Are you the outdoor type?

A classic, from the Lemonheads. If you’re looking to be the Outdoor Type, it’s not too late to start. 

Always had a roof above me 
Always paid the rent 
But I’ve never set foot inside a tent 
Can’t build a fire to save my life 
I lied about being the outdoor type 
I’ve never slept out underneath the stars, 
The closest that I came to that was one time my car 
Broke down for an hour in the suburbs at night 
I lied about being the outdoor type. 
Too scared to let you know you knew what you were looking for 
I lied until I fit the bill God bless the great indoors 
I lied about being the outdoor type 
I’ve never owned a sleeping bag let alone a mountain bike 
I can’t go away with you on a rock climbing weekend 
What if somethings on tv and it’s never shown again 
Its just as well I’m not invited I’m afraid of heights 
I lied about being the outdoor type 
Never learned to swim can’t grow a beard or even fight 
I lied about being the outdoor type

Duck, Duck, Goose: A Comparison of Insulations

The Outdoor Industry uses goose or duck down for natural-fill insulated sleeping bags. Duck and goose can be equally efficient insulators, and their effectiveness depends more on the fill power, quality of the fill (i.e. percentage of down to feathers), and processing quality than the source being duck or goose itself. 

More than being just as thermally efficient, duck down is more readily available as a consistent source, and oftentimes more affordable. Since all down exists solely as a byproduct of the meat and egg industries, the availability of duck down compared to goose down is attributed to greater demand of duck meat and eggs as a consumable food. Most of the debate centered around duck vs. goose can be addressed by looking at the myths attributed to the two types of insulation.

Generally speaking, there is no difference between the durability of duck down and goose down, regardless of fill power. Part of the durability question revolves around the natural fat and oil content of the down. Some birds have an inherently higher fat and oil content. Moreover, down is an organic product and will vary season to season due to factors such as weather, feed, bird condition, etc. The presence of a certain percentage of fat and oil is required to keep the down pliable and resilient (warmth-trapping). Take a look at the visual differences between an 850 FP duck down cluster (left) versus a 850 FP goose down cluster (right). 


If during processing, down is “over washed” and too great a percentage of fat and oil is removed, the down can dry out and become brittle, thus making it easier to break down, decreasing fill power. Ultimately, high quality processors such as those that work with NEMO, individually assess each batch of down to optimize durability and performance, irrespective of species.

Down is a natural product, like wool. While a certain percentage of fat and oil is required to naturally keep the down pliable and resilient, the presence of these substances also contributes to the scent. Those with an acute sense of smell may notice a very slight odor, with even the cleanest down. Since feeding habits differ between duck and goose, minor differences in odor may arise between the two species, as the odor is held in the oil content necessary for resilience. One of the many benefits of DWR treated down, like DownTek™, is the minimization of that odor.

Availability of Higher Fill Powers
Higher fill power down tends to come from older more mature birds. The longer a bird lives, the more developed the down cluster. Furthermore, to achieve a desired fill power, processors sort through feather, small down clusters, large down clusters, etc., to make down of a certain content and fill power. The below image shows the size difference between a large cluster (left), small cluster (center), and feather (right).

The current highest fill power for goose is approximately 1000 FP, but this is available in extremely limited quantities (and usually prohibitively expensive). Comparatively, Eider duck down, the highest-end most expensive down by an order of magnitude, has been anecdotally rated up to 1200 FP. More common fill powers for duck and goose down range from 450-850 FP. High-end duck down in 850 FP has recently become more accessible due to improvements in the sorting process that filters out additional fibers and small down clusters. 

Both duck and goose down are available in white and mottled grey. Historically speaking, white colored down has been more desired in the bedding industry because most bedding fabric is white, and manufacturers prefer to hide the presence of down. Besides a visual difference, there is no performance difference between white and grey colored down of the same specification. Take a look at a grey down cluster (left) and white down cluster (right) in the image below. 


The Takeaway 
Duck and goose down can be equally efficient insulators when variables such as fill power, quality of fill, and processing are taken into account. The quality of down is directly tied to everything from the feed of the bird during its life, to the length of its life, to the wash method used in processing.

When selecting the best insulation for NEMO sleeping bags, we aim to maximize the comfort and performance of our innovative bag profiles, while delivering top performance for each intended use. We take into account construction techniques, model-specific design details, and material/insulation choices when creating every NEMO sleeping bag.


Icicles in your wetsuit

We love Gear Patrol’s photo essay on Winter Surfing in New Hampshire.  It’s that the conditions are far from perfect that defines New England; the water is too cold, the trails are too rocky, the slopes are too icy. And yet, we love it—ALL of it. 

Like the essay says, there are no crowds, no one to impress. It’s just like-minded individuals chasing waves. But I would say not just for the sport of it, for the love of it. 
surffreeSurfers rotate in and out of the water during the lull between each set. Those exhausted after a few hours of floating in ice water emerge red-faced and smiling to swap stories and tips with those who are headed in. But conversations on the beach are brief; it’s too cold to stand around idly. With the elements stacked against them, it’s clear that these guys love what they’re doing and wouldn’t trade it for any fireside, not when the surf’s this good. Hour upon hour there’s a constant stream of people more than willing to surf in weather that would deter most people from taking a walk. There’s no crowd, no one to impress or meet at the beachside bar later on. It’s just like-minded individuals chasing great waves for the sport of it. Live free or die, indeed.


Try again, Fail again, Fail better.

dittoslimOn the surface, this is an inside look at the design process involved in making the Ditto Slim Wallet. But much deeper than that, it’s an ode to the necessity of play and exploration in design. Some of the best designs come out of feeling free to fail, and not being afraid to make something that doesn’t work. This is a reminder to celebrate the 65 or so failures that came before the success of the final wallet design. In a way, we hesitate to even call them failures, because each one of the prototypes led us one step closer to the final solution. 

walletassortmentv2We’ve been hankering to make a more minimalist wallet for a while now. The push for a pared down wallet came from a couple different directions. Philosophically speaking, we’re all looking to carry a little less in life—and we’re not just talking about tents, sleeping bags, and camping gear here. There’s more simplicity and elegance when you carry less, and it forces you to figure out what you really need to get around on a daily basis. On a practical level, our pants pockets don’t always fit our maxed out wallets. It’s a challenge to just carry our phones; having a fat wallet puts us over the edge. walletsizeThus began our design challenge to create a leaner, meaner wallet. Within the process, we asked ourselves whether a minimalist wallet should be made out of the least amount of fabric (not really), should minimize the action to get stuff out of it (maybe), or should minimize the bulk in your pocket (definitely).

We learned the following lessons from making AND using our prototypes: 

  1. Some separation is good; having only one compartment means that you can’t find a specific credit card or train pass when you are in a hurry. 
  2. Almost no one carries a lot of cash anymore, but sometimes it is nice to have a few bills around.
  3. You really CAN pare down your wallet to 3-4 important cards.
  4. A minimalist wallet should still keep your cards secure so they don’t fall out. 
  5. Hard components in wallets don’t look good in your pocket. And we all want to look good.
  6. It’s nice to keep your wallet contents somewhat hidden.
  7. A smooth open/close action makes you feel good inside every time you use it.

We wanted to accomplish all this with just fabric—remember, no hard components. Oh, and one more thing: we wanted the wallet to reuse some of the byproducts of our manufacturing process, as all products in our Ditto line do. Dimension-Polyant, who supplies high tech materials for our tents and shelters, was a generous partner in this endeavor. They donated manufacturing seconds and discards for the final wallet production.  

The final design of Ditto Slim Wallet is a two sided sleeve that keeps contents secure with a partial stretch cover. 
1752_1The stretch cover opens up on one end by pulling the folded label end open to reveal the goods. Notice that the stitch pattern on the outside isn’t just for looks. Stitch lines tend to act like hinges in fabric. There is a stiffener sewn on the underside of the cover, so that the part you pull back stays structural, and the rest of the cover hinges back. 

walletopeningThe compartment in the front is best for cards, train passes, or other often used items. We like to keep our cash in the back sleeve, since it is a little more low profile. 


The back of the label also gives you a nice reminder when you take cash out.

Like all of our Ditto products, the wallets are made in limited quantities, because they reuse manufacturing scraps. Specific colors and fabric are used in small run batches, so if you’re interested in getting one, do it sooner rather than later. 

It takes bravery to be willing to try something new, to be willing to fail. We’re proud of our design process and of every one of our 65 prototypes. 

2014 Sneak Peek: Cosmo Lite Series

We’re psyched to launch our new 2014 products, and figured it was about time we had a sneak peek into the new lineup. Check back often in this space over the next 4 weeks as we intro some brand new gear.

From the beginning, Cosmo Air has always been one of the office favorites. The foot pump is fast, you save the pad from gross saliva-filled air, and more importantly, you save your lungs from exhaustion. But we wanted to lighten the load—every ounce adds up, and backpackers are looking for comfort on AND off the trail.

The new Cosmo Lite series trims a full six ounces off our first generation Cosmo air inflatable pads. This series comes in both Air and Insulated (Primaloft) versions, 20″x72″ dimensions. 

COSMO_20R_LITE The amount of foam in the foot pump affects how quick you can set up the pad. The more foam, the more volume of air that can be pushed into the pad. But more foam = heavier, so we streamlined the shape and dimensions of the foam in the new foot pump to balance delivery of air with minimal material.
Astute eyes might also notice a few other details in the pump.
COSMO_pumpWe’ve cored out the foam to further minimize material weight. There’s also a single air intake valve as opposed to the double air intake valve found on the original Cosmo. The one-way air intake valve is used to refill the foam with air once you step on the pad. Generally, when you have more foam material, you’ll need quicker ways to refill that foam with air. And because Cosmo Lite has less foam than the original Cosmo, you don’t need both air intake valves. 

The other big difference is that all pads in the Cosmo Lite series use our Airlock Elite fabric. 
closeup_LITE_20RThe ultralight 20D polyester is specially optimized for high strength lamination and welding. The back surface of the fabric has a ultra smooth cire finish for maximizing the bond strength and surface area contact with the airtight TPU lamination. The face side of the fabric is finished with a light DWR. 

Much like the original Cosmo series, the Lite series pads have lateral baffles that run horizontally to give you a flatter and better sleep experience. The pad is a plush 3 inches to accommodate side sleepers. And lastly, the head end of the pad has a raised pillow baffle to offer more support and prevent your pillow from sliding off the end. 

Stay tuned for the next sneak peek!

It’s Popular for a Reason

Arguably one of the most classic of the classic climbs, Mark and Janelle Smiley recently took on the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral Rock. As Janelle says, with killer views of Sentinel Rock, North Dome, El Cap, it’s popular for a reason.

The climb is also living proof of the evolutionary nature of climbing ratings. When the Yosemite Decimal System was originally established, 5.9 was the highest rated climb. There are clusters of climbs established in the 1960s (and prior) that are clustered around a 5.9 rating because of the general unwillingness to breach the 5.10 mark. Climber (and all-around badass) Jeff Johnson notes, it can be “physical, awkward climbing in the Valley … 5.9 can get you into all sorts of situations.” el cap pano from MCR

The Smiley Project: Stuck in Steck Salathe

If it’s not immediately apparent, Mark and Janelle Smiley are committed. They’re tackling North America’s 50 Classic Climbs, but not just merely checking it off a list; they’re committed to learning from every experience. And if completing all 50 classic climbs isn’t enough, they are not beyond revisiting old sites to climb in better style, use better technique, and perhaps even send a few routes in the process. So this is how they found themselves back at the Steck Salathe Route on Sentinel Rock, three years after their initial ascent.

This 16-pitch route’s crux is definitively the “Great Chimney”. Or as Mark Smiley describes it, vertical caving. 

And like all great expectations, not all are met with success—especially when you get stuck for an hour inside the chimney and need to be hauled up the climb by your partner. 

 This is the start of the Narrows. Allen Steck and John Salathe climbed the outside of the wall on the first ascent in 1950, which avoids the lion’s share of the squeeze chimney. Janelle and I had followed the first ascentist on our first ascent, so we had not been in the slot. This go, we decided to give it a try. Janelle took the lead and did a wonderful job, as did Ian and Jed. They each took roughly 30 minutes to get up this 60 foot section.

I went last. I had sent (climbed without falling or resting on the gear) every pitch to this point and didn’t want to blow it here at the last crux.

Walking my legs up the far wall I was able to get my head, chest and stomach into the narrow section just fine. Now, the problem was that I now had to get my legs from the wide part to the skinny part. This requires some kind of double chicken wing arm bar move.

I am as flexible as a brick. This personal attribute did not help me make any upward progress. Things got ugly. After flexing every muscle in my body and going nowhere, 20 times in a row, I ran out of gas and took on the rope. I blew the send. I was mad. Then I got stuck, and got really mad. The ego spanking I was taking made me madder yet.

There is a section that is so tight, when I’d turn my head from the left to right, my nose would scrape on the wall. Then the backpack that I was trailing started getting stuck below me. It too was a little too wide with two helmets clipped to it.

I lost it. Started screaming at the world. Not my proudest moment.

Eventually I fought my way up, while Janelle performed crevasse rescue on me with a 3:1 pulley. It was miserable. You can’t even call it climbing, more like hangdogging on top rope, only your belayer has tied the rope to a car bumper and is driving slowly away, effectively towing you up. To make things worse, Jed filmed it all. I guess I asked for that one.

Third time’s a charm right?