Cnoc Outdoors’ founder, Gilad Nachmani, has life experience that spans industries and continents. His training is as an economist. He spent years working in outdoor retail, almost opening his own store before the Great Recession dried up his investment dollars, ultimately thwarting that ambition.
He also, at one point, figured out how to earn a solid stream of income from a blog and has done a deep dive into learning how to use Amazon as a sales platform. He was born in Israel, lived for several years in the United Kingdom, and now calls Portland, Oregon home.
But, most recently, Gilad launched Cnoc Outdoors, which has developed something of a cult following around its Vecto water containers.
Three things set Cnoc’s Vecto water containers apart from other products on the market:
1) A wide opening makes the water bladder super easy to fill up, even with just a trickle
2) It’s made with a material that is much easier to work with and operate than its counterparts (noting that while this material is tough, it’s not 100% puncture proof)
3) It features universal attachments i.e. it will work with almost any gravity-fed water filter
“I don’t like products that are proprietary, that only work with their own version of things,” Gilad said. “So I made the Vecto with the assumption that it needs to work with everything.”
The story of the Vecto actually starts with trekking poles. Someone had mentioned to Gilad that creating a product that can be sold and fulfilled by Amazon is an easy way to earn cash. So Gilad placed an order for 500 carbon fiber trekking poles with the intention of selling them through the e-commerce giant. Unfortunately, the trekking poles proved to be faulty.
“They were made so poorly the carbon fiber just crumbled on first use,” he said. “It was back to the drawing board pretty much.”
Around that same time his father-in-law borrowed some outdoor gear for a trip. After the trip he came to Gilad complaining about the water bladder and wanting him to make something better.
“In his mind, because I made trekking poles, I could make any piece of outdoor gear,” Gilad said.
Not one to turn down a challenge, Gilad agreed to look into it.
“Because I’m a gear head, as I was looking to make easy money, I ended up being sucked into actually making a good product,” Gilad said.
Gilad got his first prototypes of the Vecto in early 2017. That summer he ran a successful Kickstarter and then presented prototypes of the Vecto at PCT Days.
While at PCT Days he got talking with Darwin on the Trail, who has a large and loyal YouTube following. Gilad didn’t fully grasp Darwin’s influence (“I knew nothing about the YouTube community,” he said), but as he had done with many other people, he asked Darwin to take a prototype and provide feedback.
Darwin ended up falling in love with the Vecto and gave it a rave review on YouTube before the product had even hit the market. That review has now been viewed more than 50,000 times and led to 3,000 pre-orders. Gilad spent the first two weeks of December 2017 fulfilling pre-orders out of his garage, packing boxes through the night.
Then, when he realized the slider, which seals the water container closed, wasn’t fitting properly on his first product run, he made an adjustment to solve the problem, and spent the better part of January sending out replacement parts.
“Since then, things have been growing steadily,” Gilad said, adding that they were a big hit with thru hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2018.
Cnoc just released its second-generation Vecto. The updated water bladders (which are available on GGG) have a tether for the cap and slider, the threading on them is now even more universal, and the slider is thinner and seals better. It required tens of thousands of dollars, mostly spent on new molds, to create these second-gen Vectos.
“It’s the benefit of actually having the money to put into engineering and R&D,” Gilad said.
Even with the latest round of changes, Gilad continues to look for ways to improve the Vecto. His next goal is to automate production. Because they’re currently made manually, if there’s a manufacturing defect, it’s basically impossible to figure out which ones are affected.
“It can be one person on one shift who wasn’t welding one side right,” Gilad said. “Every time I get a faulty batch, I can tell you that’s a super hard moment.”
While getting an email from a customer who has a defective product ranks up there as one of the worst parts of running Cnoc, Gilad’s overall favorite part of the business is interacting with customers, especially in-person and especially if customers are stoked.
When not responding to emails and packing up boxes — often in the evening after his family is in bed — Gilad can be found out backpacking, sometimes with his two young kids.
“I do drag my children into things,” he said. “My daughter is a brilliant backpacker. She’s going to be my backpacking partner and justify my ability to do it more.”
Gilad is also working on the 2.0 version for his carbon fiber trekking poles, which he hopes to release this year.
“I always say that Cnoc is actually a company to make the gear that I’m missing. It’s nothing else,” he said, before adding that he also sees it as a company that makes the gear his customers dream up.
When someone approaches him with an idea for a new product, Gilad always tries to look into the feasibility of creating it, no matter how out there an idea might be.
“I do feel that we’re heading toward this crazy manufacturing company that makes all sorts of weird experiments,” he said. “I want it to be a hub of innovation and ideas, where you’re not judged by how wild your idea is.”