These Brands Are Making Age-Old Camping Gear With Modern Design And Manufacturing Techniques

The following insight is from Forbes.

Camping may be one of the oldest activities on the planet, but that doesn't mean that industry gear is dated. According to the 2017 American Camper Report from the Outdoor Foundation, more than 40.1 million Americans went camping at least one night in 2016, with an average annual spend of $546.41 per person on gear and supplies. That makes camping and backpacking a lucrative industry, with brands aiming to be on the cutting edge of technology and convenience to attract a piece of the multi-million dollar pie. Nowadays, camping has gone high-tech, with several brands introducing new and innovative products for 2019.

Ultralight Backpacks:

Minnesota-based Granite Gear LLC introduced the Blaze 60 this year, an ultralight backpacking backpack capable of holding up to 50 pounds of gear, despite weighing only 3 pounds. According to David Eisenberg, 28, creative manager at Granite Gear, that gives it a leg up over other ultralight bags. "There are other packs that can haul 50 pounds," he says, "but the next closest with that capability is weighing in over 4 pounds, and that's a massive difference when it comes to gram-counting [hikers.]"

Eisenberg says that to bring the Blaze 60 to life, they needed to tweak how the pack distributes weight on the body. Experts say that hikers should carry 70-80% of pack weight on their hips, but that requires a snug, properly-fitting hip belt. Rather than take a one-size-fits-all approach, Eisenberg's team instead designed the Blaze with a completely removable hip belt. Though the concept may not sound revolutionary, through-hikers will know that the way a bag's weight is distributed can be the difference between finishing a hike or ending it early. "By making the belt removable, the user is able to slip the belt out, extend or shorten the belt to their own waist size and slip it back into the pack," says Eisenberg. The removable belt allows for easier and more tailored adjustments than many attached belts. The hip belts come in multiple sizes; a large belt will connect to a small pack, for example.

The bag also includes a flexible, injection-molded frame, conceptualized in a computer-aided design program. While developing materials, the Granite Gear team played with various chemical makeups to find one that would be the perfect blend of strength and flexibility. Their prototyping system allowed them to make tiny tweaks to the formula of the polycarbonate blend before injecting it into the molds and producing several different frames to put through flexibility tests. They then shaved parts of what they thought could be the final product down by hand to lower its overall weight. Finally, they sent the bag with the frame to their field tester, who carried it on a trail for more than 500 miles and gave real-world feedback to the team.

A stackable multi-tool:

The same 2017 American Camper Report found that a flashlight is the most popular tool for camping and VSSL Outdoor Utility Tools is producing their spin on a flashlight with the Adventure Kit, which uses the space in the handle to store additional outdoor tools. VSSL founder Todd Weimer, 48, says the idea came to him as a child, though he only began production in 2014. "I grew up in Northern Canada as a kid and spent a lot of time in the outdoors, he says. "We were small and had to travel light, so my best friend and I would repurpose all of our gear and pack it into PVC pipe so that we could save valuable weight and pack space." When Weimer's own children began going camping, he realized that his homemade multi-tool could be a real business. He says the supply chain and manufacturing process was the most challenging part of the endeavor, especially as the 70-plus tools in the adventure kit are custom made and sourced from various manufacturers around the globe.

Weimer says they're able to fit so many tools in the handle by focusing on smaller versions of what he says are "priorities of survival," like multi-purpose tape (for trail marking or first aid) measuring 12 inches instead of the more-common 20 inches. However, he was able to find some smaller parts that required no modification, like the tiny P-38 can opener, first developed as part of the U.S. military's standard issue in WWII. While building the kit, Weimer tested various materials, styles, and shapes for the tools to ensure they'd fit in the flashlight handle while still being easily accessible and large enough to be useful.

The Adventure Kit launched in 2014 and comes in a standard size, with 70 pieces of gear, or a mini version, housing essentials like a compass and fire-starting kit. Buyers can also build their own kits.

According to Weimer, they've had significant growth every year, selling 1,478 units in 2014, 8,200 units in 2016, 19,430 units in 2017, and 32,320 units in 2018; an average increase of more than 300% annually. Weimer says that the company's next focus is on partnerships, as they plan to announce automotive-focused developments later in 2019. In terms of sports gear, he says there are no other camping goods he has his eye on revamping in the near future – unless it fits in the adventure kit, that is.

Biodegradable Grill:

Designed for campers who enjoy outdoor cooking but dislike the prep and clean-up process of traditional camp cooking, the CasusGrill is a portable and biodegradable single-use grill. The cardboard grill is lined with lava stone, which Maher Hakim, 55, CasusGrill's U.S. distributor, says does an excellent job of trapping heat. "Expanded perlite (lava stone) acts as a first-class thermal insulator," he says, "which allows us to separate the high temperature of the charcoal from its cardboard exterior." Their donut-shaped, bamboo sawdust charcoal sits directly on top of the lava stone and has no open flame, which Hakim thinks results in better-tasting food as it avoids charring. Once the charcoal has reached optimum heat, users have about an hour of cooking time before the grill will begin to cool down and weaken. CasusGrill doesn't require propane, comes with a bamboo grilling rack, and breaks down in a compost pile in about six months.

The grill was introduced in the U.S. in 2018 and sells for around $15-$19, depending on location. It's sold online and in lifestyle and outdoor retailers like World Market and Ace Hardware. They've sold more than 50,000 grills in the last year and have seen a growth of more than 12% month-over-month. According to Hakim, much of their sales have come from affordable marketing tools available to small-business owners, like social media ads and email campaigns.

The grill was designed in Denmark by Carsten Nygaard Brøgger who, along with his wife, spent nearly three years on development. Brøgger says that he tested various materials like wood, plants, and stones to create a grill that would be both practical and eco-friendly. "I wanted to use nature's own building blocks and to minimize the use of raw materials," he says. "And create a grill based on Scandinavian and Nordic design."

Read the full article in Forbes.