve seen spikes in the market before, most notably when the cost of titanium shot through the roof curtsy of Chinese manufactures. It is likely that other materials such as aluminium will rise in price as well as anything that might be described as a specialist fabric.

The vast majority of our outdoor goods come from the far East and will be impacted by the reduction in Stirling. Many of us looked on with wonder at the rising costs of some of our premium brands over recent years. Much of our Outdoor Equipment is now in the luxury bracket. These premium brands are set to rise in price even more. What impact will this have on some our favourite brands and companies? Maybe it is too soon to tell but I suspect tin the short term marketing and production will be geared towards the more wealthier part of our demographic. Whether these brands respond by creating more affordable lines or budget brands remains to be seen. I have not idea at the moment of who buys Arcteryx; maybe we simply won’t see it for much longer in our main stores. But this challenge is likely to impact on Rab, Montane, Mountain Equipment and others. High performing materials like merino wool may well rocket in price as well. And then consider those high ends tents that are already getting very expensive.

It is perhaps time to re-think the way in which we consider the latest tech, after all we already have a host of decent performing materials. eVent is now branded as a propriety fabric by a whole host of outdoor companies and I suspect will have a new lease of life. The latest fabrics from companies like Gore Tex — already a premium price may well be priced out of our market.

We have seen a retrenchment in the market in recent years because of the crash. Many thought that the outdoors would benefit from a resurgence in cheap, outdoor, holidays but many retailers will tell you that demand has never recovered to before crash levels.

Look to the long term and things are no less certain. A couple of years ago I was talking in these pages of a move to bring production back from the Far East towards Eastern Europe. This was partially as a result of rising prices in the East but also of the desire to regulate production closer to home. However, much of this took for granted the single market and the customs union. Now, it might well be that long terms there are great opportunities for the UK in a different trading environment but it looks as if the short and medium term prospects are rocky — this is certainly the view of the Treasury as they prepare for the autumn statement.

While it is never a good idea to crystal ball gaze too intensely it is clear that outdoor gear will rise in price significantly most probably after the New Year sales are out of the way.

If you are needing new gear don’t wait too long, certainly not well into the New Year. And I wouldn’t be waiting for the launch of a new range garments or fabrics well into next year.

It is probably time for gear reviewers and bloggers to reorient themselves in the face of these changes. A focus on value for money and a bargain are likely to be more welcome.

We are lucky here in the UK to have a number of specialist retailers who deliver us niche products via the internet. I’ve not talked to any of them about our prospects next year but it will be interesting to see how they see their world over the coming year.

Based on what we have seen during the second part of the year it seems that not only will see a hike in prices but these rises will establish a new cost norm. Many of us will become more cost concious.

Interesting times, interesting times.

TGO Challenge Preparation 2017: Gear — Shells

I’ll start with the weather! In the Scotland you need protection so it seems proper to start by looking at shell clothing — waterproof jackets and trousers. You have to be prepared for anything on the TGO. You may be lucky and have a sunny and mainly dry crossing. I’ve certainly experienced some great weather crossings but usually the really decent weather is reserved for the last few days. But on these days the weather can be dreadful. On some years the weather never seems to let up and you can certainly find yourselves walking for two or three days through driving wind and rain. So, protection is important!

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