Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

Interview: Josh Leavitt From Ruta Locura

It really is a pleasure for me to announce further interviews with cottage manufacturers. Josh Leavitt makes the start, and while his company Ruta Locura is a new name on the UL cottage scene, he has been a part of it for many years as he was working at Titanium Goat with his father. Ruta Locura produces topnotch UL gear made of carbon and titanium, and a few innovative multiuse items were developed here. Enjoy!

Josh, please briefly introduce yourself and tell us who you are. Since when are you backpacking, and how did you start?
I live in Ogden, Utah where I was born and raised. I moved away from here ~5 years ago, but have since returned. I'm 33 years old and married. My wife and I have a 2 year old daughter, and a son that is due in Feb. I grew up hiking and backpacking, at the edge of Ogden, with access into thousands of acres of forest service land just a short walk across the street. Growing up my father was a rock climber, and was with Mountain search and rescue for many years. He was also a backpacker. I did my first overnight trip with him when I was 7. He carried a home built pack, and I had a modified sleeping bag he built for me. I've been backpacking ever since.

How often are you out hiking and camping nowadays?
I've been hiking 3-6 times a week since the first of the year, with a few weeks off. I have unfortunately only been out for a few nights this year.

Are you more of a "weekend hiker" or do you have some long distance trails under your belt?
"Weekend hiker", 100 miles is the longest trip I've done.

Are you into any of the other activities, which lightweight backpackers often seem to practice, like climbing, packrafting, mountain biking or fly-fishing?
I don't climb anymore, unless my brother picks the route. Vertical is the only way he can keep up ;-) I have not been on a bike in years, and we sold the rafts many years ago also. But I go fly fishing when I have the oppurtunity, and we like to take the canoe out on occasion also.

Which category would you put yourself in: SUL, UL, or Lightweight? What is your typical baseweight?
It depends on the trip, but typically lightweight. 20-25 lbs loads for 2-4 day trips has been the norm since I started packing light.

Please tell us where the name "Ruta Locura" came from, and what it stands for.
Ruta Locura is Spanish for Crazy Route. It's the actual name of a route, a caption for the company logo, and an all around state of mind.

Ruta Locura was born just a few months ago, you having previously been working together with your dad at Titanium Goat. Now you carried over some of the TiGoat products and started Ruta Locura. Can you tell us how the idea to start the company emerged and how you see its future?
I don't know that it was so much an idea to start the company, as just what happened. I "blew up" and left TiGoat, over differences in opinion. My father, and TiGoat's employees would not have been able to keep up with what TiGoat does and the products that Ruta Locura produces. So it was suggested that I take those products and form a new company, rather than let them disappear. So given the option of a 9-5, or starting a new company with some limited stock and nothing else, I chose the "Crazy Route".

Can you tell us a bit how you went about the design process of the Clarkii tenkara rod, and where the inspiration came from?
Early on we had a short fly rod with reel that attached to the AGPs. This consisted of a telescoping rod that inserted into the upper shaft where the lower shaft would go, and a reel that attached at the handle end. This made for a short(~5') fly rod. While I thoroughly enjoyed the rig, after seeing a Tenkara rod, the light bulb just clicked. I contacted Daniel at Tenkara USA, and he provided me with a rod, and it just fell into place. So really a big thanks to Daniel.

Josh, we love to be let in on the work-in-progress stuff! Can you let us know what kind of new products you're working on at the moment?
The current project is just getting organized and grounded. I have my basement torn apart, rewiring and sheetrocking, to provide a shipping and recieving area, storage, and an office. Once the dust has settled some, I'll be focused on a line of titanium hardware(starting with D rings, and going from there), a backpack, and some three piece trekking poles.

What is the Ruta Locura Besteller?
Yana Poles.

Any new UL materials that have you all excited?
Not yet, but I'm working on it.

How works the R&D at Ruta Locura, do you have a need yourself that you try to fix, or do some of your clients inspire you for new products and ask you for solutions to their problems?
Lately it has been my work for other companies, coming up with solutions for them, that has occupied my R&D time.

Where do your customer come from?
~80% of them are from the US and Canada, while ~20% are from abroad.

Are you in touch with other cottage manufacturers in the USA, Europe, Japan, and other places?
Yes, but I wont embarress any of them ;-)

What is your favorite backpack, sleep system and shelter?
For packs I keep going back to my ULA Curcuit and sometimes my Catalyst. For sleep, I love my TiGoat/ The Stateless Society, Cyanocitta. But I'm sure that will change when I get my new quilt from Javan. As for a shelter, it is a TiGoat Ptarmigan bivy, and an Oware cuben tarp.

Any other favourite piece of gear which you always carry with you?
My Black Rock beanie.

When and where was your last backpacking trip?
July of this year my brother and I did a short trip into Utah's Monte Cristo Range to chase Cutthoat Trout.

Are you planning to get out for a trip soon, and enjoy the autumn season?
I am currently preparing for a 5 day trip to Montana's Absoroka-Beartooth wilderness. Where I will be attending Ryan Jordan's Ultralight backpacking Boot Camp.

Do you think ultralight backpacking will become more popular and break into the mass market, or will it continue to be something for a small group of people?
In many ways it has already broke into the mass market, if not at least the concept. And for sure as a marketing ploy.

Josh, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions =)