My journey began years ago when I was out in the wilderness alone one night and I had an epic gear failure. EPIC.
(and this isn’t one of those great stories where I was able to fix the problem with a paper clip and twine either).
I was still back in the dark ages of tent camping and was in desperate need of a good night’s rest after a long(very long), day on the trail.
I chose the flattest spot available and set up camp in the dark.
I brought my gear into the vestibule with me, so we both would be “safe” from the elements.
I fluffed my extra, slightly damp clothing to use as a pillow, burrowed down into my sleeping bag, and drifted off to sleep.
Soon I was dreaming of floating down the river in my kayak when I woke up to the distressing feeling of wet pants.
Now, that’s happened a couple of times in my life (...when I was 7) but this time was especially memorable.
I was wet from my ankles to my elbows.
My sleepy muddled brain finally figured out what happened when I turned over and felt the movement of water beneath me.
The entire tent had 3 inches of water in the bottom of it courtesy of the so-called ‘bathtub’ floor (it was a bathtub alright).
Thanks to my slow leak pad, I was lounging right in the middle of it all, the only thing I was missing was my rubber ducky and soap-on-a-rope.
Now I’m no Les Stroud, but I consider myself an experienced outdoorsman. Even still I had managed to set up in the middle of a wash the night prior.
There was no drying off, everything was soaked inside and out.
As a mechanical engineer and a critical thinker since birth (so I've been told), my own mama would say I was put on this planet to problem solve.
Part of my DNA or something.
..and this …confirmed... was a problem for sure.
So I sat there thinking, while the rain poured down.
My gear was ruined.
My trip was ruined.
My faith in tent camping was ruined.
and I decided right then that there had to be a better way.
I was up sloshing out of camp before day break, miserable, but also with a burning spark in my mind.
In hindsight, this was a defining moment in my life.
I knew that if I was struggling this much out here - chances are there are others who suffer the same sorts of fate in the outdoors as well.
After an absurdly uncomfortable hike in chafing wet pants and blistering soggy boots, with heavy wet gear on my back, I arrive at my Cruiser, knowing that I never wanted to repeat that experience ever again.
.. and no matter what it took, I was convinced I never would.
I returned home, a man on a mission, and immediately started researching alternatives to tent camping.
I quickly learned about hammock camping, which certainly would solve my ‘sleeping in flood waters’ issue.
I pulled the trigger, bought a well known hammock/fly combo, took it to the woods and immediately found out what the phrase “fiddle factor” in the hammock community means.
(insert video clip of bradleypulling out the rainfly with all the lines and having trouble hanging)
HYDE - footage on a harddrive at the office
Lines were everywhere. Twisted up like old headphones shoved to the back of the junk drawer.
The hanging techniques seemed to require a 10 page manual, holding your breath, and time standing still in order to set it up JUSSSST right against the wind and rain.
(bradley clip wrapped up in all the lines)
HYDE - footage on a harddrive at the office
I won’t go into depth about THAT trip now, but check out the whole story here (comfort blog).
Short story is this: I ended up getting soaked AGAIN because my fly was just 4 inches off center and my pack was ruined because it was left on the ground to fend for itself.
After trying a few different hammock systems off the market, I finally got fed up.
WHY is it just acceptable in the camping world that if a storm comes, you get rained out?
I started to get some wild ideas:
What if someone designed gear that offered actual protection from the elements?
Protection you could depend on, protection that left you laughing in the face of a storm rather than dreading it, enjoying downpours instead of avoiding them.
I wanted gear that was easy to use and completely defeats the possibility of “getting rained out”.
I refused to be miserable in the wild! It was just not acceptable to me anymore!
Obviously this magical gear would have to be completely different than anything available on the market.
Drawn up from a blank canvas.
Because the companies I was currently using.... apparently only camped on bluebird days.
I thought, If SOMEONE would just create what I could see so clearly in my head, we'd ALL BE SET FOR SUCCESS in the wild!
Well... huh... I thought.
What if that person was me?
I mean, I’ve spent the better part of my life in the wilderness and I’m an engineer for the Army Core of Engineers for goodness sakes! Building impenetrable structures is my forte!
The plans and ideas were already churning, I just had to dive in.
I bought a fifty dollar 1978 Sears & Roebuck sewing machine from a junk store and set it up in the corner of my old messy bachelor-pad bedroom.
I went to work, late into the night, every night, after getting home from my “real” job.
Soon the first rough prototypes were born! Birthed them right there in my ´college kid´ living room. lol.
It took over 50 tedious prototypes (and me crash-course learning to double-stitch) to FINALLY create a solution that merged the pros of tent and hammock camping, and annihilated the cons.
It all started with the Nubé Hammock Shelter -a floating tent that offers complete integrated protection from rain, wind, and insects with enough room inside for myself, another camper, AND a special storage for our packs, all suspended together in the air!
This incredible "Air Camping" craft would enable me and my pack to get up off the ground and thrive in the wild, regardless of the weather.
I had to be sure the Nubé was environmentally bullet proof. So we field tested this glorious beast of a shelter all over the world in the most dire of situations:
- The Monsoons of the Philippines
- The Jungles of Borneo
- Polar vortex in Montana
- Snowy nights in the Rockies
- Tropical storm in Puerto Rico
- The rainy season in the swampy bayou
- A 200 mile paddle trip through the everglades
- Backpacking across the AT
- Fending off absolutely atrocious insects in the rain forests of Central America.
- We sent it on fly fishing trips, and biological research trips, and medical trips into remote villages, canoe trips, kayak trips, climbing trips, biking trips, moto trips, the list goes on.
After every single trip we continued tweaking and fine-tuning the build and design, refusing to stop short of protection perfection.
Air camping in the Nube Hammock Shelter, or ‘air tent’, meant:
- no more rain outs
- no more bugs
- no more back pain
- no more muddy ruined gear on the ground or insect infected packs
- no more digging out a flat place to sleep
- or suffering through a deflating camp pad.
Just warmth, comfort, and complete undefeated protection.
Once all of those key elements aligned in the Nubé, I actually began to thoroughly enjoy sleeping in the wild.
And not the kind of “enjoy” where you’ve had fun, gotten some fresh air, and just can’t wait to get back to your bed.
The kind of enjoy where you come home and consider making your hammock your full-time bed at home!! (which, by the way, I actually did. lol)
The comfort and protection that this impenetrable fortress offered was too exciting and way too awesome to keep to myself.
So I made a promise that it would be my mission to meticulously design gear that would ensure others camping experiences became abundantly enhanced in the outdoors with Sierra Madre gear.
We added three innovative patented design pieces to our shelter systems to ensure you - and your gear have the best protection possible. (The patent tells you that these dynamic features cannot be found on any other tarps.)
- Our Closure Sleeves protect the most vulnerable spot on your hammock, the ends. They’re basically a waterproof jacket for your suspension. Tarps and rainflys have open or exposed ends, which really makes no sense from a full protection stand point if your really think about it.
- Our Integrated Gear Stash can store up to 200lbs of packs and extra gear and is designed to keep your gear easily accessible, protected, and off the ground.
- Our Skyhooks allow an easy set-up in nearly any situation, no need to perfectly center or hang at just the right angle to protect from sideways blowing rain like with a tarp. They also allow for max spaceship level space inside, no mesh sitting close to your body or fabric in your face.
Some people call us the Apple of the outdoors, rebels, innovators, trail-blazers, different, maybe even a bit odd, I take it as a compliment nonetheless. We’re driven to perfection, differentiation, and you might even call us obsessive. We'll take it!
Though we may be the younger pup in this large yet ancient industry, we’re here to make a statement, to shake things up, push the limits, raise the bar, and obliterate the norm one adventure at a time.
by Richard Rhett - Sierra Madre Founder/Owner