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 Gossamer Gear. As an Ambassador, I’ve enjoyed working with Gossamer Gear’s President, Grant Sible.
How did you begin making ultra light gear? What was your inspiration?
Grant: Glen Van Peski, our founder, is actually the guy who started making gear. I came in to take things over when Gossamer Gear outgrew his time. I’ve been a maker of things my entire life though. One of the first things I did was design and then hand bend our current pack stays for the first few years we had them. I really enjoy designing gear and am inspired by my experience, customer input, and the shared experience of helping folks get out and have fun outside.
You just redesigned many of your packs and came out with a couple new day packs. How have these packs been improved from your previous models? How do you decide what needs to be improved?
Grant: We are tinkerers, perhaps to a fault, and there is always something to make better. For example, the main improvement to the current backpacks is the harness and the impetus for that was completely user driven. Over the last few years we realized that the shoulder strap assembly we were using was great – for a certain body type – and not so much for women or more slightly built people. Gear that fits me or Glen doesn’t work for everyone. The new harness is unisex, turns out that a women’s harness will fit most men but the reverse is just not true. It took many months of tinkering and fitting to figure out and we had help on it from several women who are professional pack designers. The new fabrics are also a definite improvement and that is a result of staying current with technologies and finally having the ability to get materials custom made for us. Personally I have interest in a fairly broad range of outdoor activities hence the day and utility packs. I travel a fair bit and usually can squeeze in a day hike, climb, bike ride, urban ramble or something wherever I am – whereas a backpacking trip is not always achievable.
|The Type 2 pack is my go to day pack|
What makes you different than any other online retailer?
Grant: Gossamer Gear’s product is as much educational and inspirational as it is about selling people backpacking gear. People who become Gossamer Gea customers aren’t just buying product but adopting an outdoor lifestyle which is built around self-improvement and community outreach. This is best exemplified by our Trail Ambassadors whose mission is to help educate day hikers and backpackers about the benefits, gear, and skills required for lightweight and ultralight day hiking and backpacking. While inspiring others by sharing their adventures and stories with them.
Unlike other online retailers, our Trail Ambassadors work at a local level, with individuals and groups, leading hiking trips, giving lectures and gear demos because we feel that face-to-face are much more influential and life changing than exclusively focusing on online or social media. While communications help amplify our educational outreach, you can’t teach people about hiking or backpacking without interacting with them on a personal level.
What kind of backpacker should look into purchasing an ultralight pack?
Grant: I firmly believe that all if not most backpackers should at least try and get themselves into the lightweight category. Unless you are on an expedition it is just not that hard to do given today’s gear options and technology. It is relatively easy to do, doesn’t have to be expensive, and so much more pleasant. Ultimately for me it all revolves around enjoying your time outdoors and maximizing the fun while minimizing the pain. Going from lightweight to ultralight takes a bit more mental effort and some folks may never get there although it is a very worthy goal. Realize that the pack is the last thing someone should purchase. First get the rest of the gear and get a pack that suits the load.
We make packs in a range of weight classes for just this reason. It depends also on the type of trip and what the goals of the trip are. If I am going to hike into a lake in the Tetons and fish and peak bag out of a base camp I’m going to pack one type of a load but if I’m going to try and burn some miles on the PCT and get from A to B then obviously I’ll pack differently. I’m lucky in that I can get out multiple times a year, for some folks backpacking is an annual kind of event and for them a basic all purpose set of gear is the way to go rather than the closet full I have.
What is your favorite outdoor location?
Grant: My kind of question and impossible to answer! I love Utah SlickRock at certain times of the year and for certain kinds of trips. Patagonia is a wonderful adventure destination. The Dolomites are great for a more civilized outdoor experience that is still awe inspiring and magical. It is pretty hard to beat parts of the Andes for not too technical high altitude mountaineering, and while you’re there pop on down to the Amazon and canoe around the jungle a bit.
These days I am mostly cherry-picking primo spots for quick trips so places like the Presidentials, the High Sierra, Goat Rocks, the Enchantments – all obvious places. There are some I want to keep secret. I could wax poetic here for a long time, but the thing I re-learn over and over is that this planet we get time on is chock full of staggering locations to get out and have any number of amazing and fun adventures in. My friend Liz Thomas has been doing really cool urban thru-hikes lately, who knew?
Tell us a little bit about your background as a hiker and backpacker.
Grant: I grew up in the Midwest and spent my summers fishing and whatnot in northern Minnesota. My first “real” backpacking trip was in the Sierras when I was 18. I lived in Ecuador for 3 years way back when and did a fair bit of hiking, climbing and adventuring there and around South America. In 2002 I had a life changing moment and thru-hiked the Appalachian trail and got introduced to the burgeoning ultralight movement. 2 days of hiking in my 5lb hand made Italian leather boots got that going.
What is your one “must have” item you carry with you backpacking?
Grant: A long handle bamboo curry spoon I use to eat with. Over the years everything else is mutable; I change packs, sleep systems, shelters etc but the spoon remains the same. I don’t like eating with titanium or lexan, hate sporks as a rule and although I’m generally just eating out of a bag the spoon makes that right. I received this from a customer in Japan about 8 or 10 years ago and have made a few attempts to source them to no avail. A free backpack to anyone who can find me these in quantities less than 10,000.
If you’re looking to take less, do more head over to gossamergear.com or check them out on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest!
Last modified: September 2, 2017