The climbing world is very small. Climb for even a few years and it’s likely that on a trip to the crag, you’ll know someone.
At the same time, the scene is growing exponentially every day. It seems there is a new climbing gym sprouting up weekly, there’s some new child phenom that’s ‘breaking all the climbing records’, and another bouldering guidebook is published. There are now enough climbers in the Northeast to support an excellent region specific climbing mag: Climberism.
All of these climbers need GEAR. Great gear that performs and adds value to their climbing experience. Since necessity is the mother of invention, where there’s a need, someone will fill it. Some dirtbag thought that Spanish sticky rubber would be better than climbing in tennis shoes, and BLAMMO, and $250 billion/year1 rock climbing shoe industry was born. It's the cycle of innovation. Someone comes up with an idea and it’s the greatest thing for a while (i.e. the Lowe Cam), until the next idea that revolutionizes climbing bumps it out (i.e the Friend), until the next thing, and so on. Standing on the shoulders of the past, we have BD Cams, for now... Today’s top of the line idea become yesterday’s news.
The Lowe Cam, WC Friends, BD Cams. Source: The Nuts Museum
What is different about the outdoor industry from other major consumer outlets is that it’s recreation. It’s not necessary for survival and people are slow to acquire the latest invention that they perhaps don't intrinsically need. As such, competition between gear manufacturers can be a fierce and ugly business. People get extremely attached to their ideas, and will defend them, even if it makes them act irrationally.
Recently, we at Furnace Industries were contacted by one of our competitors. Rather than engage in civil discourse, this contact was made via Facebook, where there is no personal accountability. This person proceeded to make inflammatory public comments on several posts on our FB page.
When we first saw the infructuous phrases, we were reminded of a Zen story called Is that So? In the story the Zen master Hakuin is faced with some ups and downs, none of which were the result of anything he did. Through the oscillating events his repeated response is, "Is that so?" The point being that we cannot control what happens, we can only do our greatest good, accept people for who they are, and let things unfold with kindness.
We initially responded to the first comment, but quickly realized this was not this was going to be a valuable endeavor. While the FB comments continued, we got to talking about a more productive topic: Is competition good for the Outdoor Industry? And in particular, is competition among products in the climbing world a good thing?
Perhaps competition isn’t good for the climbing industry. Some folks take it as a personal insult when someone improves on an idea that they believe is theirs and theirs alone. Egos are hurt, reputations are tarnished, and a milieu of negativity washes over our happy little pastime. Who want’s that? Climbing is supposed to be fun, right?
Of course, the above paragraph is complete and utter crapola. The answer undoubtedly is: YES! Competition is good! Because without competition and the cycle of innovation therein we would not have awesome gear like Petzl Nomics, BD X4 Camalots, Five Ten M16 Sticky Rubber, Grivel G20 crampons, or 8.7mm Dynamic Ropes! This is even more true outside the outdoor industry where without a healthy capitalist marketplace we wouldn't have things like smartphones, low-flow showerheads, artificial hearts, epoxy surfboards, airbags, flat screen TVs, LED lights, or Macbook Airs...
What drives all this progress is the desire to innovate. After a company produces a product to the best of its abilites, that same company or perhaps another looks at the product from a different angle, revises the idea, and makes it better.
So if the moment comes that there is a new solution to indoor ice and mixed climbing training, we will say, "Is that so?" Till then, Furnace Industries will continue to innovate, test, reinvent, and produce DRY ICE Tools, the best indoor ice and mixed climbing trainging tools on the market.
1: Totally made up statistc.