I’ve used a lot of gear, created by cottage manufacturers, over the years. I enjoy supporting entrepreneurs, am always on the hunter for “lighter” quality gear, and I am a bit of a gear nut. I love trying out new ideas.
A few of these gear manufacturers may not be considered “cottage manufacturers,” due to their size, but many are still founder owned and make great gear. Big Agnes is a good example. I’ve used their tents for a long time, and recently purchased another in my move back to a little more convenience over ultra-light. I’ve listed a few of my favorites below. It really is amazing how many of these have evolved and grown over the years.
Z-packs is a small manufacturer that has really taken off over the last few years. It was founded in 2005, and I’m a big proponent of their tarp tents, having used them on some of my hikes. The tarp tent seen in my featured picture above is the two person version of their current Plexamid. Mine was the two person Duomid. I took it on a long section of the Appalachian trail, southbound from Katahdin, ME to Highpoint, NJ, and it held up like a champ! They are known for their tarp tents, and are common among long distance hikers because of their light weight, but they have also branched out into quilts, sleeping bags, clothes, accessories, etc. Their specialty is really backpacks, but they have some good partners for tarps and quilts.
ULA Adventure is my current “go to” pack provider. They are not owned by the original founder anymore, but the new owners have maintained well, and continue to improve upon what was already a great piece of gear. I’ve used their Catalyst backpack in the past, and am currently using an Ohm 2.0 backpack. I used the Ohm on my last AT section hike, and am going to use it on my upcoming Colorado Trail thru-hike. I can’t say enough good things about their packs! I used them on the AT, PCT and CDT, in some pretty tough conditions, and sometimes I’m not all that gentle on gear, mostly attributed to my lack of grace. The never let me down.
Nunatak is not a name you hear a lot in quilts. They were founded in 1999, and are currently based out of Utah. There are a lot of new kids on the block making quilts right now, but I love Nunatak quality quilts. I’ve used their Arc UL 30/20 for years now, and it is still like new. I’m a slide sleeper and a tosser, so I really like quilts if it is not too cold. If you want to try the OQ (Original Quilt), that is a hand made, high quality quilt, check it out. Of note, check out their “Dog Bivy.” As a lover of canines, I find it pretty cool.
Feathered Friends is a high quality sleeping bag, and still overseen by the original founders in Seattle. I take the Swift on cooler trips, and it will be joining me on the Colorado Trail, since this trail can get some fairly cool temperatures. I also don’t like to sleep in a lot of clothes, so I usually carry a warmer bag. I also used their “Helios” jacket when I climbed Kilimanjaro, with Dad and my brothers, and it was fantastic. I had always used Western Mountaineering Jackets (also a great light weight down jacket), but I’m now a Feathered Friends jacket convert on this mid-weight down jacket. I’ve not tried their light weight down jacket yet, as I still have and love my Western Mountaineering down jacket, but Feathered Friends might now be on the light weight wish list.
Mountain Laurel Designs is an outfit out of Virgina. I’ve tried their Bivys, and Rainmitts. I’ve also tried their tarps. They are definitely an ultralight cottage maker, and I’ve always found their gear very well made. I still use their rain mitts, one of my favorite pieces of gear! They sell a LOT of other items, packs, quilts, clothes, etc., and it is impressive how they have evolved over the years. They are a great minimalist provider.
What I love about cottage gear is that it is often handmade and high quality, lasting a long time. I may pay a little more, but often get a much better, long lasting piece of quality gear. Listed below are just a few others with very good reputations. I’ve highlighted those I’ve used. I’ve also included those that I’m familiar with, and that have good reputations.
Western Mountaineering – Sleeping Bags, Down Garmets, etc. Of note – sleeping bags
Katabatic Quilts – Quilts, packs, bivys, etc. Of note – quilts
Enlighted Equipment – Quilts, Hammocks, apparel. Of note – quilts
Jacks R Better – Quilts, hammocks, tarps. Of note – quilts
Six Moon Designs – Shelters, packs, etc. – Of note – shelters
Tarptent – Shelters, etc. Of note – shelters
Gossamer Gear – Shelters, Pack, accessories, etc. – Of note – shelters, accessories