Category Archives: Gear

Interview: Ryan Frayne from Windcatcher Gear

 

A Conversation in the Woods

I recently caught up with Ryan Frayne, Co-Founder of Windcatcher gear, and inventor of their flagship product, the Windcatcher Air Pad.

He was nice enough to answer some questions for your reading pleasure.

AWitW: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. Can you tell the readers a bit about the inspiration and background of the company, and the Windcatcher Air Pad?

Ryan: The story behind how I identified the need for a better inflation system can be found here:

http://www.windcatchergear.com/pages/about-us

After discovering the need, I started to do a lot or research and trial-and-error prototyping. During that research, I stumbled upon the phenomenon of entrainment, which is the scientific principle the invention is based around.

AWitW: Who are your main adopters? How has the reception been so far?

Ryan: Our adopters vary from campers to home bodies that want to use the pad to lay around the house or as a quick guest bed. We’ve also found that several people bought the Windcatcher just because they’ve never seen anything like and just want to try it for themselves.

The reception has been amazing. I think the problem of having to inflate an air pad or other inflatable is something many people can relate with, so the general reaction we get is “why has no one else invented this before”.

AWitW: Do you have any interesting testing/development stories you can share with us?

Ryan: I think our Kickstarter campaign was interesting. Mainly because it looked like we were doomed. I wrote a blog post about it here.

AWitW: Many outdoor enthusiasts develop strong opinions about their sleeping systems that go beyond the specs. There are, of course, other products that are lighter, smaller, warmer, or cheaper (of course, no one system has all of these attributes). How do you feel you compare with them?

Ryan: Other air pads compete within the competitive factors that you mentioned. But I think we’re in an entirely different space. People buy our pad because they want to take it camping but also want to use it at the park, or to power nap at work, or to crash at a friend’s house. Other pads are just to inconvenient to both inflate and deflate for anyone to consider using them for activities that many only last 15 minutes. The Windcatcher’s speed really opens up whole new opportunities not possible with conventional inflatables.

AWitW: You mention on your Kickstarter page that you hope that this approach will inspire entirely new lines of products.

Ryan: The inflatable tent is something that a lot of companies have tried to bring to the market. I think with the Windcatcher, the idea of an inflatable tent is much more feasible. I’d love to see other companies or individuals use the Windcatcher tech to bring new ideas to life.

AWitW: What are the next steps for you as a company?

Ryan: Fulfilling our Kickstarter orders and obligations are still our top priority. Without them we wouldn’t have a company and I’d still be working at a job I hate.

Beyond that, we’re currently in talks with a number of companies about licensing the Windcatcher technology to use in their products.

AWitW: Do you have any closing comments?

Ryan: If you’ve got an idea for a consumer product and you’ve been thinking about doing a Kickstarter, just do it!
Do a lot of research and don’t half-ass it. Kickstarter projects are far from easy. But they’re the best way to launch a product that I know of.

 

AWitW: Again, a big thank you to Ryan for taking the time out of your schedule. Best of luck to you, and Windcatcher Gear.

Windcatcher Gear’s official site can be found at windcatchergear.com, where you can see more photos, instructional videos, and, of course, find out how to get your own Windcatcher Air Pad.


ribz-in-the-wild

Gear Review: Ribz Front Pack — Land

Ribz Front Pack

It was 28°C (83°F), and the humidity was up. My back had been a little bit off of true for the last year (sneeze-and-your-knees-might-give-out sort of pain), and while I had been looking forward to a nice wilderness hike, I dreaded the consequences should my health and fitness not meet my needs on the trail. By past standards, it was a relatively easy hike of less than ten kilometres (6.2 miles) a day, but it would be my first real exertion since my previous trip, in November. With my back and the broken terrain in mind, I packed quite lightly, and was looking forward to testing a new piece of kit that seemed quite appropriate — the Ribz Front Pack from Ribzwear.

Read the full review

Mountain Equipment Co-Op and the Merlin DF Sleeping Bag

Merlin Sleeping Bag

 

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) — one of my favourite outdoor stores — is selling a sleeping bag on clearance, and it’s a good opportunity to tell you about both the product and the store. They’re selling this bag as a “Second-quality” product, and the reality is anything but. The original designation listed this as a -3ºC (26ºF) bag. Due to comments about its effectiveness, they re-labelled it as +3ºC (37ºF), but MEC has always been good about erring on the side of the cautious, so even with the new labelling, they’re selling off their stock at a lower price.

Read the full story

Happy Trails

I occasionally wonder if I talk too much about the woods. I probably do, but that doesn’t deter me in the least. It warms my heart to see evidence of that sort of passion elsewhere, too, and makes me feel less like a deviant.

I’d like to share a recent example of just this type of thing.

I have two friends that have recently become backcountry hiking partners. They’ve both taken quite readily to the outdoors, and are as passionate as I am when it comes to hiking and canoeing and, if it can be believed, gear. One of them recently got married, and the other was a groomsman at his wedding.

I submit, for your pleasure and perusal, his wedding toast:

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New Ray Mears pack on the horizon?

Looks like there’s a new pack in the works [update: The pack is now available for purchase. If you know of anybody who has tried it out, please don't hesitate to add your thoughts to the comments below]. It may be a bit on the pricy side, but some might not mind paying that much for a pack, if it delivers on its promise, and can last them a lifetime. I expect no less from any quality tool, and a pack is just as crucial a tool for your comfort, organization, and mobility in the woods.

Whether it lives up to the hype remains to be seen, since past Ray Mears products have seemed a tad silly (like the ~$50 luggage tag, or the ~$100 belt). I don’t doubt that the products are good quality, but the premium pricing seems to bank only on the celebrity name association, while not bringing any extra value to the table.

By the description of this pack, however, there seems to be promise. I’d be very interested to see this pack in action.

Details:

  • Total volume: 90 litres
  • Volume of main compartment: 58 litres
  • Volume of side pockets: 10 litres each
  • Weight: 1.8 kg
  • Fabric: Waterproof 1,000 denier Cordura Nylon
  • Colour: Olive Drab
  • A bespoke item, produced in small numbers
  • Designed by Ray Mears
  • Exclusive to Woodlore
  • Made in Great Britain

Features:

  • Large main compartment with PU Nylon snow valance and drawcord closure
  • Spacious lid with elastic trim and buckle closures
  • 2 x fixed side pockets with buckle closures
  • External front pocket with lockable zip closure
  • External, slim-profile pocket on lid with lockable zip closure
  • Concealed, slim-profile pocket on underside of lid with zip closure
  • Drain holes fitted in the main compartment and side pockets
  • Heavy-duty YKK zips used throughout
  • Contoured and padded shoulder straps with adjustable top-tension buckles
  • Adjustable chest strap
  • Adjustable, heavy-duty waist strap with extended padding on hip area
  • Lightweight internal metal frame, housed in fabric sleeves
  • Breathable and padded mesh-lined back panel, for improved comfort and air flow
  • Sturdy grab handle
  • 2 x full-length internal storage sleeves on back lining, perfect for SAM splints (not included)
  • Velcro loops for tidying away excess shoulder strap webbing
  • Embroidered Ray Mears Bushcraft logo on front pocket

 

See the full product page and details on the official Ray Mears site.