November 18, 2014 / Comments (2)

A Closer Look: AntiGravityGear


For the month of November I am highlighting some of my favorite hiking based companies, giving readers a closer look into the people who make the gear they love on the trail as well as products that remind us of the trail when we can’t be there. Today we are taking a closer look at online ultralight retailer, AntiGravityGear!

Mr. and Mrs. Tin Man taking a break at King Creek

Who is behind AntiGravityGear? How did you begin this site and what was your inspiration?

George “Tin Man” Andrews and his wife, Carolyn “Mrs. Tin Man” are the co-founders of the company.  The concept for AntiGravityGear was born in 2000 when George led a Boy Scout backpacking trip to the Uwharrie Mountains of North Carolina. Remarking about how light they felt after removing their far-too-heavy packs, it was decided that the best gear for hiking would be anti-gravity gear. Why, they could even make an anti-gravity suit to carry their gear and sell it for a fortune!!! (At least THEY would have paid a fortune for it just then.) Playing Madison Avenue advertising types around the campfire, the Scouts were soon talking about silly sounding slogans like, “it carries you”.   And, so it began.  George began selling his popular Aluminum Can Alcohol Stove to buy gear for his Scout Troop which is how he became known as, “Tin Man.”  

In 2002 George was referred to Carolyn Mejia, then graphic & web designer now co-owner of AntiGravityGear, through a mutual friend.  Trying not to appear over anxious (panicked) he said, “I need a website… FAST.”  Backpacker Magazine had just awarded him the coveted Editor’s Choice Award for his Pot Cozy, and the release of Spring Editor’s Choice Edition was eminent.  It was the beginning of a really great working relationship.  And the event that launched AntiGravityGear into the recognized leagues of the ultralight backpacking community’s cottage industry line-up.

Over the next 12 years, George built a reputation for great customer service and innovative, ultralight backpacking gear.  He created the Mapdana, the Pocket Profile and a host of ultralight alternatives such us the 1 Gallon Silnylon Water Bag, the Deluxe Ultralight Bear Bag System and the AntiGravityGear Ultralight Rain Jacket and Pants.  He also made it a point to form friendships and mutually beneficial working relationships with other cottage Industry companies, like David “Awol” Miller who wrote the AT Guide and AWOL on the Appalachian Trail, and Trail Designs, creators of the “Caldera Cone”.   Managing to also break into outfitters and outdoor gear stores, AntiGravityGear survived  the “Start-up” phase to become a thriving business.

What makes your site different than any other online retailer?
We would have to say customer service and commitment to quality ultralight gear.  If we can’t get it we’ll make it. If we can’t get it or aren’t currently making it it, we’ll tell you where you can find it.  If we don’t know, we’ll help you figure it out.  We love being a cottage industry.  And we love honing the lost art of customer service.  We’ve had many conversations about the future of AntiGravityGear and how “big” we are willing to go.  We always come back to the customer.  We are willing to get as big as we can without losing touch with the end user.  There are so many great people out there and we enjoy helping people build their gear kit.  Without that… it’s just work.  
Oh!  And, George.  We have a George.  EVERYONE likes to talk to George, and no one else has a George. 
 George “Tin Man” Andrews working at the AntiGravityGear headquarters-
 their Huntsville home!

How do you go about choosing manufacturer products to sell on AntiGravityGear?

There’s a tiny bookstore store right in the heart of downtown Wilmington, NC.  Being a very picky reader, I’m frequently amazed by how I want to read almost every single title.  They take such care in building their library.  I feel like they have actually read each book and only stocked the ones they loved… the one’s they think everyone NEEDS to read.  That’s exactly what we want to be.  A best of the best… the, “this-is-the-stuff-you-really-need-in-your-pack,” store.  Because, we tried it.  And, you know what?  It’s in our packs.

 A Tin Man Can Stove helped fuel a Trail to Summit Autumn Presi Traverse

These days our phone conversations are littered with rabbit trails about potential products.  We enjoy thinking outside the box. George, having capably worn all the hats in the company for the first 13 years, was left little time to focus on producing new products.  Now, with the workload split, we look forward to the opportunity to develop some of those brilliant ideas he’s had rolling around in his head into actual products.  Of course, we carry other products besides our own.  Some things work so well they need little to no improvement.  We don’t typically rush out to carry the same popular stuff everyone else is carrying, though we do end up offering some popular options (as they are usually popular for a reason).  We take time look for products that are ultralight, well constructed, serve multiple purposes, and if it can’t be found elsewhere… bonus.  Lately, we have found some of our newest editions on some, “must have,” gear lists shortly after adding them to the store.  That’s always rewarding.  It confirms that we still really have our fingers on the pulse of this thing. 

What is your favorite outdoor location?
  George “Tin Man” Andrews:  Middle Fork of the Gila River in New Mexico on the CDT.  Ancient rock paintings, abundant wildlife, incredible beauty, makes for one of the most magical places I’ve ever hiked.  I feel blessed to have first started my backpacking life there in the early 1970’s.
Carolyn “Mrs. Tin Man” Andrews:   The Gila Wilderness in New Mexico. All my kids have been there… as well as a few friends… and it’s where George fell in love with backpacking… and where we spent our 35th Anniversary. 
Carolyn “Oz” Mejia:  Linville Gorge Wilderness.  My mom lives within walking distance of Linville Falls.  I love stomping around in the Gorge for a few days and taking pictures. The terrain is challenging and rewarding and the views are stunning. And then I get to come home to take a shower in her mountain cabin, drink something perfect and laugh about… whatever – while she tries to beat me a Scrabble. Who wouldn’t love that? It’s the perfect backpacking experience.


  Carolyn “Oz” and her son Cam on his first backpacking trip!

 What is your one “must have” item you carry with you backpacking?

George “Tin Man” Andrews:   A properly reverent heart and mind’ is the only possible answer to this impossible one-item question.  Gear wise – I have a lanyard I wear around my neck with a tiny flashlight, a fire-steel, micro knife, compass and whistle.  All these are items on the 10 essentials list and no matter what happens on the trail, I always have basic survival gear with me.  My hammock system is always with me.
Carolyn “Mrs. Tin Man” AndrewsEither the pouch cozy, because I like to let my dinner cook while I set up camp…. or the pocket profile, because I love the elevation map. Or, the NEXT product AGG will release this month.  I already have it in my pack.  But, they will have to wait for it…. wait for it… 🙂 
Carolyn “Oz” MejiaThat’s tough, because all of my gear is pretty special to me.  When you go light, nothing is really dispensable. But, I would have to say my hammock system made for me by Tin Man. Yeah, I really didn’t have to think too long and hard about that one.
Linville Falls- Photo courtesy of Carolyn “Oz” Mejia
If you are looking for a great gift for a hiker on your list, check out AntiGravityGear’s site! You can also connect with them on facebook and twitterTrail to Summit readers get 5% off all AGG purchases 11/18/14-12/7/14 with code T2SDEAL!
Want to check out other small hiking-based companies? Take a closer look at TrailSigns, Gossamer Gear, ZPacks, and Backcountry Ninjas!


Last modified: September 2, 2017

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A Closer Look: AntiGravityGear

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