More than just a cup

I saw this odd product – the Montane Speed Cup – this morning, tucked away, like many interesting products, right at the bottom of the product stack.

When I started working in outdoor shops it was pre-internet, and so it was still the age of the catalogue, and so most shops have a filing cabinet full of them, both new and old.

Flicking through them, going back in time, you could often chart the lifespan of an idea, growing slowly, gaining confidence and consumer traction, and sometimes making it to the mainstream, but most often not.

I remember coming across an old Patagonia advert in their pre breathable shell, both their own brand breathable and later Gore, in which Chuninard wrote a long essay on why breathable fabrics are junk. In that catalogue, they instead pushed neoprene coated shells, as well as ‘foamback’ shells, an innovative idea that was bound to die.

Patagonia was good at having one or two wacky products a season, designed more as a statement of intent rather than a money maker. One that kept coming and going was the Ninja fleece, the mad idea - in the days of 100, 200 and 300 weight Polatech - of a thin hooded pullover with thumb loops etc. This product came and went over the years, but hung on due to being very popular with people who worked for Patagonia, and only achieved traction when it was matched up with R1 grid fleece, becoming the now-classic R1 hoody.

Looking through those old catalogues you’d see all sorts of odd gear, someone’s pet project, but most of it was bound to die, probably because although we’d like to think we’re in a niche business, that these companies make hardcore kit for hardcore people, really, they’ll all in the sausage business.

Back to the cup. What this cup is for, even though it’s not really explained in the bumf (maybe the copy editor didn’t get the memo or the genesis from the person who pushed for it), is not for having a cup of tea at races end, but for scooping up water while running (or walking), rather than having to dig into your water supplies (if you even have any). This technique has been around for a long time and I’ve even heard of people doing away with that ‘weighty cup’, and just using a small plastic bag (it’s easier to squeeze water into your gob from a bag, rather than a cup I guess?).

I suppose this cup idea, which here, has the advantages over a more classical outdoor carry cup clipped to your rucksack (such as the classic folding Swedish army cup), in that it’s flexible and can be stuffed in a pocket or running sack chest pocket), is very much in the same camp as the ‘alpine straw’. This piece of nifty high tech gear is no ordinary straw, but more a piece of flexible 6 mm pvc tube about 30 cm long, that is used to dip into cracks or behind rocks, and used - Daniel Plainview style - to drink the mountains milkshake (by milkshake I mean meltwater). Such a tube can be stowed away in your pocket, and will practice, can even be used to fill a water bottle (you can also use a shoelace - Bear Grylls style - but having a shoe sans lace is not ideal while on the Walker Spur).

The moral of the story is not really about cups or straws, but how far from the maddening crowd of products, all of which are pretty much the same, whoever you buy them from, there’s always a little corner where interesting gear remains, even if they’re only interesting to gear nerds like me.

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