Did the title of this post throw you off? Maybe you thought it was going to be some sort of farewell post? Pfff… no way! We won’t have any fancy photos or other such eye candy for you today, however the subject matter is important stuff none the less. Let’s take a minute to recognize excellence of a handful of companies who are making the outdoor gear that we use and love. In no particular order here are a few that we want to say “thanks” to not only for making quality products, but for being there for their customer in those times when we really need them to have our back.
Some Special Recognition
These guys below made the short list. Basically just some accounts of good customer service. It’s that warm feeling you get knowing that you spent your hard-earned money with the right people. We never told any of these folks that we have a blog or that we’d post anything, anywhere about our experience and they never asked us to. Yes, there are still stand up companies out there!
Patagonia is a company as unique as its founder. They’ve earned a lot of respect, and yet they still get poked fun of a bit (“Patagucci”), but take it all in stride. It’s true that anything carrying a Patagonia label comes with a hefty price, but you can be assured you get what you pay for and you get excellent customer service. Late 2014 I may or may not have consumed a bit too much Jameson and while taking shelter from the snow got a little too close to the campfire. End result was fusing my Nano Puff vest to my rain shell. A decent sized area on the lower back was basically melted away. I sent it in to Patagonia with a letter explaining that I was an idiot and asking if they could somehow fix it. I wasn’t holding my breath and expected I might get an expensive bill… instead I got a nice email back thanking me for sending it to them and saying they would have it back to me in a few weeks! Sure enough the day came and my vest is back good as ever! Incredible support. Thank you Patagonia!
You may not recognize their logo, that’s because Cascade Designs is the parent company of MSR, Therm-A-Rest, and Platypus (among others) which are brands that you should be familiar with if you’re spending any amount of time hiking and backpacking. Don’t confuse them as another mega-corp type of business though. Most of the gear coming from their respective product lines is manufactured in the US and they stand behind all of their gear. A year or two ago my MSR Wind Pro stove was having some problems with weak flame. I figured I somehow kinked the supply line after several years of use, and that was the case. For only $20 they repaired my stove, and to boot cleaned it and lubricated the legs so they’d fold in and out without any resistance, then shipped it back to me. That’s a bargain by any measure, and refreshing in a throw-away culture that they offer this type of service at all. More recently I had a Neoair sleeping pad that developed many small leaks on the top of the pad in between each baffle. The pad had seen some use I admit, but it’s not what you’d expect in terms of having leaks. I contacted Cascade Designs to ask if they’d look at the pad and determine if it was due to regular wear or a defect. I was skeptical given the age of the pad but sure enough they said “yep, it’s defective” and sent me a brand new Neoair X-Lite at no cost to me. Just top notch. Thank you Cascade Designs!
Ultimate Direction hydration vests and packs are pretty common to see at marathons and ultras and I too own one. I purchased my PB Adventure vest around fall 2013. I also purchased a 70oz hydration reservoir to use along with it. After running I would notice a little water inside the pack, yet the bladder was sealed and the hose was attached securely. I later discovered a tiny pinhole leak below the seal that would only leak under pressure. It took me a few months to realize what was going on and when I contacted Ultimate Direction about it they didn’t question whether I may have somehow punctured it myself (which I’m 99% sure was not the case) and just sent me a new reservoir. They only asked me to send the old one back which I did. Problem solved and no leaks to this day! Later in the year I was out on a long (~50 mile) run when the zipper on one of the shoulder pockets popped open, it broke under strain. Again UD just asked me to send the vest to them; they couldn’t repair it so they sent me a brand new one and even included 2 drink bottles with it. Suffice to say I was up and running again right away. Thank you Ultimate Direction!
Although there are numerous high end knife makers in today’s market Benchmade had been doing it for a long time and have got the quality dialed in as well as the customer service. Sandra D gave me my 707 folder as an anniversary gift a few years ago and I carry it nearly daily. I also use the hell out of it. The knife takes whatever I can throw at it but of course the blade dulls with my rough treatment. I’m no bladesmith and I can’t sharpen a hollow grind to save my skin, but Benchmade will sharpen and service any knives made by them under their Lifesharp program for only the cost of shipping! Nothing like a clean knife with a razor sharp edge! Thanks Benchmade!
Lawson Outdoor Equipment is the definition of the cottage industry. A guy (that would be Lawson of course) dreaming about making his own gear and starting up a small business on that dream. Read his story if you’re curious. Back in the day he made Cuben Fiber tarps I purchased one from him because I like to support the “little guy”. Also the only other source back then had a huge lead time, a higher price, and Lawson’s material was more interesting. Well it turned out that material was Cubic Tech’s foray into aluminzed fabric and as many of us early adopters found out, it didn’t work. The metalized part delaminated pretty easily from the Cuben and it was all a big mess. Lawson stepped up to make it right despite Cubic Tech being hard-headed and tough to work with. They could take a lesson from him. Although Lawson stopped making shelters shortly after that, I still have the replacement tarp he sent me and I will always remember that he took care of his customer even when it was very difficult to do so as a tiny business. Thanks Lawson!
Not to be Left Out…
There have also been a number of other businesses, mostly within the cottage industry, that have been especially great to work with as we’ve been working on the blog. One day Hike It. Like It. will be something more than just a blog. Right now we just do this because we love to, and it’s not easy being “the little guy” in the world of online forums, magazines, and outdoor blogs-a-plenty. We want to extend a special thanks to a few other businesses and their respective owners/execs who have been so easy to approach and willing to work with us. Again in no particular order… Hyperlite Mountain Gear, Lightheart Gear, Zpacks, Locus Gear, YAMA Mountain Gear, Gossamer Gear, Zero Gram, and everyone who has allowed us to interview them and/or pick their brains for tidbits of relevant information – THANK YOU! All of you are have been great to work with, we wouldn’t be here without you, and we won’t forget that. Hike It. Like It.