Friday, July 18, 2014

Silly Kickstarter of the week: HackedPack

I don't know if it's just because I'm looking more or if increased use and the law of averages is taking affect, but I'm seeing more and more silly products coming out of Kickstarter these days.

Exibit 1:

The gimmick is strong with this one.
I think a lot of Kickstarter failures occur from taking good ideas but using poor manufacturing or horrible materials choices. The problem with this product is not the pack or the hammock, which by all indications look above-average for Chinacrap, but the very idea that there is an advantage to combining two separate items into one. Why not go to REI and pick out the pack that fits you the best, and then wander over a couple isles and buy an ENO hammock? Then you can use one without the other, with no weight or price penalty.
Just like those "as seen on TV" products the main sales pitch seems to be to make something that is not hard at all (pulling a hammock out of a backpack and pitching it) look like some huge hassle that needs to be streamlined.
It does not.

Unlike the self-proclaimed capitalists that are quick to say "if you don't like it, don't buy it" or to proclaim that more competition is always better, I see every silly, gimmicky product as a waste of time, energy, resources and attention that could have been spent on real innovation or improving existing products in small ways. By distracting consumer dollars away from producers of truly excellent products, buyers are hampering these company's  ability to invest in future product development, and thus cheating themselves out of more, better, awesome stuff.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


I'll just go ahead and be blunt.

I don't like GORUCK.

The story of the garage start up, the dedication to American manufacturing, the fun extra products that pop up (1000d cordura tie? I can get behind that), all that is well and good. It's not even the high prices or the obnoxious cult-adherents purchasing their products that rubs me the wrong way, we've seen that all before (COUGH *kifaru*).

Its the packs.
I think they suck. I'm all for streamlining and simplifying, most of my favorite packs are quite simple and could even be simplified more, but with GORUCK I think too much was sacrificed at the alter of minimalism.

No sternum strap?
No belt?
No compression straps?
Any color as long as it's black?

I'm not fan of panel loaders, I know that is just a personal preference, but why build a backpack and go on and on and on about its durability and design it to be one zipper failure away from spewing your stuff on the ground? It's not even as beefy a zipper as some other pack makers use (looks like a #8, I'd bet dollars to donuts it's not a #10 like HPG or Kifaru). Go look at a Pointman, Ute, or even a Trizip, none of them leave you completely out of luck in the case of a zipper failure.
It's a 1000d cordura backpack with beefy stitching. It's not really going to be any tougher then any other 1000d cordura backpack on the market with beefy stitching. It's going to be as tough as its weakest components, zippers and hardware being my guess.
I'm also not going to buy the line that a relative newcomer to backpack design (with no prior manufacturing or textiles experience) is going to be able to design intrinsic durability improvements into the bags themselves. Go look at HPG's judicious use of hypalon, or read about Mystery Ranch's differentially cut double pack bottoms if you want to see what that looks like, Evan and Dana have been mulling over backpack design for years (not to leave out Patrick Smith, but I think he has more of a "brute force" design ethos that seems to have worked just fine).
Interestingly enough, I see many parallels between the cult of GORUCK and the oddly passionate attachment I used to see people express for their Kifaru E&E packs: Both offer very little value added over other generic backpacks at a much steeper price.

And the price. I'm used to paying extra for quality American made products, but even the GORUCK guys will admit $295 is pretty steep for such a simple bag (the GR1). What does the same money get you from other quality, American pack companies?

Kifaru Zippy:
3 zippered access points, full compression system, removable/adjustable shoulder straps, top and bottom lashing points, and your choice of full MOLLE or water bottle pockets.

Mystery Ranch Big Sky/Dragon Slayer/Sweetpea:

Depending on model you could get a full compression system, bottom compression straps, water bottle pockets, stowable fully padded hipbelt, adjustable yoke, load lifters, an aluminum and fiberglass frame, and some pretty extensive internal organization. Throw in another $25 and you could add the 3DAP to the party.

HPG Umlindi+Prairie belt:
Full compression system, top and bottom lashing straps, water bottle pouches, frame sheet with aluminum stay, full shoulder harness, and a full sized pack belt.

I'm not saying the GR1 isn't the perfect backpack for some people, I just don't understand how so many packs with more materials and manufacturing complexity can be offered at the same price point, there is either a hefty mark-up or some major parasitic loss in the GORUCK supply chain.

But despite all this I do have something very positive to say about GORUCK. A tumblr post led me to this:

The State of GORUCK: Edition 3
Jason needs an editor and some shorter sentences, but scroll down and you'll find this:

I have huge respect for any company willing to post their revenue on the internet for all to see. I appreciate the transparency, as well as just being interested in how businesses are run. If they ever get their Mesh Tac Hat back in any color other then black I'll probably throw a few dollars their way.

But seriously, I'd rather have a Blackhawk! 3 day then a GR1, and that's saying something.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Wrangler's new work shirts

My buddy showed me his new work shirt the other day, it was a Riggs twill longs sleeve button down.

 Lots of good features, dual chest pockets (wish they had flaps), button down collar, pretty hefty fabric. What Wrangler mentions (without explaining) and utterly fails to illustrate anywhere online, is that there is an impressive full side gusset  on this, as well as Wrangler's pearls snap work shirts and a few others.
So I had to go to my local Coastal Farm to sneak a photo for myself. Jeeze Wrangler, make me do your marketing for you.

If you go to all the work to design a good feature at added cost you'd think you'd show it off. I compared it to a similar Carhartt shirt in the arms-overhead-reaching-for-stuff test and it did do a little better (as in the hem had less vertical travel) but only an inch or two difference. A well fitted set-in sleeve probably does the same thing but this is a pretty bold feature for such a static brand, I approve.