This is a part rant part advice kind of a post – until not long ago I’ve done all the customer service for my company and got to answer many emails, most from customers that took a brand new product and tested it outdoors. That was most prevalent with the Vecto as we kept on adjusting the design and each batch was a surprise. More and more people writing something like: “It seems like a fantastic product! However, both bladders that I bought leaked from both ends. I used it on a day hike in the Columbia river gorge. I filled my pack up with all my gear and filled both bladders with 2 L of water in an attempt to train for an upcoming thru-hike. When I got home and unpacked it all, my sleeping bag and other important gear pieces were soaked. If I had actually been backpacking it would have been a much bigger deal.”
I kept on getting amazed at the idea that someone will take a new product and test it for the first time on the trail – not at home, or in the garden, not unpack and make sure it is all there and functioning, but actually stick it in the pack and go hiking, just like that. And that made me wonder – am I the weird one? Testing everything, making sure I know how to attach/unfold/pack/turn on before even putting in my gear cupboard? Since this seemed so rare, here is my little recommendation on new gear:
Test is at home before going on the trail.
And in more detail:
- When you get a new peice of kit at home, get excited! Get a nice drink of choice, take it out of the package and check that it is all there. Make sure you are not missing caps/stakes/straps/other parts, go through it and just have a moment with yoru new kit. Imagine all the great things you will do together.
- When you have more time (like the weekend after the new gear arrived), test it, in full: set up the tent and get in it, lay on the mat/in the quilt or bag, fill up with water, boil some water in the new pot/with the new stove. You get the point: make sure it works so if it is doesn’t, you can return it easily in teh return period for no issues.
- Prior to a bigger (2+ nights) trips, throughly test the new kit in the true conditions (or as close to) as you can: fill your new pack with your stuff, cook a meal outside in teh wind with the stove, sleep a night in the garden with the new pad/bag/quilt. Give the gear a true test before commiting your life to it, as this is what our backpacking gear is: life saver.
- Bonus tip: if you have kids, let them free play with the new gear for an afternoon. I let my kids jump on any new sleeping pad that I get, play “castle” with every new shelter, play swords with trekking poles and so on. This will always test your gear to the limit.
Sorry about this random rant, but it amazes me how rarely common sense is common: test your gear before going ourdoors.