2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on

Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine –

Green Guide Exclusive Online Materials

Information on 19 more "green" companies and an interview with Big Agnes's Bill Gamber

by: The Backpacker Editors

PAGE 1 2 3

It Ain't Easy Being Green
Big Agnes's Bill Gamber on the challenges of creating eco-friendly gear.

For some gear makers, living green is more than a PR effort. Take Bill Gamber, president of Big Agnes. For years, he and his wife lived in a 500-square-foot, solar cabin off the grid outside Steamboat Springs. That 'walk-the-talk' attitude permeates Big Agnes culture. This year they debuted the highest recycled-content sleeping bags and pads on the market. And the effort doesn't stop there.

"We look at every aspect of our business- travel, office, warehouse, and shipping-anywhere we're having a negative environmental impact, to see how we can do it better," Gamber explains. BA has always purchased wind power from utilities, and by the time you read this, they'll be finished converting their offices to 100% solar, and starting on the warehouse.

Gamber's biggest challenge in making recycled sleeping bags and tents was simply that suppliers didn't make light enough fabrics and fills. "Our 99% recycled bags are warm, solidly performing synthetics," he says, "but when we tried to make ultralight models, down-leak proof RC (recycled content) fabrics still weren't available. The technology exists, but suppliers just haven't had the demand. Now that's changing fast."

For insulation, Big Agnes turned to Climashield Green last year, but it lacked the performance the company expects, and it was only 40% to 60% recycled. Gamber said, "Look, we need a performance product with at least 80% recycled content." Climashield delivered with a new 100% recycled, higher-performance version of Climashield Green.Gamber believes recycled materials are currently the way to sustainability, rather than organically grown materials. "About 99% of all plastic ever manufactured is still in its original form," he says. "A crazy percentage of plastic bottles aren't recycled, so let's create a demand for that. Right now, growing bamboo or hemp to replace all this existing material isn't the best answer, considering the land use and fertilizers."

Similarly, Gamber sees down bags as greener than synthetics. "Down is a byproduct of food production. They don't raise geese for down," he explains. "There's plenty of down availability given the size of the food market in Eastern Europe and China."

"But it's never simple," says Gamber. "We buy our higher-fill-power down from Hungary. It gets shipped to the U.S., washed and processed here, then sent to China, put into a sleeping bag, then shipped back to the U.S. So the product can be as green as you want, but if you're shipping stuff all over the world, that's not so green. It's one of our big concerns, and we're not sure how we can improve that–at least not yet."

PAGE 1 2 3

Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Address 1:
Address 2:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -


Your rating:
Your Name:


My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Coopers Rock, West Virginia (8/30/2014)
Posted On: Sep 02, 2014
Submitted By: hikingFF77
Trailhead Register
Posted On: Sep 02, 2014
Submitted By: hikingFF77

View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions