1. You make tents, sleeping bags, and packs. What’s your day-to-day job like?
I always say, I make toys—and solve problems. People aren’t seeking sufferfests anymore. My daughter wanted a lightweight tent large enough for everyone to play games. The concept morphed into the Mantis 4P tent, with a sloped roof for ample social space.
2. What’s the design process look like?
I throw out an idea to the design team like, “Let’s build a roomier bag that’s more like sleeping at home in your bed,” and then we’ll sketch out some solutions. We’ll turn the best designs into full-scale prototypes. You have to see it in person to know if it’s going to work or not.
3. How do you make a tent that stands up to the weather?
First we find the right fabric. Sun will deteriorate a flysheet faster than rain; it can turn it brittle. The tent’s pole structure also needs to be strong enough. I used to live in Scotland, where the rain doesn’t just fall straight down—it’s horizontal. We blast prototypes with “rain” in our test facility and look at all the different ways rain might get in. Then we test the tents ourselves, in real conditions.
4. What makes the perfect tent?
It’s easy to make a product for gearheads and designers, but those aren’t the products consumers want and need. They want intuitive products that function really well and are elegant in their simplicity. As designers, we can never get anything perfect but I think our new Tungsten UL 2P tent gets close. There’s a lot of space in that tent and it couldn’t be easier to set it up.
5. You spend a lot of time hanging out with your repairs department. What’s the one piece of advice you can offer readers to make their gear last longer?
Don’t leave your gear in the hot trunk of your car, and don’t store your sleeping bags in their stuff sacks. Heat destroys a tent’s waterproof coating. And, when a sleeping bag can’t breathe, it turns into a flat bag that’s not very warm anymore. They’re fatal mistakes.
6. What’s your personal Holy Grail of gear design, the one where you can retire happily once you achieve it?
For the last 25 years, we’ve based tent design around an aluminum pole structure. I want to figure out how we can move away from that classic, tensioned pole. I’m sure it’s a pretty obvious solution. I just don’t know what it is yet. It’s problems like these that make gear design really fun.
7. What have you learned from Marmot’s returns & repair department?
I’ve become very good friends with the warranty department. They give us instantaneous feedback when new gear hits the market. We don’t always catch the little details that might be a nuisance.
Stay dry in the wettest conditions with Marmot’s EVODry – rainwear reinvented at the molecular level. www.marmot.com