Life of an Adventure Product – What does Guaranteed for Life really mean for outdoor clothing?

In Part 6 of his 10 part series looking at ethical and green issues in outdoor gear and clothing,Ed stands up for common sense, the brands and the art of the repair.

It is testament to our claims culture that shops the world over are having their till space blocked up by customers demanding a new pair of shoes when the laces break I know, I have been on the receiving end.

Sorry, but your laces have lived out their natural life, they have moved on, tied their last knot, they are no more – and will never again hold your shoes together. Accept it. Thank them for their service. Buy a new pair and jog on.

Ah yes, you might say, but the brand has guaranteed my laces for life therefore Im going to stop you there and give you a written but no less dismissive slap – dont be so nave. The guarantee refers to their life, not your life. Do you really really believe this means you should be wearing your trusty 40 year old shoes complete with original laces – when they are lowering you, a dead but satisfied customer, six feet into the ground?

I have already stated in earlier articles that adventure kit by design is the toughest area of fashion in the world. 8 years ago in Canada, I got my old man a pair of MECwaterproof trousers which were guaranteed for life. Hes a farmer and therefore gives them regular use and encounters barbed wire frequently. He is a reasonable chap who could expect to require a new pair every couple of years.

However every time I go home and see them rolled down around his wellies I am convinced that they might just as well have come off the shelf rather than having just had cow s%*t hosed off them.

When his waterproof trousers do eventually give up, I imagine it will be at the waist. He has a choice here. Either hop on a plane to MEC Toronto with the receipt in his hand and his outrage spiel already worked out in his head, or, find a new belt or bit of baler twine and give them another few years of life. My dad will no doubt repair them but many wouldnt.

There is very much a green issue at stake here too. In our throwaway and fashion driven culture too many pieces of adventure gear are sent back unnecessarily, often to be replaced by brands determined to maintain their reputation amongst consumers. Greater numbers still are simply replaced when they get a bit worn, or a new color comes out. To not even test its life arguably does the Guaranteed for Life promise an even greater disservice.

Legitimate faults are fair game. Despite the huge efforts in quality control, faults will on occasion creep in. My experience in dealing with brands is that they will send a replacement with an apology, and ask for the faulty item back so they can identify if the fault is systematic. You see in a world where every item is as solid as a Land rover or a Pathfinder, its a bit embarrassing when they roll out a jacket with a wheel missing. Adventure brands trade on their reputation.

If you take the principle of product life then, Patagonia yes again – have pushed the accepted boundaries out of sight. Their common threadsprogram allows eventually dead fleeces etc to be recycled into fresh kit. They will also, like many of the better brands repair your worn kit for you at a reasonable fee giving it the service it needs to carry on for another few years.

Adventure brands are proud of their kit and almost always hate to see it thrown away. The mantra of reuse and recycle will never be more possible than amongst the toughest pieces of kit in the world.

Your comments, questions and corrections are always very welcome. Please do get involved in the journey to find the greener,muchbetteradventure choices.Read the Articles1.Transparency what is it, and why does it matter to ethical clothing?2.Raw Materials what goes into your outdoor kit?3.Design for life building kit to last.4.Employment who made your adventure clothing and equipment?5.Product Components The detail unzipped. It’s not just the fabric that can catch you with your pants down.

6. Life of a Product What does ‘guaranteed for life’ really mean when it comes to outdoor equipment ?

Still to come:

7. Afterlife of a Product Where does your outdoor wear go to die?8. Distribution Planes Trains, Boats or Trucks? How does your outdoor equipment get around?9. Company Environmental Contribution – Going beyond the damage caused locally.10. Who Cares? Market Stats on the demand for ethical clothing and outdoor wear.

New articles will appear first in our free, monthly (ish)adventure e-mag.See back issues and sign uphere.