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 =)

The Week in Review

I guess becoming a dad is a good reason for this one to be late, don't you think? If not, then the three weeks of paternity leave which I'm now on will be an adequate excuse.

Bicycle Travler Magazine.

Maple Lake.

Caribou Lake.

Hardanger Jokulen.

Natural tinder & Fire Steel.

Ultralight Makeover: Redux Pt. 4 - Change Your Bedding.

The Practical and Natural Simplicity of Backcountry Gear.

7 Lakes Basin.

The Joys Of Wildcamping.

Exuberance for Life.

The Last Day of Summer.

Road biking in the Helsinki Hinterland.

Old days Finnish Woodsmen gear.

Bare on Night Mountain.

Classic Haute Route, Days 7-8: Cabane FXB Panossière to Cabane des Dix.

Gear Spew.

Goat Rocks.

This isn’t a drill, we’re shooting to kill.

The Adventure of Maspie Den.

The Grey Corries Day 3: Highs and Lows.

Don't Let Winter Stop Your Ride.

Rab Cirrus Wind Top.

Rab Cirrus Wind Top

Windshirts are one of the epitome of lightweight & ultralight backpackers, though increasingly traditional outdoor folks start to see the benefits of a wind jacket. The Rab Cirrus Wind Top came out in 2010 and is made of Pertex Quantum 15D mini ripstop, has a full size zipper, two big mesh hand pockets and a hood, and after a few months of usage it is time to let you know how I like it.

Rab sent me the Cirrus Wind Top in May this year, and I've been sporting it since it during week-long expeditions, day trips, overnighters, mountain biking, travelling, working as a Guide, and in the city. So far no wear and tear on it, and I have used the jacket a lot when going grocery shopping (think 8+ kg of groceries being carried). Also some bushwacking was no problem for the jacket, so I think it will be going strong for many more months (hopefully years!). I reckon spring, summer and autumn are the optimal seasons for this garment, though I will try it out also in winter when skiing and snowshoeing.

Update 20.03.2012: I have now used it various times in winter for skiing, where it performed very well. I took it down in low double digits temperatures (max -15°C) on sunny days with some wind, and it was working very well in those conditions. In strong wind on cloudy, colder days I would prefer the extra warmth of a hardshell, too for spring skiing and mild midwinter days nothing speaks against saving some weight and using this windjacket.

A wind jacket should keep the wind out, and possibly a bit of rain. The Pertex material is fascinating, it is thin like baking paper yet it doesn't let any wind through, and even in a drizzle it is sufficient to keep you dry. If it rains a lot, the material is wetting through (or that is how it felt as I was wearing a T-Shirt under it). As Tampere is the "Windy City" of Finland a wind jacket is a useful garment in the wardrobe, and the Cirrus was very often the wind jacket of choice for any walk or trip. Small enough to fit in my pant's cargo pocket, it is easy to store, and you also can just turn one of the mesh pockets inside out and stuff the jacket in there. It is soft and comfortable on the skin, fine if you just wear a short sleeved shirt under it and need a light jacket to keep the wind out/ the bugs off. If you are only wearing a T-Shirt under your wind jacket though, you might get a little cold when the wind pushes the material against your skin. If it is warm & sunny, the material starts to feel a bit clammy in high exertion activities - best to pack it away then, and enjoy the warm weather!

An "Under the Helmet hood" which works very nice, the elasticized hood sits snug around your face and protects your ears and the rest of the head from wind. The two mesh handpockets are good - set a bit higher so you can wear it with a harness. The pockets are easy to open with one hand, even with a gloves on; super roomy, you can store plenty of stuff in them. The hem has a drawcord which works better than many drawcords in hems I have used, a pull with one hand is all that's needed. The hem stays about average time down - as usually, after some time it wanders up. The elasticated cuffs function well to keep the wind out of your arms and not make them look like monster sausage arms.The front zipper works smooth, though the slider is tiny and I would recommend adding a short piece of string to make it easier to pull up/ down with one hand. The zipper even has an internal storm flap and at the top on the inside there's a little piece of fleece for extra comfort against your chin or beard.

Technical Innovations
Possibly the usage of Pertex Quantum as a fabric material. Making a jacket with a full zipper and two hand pockets and a hood for 112 gram is quite a nice achievement, too.

The jacket is made in China, and the quality is topnotch. All seams are clean, there are minimal small ends of thread standing over at some seams, the zippers run smooth and the size is good. Minor bushwacking was no problem for the jacket, as was carrying 8+ kg of groceries in a backpack two to three times a week for four plus months.

The original weight of my Size S was 112 gram, though after taking out the labels and cutting of the buckle to roll up the hood I brought it down to 109 gram. Not bad at all considering all the features it sports.

Sustainability & Recyclablity
Rab addresses on it website sustainability issues, which is a step into the right direction. They invite their customers and interested parties to communicate with them via Email if they have questions, and the designers proclaim to work hard on finding ways of balancing longevity, sustainability and affordability. Digging a bit deeper (I haven't written them, might do that in the future) I fail to find information on possible Environmental Management Systems, working together with organizations which want to make the supply chain more sustainable (e.g. using recycled materials/ Cradle-to-Cradle thinking) or if they contribute to nature conservation organisations. However, Rab being a UK company, and the UK legislation requiring more and more such considerations, plus Rab itself needing the outdoors to continue to exist I am certain we will see more positive developments in that direction.

Being made of Pertex Quantum I checked the Pertex website, and sure enough they have a short blurb on Ecological considerations, proclaiming the usual stuff. Recycling wise I would probably try to sneak it into the Patagonia Common Threads programme at the end of its life, or before that pass it on to someone.

The Cirrus being made in China, I also would welcome some information on labour standards in the factories which produce the garments. I am certain Rab has very carefully chosen its suppliers in China (ensuring no child labour, fair wages, decent working hours, safe working environment, etc.), though for concerned consumers it might be worth to communicate these factors on the website.

Competing products
The Montane Lite-Speed jacket (Claimed 175 g/ Size L) is the Cirrus' closest rival, being also made of Pertex. The Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody (141 g/ Size S; own weight) is made of an other material, has no hand pockets but has a hood with a good visor. The Patagonia Houdini Jacket (Claimed 122 g/ unknown Size) is a fairly popular windjacket, and the Norrona bitihorn aero60 Jacket (Claimed 187 g/ unknown Size) is the newest kid on the full-zipper & hood windjacket market, and has speaking for it that it is made of recycled materials.

What others say
James has reviewed the Rab Cirrus Pull-on and found it a fine piece of kit, though it shows some wear and tear from the long use in the hills. Also Peter has had the Cirrus Pull-On for months on test and liked it.

A 109 gram full zip jacket which keeps the wind out and keeps you reasonably dry in a drizzle. I can wear it over two baselayers (like a thin hoody and a T-Shirt) and an insulation layer, though also just over a T-Shirt it is a good, tight fit. I love the orange colour, it certainly adds a nice touch to the outdoor wardrobe (which consist for me usually of black). I value it a lot, and during the summer I rarely packed anything else than the Cirrus and an umbrella to keep wind and rain at bay. If you're not yet a convert to wind jackets, then I recommend you check out the Rab Cirrus Wind Top and try it yourself.

More photos.

Where to get it
I found it at Webtogs for £54 and at Ultralight Outdoor Gear in the UK for £55. Other usual suspects don't seem to have it in stock at the moment.

Future Updates
- Info on winter use (Skiing)
- Additional photos (stuffed in its own pocket)