/ Makes of gear that are unavailable in the UK?
used to get very nice gear in amsterdam that was unavailable in the UK :)
There's a few snazzy Trango bits of kit that aren't CE stamped so you can't get them over here.
Not a whole lot of call for Big Bro's this side of the pond though...
Is Montbell available in the UK?
I like the look of Eddie Bauer stuff.
I understand that there are a few good independent importers.
I saw Big Bros in a shop in Germany last week, so they must be CE-rated.
(At the opposite end of the crack width scale ...) I haven't seen Fixe Aliens in shops or advertised anywhere in Europe, although iirc Fixe are a Spanish company?
I've one of their light down jackets - awesome and far cheaper than the patagucci down sweater!
Wild Climb shoes - made in Romania, can get them in Italy much cheaper than the big brand names but they're very good shoes.
But Salewa has been available in the UK for decades...
some big companys have distinct localized ranges not available elsewhere (TNF, arcteryx, karrimor, mammut, marmot, la sportiva etc).
otherwise, not sure whats on uk shelves, but ive never heard mention of these brands over there (but i could be wrong in many/all cases):
lots of small US ultralight brands like 6 moons, z lite & UB
can you get Clif bars?
Yep, all those.
I have a custom modified one of these: http://www.zpacks.com/backpacks/zero.shtml which was reasonably priced and looks like being great for certain things (so far only used for testing).
I've spent much of the past few days in gear shops in London and elsewhere, having a good look around and trying things. Bit disappointed really. There is some good gear available in the UK, but you really have to dig to find it as much of the shop stock is dross. The market and product here seems really calcified and overpriced for what it is. I know there are exceptions, but I'm referring to the bulk of the product in the main shops.
Others that would appeal to UK outdoors people?
http://www.mountaindesigns.com/ (half is rubbish, a selection is excellent)
Given the high price-points here for gear made in China I can't believe there are not more small UK companies making forward-looking gear (ie. not Aiguille) like in the US with Cilogear, Z, FF etc.
z-packs, thats the one. on shelves here and look very interesting, certainly interesting materials. not badly priced too.
be interested to hear how you find it after tested. always happy to support the small, radical companies putting quality above quantity.
how is ushba these days? cant believe they do a spectre-type thing and call it a sphicter.
> I like the look of Eddie Bauer stuff.
I've got two or three EB First Ascent pieces. While I don't like all their stuff (some awful colour combos) and am not wild about their 'Guides As Gods' mentality, the fact is they have some really high quality, well thought out gear. If you get it on sale it's some of the best value clothing available. The Igniter Primaloft synth parka shows what an overpriced, mis-shapen bag the DAS or Puff jackets are. Likewise the BC200 hardshell is lighter, better cut and just as effective as many shells twice the price. The Peak XV exped down jacket was a bargain too.
National markets are still oddly rather 'national' and whilst you can rely on people buying your stuff because of your nationality as much as anything else it must limit innovation.
In Finland the big brand is Halti, and they've tried in the past but I don't think they've ever sold much beyond here. It's interesting how companies look different in different markets too. Haglöfs have done very well in UK shaping themselves as a top end niche brand, whilst in Scandinavia you can buy there stuff in highstreet sport shops as well. they do these windstopper jackets which are a bit shite but incredibly popular for some reason, and then these super heavy green jackets and knee high boots for the hunting/hiking crowd.
There are some Eastern European brands that make good stuff at sensible prices that don't seem to have broken into western markets much. There is a Czech brand Warm Peace that makes decent stuff at good prices, just happens one Finnish shop chain imports them, so I see them locally here.
its worth mentioning that the Uk is considered a 'conservative' market, maybe not in prime users, but as an economic thing.
a combination of a relatively small user market (compared to the US, japan and shengen), relatively limited topographical use (its not that cold nor that hot, distances are short, no altitude, little skiing etc) and that its already stitched up with well defended brands like berghaus, dmm, ME etc.
its no secret that the Uk market is limited in its colour and design demands too - something that affects both ends of the production sector, being hard to cater to in regards to material quantities and manufacturing runs (the Uk is hard to provide to without making it a primary focus, which makes little sense when larger markets exist, unless you are a Uk standard, when even they have had issues, ie karrimor and berghaus).
its not uncommon for a Uk market spec to go something like 'we want the lightest, most efficient, packable and useable, hi-tech stuff available - so long as its in royal blue and black and looks like ME gear from the 90s so it sells...'.
when bigger markets demand radical colours, patterns and designs to go with their vanguard materials and construction - in x10 the volume, its hard for eotic foreign producers to fill shelf space.
Uk conditions dont help much either, and brand allegience only adds to it. theres an admirable loyalty to Uk brands based on consumers believing no other company can make gear that copes with Uk conditions (even when they are from the PacNW, NZ and scandinavia...). that sort of marketing is hard to beat, especially when its backed up with top-shelf producers like rab and montane.
I love my BC-200 jacket (I'm on my second, the first became too big when I inexplicably shrank after taking up cycling and running).
Whitaker Mountaineering will ship to the UK, but it's expensive unless they have sale on.
Shame we can't get MEC gear in the UK as what I saw in Canada looked pretty good.
It would be interesting to know the actual market sizes because the UK is clearly a huge market compared to say even all the Nordic countries combined. Plus there is a bigger differentiation in the UK in shops between "outdoor" and "sports", and then there is "walking" as a market sector which thinking about it doesn't really exist in Finland. Of course people go for walks, but will just wear the shell suits (yes, really! :), you have to be a "hiker" before you start buying special clothing.
Every time I'm in the UK it is noticeable that people out for a stroll on local footpaths just in the countryside (not the hilly areas/national parks) are likely to be wearing a fleece and maybe 'walking trousers' rather than just jeans or tracksuit, and they'll probably have a shell jacket of some type too. Compare that to what a superstore like Decathlon sells as "hiking" gear (they seem to use that as I would 'walking' and then "trekking" is their more serious outdoor gear); clearly designed for sunny continental weather.
I would love to know though whether the colour conservatism in the UK is actually a demand phenomenon or a supply one!
I've had a few MEC things and they've been very good for the money, but their business model is obviously what makes them interesting. I guess with their own brand stuff they are also skipping a level allowing both the prices to be lower for the same profit level. REI is a coop to I think.
Didn't someone try setting up a outdoor coop in the UK a few years back? I wonder what happened to it.
When I was working for a Canadian company and getting out there regularly, I always got MEC own branded stuff. At least to start with they went for no frills and high quality. I still don't feel tempted to replace my thermal tops (in practical light grey) or faced fleece (I guess a soft shell of sorts in modern parlance) after 15+ years of pretty steady use.
I did notice their stuff starting to get a bit fancy on my later trips with prices hiked to match but that was maybe 8 years ago - they might have gone back to basics since.
I was after a Patty R1 recently, and some guy on here sold me a MEC hooded grid-backed thumb-looped fleece.
I compared it to my berghaus smoulder, and the lord said, it was good.
I only paid him £20 for it, and I though, what a stitch? Then I checked the MEC website, they're only like $40 new.
Goddamn I'd like to see MEC stuff in the UK at exchange-rate prics.
> It would be interesting to know the actual market sizes because the UK is clearly a huge market compared to say even all the Nordic countries combined.
Whilst I see your point, I imagine it would be fairly balanced given the popularity of outdoor activities in the Nordic countries.
Like you, it also strikes me as odd that the 'big'/popular Scandinavian brands, (Haglofs, Norrøna, Aclima, Halti, Klattermusen, Bergans, Houdini, Fjallraven, Helsport, Devold, Woolpower, Varg, Alfa etc..) which are all off the shelf, generic, relatively uninventive products, that are now marketed as being super high end/quality in the UK outdoor market and even moreso when it comes to the tanto swinging, bush-craft Ray Grylls types!
> Like you, it also strikes me as odd that the 'big'/popular Scandinavian brands, (Haglofs, Norrøna, Aclima, Halti, Klattermusen, Bergans, Houdini, Fjallraven, Helsport, Devold, Woolpower, Varg, Alfa etc..) which are all off the shelf, generic, relatively uninventive products,
I've always heard you Nordic types say this, which is nice, but...
- Haglofs shell jackets (Spitz etc) have been ahead of the curve for years now, in fabric and design
- plus their cut is better suited to climbers than the Patagonia Pear/Rab Flab shape so popular here
- Norrona variety and quality leaves UK brands for dead
- Bergans have better polar gear than any UK brand
I've had lots of MEC over the years, bought on climbing trips and online from Australia. I've always loved it, though as usual some things better than others and they're usually good value, at least. They're usually a year behind the major brands in tech/design/colour but that's no bad thing.
As for the supply / demand issue of UK colours, I guess you'd have to ask someone in a shop. I'd like to think it was nasty slow gear companies dudding the chirpy Brits out of nice bright colours, but I suspect, looking around the streets and pubs etc, that the penchant for wearing semi-technical gear for everyday activity drives the wave of black/navy/green spread across the land.
Ultralightoutdoorgear.com do plenty of different U.S. / Japan brand stuff. I've got a couple of granite gear packs, an outdoor pacific inflatable mat, an easton tent and a couple of other bits and pieces off them. All excellent and worth the gamble on something you don't see in Cotswold. Tempted to a get a couple of Montbell jackets maybe later this year.
Another vote for MEC, but also G3 - Genuine Guide Gear. Is that over here anywhere ?
I agree, Haglöf makes great stuff, but for obvious reasons you only see the funky modern stuff in the UK. Actually, having a quick look at their website they seem to have stopped doing the green 'n' heavy hiking/hunting stuff altogether. Perhaps the Swedes have all moved on to lighter stuff too, although people still trek in lapland with wellingtons and external frame rucksacks.
RAB Flab?! For me RAB is too skinny across chest/shoulders in medium on non-stretch fabrics, but large is then too long on arms/body. Haglöfs is a better, broader fit on chest and shoulders from my experience.
Norrona makes great stuff but very expensive.
Stands to reason I guess. I've notice Fjallraven are advertising in the UK magazines with their cotton+wax stuff. It's interesting whether that will get any traction in the UK. Might be great stuff but sort of goes against everything we learn from scouts/DofE onwards on synthetic superiority.
Lots of those I don't know or know little about, so I suspect they are actually quite small companies.
Likewise with the Rab, last few things I've tried on felt fine fitting everywhere expect they felt like they would rip across the back/shoulders if I moved too much.
> I've always heard you Nordic types say this, which is nice, but...
Whilst generic/ off the the shelf and uninventive is a massive generalisation of the overall gear given its readiness of availability here and the way its marketed in the UK. I will not lie, there are some absolute gems amongst it. E.g. the Norrøna Trollveggen range, some of the alpine/climbing specific Haglofs gear and I would commit near murder to get my hands on a Bergans M05 for field use! But, I also have almost nothing good to say about UK designed gear!
I'd say I was average build though, so they must have lost a fair few people with their fit. It does seem wildly variable dependent on the item though. I tried on a softshell the other day and the medium was huge everywhere on me, and I usually take a a medium or sometimes a large in most things.
By Rab Flab I meant around the waist. Around the shoulders/back, yes, they are tight, but the waist is relatively wide, though the sleeves are long. Ugh. Whereas Haglofs is wider across the shoulders and narrower in the waist.
And yes, there is variance between lines. I tried a Rab VR Lite pullover on the other day and it fit very well. Other Rab, not so much. I'm a 47" chest with a 34" waist. Arcteryx has also become bad for different fits between lines, despite noting their own categorisations for fits.
have a look: http://www.houdinisportswear.com/en/
the UL thing is massive in japan - any freak gear trend from the US is, especially ones as anally retentive as the UL scene. theres a couple of UL specialist shops in tokyo that have cult status (where z-packs, cilo, montane etc are big business).
montbell is so big here its like kmart (they are also the importers of wild country, jetboil, camelbak and lots of others) having huge shops selling mountains of gear ranging from 8000m stuff to kayaking and tenkara (remote, rope access fishing). their sleeping bags get a lot of attention, as do their proprietry fabrics that give pertex, gore, polartec a run for their money.
horrible colours tho - very middle aged, tho maybe export stuff is a bit better.
let me know if you want any beta on gear, theres a big shop near where i work.
japan has all sorts of weird, small volume companies that turn out bizarre stuff. in particular is Mizo, who make strange ice tools and suicidal hardware for aid climbing.
> Lots of those I don't know or know little about, so I suspect they are actually quite small companies.
Or they're a small market share where you live? Could be difficult to tell which I suppose.
Wild Roses - great women's gear, but very patchy imports to UK (not sure if there's a current importer or not).
Ibex merino - again, has been the odd UK distributer at times. Probably less of a market for them now merino's more widely available.
Tried google but I couldn't find them.
> Another vote for MEC, but also G3 - Genuine Guide Gear. Is that over here anywhere ?
Telemark Pyrenees stock G3 skis, bindings, etc as do Vieux Campeur in Paris & elsewhere, does no one in the UK stock their stuff ?
Decathlon have sold Salewa stuff for a while.
A journey through Technique Extreme is an eye opener into the world of exotic gear.
Millet, french outdoor clothing make.
Very distrusting at first because I think subconsciously I associated it with Millets (the utterly crap UK camping shop).
However, after receiving a present of a Millet lighweight pertex jacket I am now absolutely sold on Millet as a brand, its super quality stuff.
I since found out they are the clothing provider to the Chamonix Guides Company and they sponsor the brillant Lyon climbing wall.
Getting the full range of clothing from the likes of Marmot, Millet and the like would be a bonus.
A few years back in the Dolomites we spent a wet afternoon wandering round some shops, one of which was, I think, a Marmot outlet. Some of the clothing was great, but I've never seen much of it in the UK (seen Marmot stuff, just a very limited selection).
I suspect that a lot of the clothes we can't get in the UK are down to restrictive licensing by the fabric manuafturers (Gore, Malden and Schoeller) that "protect margins in developed markets" eg we get gouged while they subsidise market share in growing/ more competitive markets.
It costs an absolute fortune on import though, even with a sale
Millet make excellent kit, but I can rarely find it anywhere which is a real pity as the shape and design is bang on.
Haglofs kit is also superb, but we unfortunately only see a fraction of their line in stock over here.
Rab do make excellent kit, but I often have to size up in order to get my shoulders in and comfortable - which is a pity.
Yeh, I reckon Swazi would go down a treat in Scotland. Might make the deer nervous though ;-)
Macpac have had their rucsacs in the UK now for years, but not their clothing or other stuff. Their sleeping bags are very good, though not cheap. Their clothing is hit and miss but some of it is very good http://www.macpac.com.au/mens/jackets
Unfortunately this last new generation they mucked up the cut and it fits almost no one. They went for an athletic and articulated cut in some garments, which would have been great, but no one could work out just who it was articulated for. They had a couple of really nice garments ruined by poor design in terms of the cut.
I spoke with staff in three shops and they admitted they just couldn't sell it. As of a couple of weeks ago it was all heavily reduced sale price.
Wild Roses gear! I remember reading about them and wondering if they'd gone bust.
Wonder if Outside or Needle Sports would sell them if enough people asked if they had them in stock?
I've got copies of High from 1990 with Fjallraven adverts
and Ajungilak - not seen them for a long time.
Mountain Spirit in Aviemore have some.
No wonder... Mammut bought them years ago, and now some stuff they sell was/id branded Mammut by Ajungilak or somethign like that.
Montura is also missin' from the lists.
Ta- wondered where they went.
Probably everything is owned by Addidas Salomon
Can you get Dana Designs over here?
I'm not sure if you can at the mo', but some of the backpacking specialist shops bring in some different US (and other brands). These folks do Granite Gear and Golite for example http://www.ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk/home.html I've bought a couple of things from them and thought they were very good, fair prices and quick delivery.
Yeah, brands come and go. I don't know if it is still the same but when I worked in an independent shop in the 90s, loads of non-UK brands would be represented by an agent. If the agent got on well with the shop manager or did a brand the shop liked, you might get other less known brands as well. The shop where I worked sold lots of Stubai ice axes and crampons but we tried some other brands because they were repped by the same agent. I was a proud owner of one of the first Camelbaks in the UK (I was told) for that reason!
I have a pair of Icebug runners, obtained when I was working in Sweden last year, they have integrated metal studs on the soles so they are rather funky for making progress on non-steep icy ground, and have some kind of waterproof liner.
Don't wear them in your house though or you may require new carpets.
Unfortunately, the conservative colours is not just a UK thing. When I worked in an independent climbing shop in Sweden, we tried to stock items in bright colours, but they just wouldn't sell. A common question was something like:
Oh, that a nice, colourful jacket. Got it in black?
The bottom line is, you have to stock what sells, rather than what you would like to sell. The hardcore climber market is actually quite small, so you have to cater to the rich dentists to stay in business.
Lots of pairs of Icebugs on sale this morning in my local Intersport. I was in looking for a new pair of XC poles having broken one on Saturday, but they seem to have cleared most of their stock. We're getting -15 every night, there is fresh snow on top of a meter of base everywhere, ice on the pavements where the snow piles melt in the sun then it freezes, and the sports shops are getting rid of all their winter gear! :-/
> I suspect that a lot of the clothes we can't get in the UK are down to restrictive licensing by the fabric manuafturers (Gore, Malden and Schoeller) that "protect margins in developed markets" eg we get gouged while they subsidise market share in growing/ more competitive markets.
i work with this element a lot and thats part of it - different places have different local and regional licensing.
but much is also simply down to extensive market research and the risk of selling quantities that may not be worth it.
consider that most fabrics from gore, polartec, pertex etc come in minimum volume of +20,000m which equates to about 10,000 jackets or trousers - in a single colour...
maybe 10 climbers in scotland would like orange and magenta salopettes - but when most dont, especially in a design thats less popular (salopettes), its a difficult equation unless the company already has the market secured.
sometimes the reason obscure foreign companies are not found markets like the UK is that its not viable to enter them due to the expense of changing design specs, sizings and the materials used. like anything, its always on top of direct research.
ternua and monture from europe are good examples - they make a lot of body-hugging stuff in odd fabrics that whilst big around the alps isnt popular amongst brits.
likewise with textiles; some of the well known fabrics come in dozens of variations, but local markets are only receptive to a selection (ie buffalo doesnt sell elsewhere any more than some of the new polartec stuff does in the UK).
then theres the market research itself - as gear-nerdy as climbers thing they are, getting decent feedback from the sector as a whole is like squeezing blood from a stone. maybe the top 10% know what they want, but most consumers of the gear in question dont (often because they are not the intended market).
its a hard equation when many users want what leo houlding wore in the asgard project, even tho that stuff is expensive and specialized and most users will never really need it. the cost of shelf space doesnt add up.
and then yet another factor is that for many prime producers of both materials and products, climbers/trekkers etc are just not that big a sector in either demand or influence. 100 climbers wanting the latest baselayers at $150 each is one thing - 10,000 marines wanting it in a format that bypasses the retail factor is another. plus its all in the one colour!
like coffee, cars, heroin or womens shoes, climbing gear is just traded goods, subject to the same financial elements. to get exotic quality there needs to be both demand and security, and if those who want it dont put their hands up the providers wont move on it. when a jacket costs $500 its a mistake too expensive for many to risk (even if its a $700 jacket offset on the costs by flogging t-shirts and baseball caps to yobbos).
That wasn't a rant, it was helpful and informative. You're clearly out of place here and will get banned shortly.
Are there not mid-level resellers who would sell my cottage company, say 2000 or even 200 mtrs of pertex if that's what I want? Or is the branding/licensing so important those companies won't work like this? If not, I guess that's why there are companies knitting or weaving fabrics that are almost identical to the branded ones.
I remember a couple of years back I reviewed some ME baselayer salopettes, and there was some confusion over whether they were Powerstretch (as in Polartec) or something from an Italian knitter called "Power Fleece", I think they had to source an alternative material due to supply issues and it looked basically identical stuff, but perhaps people actually notice if something doesn't have the Polartec label on it.
> Are there not mid-level resellers who would sell my cottage company, say 2000 or even 200 mtrs of pertex if that's what I want? Or is the branding/licensing so important those companies won't work like this? If not, I guess that's why there are companies knitting or weaving fabrics that are almost identical to the branded ones.
what then comes into play is the manufacturing; the factories have interests in larger orders (ie by the 10s of 1000s so they minimize resetting staff and machinery), so the lots of 1000 garments are not attractive.
consider too, it takes a specialized manufacturer to churn out high spec gear (with seam taping, stitchcounts, panelling etc).
licensing brings with it quality control (gore is famous for what goes with the license to use its textiles), so whilst its possible to copy/develop ones own stuff, or buy outright the design, it becomes variable.
at a base level, big suppliers employ small R&D companies to do the chemistry that they then procure and slap a name on. its worth noting tho that many of our favourite fabrics are all owned by the same multi-nats, and that more than one well known gear company is actually owned by a group associated with an entire different industry, just to be a vehicle for other products (we wont mention names).
in the end - its just clothing - neither the simplest nor the most sophisticated out there. and beyond that, its all owned by companies making profits.
... and if you do a couple of trips with them, they give (gave ?) you a jacket/long-sleeve zip-up top made by those folks. It is superb: light, warm and hard-wearing.
With those measurements, I might suggest that you're at the extreme end of an anthropometric bell curve, loosely marked 'wedge-shaped superhero'. As such, I'm not surprised you have trouble finding clothes that fit you perfectly...
Generally speaking, I think the UK is missing out on products range. Even the brands that do enter the UK market are often only partially represented. This is at least the perception coming from the continent.
Well you know, for years (I'm guessing in the 70s and 80s?) one of the most popular karabiners in the UK was made by Bonaiti. This is now Kong-Bonaiti. Were they two separate companies at that time, or have they always beenKong-Bonaiti?
I've seen Kong stuff for sale in Decathlon.
> Well you know, for years (I'm guessing in the 70s and 80s?) one of the most popular karabiners in the UK was made by Bonaiti. This is now Kong-Bonaiti. Were they two separate companies at that time, or have they always beenKong-Bonaiti?
I didn't know, I wasn't in the UK in the 70s/80s... I would either not have been born yet or be a little too young to worry about climbing gear. Yes, they only changed their name after a restructuring I suppose. Not sure why. Kong is and has always been owned by the Bonaiti family.
Not only that, Jon, but as one of the larger karabiner manufacturers they will almost certainly make them for other companies; there have for many years been far more "brands" of karabiner than actual manufacturers. So when you buy a krab from a european brand that you generally associate with some other core product - a rope manufacturer, for instance (no pun intended!) - it's quite possible that it will have actually been made by a company like Kong or, just down the road from your summer residence, Contat Frères.
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