The Long-Awaited Manufacturing Update
Hello Patient Backers!
It's been over two months since we have sent out an update and for that we'd like to apologize. It's been even longer since we've commented on our efforts toward manufacturing the Alpine Hammock. Before we get into those details, we have had some exciting updates to our personal lives: Ryan just crushed a First Ascent of a 5000m peak in Kyrgyzstan and Mike quit his busy day job and is working on Alpine Hammock full-time. We are making moves in our personal and professional lives so we can better bring the Alpine Hammock to life. Also, we just had manufacturing samples made that we demoed at Outdoor Retailer, the world's largest tradeshow for outdoor companies. The shelter was very well received from retailers, designers, and athletes alike. The only recurring question was "When can we get one?"
Now, what everyone has been waiting for... an update on manufacturing.
In January, we had our Kickstarter prototypes shipped out to 12 gear-testers from 12 different states. Compared to our estimated delivery timeline this was two months delayed, mostly due to miscommunications between us and the custom gear shop we were working with to produce the prototypes. This delay taught us that our manufacturing directions needed to be more explicit and that agreements should be done in writing with very clear deliverables and timelines. Lesson learned.
Our testers hailed from the Bahamas, to Texas, to New Hampshire, to Afghanistan and beyond. After compiling their feedback in January/February, we realized that our shelter needed significant upgrades in the ability to shed water (testers experienced water pooling on the rainfly), weight reduction (close to 3lbs packed trail weight instead of the 2lbs we were shooting for) and overall breathability (testers cited the shelter as too claustrophobic). Ultimately, this feedback meant that our product was not as market-ready as we had previously anticipated. Here is a picture of one of our Gear Testers during a Ragnar 200-mile relay race in New England:
As engineers, designers and end users, we couldn't in good conscience produce a product that fell below so many of our gear tester's expectations. So, the early part of 2013 saw a creative and complete redesign of our entire hammock. It took several tries to get the new features figured out but what we came away with is a far superior product that is lighter, more comfortable, easier to use, and more weatherproof overall. We could have immediately started producing our early prototype but we think you will be much more inclined to love and take this product with you on your future adventures as a result of the improvements we took the time to make.
The new design is so different that we amended our patent application to capture more of our unique features and innovations. The biggest changes from the original alpine hammock include the addition of adjustable cross vents in the head and foot ends to promote airflow across the body of the user, a tailored rain fly to more efficiently shed water, and more effective waterproof zippers. We are proud to say that all of this was accomplished while reducing the overall weight by almost 1lb.
Once we made our design improvements, we developed samples with an experienced gear manufacturer in North Carolina. These samples were a chance for us to work out any manufacturing and design kinks as we move into production in August. This portion took about twice as long as we expected because we were in conversations with multiple manufacturing companies. We didn't do a great job at factoring in that these companies have their own lead-times and deadlines with other customers. It would be weeks before they could start on our shelters so we had to get in line.
With our design set and three factory demos that look and work great, we ordered materials for our Kickstarter Alpine Hammocks this week! We will be doing batch shipments every week starting the first week of September (it will take a few weeks for our fabrics to arrive). Shipments will be sent out in the order that the pledges came into Kickstarter (i.e. our earliest backers will get first dibs). We'll send you a personal email with a shipment tracking number so you'll know when to expect your own Alpine Hammock in the mail.
The design will be the same as the pictures above but the rainfly color will be a Forest Green HyVent material instead of a Mint Green GORE-TEX Paclite. Every designer we talked to at Outdoor Retailer recommended moving away from GORE-TEX to either HyVent or eVent because GORE-TEX is hard to acquire and it is a bit antiquated compared to more modern waterproof-breathable fabrics.
It has been almost exactly one year since friends, family, and supporters helped us succeed on Kickstarter. Since then we have robustly tested our design in the field, made user-recommended design changes, and found a quality manufacturing partner in the United States. We never like missing deadlines, especially those with our friends, families and supporters. However, the delays were a necessary biproduct of creating a shelter that will hopefully exceed expectations.
Here is a short chronology of our design phase from the beginning:
June 2012 --> Bed Sheet Concept Prototype:
August 2012 --> An unrefined but usable version for testing in the field (no vents or tapered rainfly):
December 2012 --> An improved version of our original prototype for gear testers from Kickstarter:
April 2013 --> incorporation of gear tester feedback with venting and a tapered rainfly:
July 2013 --> Production Design:
To see photos and specs of our production version of the alpine hammock, check out our website. For more frequent and discreet updates from the Alpine Hammock team, please Like us on Facebook and/or follow us on Twitter.
With sincere thanks for all of your patience and support,
Ryan Stolp and Mike Brown