What are your preferred brands for gear if you have any preferences and why? And by gear I mean everything. What you wear, walk in, sleep in/on/under, cook with, so and so forth. More of a curious question but it'll probably turn out to be a little educational too in the end. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />
I cam't say I have a preferred brand or anything yet, if I ever really have one at all. I was looking in through my hiking attire and realized I sure do have a lot of Mountain Hardwear stuff coincidentally. I've got two jackets, one a ligh windproof jacket and another two layer coat for those codl times of years along with a long sleeved shirt and a pair of pants. I suppose there are times where I unwittingly go out looking like a walking Mountain Hardwear product model, lol. I also have a solo 3 season tent made by them too...maybe I have some sort of subconcious preference after all...
In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.-Aristotle
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I prefer to do business with the "cottage industries": Six Moon Designs, Tarptent, Ti Goat, Gossamer Gear, Oware, Integral Designs, Mountain Laurel Designs, Western Mountaineering, ULA, Feathered Friends, Antigravity Gear, Z-Packs. Not necessarily in order! (There are probably some I've left out and I apologize.) I don't have gear from all of these, but I've found they are reputable, very willing to answer lots of my (undoubtedly) stupid questions and have great customer service. Among the big guys, Montbell, at least for clothing--they generally have the warmest items for the least weight, which IMHO are worth the extra money. I also really like "Patagucci" base layers although they're awfully pricey--I watch for their sales and have gotten really good deals on their base layers, even though the color selection on sale items is awful. I ended up with hot pink bottoms and nauseating purple tops, but since I wear them under other clothes or in the sleeping bag, who cares? I just try not to look at them! They are soft and cozily warm!
I avoid the "standard" gear brands like North Face, Kelty and Sierra Designs like the plague--too heavy and pricey. I still haven't recovered from 10 years of misery with the SD Clip Flashlight, which had far more internal condensation than my current Tarptent and SMD Lunar Solo tents, and required 10 stakes, not included in the advertised weight, of course). I have an old TNF Cat's Meow sleeping bag (used only for car-camping and weekends at son #3's vacation home to save my WM down bag for backpacking) and an old Kelty external frame pack (5.5 lbs.) which is sitting around unused. If I can adjust the Kelty to fit son #3, I might whack off the heavy nylon bag and give it to him to use just the frame with silnylon stuff sacks tied on (sort of a homemade cheapo version of Luxury Lite). My experience with it, though, is that, in addition to being too heavy, the pack has a life of it's own and insists on zigging when I zag--unless my son falls in love with it, it will probably end up with the Salvation Army). Last spring I gave my Clip Flashlight away to a fellow whose gear was stolen from his car (no theft insurance and low-income budget)--I couldn't in good conscience sell the stupid tent, but this guy was desperate and I was glad to help him out. I also avoid mainline stores like Really Expensive Items (don't get me started on them, please!), although I do watch for their very occasional deal. Since I first joined REI in 1985, I've consistently gotten far better deals on standard and "house" brands from Campmor. That's probably why I've never had more than a $1 REI dividend!
By far my favorite gear/clothing store is BackcountryGear.com in Eugene, OR (available through the TLB Portal). I've had awesome service from them--they even found an amply hipped (or so they implied) female employee to crawl into a sleeping bag I was interested in to see if it would fit me! I order one day, and "Brown" leaves the stuff on my doorstep the next afternoon (that's because I live in the Portland, OR area, but it does mean that they normally ship the day the order is received). I've gotten one or two good items from the backpackinglight.com store, but they are awfully pricey unless you want to sign up for their paid subscription, which I refuse to do. I did get a nice Ti pot with frying pan lid from them, just the right size for going out with the grandkids.
My pet peeve with a lot of firms is that once I order from them, even on the internet, my mail is replete with paper catalogs in perpetuity. That's one of the many reasons why I prefer the "cottage industries" and BackcountryGear--no junk mail afterwards!
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
Expedition Outershell - Mammut Lhotse, Arc'Teryx Alpha SV or Marmot Alpinist or the older Marmot shells - 3 layer Gore-Tex - more than bombproof. I found the Mammut Lhotse a little tougher in -40C Canadian Winters than the Arc'Teryx probably because the storm hood is a little larger near the face & neck. Alpha SV is the Bees Knees in styling and choice of colours. I used to use a Mountain Hardwear Conduit but it is prone to tearing and not tough enough.
Softshell - Arc'Teryx Gamma SV, Cloudveil Rayzar, Mammut Clime. Any of these 3 are amazing - water resistant not waterproof.
Waterproof/Lightweight Jacket - Montane
Gaiters - Outdoor Research and nothing else
Mitts - Outdoor Reasearch Alti-Mitts or Marmot Expdedition
Gloves - Black Diamond Verglas, Outdoor Research and Marmot windproof.
Everything else that I use is just a hodgepodge of items. The things I mentioned above are the brands and items that I will have a hard time parting with. I will say that I do have pack envy; a few friends of mine have ULA packs and I have been tempted to get one.
I also plan on buying a two person TarpTent (Squall 2) for when I go hiking with my wife. It looks like the best two person tent available. I cannot wait to get it.
Loc: Portland, OR
I've never been brand-loyal. I just seek out something I can afford that works. Over the years this has put me into several REI tents, but that is more a matter of compromise, due to cost, than anything else.
Pretty much the only brand I go back to constantly is Vasque, for the simple reason that their boots fit my feet better. The chances are excellent that your feet would prefer a different brand's fit, just because feet are quirky things.
I buy what's on sale. Some of this outdoor gear is so overpriced that i would be embarassed to to be seen carryng or wearing it. Spin off brands can usually be gotten cheaply (e.g. LL Bean fleece or down products).
Right on. WALMART!!! I buy whats on sale. I am embarrased to wear most logos/labels so I chop 'em. It took me for frickin ever to get that embroidered TNF logo off a pair of pants I bought last summer. I don't want to be one of those hikers that is covered from head to toe in the 'Gear'. But sometimes the price, quality, and need all come together in a cosmic karma collision and I have no choice.
LOL. Yes, I do avoid logos -- esp. obnoxious ones that have their names all spelled out -- like THE NORTH FACE! But alas, this is becoming harder and harder, and so I do buy logo-infested gear from time to time, then try to remove the ones that I can.
Loc: Sonoma County, California
Of the larger companies, MontBell consistently puts out great stuff - simple and well thought out. Patagonia too, but I can only afford past-year, close-out prices. Smaller companies; Feathered Friends bags happen to fit me very well. TarpTents are pretty brilliant. McHale packs - old school quality and customer service.