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Hiking Gear Casualties and Deaths, 2012

Team Golite Cap - Worn Out Brim
Team Golite Cap – Worn Out Brim

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to the issue of gear durability and value, so I decided to do the following inventory of the gear and clothing that I damaged or destroyed this year.

Like most of you, I wear out, rip, or destroy clothing most frequently, followed by footware, hiking poles, and electronics. The only difference between me and most people is that I do it a little faster since I hike or backpack over 100 days a year. Still these items can be quite costly, so I’m always interested in finding durable and less expensive alternatives.

I also make a point to buy certain items, especially outdoor related electronics, at REI or EMS, which replace defective gear or clothing that falls apart way before I think they should. When zippers come apart on hard shells, pant seams unravel, or other gear fails to function within a reasonable time frame after purchase, I take it back to be replaced or get my money back. These return policies are a godsend to consumers like me who can’t afford to own gear or clothing that is poorly made or designed and can’t withstand normal wear and tear.

Gear Casualties

SPOT GPS Satellite Messenger: The OK LED light failed. Returned to REI, which replaced the unit.

Montbell Therm-a-Wrap Jacket: Another hiker punctured my sleeve with an ice axe head, in the parking lot. Grrrr. Not leaking insulation, so not a repair priority at the moment.

Patagonia R1 Pullover: Tore a hole in the upper sleeve on a bushwhack. The hole hasn’t grown since, so I haven’t been in a rush to repair it, but I like this sweater and want to keep it. Owned for 3 years.

Patagonia R1 Hoody: The zipper in the chest pocket tore out from overuse. Need to take it to a tailor to be sewed back in. Great winter hiking sweater. Owned for 3 years.

RailRider Ecomesh Pants: Tore a hole in the calf on a bushwhack. Tore out the bottom leg hem on a trail hike. Probably repairable, but I have to get someone else to sew them. Owned for less than a year.

Gossamer Gear MP+/Gorilla Hip Belt: Significant abrasion to hip belt pockets while bushwhacking. Sent feedback to Gossamer Gear. I will probably repair/strengthen the fabric with duct tape and avoid bushwhacking with this these backpacks in the future.  Owned for less than a year.

Rab Momentum Jacket: Zipper guard fabric tear. Not really fixable, but also not a serious reduction in performance. This jacket has seen it’s prime and I mainly use it for bushwhacking these days. Owned for 3 years.

Pacerpoles: Bent the bottom section of one of my alloy poles. Need to buy a replacement bottom section. Cool that you can buy spare parts from this manufacturer instead of having to junk the entire trekking pole when you just bend or snap a section of it. Owned for 1.5 years.

Team Golite Cap: Severe deterioration of fabric over hat bill. Might be repairable with seam sealer or duct tape. This hat, sadly, is longer available from Golite. Owned less than a year.

Busted Waterproof Zipper - Not Replaceable
Busted Waterproof Zipper – Not Replaceable

Gear Deaths

Scarpa Omega Mountaineering Boots: Wore out the insulated Intuition liners, including the duct tape I used to hold them together last winter. Need to buy new liners. Owned for 3 years.

Panasonic Lumix Lx3 Digital Camera: Humidity appears to have wrecked the motor which makes a terrible dying sound now when I turn the camera on. Upgraded to a Lumix Lx5.

Kahtoola Microspikes: Busted the chains on one of my Microspikes. EMS replaced them with a new pair.

Outdoor Research Celestial Jacket: Tore out front Napoleon pocket, probably on a tree branch. The Goretex Paclite fabric on this coat has always been paper thin. Owned over 5 years, but haven’t used it for the last 4 of them.

Inov-8 Terroc 330 Trail Runners: Blew through another pair. Wore out the tread and tore top of toe kick off in 100 mile wilderness. Bought two more pairs. Love these shoes for hiking. They last me about 6 months a pair.

Smartwool Sock Liners: Blew through at least a half dozen pairs; need to switch to socks with a bit more synthetic yarn/lycra in them. Andrew Skurka likes Defeet Socks.

Katadyn Micropur Chlorine Dioxide Tablets: Got a batch that would not dissolve in New Hampshire or Maine water. REI gave me a refund for 120 tablets and I switched to Aqua Mira Drops instead, which is far less expensive.

EMS Helix Ascent Hard Shell Jacket: The main waterproof zipper on this jacket fell apart. EMS replaced the coat for free with the 2012 model of the same jacket. Owned for less than one year.

Hillsound Super Armadillo Nano Gaiters: Tore out bottom loop attachment points after a season of winter hiking. Will replace with new pair of OR Crocodiles. Owned the gaiters for less than a year.

Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiters: Already repaired crampon induced rips and bottom loop attachment points several times. Not worth fixing anymore. Will just buy a replacement pair. Owned for over 5 years.

REI Mistral Softshell Pants: Back seam let go after less than one winter of wear. I’ll probably return them and get another pair. That’s way too early for them to fall apart. Great pants, though.

Golite Reed Pants: Tore out a calf zipper and bottom leg hem on a trail hike in the pouring rain. Bummed. Golite has stopped manufacturing these very lightweight rain pants. Owned for 3 years.

Soto OD-R1 Canister Stove: Stove head rusted out while sitting in damp pot for a few days. This apparently also destroyed the pressure pump. Will probably replace with the same stove – which is really tops. Owned for 1 year.

Under Armour Heat Gear Boxers: Wore through area behind the thighs on two pairs. I’ve had these for a few years and gotten my money’s worth out of them. Replaced with more of the same.

18 comments

  1. Useful stuff . Thanks

  2. I would be interested in hearing about what has lasted the longest. Going ultra-light isn’t really my driving factor. Instead, I am much more concerned about durability and overall quality.

    • I think it’s definitely a topic that needs re-visitation, regardless if you are trying to conserve weight or not. Having to replace gear or clothing every year is not desirable.

  3. Thanks for the great feedback. I was particularly surprised about the RR Eco Mesh pants as I was just about to order a pair. This kind of damage to RR products is highly unusual in my experience. I own a few pairs of their Xtreme Adventure pants and Winter Weather pants as well as other RR products. All of these have performed flawlessly over the years and are by far the best mountaineering/hiking pants I’ve ever owned.

    I’m guessing that the open leg zipper design on the Eco Mesh pants must be causing snag problems in the lower leg area during heavy bushwhacking. Looks like RR has some work to do to improve the design. I hope you’ll let them know about your experience.

    Regards,
    John

    • No – the ecomesh pants are a lot thinner than the other heavy duty pants that RR produces. I don’t think this is a durability issue, but rather a bushwhacking one. I should never have been wearing those pants on a bushwhack in the first place.

  4. OK, but really who wants to be in a position where a pair of pants meant for hot weather outings is limited only to use on cleared trails or in the desert, etc. At minimum, if that’s the case, they need to be explicit about it in their catalog.

  5. “I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to the issue of gear durability and value…”
    Yes, this has always been on my mind. Regarding returns, perhaps repairability should be also considered. Both for “field” repairs and for permanent “home” repairs, this has been a part of my purchase considerations for many years. As a corollary, reliability is considered, too. This can be difficult to determine in a market that is constantly changing every year.

    Often, purchases of UL gear means knowing that some repairs will be needed over the anticipated lifetime. For example, the older Gossamer Gear G5 pack needed repairs after every trip. So, this means knowing how much effort you are willing to expend on the gear you do have, repairing and maintaining it. Or, finding someone that knows how.

    • Good point – Repairability is an important consideration. We should also include which manufacturers offer repair services. Some do it for free as part of their warranty process and others charge extra.

  6. Snapped the bottom section of some Black Diamond trekking poles and was also able to purchase a replacement part. I ended up calling them because the website said out of stock for the part and the helpful guy pulled a part from their warranty reserve to send to me. Great service.

    Also, send a pack back to Osprey this year as shoulder strap was about to snap (how it got that way, I don’t know). They repaired the strap as well as a torn mesh hip pocket. Free return shipping and free repair.

    Thanks for all your notes, Philip.

    Sean

    • Great examples Sean – thanks for mentioning these and calling to attention the service and warranties provided by different manufacturers. Makes you wonder how many people actually pursue this route when they tear up their gear.

  7. The picture of the hat is a classic — I find my running hats wear like that when washed in the washer (even on gentle cycle)…

    • Glad you noticed that one. I wear that hat on just about every hike I go on, so it’s probably seen the most use of any of my gear, followed closely by my rail rider pants. I’ve never washed this hat though!

      This hat also has special significance. It was given to me by a reader who came to my boy scout talk about lightweight backpacking in Austin, TX last February. He’d read how I’d lost a previous incarnation of this same hat on Mount Madison on an AT section Hike, a few years prior. It was an especially meaningful gift for me because he’d read all of my old trip reports while he was stationed with the army in Iraq.

  8. I also use the RR Eco Mesh pants for all my hiking but likely don’t bushwhack to the same degree as you do. Did you zip up the sides before you started the off trail part? I can see how they could be more prone to snagging if the side zips are open. Have you contacted Rail Riders? They seem to enjoy the publicity from extreme use and may do something about the pants you own.

    • The tear wasn’t in the side zips which I had the foresight to close before bushwhacking. I wouldn’t feel right about trying to hit RR up for new pants or a repair job. This was clearly my bad – I just need to upgrade to their adventure pants for future whacks. The eco-mesh pants are great for trail hiking, but I think using them on new england whacks is probably a bad idea.

  9. reminds me of Eric Newby’s account of meeting Wilfred Thesiger in ‘A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush’:

    “England’s going to pot,” said Thesiger, as Hugh and I lay smoking the interpreter’s king-size cigarettes, the first for a fortnight. “Look at this shirt, I’ve only had it three years, now it’s splitting. Same with tailors; Gull and Croke made me a pair of whipcord trousers to go to the Atlas Mountains. Sixteen guineas – wore a hole in them in a fortnight. Bought half a dozen shotguns to give to my headmen, well-known make, 20 guineas apiece, absolute rubbish.”

  10. OR will give you a new jacket if you so desire … they have an infinite guarantee … no rules, anytime, anywhere

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