Outdoor Innovation Through Crowdfunding

Seiji Ishii

Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are hotbeds for independent innovation; unencumbered by marketing departments or stockholders, developers are free to launch wild ideas into a community that is receptive. Some currently successful outdoor products owe their rise to stardom to crowdfunding platforms, while others fail to reach their funding goal, and wither away.

I will occasionally peruse these campaigns and highlight the ones that I feel have merit, are fascinating, or just plain wacky here on Upventur. These products may be the start of an equipment revolution, or they may sputter out to the status of campfire jokes. Or maybe, they will inspire you to tinker during your next outdoor adventure.

Help Get 100,000 Kids Climbing: TOMS and So iLL Collaboration


Professional climber Kevin Jorgenson, of Dawn Wall fame, is spearheading a non-profit called 1Climb. 1Climb’s manifesto is to provide kids the opportunity to try climbing by funding construction of climbing walls inside of Boys & Girls clubs in the United States.

Famously charitable lifestyle brand TOMS and edgy climbing brand So iLL are partnering to help fund 1Climb through a collection of climbing related products on Indiegogo. Perks start at $39 with rewards of campaign specific, color-matched chalk bags, casual shoes and high-performance climbing shoes. Between 25% to 50% of contributed funds will funnel into 1Climb.

The 1Climb / TOMS / So iLL campaign has surpassed its funding goal by over 250% and as of this writing, seems to have growing momentum that will carry through until the end date of September 14th.

Why Didn’t We Think of That: The Air Pack


Ultralight rucksacks or “summit packs” usually have zero suspension and padding, serving primarily as a way to carry a smaller portion of the main backpack’s load. In an urban travel setting, these simple packs can live compressed in your suitcase, to be furled out for light duty use. The lack of comfort and support is an understood compromise for the low weight and minimal space requirements.

The 33 liter, 300 gram Air Pack adds an air inflatable back panel and shoulder straps, adding stability and comfort without a lot of weight or loss of compressibility.  When inflated, the back panel and shoulder straps look and function similar to camping air mattresses Air mattresses can puncture in the field, and carrying that logic to the Air Pack is a legitimate cause for concern. But the Air Pack can be repaired just like an air mattress and carries a lifetime warranty. What is odd is the availability waterproof and non-waterproof versions of the Air Pack. Although not designed for heavy-duty, backcountry use, for urban adventures and day hikes, the use of air for both weight distribution and cushioning seems like an ingenious solution.

And the public concurs; the Air Pack campaign has three weeks remaining, the $15,000 funding goal has been eclipsed, with committed pledges sitting at $105,000 at the time of writing. Also, at the time of writing, pledges starting at $79 will include an Air Pack.

The Long Shot: Tent+ Raft = Traft


Packrafting is enjoying a rise in popularity; the ability to carry a fully capable boat in a backpack is opening up distance and terrain that before was impossible. But adding even lightweight pack rafts is a substantial increase in weight to dry land carries. Enter the Traft. Combining a tent with a pack raft logically could eliminate some weight and bulk. Traft claims that their raft, tent, and sleeping pad weigh under twelve pounds.

The tent portion of the Traft can be deployed on the raft for water or land use, and can also be fully detached. The campaign is offering two sizes of one-person Trafts and an “Extreme” version (claimed to handle class IV and V rapids) of each that adds a storage compartment and knee straps.

The campaign also highlights a carbon fiber enhanced fabric, unleashed if the Traft hits an incredibly lofty fundraising goal of $425,000.

Traft needs a Hail Mary to make a go; they have less than a month left in the campaign and still have $47,000 to go. At the time of writing, pledges starting at $770 will include a full Traft.

The Proven Concept: Zenbivy Light Bed


A year ago, the Zenbivy Bed hybrid sleeping bag launched on Kickstarter, the unique two-piece design introducing a system that allows a wide range of temperature adjustment and movement while sleeping. The Zenbivy Bed anchors a sleeping pad to a cover and mummy hood, and different configurations of the top quilt transform the system on a continuum from mummy bag to free quilt. Side sleepers, restless sleepers an those looking for the one-bag quiver have hailed the Zenbivy Bed as a savior.

Zenbivy returns to crowdfunding, this time on Indiegogo, and with the Light Bed. As the name suggests, this is a 20% lighter version with the same EN Limit rating of 23°F as the original bed, in the three-season version. A three-season + version will also be available, with a 10°F EN Limit rating. The claimed weight is one pound, thirteen ounces for the three season, two pounds, 6 ounces for the three+, with much of the weight loss stemming from a zipperless design (which also expands quilt attachment options) and a slightly higher fill power water resistant down.

The Zenbivy Light Bed campaign will go live on Indiegogo on September 13th, with bed pricing set at $359.