Why Buy Cottage Gear

by Andy Amick on August 1, 2013

in Backpacking, Bikepacking, Gear

As someone who grew up in a small business family and now runs a cottage gear company, I guess I have a slightly deeper desire to buy and use cottage gear when possible.  But what drives other people to buy gear from a cottage company rather than a large mainstream gear company?

This post digs into those details of what motivates some people to buy cottage gear.

Why Buy Their Gear?

There are a variety of reasons people search out and find cottage gear makers for their bikepacking and backpacking setups.  For some, it may be supporting a friend or someone they met along the trail.  For others, it may be about getting the absolute lightest gear made.

When looking for overall themes about buying cottage gear, three come to mind.


The way most cottage gear makers conduct their business is out of love of the outdoors rather than the bottom line.  Obviously, they have to make a profit to stay in business.

In a blog post on ultralight backpacking and gear makers, Ron Moat from Six Moon Designs states

The problem with the cottage industry isn’t lack of innovation; it’s that most of us still cling to the comfortable MYOG mentality. We’re far happier tweaking an existing design or coming up with some new one, than trying to figure out how to build a thousand units let alone sell them.

He frames it as an issue, but for me, this is one of the selling points.  It’s about the product more than margins and units shipped.


There are no “press 2 for tarp support, press 3 for backpack support” menus when you call a cottage gear maker.  Most of the time, you’ll be speaking directly with the owner/designer/maker/shipper of the gear you have a question about.

Ryan Gardner refers to this idea in his cottage industry post:

Instead of dealing with a massive, faceless company, a phone call or email to these cottage industry companies are typically received by the owner and founder of the company.

Whether it’s via email or phone, there is something great about being able to discuss the gear you are going to buy with the person that designed and built it.  You simply can’t get this with a larger company.  And to make it even better, a lot of cottage companies will allow you to customize the gear to fit your needs.

Local Small Business

Supporting small businesses is great, but supporting one that is within 200 miles of home is even better.  For the consumer, a local gear maker will have travelled the same trails and been caught out in the same weather so they will be more knowledgable about designing gear to survive the local condition.

It’s Not All Roses

Cottage gear is great but it’s not perfect.  There is still a need for the larger manufacturers and stores to get more people into hiking, backpacking, and bikepacking.  Without more people involved in these sports, there is no growth in the market.

Mainstream companies are a good option for people just beginning an outdoor activity. A beginner will not have the knowledge to take care of ultralight cottage gear, or be as concerned about weight, and may place a higher priority on lower initial cost.  It’s similar to getting started with cycling.  In the beginning, a basic no frills bike is purchased.  Over time, as skills increase and the enjoyment from cycling increases, the idea of a custom made frame doesn’t sound so weird.

There is a time and place for cottage gear.  It doesn’t fit every situation and it doesn’t need to do that.

Support Cottage Gear

It would be great to have a full set of gear made from cottage manufacturers, but that doesn’t have to be the final goal.  The point is to highlight some of the benefits of cottage gear and also to help spread the word about there being other options besides the big time factory gear makers.

The next time gear is being purchased, see if there is a cottage gear maker for that product.  Do a little research and consider buying from the cottage side of the world.

About Andy Amick
A little bit nutty in general, a lotta bit nutty about bikes. Each of his boys received a bike helmet for their first birthday and the three of them have been biking together ever since.

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