Thursday, June 04, 2015

Warranties, Repairs, and Not Cheating the Gear Manufacturer

Inevitably after you have been hiking for a good while you will be saddled with gear issues. Some could be gear defects. Or wear and tear. Or gear that needs repair.

I had the unfortunate incident of tearing a hole in my new Big Agnes UL tent. I plastered it with duct tape which seems the cure-all for some gear repair in the field. It did fine until I got home and called the manufacturer.

Pillow with a defect, handled well by the mfct
Which brings me to this. When in doubt on your gear, call the manufacturer directly to get their opinion. Just last week I had a pillow that suffered a defect – (see the photo). You can tell when a
piece of gear has an obvious defect. I called Exped, talked to a helpful rep who then immediately sent a replacement upon receiving a photo of the gear issue. No fuss, no issue.

For the tent issue, I talked to a Big Agnes rep. The tear was my fault. It was not a defect or anything else. I caused it. They helped me figure out how to repair it, suggesting Tear Aid, a special kind of patch. I gently removed the duct tape (the manufacturers are not keen on duct tape as it leaves a sticky residue where repair patches like Tear Aid do not). I cleaned off any lingering residue with some rubbing alcohol, then made the repair.

Tear in the the tent fabric

Applying Tear Aid to patch the tear

I had also broken a buckle on my ULA Catalyst pack. ULA immediately got a new buckle out to me, no questions.

Then comes the gray areas of gear and clothing. Just last week, in my job as a ridgerunner, I was talking to a young thru hiker who was upset that an outfitter would not take back his socks and exchange them en route. He had hiked in these socks nearly 1000 miles since Springer MT in GA (he was now in upper Virginia) and since he had holes in this one pair and they had a lifetime guarantee, he should get new socks. I disagreed with this. There are going to be issues with gear or clothing under normal things like wear and tear. Manufacture guarantees usually do not guaranty against constant use, especially thru hiker use and abuse. In the past manufacturers and companies' policies have been abused by people who think they deserve their clothes or shoes to make it through 2000 miles. REI had that issue with their lifetime guarantee where hikers would bring back used gear, ages old, in an attempt to get new gear. Thus the company was obliged to change its policy to one year. In this case, getting a 1000 miles out of a pair of socks before you see a hole is excellent wear in my humble opinion. And time to buy another pair of socks rather than abuse the good graces of the manufacturer and their supposed lifetime guarantee to get freebies. But in this case the manufacturer, Darn Tough Socks, agreed to send him a pair. I read their guarantee, and they seem to dare folks to wear out their socks. I guess this guy decided to prove the issue. He lucked out by a great company. I am curious how long their policy will remain. 

Gear manufacturers are most willing to work with hikers on gear issues. But a hiker needs to realize too when their gear simply needs to be replaced because it has been used and loved to death.

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