Jotaro Yoshida - Enlightening the outdoor experience


The pyramid shape is primitive, but the shelters from LOCUS GEAR are far from simplistic. The lightest and strongest materials are what founder and designer Jotaro Yoshida has always been looking for - even experimenting with a shelter using a Dyneema® Composite Fabric covered by a metal layer. LOCUS GEAR is based in Japan, but has an international scope on ultralight hiking and backpacking.

Please introduce yourself, and tell us why you do what you do.
JY: I am Jotaro Yoshida, founder and designer of LOCUS GEAR.

Ever since I was a kid I have had a great love and respect for the wilderness and the outdoors. I always dreamed of travelling, longing to go to far away places. However, after I finished university I ended up in a regular job, struggling as a businessman, all the while knowing that this was not what I was destined to be doing. At a certain moment, a friend of mine re-introduced me to the pleasure of being out in nature and I found that hiking and camping suited me best.

While getting into this, I came in contact with the US hiking culture around 2006. Inspired by the US cottage industry and all the people making their own gear, I started doing some research on how I could make exactly those items I was looking for.

And here I am now, making and selling outdoor gear, mainly focusing on shelters.

“When I started LOCUS GEAR, I already had an interest in finding the lightest and strongest materials”

Could you give us a short introduction into the Japanese outdoor and hiking scene and how it differs from the rest of the world?
JY: In my experiences travelling through Europe and North America over the past decade there really isn’t a big difference anymore in style of hiking, camping and other outdoor activities between Japan and the rest of the world, mainly due to the fact that the internet makes information travel so fast these days.

Of course there are some slight differences caused by Japanese nature, climate and cultural history. But the foundation of people here adoring and respecting the beauty in nature is the same as anywhere else.

Since such a big part of my influence was North American hiking, I noticed that one big cultural difference between Japan and America appears to be the large amount of freedom in nature itself based on their understanding of nature. Whereas I sometimes feel that the rigid regulations that are in place in Japan are fed by a lack of actual knowledge about nature and its protection.

You seem to focus primarily on pyramid shelters with LOCUS GEAR; could you give us some insight into how you came up with this simple shape as the one to use for your shelters?
JY: When I was a high school student and also attending an art course at the preparatory school of art, I already found that I had a knack for creating 3D structures. I was especially intrigued by primitive and simple objects such as pyramids. I often wondered and did a lot of research on why many of the ancient buildings all over the world were pyramid shaped. When I started creating my own shelters, the pyramid shaped design came natural to me, as it is one of the most primitive and rational shapes.

What led you to seek out Dyneema® Composite Fabrics to use for your product?
JY: Again, by looking at the US hiking culture I had already encountered Cuben Fiber as well as Dyneema® rope, which was used at the time as a strong and light line for tents. So when I started LOCUS GEAR, I already had this interest in finding the lightest and strongest materials.

What are some of the aspects of Dyneema® Composite Fabrics that stand out to you?
JY: I think for me it must be the combination of how light and strong it is. Additionally, I’m also attracted by the futuristic and cutting-edge look of the material.

Could you tell us a bit about the results?
JY: Tents and shelters are considered to be one of the “Big 3” items (backpack, sleeping bag and tent, which are some of the biggest, heaviest and most important) when it comes to hiking gear. These are also the items for which you’re able to gain the most weight reduction. The light weight of Dyneema® Composite Fabrics contributes greatly to the reduction of the total weight of one’s load.

For instance, we sell comparable shelters in both Silnylon and Dyneema®. The Silnylon version weighs 470g, but the version done in Dyneema® Composite Fabric only weighs 290g. This is a huge weight reduction, even when you compare it to other weight reducing technological innovations that we’ve seen in the outdoor market.  

Can you give us some insight into what the process is like when working with a material as strong as Dyneema®?
JY: We did find that Dyneema® Composite Fabrics required us to make some adjustments to our usual production methods. Sewing the material is very different from the typical nylon fabrics. But after more than 6 years of focusing on this material we’ve developed our own, rather unusual, method of working with it which has been successfully tested in many harsh conditions.

As we were initially a bit skeptical about the process of bonding or taping, this led us to develop our own unique way of sewing the material as we did feel a responsibility towards our customers in delivering similar results. Though we’ve recently had the opportunity to get some technical instructions and advice about bonding methods. This encouraged us to start working with it as we love the challenge and always aim to be innovative in everything we do. We are now confident to also start selling fully bonded shelters.

We noticed you experimented with a shelter using a Dyneema® Composite Fabric covered by a metal layer; please tell us a bit more about that.
JY: The shelter we made with the metalized Dyneema® Composite Fabric has the specific character that it blocks sunlight so the inside stays dark and a bit cooler during the summer. During the winter it doesn’t transfer any heat and actually reflects heat back, making the inside stay warmer.

What other possibilities do you see for a material with such specific properties?
JY: I’ve been thinking about materials that are breathable or like a mesh using Dyneema® fibers. I know there are plans to release these, and as a designer I look forward to more and more innovation by DSM Dyneema. For example, I’d love to see a ‘no-see-um’ mesh with a stronger fiber, as the options that are currently on the market are very fragile.

And finally, can you share with us which innovations outside of your immediate professional field you're most excited about at the moment?J
Y: I’m very interested in the development of new materials that are plant-based, carbon neutral and therefore don’t rely on fossil fuel as a resource, but still remain highly functional.

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