Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The One

GossamerGear used to be a hobby called GVPGear.

Once upon a time Glen van Peski had some ideas about backpacks and designed what he thought was a good pack for himself and a friend. Being generous, he offered the plans for anyone who also wanted to make a similar pack. But few did. They wanted to buy packs from him. Eventually, reluctantly, he began making them.

His business was GVPGear, and he called it a family hobby. His pack was called the G4.

In 2000 I bought one. After my first trip I had decided that I liked it so well that I wanted to be sure I'd never be without one, so I ordered two more, in case GVPGear ever folded. Mr. van Peski called me when he got the order. He had remembered my first order and wasn't sure if he'd messed up and somehow left that order unfilled, or if something else was going on. Sorry Glen.

Anyway, I eventually refined my tastes and sort of moved on. I sold one the the three packs, modified a second, and still have two of them. I also bought a later model as a gift for someone who was leaving town.

They were good. I learned a lot from them, and copied several features while designing and sewing my first packs, which I do now. The G4 is still being made, and has improved several degrees since I bought my first one.

Another interesting thing. The year I bought my G4s, Mr. van Peski compared his revenues and costs and discovered that he'd lost about $1.50 per pack on the 300 or so he sold that year, so he raised the price by $10. There's nothing like ethical business.

Eventually though the fuss of trying to run a hobby business took its toll. Mr. van Peski had to decide whether to quit his real business as a consulting civil engineer and starve to death (along with his dependents) or give up the pack making.

Enter friends and admirers, who took over the business and converted it to an actual commercial venture. It is now called GossamerGear, which all concerned think represents the nature of the backpacking products they sell.

I'm still on the list, and get the occasional email newsletter whenever it is mailed out. Just this week, in fact, another came along. They have a new product, do the GossamerGear-ers. It is called "The One". It is a tent.

It looks good. It is made of spinnaker cloth, a sort of fabric first used on sailboats, as you might guess from the name. It is the lightest of woven fabrics. This tent weighs a hair over 17 ounces. It has a floor. It is bugproof. This is interesting.

Myself, I normally use a backpacking hammock. Luckily there is such a thing because I can barely sleep on the ground (back problems, and age). But this is a good trend. People are catching on. As with a lot of backpacking equipment, I make my own shelters (as well as packs, and stoves, and some clothing, but not hammocks -- yet), but "The One" looks good.

Check it out. The price is $275.

New York Times story on ultralight backpacking titled "On the trail, with the clothes on your back and little more." by James Gorman (free registration may be required)

Other manufacturers of lightweight shelters:
Hennessy Hammock
Kifaru Tipis
Mountain Laurel Designs
Six Moon Designs
Speer Hammocks