My left hand rail now has a list of gear manufacturers whose stuff I’ve used. Look, if you had my social life you’d need something to fill your time, too. So here’s a quick look at the ones listed:
Black Diamond — I snow-camped with the Winter Bivvy and the MegaMid tent. Both worked fine.
Brasslite — A cool little alcohol stove from a boutique manufacturer. A little tricky to figure out and a little pricey compared to a Pepsi-can stove, but it comes ready-made and if you have a question, just ask the guy who built it.
Columbia — I have a pair of their basic nylon hiking pants that wear like iron. Super light, super comfy. Worth having.
Ex Officio — I have a pair of shorts picked up with my REI refund and pants purchased on deep discount. Both are way overbuilt with mesh liners and sewn-in buckles I don’t need, so I don’t end up using them much. They are rather stylish, though.
GoLite — I own the Hut 2 floorless shelter, which is mega-spacious for solo camping. Weighs half as much as my other backpacking tent, so it’s always tempting to take along.
Gregory — The G Pack is an excellent weekender — light, comfy, not laden with bells and whistles.
Integral Designs — My Shortie Gaiters have gotten a ton of miles, and my 5×7 Siltarp is handy to have in the daypack just in case; camping under it is a handy reminder of the virtues of tents with bathtub floors.
Leki — My Super Makalu’s are sturdy and reliable. I’ve even bent them back into shape after a couple tree-tangled stumbles. About the priciest poles on the market. Worth every penny.
Marmot — My Pounder Plus synthetic sleeping bag is fine in the spring and fall, though its 25-degree rating is a bit optimistic. My Precip rain jacket is stylish as all get-out but it’s about as “breathable” a Hefty bag, though not nearly as waterproof.
MontBell — The ThermaWrap jacket at 9 ounces is lighter than a fleece insulating layer, with about the same warmth. Best to find it on sale, otherwise it’s a bit too pricey.
Montane — The LightSpeed jacket is an excellent wind-stopping layer, and the pod it stuffs into looks like a mini-beachball that’s quite the conversation piece.
Montrail — Makers of rock-solid trail runners that last and last under the lighter load of hiking. They have the best fit any running-style shoes I’ve owned.
MSR — Pocket Rocket canister stove is reliable and lightweight, though disposing of the canister is problematic. The Titan Kettle is super handy for backpacking meals.
Outdoor Research — I own a couple of their hats. The Seattle Sombrero is a bit too warm for California — I always sweat up a storm in mine — but I have a shade-hat variant that’s light and comfy.
Thermarest — ProLite 3 backpacking pad has just enough inflation to avoid wrenching your back, but you pay for it in extra weight. Inflatable Sit Pad is one of my favorite day-hiking accessories.
Thorlo — Hard-core hiking socks. Expensive but long-lasting.
Wigwam — Their CoolMax hiking socks are my favorites.
Vasque — Venerable boot-makers. I adored my Vasque Clarions (pictured at top left) — yeah, they were heavy, but they were great boots. Alas, the ankle padding in on one of them wore out and made them too uncomfortable to hike in, so I need a new pair.
Boutique and specialty manufacturers often build better stuff at competitive prices, which gives you the excuse to go through and replace all your brand-name built-in-China stuff with no-name built-in-somebody’s garage stuff. Hey, as long as you’ve to someplace to put it all and you can keep your significant other from setting fire to it all, more power to ya.