Hayden Garfield in his living room, now turned workshop, working on a batch of packs for Garage Grown Gear.
In six months, Hayden Garfield went from having an idea to start a gear company to making ultralight packs that are being tested across the Triple Crown Trails in the United States. What makes Neighborhood Packs different from other cottage gear makers? I sat down with Hayden to find out! We talked about family, pack features, technical fabrics, and the future for the fledgling brand.
Hayden is a family man first, always. Within just a few breaths of our conversation, he was already espousing the love for his young children, their big dog, and of course, his wife. Hayden seemed amazingly chipper for someone who had stayed up past midnight, making packs for his growing number of clients.
Having the pleasure of the whole Front Range open to him from his home in Colorado Springs, he takes full advantage. A self proclaimed weekend warrior, he’s spent years discovering the outdoors — and the likes and dislikes of his gear, the pros and cons of every pack’s features.
“Being ultralight can be very technical,” he said. It’s the engineer inside of him, after all.
After tinkering with some ultralight pack designs, Hayden took to Instagram in November of 2022, and began to take custom orders. It had only been mere months since he learned how to sew.
Each customer brought new ideas to the table, and with each pack, Hayden understood what he wanted to make under his new cottage backpacking brand, Neighborhood Packs. He began to key into features he liked. What worked, and what didn’t. He refined his technique.
The 30L Meadowlark Ultralight Pack, ready for adventure!
The family’s living room began to look more like a workshop over the course of winter. Panels of fabric that his wife helped to cut laid strewed across the floor. The Garfields never considered themselves TV watchers anyway.
These first custom packs are the very ones out on long trails right now. By all accounts, they’re performing spectacularly. Even if there was some sort of malfunction, Neighborhood Packs has a one year warranty on their gear.
Hayden considers himself a “left-brained” individual. Neighborhood Packs is the intersection of his love for the outdoors with his creative mechanical mind.
Features of the Meadowlark and Crestone Packs
The benefit of being relatively new to the ultralight backpacking gear scene is that you can try new things. Neighborhood Packs is a creative outlet after all, and you can see how the Meadowlark 30L and the Crestone 40L stand out from their peers.
The first thing you’ll notice about these packs, as they both have the same features, is that they have not two, but three external storage pockets. Of course, there is the nearly mandatory bottom pocket that most cottage companies have as an option on their packs. The front pocket is there too, and quite voluminous. But then there is a smaller front pocket near the bottom of the pack, and Hayden’s creative heart meeting his mechanical brain is in full display here.
“I had a pack that came with a bottom pocket, and like everyone else, I put my day’s food in it. When I went to take my break, I slumped my pack off and put it on the ground. When I went for a snack, all my food was crushed!” Hayden said.
As a lover of NutterButters and Cheez-Its, this statement touched my soul.
“So the bottom pocket is where I keep my rain gear, headlamp, gloves, etc. But the second front pocket is now where I keep my food. It even has a trash port!” Hayden added. “And now, you don’t have to stop to put on a beanie, or to eat a snack.”
Essentially, you can hike all day and never have to stop because the Crestone and Meadowlark give you access to the things you need throughout the day.
In my opinion, it’s this feature that makes the Meadowlark and Crestone the apex of ultralight packs for thru-hikers and section hikers alike.
Other features include: two straps situated underneath the pack, which let you attach bulky items to the bottom of your pack, like a CCF pad or a wet tent; thick and plush S-shaped shoulder straps, removable side compression straps, and your choice between standard nylon webbing or a padded hip belt. The standard belt has a comfort weight range between 18-22 pounds, and the padded belt a weight range of 22-27 pounds.
Hayden is also using the latest ultralight fabrics. For example, Challenge Sailcloth has only been making UltraGrid, the world’s first ripstop nylon made of recycled materials, for less than a year, but Hayden is already incorporating them into his packs. It outshines the older 210D DyneemaX in terms of weight (4.3oz/yd2 vs. 3.9oz/yd2), while also having the ability to be seam taped. The latter, being a feature he offers across the line of Neighborhood Packs.
Your second option, as far as pack materials, is EPX200, another Challenge Sailcloth fabric. In comparison to the popular Ultra 200, EPX is both slightly heavier (5.9oz/yd2 vs 3.5oz/yd2) and less abrasion resistant (500 cycles vs 4,000 cycles). However, it is one of the most affordable fabrics on the market. In fact, when compared to the seemingly trustworthy and robust Xpac variant VX07, it is both cheaper ($26 vs. $22) and more tear resistant (11.2 lbs vs. 26.7 lbs.).
Note: GGG stocks the 30L Meadowlark in UltraGrid only at this time.
These Meadowlark 30’s are ready to hit the trail over on Garage Grown Gear.
In the near term, Hayden wants to add more customization options you can add or subtract to Neighborhood Packs — such as shoulder strap pockets and hip-belt pouches.
Hayden’s favorite backpacking trip, by far, was the first one he did with his family, into the Holy Cross Wilderness. Being able to share his love for the outdoors with his family will remain a quintessential memory for the rest of his life.
With Neighborhood Packs, too, that’s what Hayden most enjoys — sharing his love of the outdoors through every ultralight pack he engineers and hand makes, ready to hit the trail!
Rafael is a freelance writer and adventurer based in the Mountain West. You can find him trail running, backpacking, or sampling the best tacos during his free time. Follow all his adventures over on Instagram, or read more of his work over on his website.