We are officially flattered.
One of our favorite brands, Six Moon Designs, did a dealer profile on us. The following piece not only makes us blush, but also does a good job of explaining our belief in ultralight.
Specializing in carrying cottage-industry lightweight gear brands, the Mountain Shop in Portland, Oregon has carved a niche out of the competitive outdoor retail industry in the Pacific Northwest. The specialization that started 77 years ago with founders Everett and Ida Darr selling their custom made sleeping bags, the Nestle Down Hike Sleeper, along with custom-made backpacks and climbing equipment, now continues with brands like Six Moon Designs, Feathered Friends, and Hyperlite Mountain Gear.
“Our bestselling brands are always the smaller companies that make the light-weight equipment,” said Steve Korpi, the Mountain Shop’s hardgoods buyer. “We’ve carried Six Moon Designs for about 15 years. We carried them when it was a fringe thing, and now it is our dominant brand.”
Korpi should know, he has been with the Mountain Shop since 1998 and has seen the evolution of the ultralight gear philosophy grow from nonexistence to mainstream. “When I started working here over 15 years ago light-weight was rarely an aspect that people were looking at,” he explained. “The words you would hear a lot were “bomber” and “storm-proof” and even Ray Jardine mentioned in his book about that era that the gear was made to survive the worst possible weather.”
Years later when light-weight products were introduced to the market it was so far from the mainstream it was a “fringe element” in the outdoor industry. “It took a special person to use gear that [would require] more care and fits in a lightweight pack. Years ago the pendulum swung to the Ray Jardine style, to the absolute minimum,” Korpi explained.
“Recently it swung more to the middle where average people were looking for more lightweight options, and today there has been a mainstreaming of lightweight. [One year] the idea of a tent that sets up with trekking poles was something only the small-cottage industry brands made, and the next year it’s something that just about every brand has.”
He explained with many of the major outdoor and backpacking brands coming out with light-weight gear, that it has been less of a struggle to get the “hike light” message across to the Mountain Shop’s customers. “I’m not having to convince somebody. The proof is there. The vast amount of tents and tarps we sell are Six Moon Designs.”
“Six Moon Designs’ gear is also going more mainstream where it’s gotten away from the ultralight to the reasonably light,” Korpi said. The new generation packs, specifically the Fusion series, were designed to carry large loads in a light pack, making the backpack more attractive to those not hiking ultra-light.
“Everyone is meeting in the middle…While our store carries all these lightweight companies who gear themselves towards the PCT hiker or those doing extraordinary things, realistically the vast majority of our customers are folks who will go out for the weekend.”
“We can sell the new packs to someone who has never heard of Six Moon Designs before. [Those customers are] the bread and butter of our business, and they now know by going lightweight they are able to maximize the enjoyment and go further. It’s almost more important for folks going out for the weekend to maximize the time out there.”
Guy Trombley, general manager of the Mountain Shop commented, “We love the Six Moon Design products because the customers return from using them telling story after story about how the clever design, lightweight, fit, function and being an Oregon company all made the decision easy for them to carry and use.”
Because Six Moon Designs does not have a storefront at their Beaverton, Oregon address, owner Ron Moak likes to call the Mountain Shop the “showroom”.
“Ron is here because he knows he doesn’t have to worry about anyone they send to our shop. We know the product and can answer all their questions because our employees use the products,” Korpi said.
A new rental program at the Mountain Shop has been in place just a few weeks, providing customers a chance to demo Six Moon Designs’ gear including several tents and the Fusion 65 pack. The rental fee can then be deducted from the cost of the product should they decide to buy.
“Users of Six Moon Design products become believers in the brand and trust the company to continue to put gear on the trail that does the job so well they return to add another piece to their personal ultralight collection,” Trombley said.
The Mountian Shop’s relationship with Six Moon Designs and other light weight gear companies is a unique one. By specializing in the smaller brands, they have become experts on the gear and ambassadors of the ultralight principles. Next time you are in Portland, make a trip to the Mountain Shop, try on a pack, crawl in a tarp, and find the perfect piece of gear for your upcoming adventure.Tags: backpacking, Backpacks, camping, Feathered Friends, gear review, Hyperlite Mountain Gear, Mountain Shop, MtShopPDX, Six Moon Designs, tarps, ultra-light, ultra-light gear, ultralight