Ordered, Finally!

Three months ago I posted about my discovery of a sleeping pad from a cottage manufacturer that intrigued me. I had intended to order one shortly thereafter, but life and its corresponding fiscal responsibilities got in the way, so I postponed.

Well, as has been the case with the purchase of much of my gear, I was able to order one after receiving a gift card, this time for Father’s Day. It’s due to be delivered on Saturday and I’m anxious to mess with it, as I’ve never had a self-inflating pad before. My experience with sleeping pads up to this point has been with the summer season air mattress, those of the blow-air-until-you’re-dizzy type. It will be a treat indeed to watch it expand itself to near-capacity with just a few breaths from me to complete the process. Theoretically, at least.

Sadly, the first time I use it may be on a carpeted concrete floor. I’m still without my own mode of transportation for another week or two, so no immediate trips to the woods are planned. It will still be fun to give it a whirl with my sleeping bag, though using a 20-degree sack inside an air conditioned home pinned at 70 degrees might be a bit of overkill.

I wonder what the neighbors would think if I pitched my tent on the front lawn and broke it in for real…

A Trip to the Cottage…Manufacturers

I’m a big believer in supporting small local businesses. From clothiers to bookstores, if I can find what I’m looking for locally from the little guy, I’m willing to pay a small premium in order to drop a bit of fuel into the local economic engine.

The backpacking gear community is awash with cottage manufacturers, the internet version of the local retailer. And I’ve been so tempted by much of the stuff I’ve seen, and the sterling reviews of said stuff. Seriously, who wouldn’t want a Tarptent Rainbow? But being a bargain hunter by necessity on my initial gearing-up has kept me from this wonderland of full-price kit.

Until now.

In my quest for a sleeping pad, I cruised over to Amazon and discovered a self-inflatable from a mom-and-pop company I won’t name. Yet. The reviews have been impressive, the price is as good or better than comparable pads from the major makers, and it seems to me to be a good, low risk bet. So I’ll order one and, when it comes in, I’ll do a little indoor campout (still buried in snow here) and post a follow-up.

I hope it’s as good as other backpackers say it is. Giving a cottage manufacturer a small boost would give me great pleasure…

From Gossamer to Granite

I’m a product over-researcher by nature. And when I say over-researcher, I mean digging out every photo and every possible end-user review of every item I’m considering, from a USB-to-HDMI cable to a car. And given that I’m going to be spending several years with my first “real” backpack (with apologies to my trusty but day hike-sized Kestrel 28) I’m tearing up the web making sure I give myself the best chance at a solid first choice.

Because of my overwhelmingly positive experience with its little brother, I was originally considering the Kestrel 48, but I was afraid I might find 48 liters too restrictive for longer hikes. I’d rather have too much space than not enough. So I did a ton of research (surprise) and settled on the Gossamer Gear Mariposa, a fine pack that checks off all the boxes on my list at a fairly reasonable price.

Then I drifted over to Philip Werner’s site, and he had posted a review of the new Granite Gear Crown 2. His impressions of the bag were extremely positive. So I asked him, knowing that he has owned/reviewed the Mariposa, which one he liked better. And he gave the edge to the Crown 2. His recommendation, based on the return policies of sellers like REI, was to order and try both, then keep the one I liked best. That sounded like wisdom to me. Ultimately, user reviews and pro-level recommendations can only take you so far. Philip himself encourages people to not just take his word for it, but to try on every pack under consideration because everyone’s needs (and fit) are different.

So in April I’ll do just that. But I’m already leaning a bit towards the new (and cheaper; money matters too) Crown 2…