As you may have guessed we like products that tread off the beaten path, this is evident in our reviews of handmade balms, unusual equipment like the Trango Big Brother and boutique items with a bit of thought behind them such as the Base Cubic Road Trip chalk bucket.
Personally I find the smaller manufacturers take more time to develop something that will be of use rather than something that will just sell. For instance the chalk buckets, just a big bag to lug loose chalk around in? Yes, but if you add a collar for keeping the chalk in the bag and not just one but three roomy pockets you have something functional and that’s actually so useful it works.
I’ve been keeping an eye on Base Cubic for a while now and I have to say having used their gear and Base Cubic being a relative new comer to the industry, I was so impressed I bought more kit for my own use. Big name brands tend to swamp the climbing/bouldering scene more out of fashion than choice and most climbing centre shops are heavily subsidised or ran by big brands. So what does it take to strike out on a different path in this competitive world of climbing equipment manufacturing? I caught up with David Cross of Base Cubic to find out:
Chris: So, who works at Base Cubic?
David: Base Cubic is currently a one man band, I design and make, then get feedback from the friends I boulder with, all are committed grassroots boulderers, as well as other boulderers we meet along the way. I am indebted to my sponsored climbers, Keith Barnes, Jamie Pembroke, Matt Reid and Andrew Shapland, to name a few, their input has been invaluable and their histories extend back to 20 years of stone play.
Chris: That’s quite a line up you have there, what about your own back ground. How did you get onboard the climbing scene?
David: I started climbing in the early 1990’s and soon quit doing routes and zoned in on bouldering. This hasn’t changed. I was drawn, from the age of 15 to surfing and the hippy/outdoor life style, this obviously included experimenting with drugs. As cool as surfing is, it was bouldering that replaced the artificial highs, fully capturing my imagination, and for sure saved me from potential oblivion and possibly jail. Bouldering offered more than just “something to do” it gave me a reason to be. For many people bouldering is beyond the moniker of mere sport, it’s an extension of who we are and where we are going.
Chris: Where do you test run your gear indoors or outdoors, is it just one place?
David: We all have favourite locations, Keith loves Font’, Jamie and Matt the grit, I’m an Aran fan, while Andrew will embrace anything that’s Welsh. Our regular, local training ground is the High Balls of the Forest of Dean, the secret circuits of the Cotswolds, (a little known treasure), and the resin when it’s raining.
Chris: What made you want to start making your own climbing gear?
David: The main reason for starting BaseCubic was simply that I had/have some new product ideas and felt that a bouldering specific brand would fill a gap in the market place, and offer something different for the devoted boulderer.
Chris: What do you think Base Cubic can offer that other Brands don’t or wont’?
David: I realised that bouldering equipment is nothing more than an add on for the big companies, who seem to offer little in the way of evolution. Bouldering heads ever closer to the situation you have in the Surf Industry, a few big players dictating what to wear, what to use, where to go, etc, this cloning is based on the rules of mass production and the demise of individual identity, it ensures their grasp on the industry and buries originality.
Chris: I like that ethos, tell me a bit about the products Base Cubic supply. What’s the deal with the Base Cubic mats?
David: Along with chalk bags and guide books, the main area of development for Base Cubic has been crash mats. This has been a long and expensive road to follow, original inspiration came from simply not being impressed with the product that is offered by the existing brands. After a hard, back-first landing, that lead to a painful retreat home and many days off, I started thinking about, and discussing, alternative ways of making mats. I approached Europe’s leading foam engineers and showed them a “top brand” mat. They laughed, a lot, they simply could not believe what passed as a crash mat. I explained my aim, a “multi staged damping unit”, this raised a few eyebrows, but they agreed that something close to that aim could be possible.
Chris: So Base Cubic has a better idea?
David: My main concern with existing mats is that they are predominately made to soak up feet first landings and yet it doesn’t take much to bottom them out. As for body first landings, a lot of luck is required to get up and walk away. Little has changed and now it seems that pretty much all mats are built the same way, there is nothing in the way of evolution in design, it seems that all the money is spent on the amount of pockets on offer. The choice has been reduced to what designer name you want to lug around. Until the big brands are forced to change the landing zone will remain the same.
Chris: So how is the progress so far?
David: The main issue with development has been and still is the cost. You can only blag so much free stuff and as is typical in the UK, the big players are chasing million pound contracts. This goes a long way to explaining why they and small start ups go bust. There is little room for prototyping these days. The second issue is committing to harsh deck outs – on purpose. It was decided early on that this would have to happen naturally and of course, it did. Gradually, with intelligent input and negative remarks, the foam layers were and still are to some extent, being worked out. We are very close now to revolutionising the way we land and that peace of mind transfers to the way we boulder. Progression then, is a two way street.
Since I last spoke to David, Base Cubic has added more products to their line up. Currently there are more flavours of Road Trip and Unica bags, some pretty sweet looking tees and quality campus rungs to build you in to a bouldering monster.
I currently roll with the Road Trip bucket on tow at all times I’ve had quite a few chalk bags and stuck with this one due to the sheer amount of crap I can stick in it and it holds mountains of chalk compared to other bags. You will often see me in TCA Glasgow and GCC with these bright yellow bags with Base Cubic emblazoned on them. Hit me up if you see me to check them out.
More importantly! The Base Cubic crew have informed us that the long awaited 1st run mats will be coming out soon so keep your eyes peeled for that!
Follow what’s happening at Base Cubic and buy their gear at the Base Cubic website.