When outdoor kit goes bad….how often do kit purchases go wrong for us?


we are good at recognising good kit and also letting other people know about it. Are we as forthcoming about poor kit? Kit that we bought and didnt work. Kit that we bought and lasted 5 minutes. Worst of all, whim-bought kit that never got used! How “good” are we are at seeing the “bad” kit buys?

Looking back at my own gear buys, I have made many mistakes and they span the above reasons. Far too many if truth be known but taken over 30 years of walking and camping I guess the average is probably no better or worse than the next  person. First up, kit that I bought and it didnt do what it was supposed to or I expected it to:

1000mile socks. Ugh, eek, good grief! These were worn once and then binned. They were horrible. They bunched up under my toes after each few hundred paces meaning I had to stop and readjust them every 10 minutes. A complete nightmare and a complete waste of money.

Vargo Ti stove. Indestructible? Yes, Light? Yes. Good stove? Erm….not for me. It didnt flame particularly well and the meths lasted only a few minutes. Completely failed to boil 500mls of water.

Next up, kit that didnt last very long:

Rab VR jacket. Ok, to be fair, this did get a little bit of use (a couple of months) but the pertex on the back and shoulders wore and bobbled horredously badly so that any claimed water resistance vanished. A nice jacket but just didnt last as long as the pricetag and brand led me to think it should.

The North Face Triclimate jacket. This was a present. It wasnt the kind of thing I would buy but as it was a present, I thought I would use it in the winter (I am not a North Face fan as I think they have become too “trendy” rather than functional with kit design). It was certainly waterproof and it was certainly warm. However the cinch toggles on the waist hem failed miserably after one use (failed completely to hold the cord at all) and popper stud fell off completely on the front of the jacket. Really poor workmanship and went back for a refund after these 2 failures on the 1st use. £150 for a shoddy piece of workmanship…just goes to show, as per my last post.

Finally, kit that got bought on a whim and not used. Guilty as charged. Many times over. In fact a serial perpetrator of this, the most heinious of outdoor crimes…..

Black Diamond Trail poles – thought I would use them….nope. I can see maybe one day I will use walking poles but not for a long time.

Vaude Odyssee tent – spent ages researching this and similar tents. I liked the design and spec and then realised I didnt need it or indeed like it when it came…

Luxury Lite Cot – the concept of a lightweight camping bed appealed to me but the reality of the bulk and faff of it didnt when it arrived

Torsolite sleeping pad – lightweight, good reviews but completely failed to inspire me upon receipt…just too darn titchy!

I could go on, and on and on about whim, or carefully thought out but ultimately really bad, buys. Luckily I have always been able to sell these items on, sometimes for more than I paid. However, the regularity of poor purchases was beginning to get me down a bit and I had to concede that I just used to buy too much kit.

Of course all that has changed now and I am a new man with regards to kit purchases. I dont buy unless I sell something to keep things cost neutral and this has worked for a while now. I just need to remind myself of my past failures with kit buys and I am normally ok. That and hiding the credit card 🙂


About Saddlebags and Backpacks - a brewer's outdoor adventures

I am a keen hiker, camper, cyclist and general all round gear addict..... I also manage to be a professional brewer in my non-spare time :->
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18 Responses to When outdoor kit goes bad….how often do kit purchases go wrong for us?

  1. I think my biggest problem is buying things in ‘multiples. E.g. this is a really good fleece/pair of trousers etc I’ll buy three more exactly the same but in different colours……

    • backpackbrewer says:

      Well, actually thats not as bad as you think. I have bought three pairs of Montrail CTC trail shoes over the past 5 years because they are that good (unfortunately no longer available). Also sometimes I have wished that I had bought more of a particular type of item (normally clothing) at the time when it turns out to be a superb item.

      The issue comes only if you buy several of the same item but you dont end up liking it! 😀

  2. Isfa says:

    Not to be cynical about the blogosphere now that the viral marketers have clocked it, whose views can you trust. Judy Armstrong walks across the alps in 1000mile socks in great comfort and without any sign of wear. Others cannot get on with them. Me included after buying 3pairs. Luckily I have all the gear I need for the next few years. Sad tho – I cannot read eg PTC’s blog anymore since it became the marketing arm of Hagloffs and other overpriced brands. Shame really as he writes so well. Who can resist free gear. Sorry to be a miserable s*d and more cheerfully there still are a feast of excellent hiking blogs around – yours included.

  3. backpackbrewer says:

    not miserable at all. I think there is a tendency for “positive” reviews of gear. After all who likes to diss kit especially if its your own. I like to think that I am impartial when looking at kit and am quite open to admitting mistakes or poor buys.

    As regards other bloggers and reviews and gear whether given or not, I think you have to make your own mind up how impartial they are. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt so unless its obvious I like to think that people are giving a resonable appraisal. Maybe I am being naive but I hope not! 😀

  4. Dave, I have bought some turkeys as well – but fortunately not too many – good advice from fellow bloggers has helped me avoid too many of them . Montane Atomic overtrousers – I sweated badly in those. Inno8’s shoes – for me seriously uncomfortable are the main ones I can think of.

    • backpackbrewer says:

      I think the honest amongst will all own up to poor purchases. I seem to have made more faux pas than most I think! 😀
      With regards to other bloggers advice, I do find this invaluable in helping me to decide on new kit. I definitely agree with you on the Innov8’s – they are way to PAINFUL for me to wear. I quite like the atomic overtrousers however but its definitely horses for courses and each person is different so its always good to get balanced opinions

  5. Tomas says:

    I was sorely disappointed by the supposedly rock solid Prnceton Tec brand of torches. Had a few for diving but they all died from the same cheap manufacturing error.

    And the petzl e-lite, despite it’s popularity, was just too dim to be worth the weight savings.

    So far however, I’ve been lucky enough to have had few bad gear experiences.

    • backpackbrewer says:

      I have the e-kite and I know what you mean. Put it up against a normal Petzl and the power is vastly different. still, it is useful as a very light weight back up


  6. Robin says:

    I think there’s few examples of really bad gear. The worst I’ve had is Smartwool liner socks which were like cheese graters.

    Some gear doesn’t work quite as well as expected. Often footwear is the biggest disappointment, but what doesn’t work for me might work for others. I’m loathe to be too critical on my blog and I’ll often just not post on something rather than write a negative review.

    I think the most valuable reviews tend to be post-trip round-ups of how things performed.

    • backpackbrewer says:

      Its a fair point Robin and I know that you are very meticulous when you do a gear review. You especially make sure that you thoroughly test the kit on a trip(s) before making comments on the performance. Your kit reviews are enhanced by the fact that you always photograph the items in use on a trip which give credence to the end review.

      I dont like to be too critical of kit as you quite rightly point out that your experience of an item isnt necessarily going to be the experience of the next person. I guess the best way is to qualify statements made about items. Just saying that a piece of kit is junk is very subject to heresay whereas a detailed “why, what, where, when, how” is much better so that objectivity is applied to the review

  7. bigbananafeet says:

    I can’t say I’ve had many “bad” kit experiences, but then again I like to read as many reviews and opinions on stuff before I spend my hard earned and I really do mean my “hard earned”. Louise and I don’t have much in the way of disposble income, especially at his stage in our lives (recently married, first home, regular trips during school hols to visit family in Australia etc). Also, the engineer in me tends to enjoy weighing up the pro’s and cons of kit. I get all excited about the technical aspects of the materials and the theories behind the technologies etc. Sad, I know, but it means I really do my research and therefore generally don’t go far wrong.

    I think if you are often buying kit that doesn’t work (for you) then maybe you should look at not only how much you are spending but maybe do a little more research and think about how the kit will ultimately work for you. Everybody is different and as you say it’s horses for courses at time.

    As for the comment above about PTC*s blog I can’t say I agree fully. Yes there is a lot of Haglofs stuff there but he clearly has a good relationship with them and the kit works well for him. It’s win win for both parties bearing in mind that he also writes for Trail etc so they know he has a large audience and actually uses the stuff. It say’s to me that they genuinely believe in their product when they are willing to give it to somone who will actually test it. I personally like a lot of Haglofs kit, it works well for me. The trousers fit me better than other brands and both my current shell tops are Haglofs too. I therefore have an interest in their kit, meaning I will read his site to get as much info as I can. If you can’t read his site as it’s “become their marketing arm” then you must either have no interest in the brand or kit buying at the moment as it’d be silly to ignore the resource…especially when you say he writes so well.

    Who’s opinions can you trust? Folk who actually use the stuff for real. All these folk who pitch tents only in their back gardens and play with stoves that never leave the kitchen or garden shed are to be mistrusted. I find I can spot these “pretenders” a mile off. They’re usually found permanantly hanging around on OM rather than actually going outside. I’d say check their trip reports as well as their kit reviews.

    People tend to find a brand (or brands) and then become very loyal to them when some of the range fits and works well. How often do you hear folk mention how they are a “Rab tart” or a “Haglof’s whore” on the forums? Do they realise that designers move from brand to brand and ranges and sizing can change? How much research did they actually do before purchasing something that doesn’t work for them? Did they only buy it because it has the right logo on the front?

    • backpackbrewer says:

      a well thought out and deliberate reply.

      You make an interesting point about brand loyalty. I hadnt considered that until you said it but you’re right. I do have a little bit of brand loyalty (to Montane and Montrail) but I am definitely not adverse to trying out “lesser” or unknown/own make brands. I have recently bought some very nice basic kit from Mountain Warehouse that was cheap but extremely functional.

      The point about the money is an important one too. If you have lots of disposable income then there is a tendency or at least a danger of buying more than required or buying the most expensive kit etc. Mind you, if you can afford it then thats ok, although if you didnt get out and use it, that would be a little crazy.

      I like PTC’s blog but I wont blindly take Pete’s opinion on everything. I’ll judge things and people on their individual merits

  8. Isfa says:

    Thanks Bigbananafeet
    OTC exonerated, I,ve just gone back on his site for an hour for the first time in a yr, I won,t be buying the £1000 jacket but as you say he does get out in all weathers(more often than me) with the kit and I do love his Gonzo writing style.

    • backpackbrewer says:

      His writing style is very good and the site is well laid out as well. I have picked up some useful bits of info and reviews from him so like I say, I speak as I find 🙂

      You’re right about the jacket though 😀

  9. bigbananafeet says:

    £1000 for a jacket!
    Oooft I must have missed that one…who on earth is that marketed at I wonder?

    Been thinking about my own kit buying over the last couple of years and I must say there has been a noticeable downward trend in the number of items purchased, mainly due to family,financial circumstance. I wouldn’t say thats a bad thing though as to be honest, even as a self confessed gear tart (I love the lure of the shiny shiny!), it really should be all about getting out there and using the kit…otherwise what’s the point in buying it in the first place?

    All major purchases really, by me recently have been either to replace something that has finally worn out or something I’ve just done without. For example a softshell/midlayer type top. I now own a very nice Rab VR Stretch top. Did I need it? It sure is nice to wear but I managed fine for years with out one.

  10. backpackbrewer says:

    lol re the lure of the shiny shiny 😀

    its true, its quite hard to resist at times. Just say to yourself do you need it and how much will it get used? 90% of the time you will concede its a luxury 🙂

    still, the odd bit of gratuitous gear porn isnt a bad thing, just not too often

  11. Writing reviews of poor products is a tough trail to navigate. This is an example of a successful one! Always good to find a responsible reviewer. Great blog!

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