Is it just me or have others noticed a decline in the quality of outdoor gear over recent years?
I've had walking boots in the past which have lasted for years, yet in the last two years I've had 5 separate pairs of boots fail within a few months of buying them. 3 "waterproof" boots have started to leak, and 2 have had heels or soles pull away. In all cases they have been replaced under guarantee (the ltest pair with heel coming away are at the manufacturers awaiting their verdict).Obviously it's good that there is the safety ney of the guarantee, but that still doesn't compensate for being without boots whilst the failure is investigated.
I've had a top range outer shell jacket fail when the wire stiffner in the hood started to poke thrugh and scratch my face, to be told that the "life time guarantee" doesn't cover such a failure!!
I've had an outer shell "waterproof/breathable" jacket leak like a sieve the first time I used it just after Christmas this year.
I've just turned my hydro bladder inside out to dry it, and it split down the seam. Yet the instructions printed on it clearly state "Pull reservoir material through opening until fully reversed (don't wory - its strong, flexible and will not rip) !
There's nothing special about outdoor gear. The quality of basically everything is pants. We've become a disposable society that just buys tat because we all want to pay less rather than buy something that actually does the job it's meant to.
In reply to Trangia:
I seem to be in an endless cycle of returning things that fall apart.
As you say, not the end of the world due to guarantees, but as I spend half the year away from home it is a bit of a pita. I buy kit to take abroad I. The hope that it may actually be able to last 5 or 6 months.....am normally disappointed
I have just received my 3rd Leatherman in 3 years....previous two fell apart.
I have just sent off yet another platypus...though guaranteed for life, a year or two is about the limit.
Now on my 3rd Nite watch strap....apparently, despite being sold to 'special forces' (their words) I was over abusing them by sweating and using sun cream!
Sports In Science bike water bottles that endlessly leak....I asked them exactly what science it was that they followed....clearly not the science of waterproofing a bottle!
> Is it just me or have others noticed a decline in the quality of outdoor gear over recent years?
I think most stuff is better than it has ever been. However, manufacturers are generally making clothing and in particular footwear much lighter so we going back even ten years, let alone 25+ years we are not comparing like with like.
For example, I am completely convinced that a current pair of Scarpa Delta 3-season (non-Goretex) leather boots are better now than the same model 25 years ago. However, comparing a quality 1990's leather boot with a modern lightweight fabric one is not really a valid comparison. Also, we are currently paying a lot less in real terms for most outdoor equipment which again skews the comparison slightly.
I remember being badly disappointed with fabric/Goretex boots back in the late 1990s so from that starting point I don't think a decline in quality is actually possible.
It is also now over a decade since I gave up on using bladders having got numerous Platypus ones replaced, so again, from my point of view no decline in quality is possible, given they were pretty poor to start with...
I think that part of the problem could be that not enough people complain.
I assume that it must be 'better business' to go for cheaper yet shoddier knowing that so few people will ask for a replacement that it's cheaper in the long-run than actually making it properly in the first place.
So many people I know who say the same thing about quality going down but when I ask them if they have tried to return the item, they just say that they couldn't be bothered.
> I think most stuff is better than it has ever been. However, manufacturers are generally making clothing and in particular footwear much lighter so we going back even ten years, let alone 25+ years we are not comparing like with like.
> ... comparing a quality 1990's leather boot with a modern lightweight fabric one is not really a valid comparison.
I completely agree. I used to go walking in leather boots that weighed about a kilo apiece and lasted about ten years. Now I go walking in Inov-8 shoes that weigh three hundred grammes apiece and last a couple of years. The cost per mile of the Inov-8s is probably quite a bit higher, but they are so vastly superior for my purposes that I don't worry about paying it.
In reply to Trangia: I'd have to agree - what I have now is streets ahead of the rubbish that most kit was 25 years ago. Ans apart from hard shells it also seems extremely good value in comparison as well
In reply to Trangia: I've just taken my hydro bladder back to the shop where I bought it along with the receipt (it was purchsed in March). They agreed that it had spilt and are sending it back to the manufacturer for comment. Meanwhile I am now without one....
I agree thet too many peopledon't complain because of the hassle, but so long as people don't and are prepared to accept shoddy quality the worse it's going to get.
It may be just coincidence but I've noticed that a lot of the brand names which I've had fail are in fact manufactured in China. This applies to both boots and outer shell garments.
We are now "consumers" not "customers" don't you know?
Once you start competing on price the first thing that goes, because it is expensive, is customer service. Things like genuine guarantees cost money but everyone has to pay it regardless of whether they'll ever need it so the bean counters get rid of it.
There's another thread about the cost of biking kit. We've been out for an MTB ride this morning and were discussing the British manufacturer Hope. They are based not far from us. Hope kit costs more money than the equivalent Shimano kit, in some cases a lot more, BUT, if you have a problem they fix it. An acquaintance has a Hope bike light that was playing up so as he was passing the factory one Saturday morning he popped in to see if they could fix it. "Hmm, can't fix it now but if you leave your name and address we'll sort it out". On the following Monday morning his light was back with him but no bill, it was a couple of years out of warranty, so he rang up: "Oh, there's no charge". Do you think he'll buy more Hope kit?
There's a balance between expecting something to last for ever and being continually disappointed that the products we buy simply aren't up to the job we expect them to do. At the moment I think the pendulum is too far to the latter state. The only way we'll move back towards the former is if we complain about shoddy goods. You don't expect the super cheap product to last forever but even the pricier ranges are just as bad.
I've just taken my hydro bladder back to the shop where I bought it along with the receipt (it was purchsed in March). They agreed that it had spilt and are sending it back to the manufacturer for comment. Meanwhile I am now without one....
Surely, under the Sale and Supply of Goods Act, it's the Retailer that you have a 'contract' with and therefore they are responsible?
I think boots getting lighter may have something to do with the durability. My Dad's old mountain boots from the 80's ish, they're of the vintage Gordon Stainforth is wearing in one of his pictures, huge and brown leather boots, are much more durably made than more modern boots, but they're much heavier as well.
My old Karrimor sack is still going strong, label states manufactured on 28 June 1990..I don't think the more recently manufactured Karrimor stuff is good for that long, despite it being lighter/more colourful/'better'(?)
I do the same... my Inov8s are now pretty shredded and no longer waterproof but I guess I'll just buy another pair.
This whole topic is really interesting (not moaning about how everything is rubbish, but the economics and psychology of price vs quality). My perception of the cost of something is obviously based on the exact monetary cost, but also on the relative cost of things I perceive to be similar. My perception of value is based on all kinds of things, but largely on incomplete an unreliable information.
For example, I want to buy an electric mixer. Tesco Value is a £20, Tesco standard is £50 and there are some branded makes for £80 and £150.
Instantly, that's established in my mind that electric mixers are worth £20-£120. Even if an electric mixer would save me thousands of pounds in some way (through saved time, or whatever) I am now loathe to pay much over £100 as that feels expensive. (If I got a 'proper' engineering company to designed and mass-manufacture a genuinely fit for purpose mixer you can be damn sure the unit price would be far higher)
When it comes to choosing which one to buy, what is my main indicator or the quality of each product... well, to some extent the price so that doesn't help. But if I buy the expensive one and it breaks after a month I'll feel like a complete mug, whereas the cheap one I can just replace and feel okay about it... therefore take a punt of the cheap one (or maybe the second cheapest one just in case the cheapest on is 'cheap rubbish')
Nowhere in this process have I actually assessed the absolute quality of the product vs its price, I've just chosen the cheapest thing which is ostensibly a mixer. Indeed, I have no way to assess the quality objectively even if I wanted to. When someone finds a way to make one cheaper (and probably worse), but still fulfilling the basic criteria to be called a mixer, the price will go down further. Hence we have race to the bottom.
It's also relevant, I think, that for outdoor gear it's easy to measure price and weight and extremely hard to measure reliability, so from a bunch of roughly equivalent bits of gear we'll tend to choose the one that we know is lightest and/or cheapest, rather than the one that we hope will last longer.
Indeed, manufacturers need to give you the illusion of being informed to give you a reason to choose to pay more. The easiest way to do this is to find a magic number which on the surface appears to correlate with quality. The CPU speed of a PC, the megapixel count of a camera, the weight of a krab, etc.
I think I would agree - and add that there seems to be a law of diminishing returns on gear. Very cheap gear (say £20) is usually rubbish but still does a significant fraction of what you want it to do. Moderately priced gear (say £50) is often pretty good if not perfect, and then expensive gear (say £100) is very good but is only a bit better than the moderately priced gear while being twice the price or more.