A term we’ve recently started using around HQ is “objective-based travel”. It’s the type of travel most of us here thrive on, and it’s the type of travel we design our products for. Objective-based travel is setting out with a purpose. Whether it’s traveling to Tanzania with the goal of summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, or heading to Turkey to motorcycle the epic Bayburt of Yolu, objective-based travel means being hell-bent on your goal.
To support objective-based travel, the quality of equipment you rely on is extremely important. You need equipment that can literally weather a storm, that won’t rip or snap when you’re halfway up a rock face, that is ultralight but still durable. You need equipment that is as relentless as you are.
When you search “packable backpack” on Amazon, you get a range of options, and a range of price points. You’ll see a few of our backpacks on there, and a whole lot of backpacks that LOOK like ours, but at half the price. You may think you’ve lucked out and found an amazing deal, but when you dig into the product specs, the differences become pretty clear.
There are a few things to look for when shopping for equipment that will stand up to your objective. These also tend to be some of the major ways that companies can cut costs, because it’s difficult for the buyer to identify these downfalls at a glance. Let’s take the backpack example, for instance:
- Materials: Using quality materials impacts quite a few elements of a pack, including waterproofing, how the material reacts to a tear, and the weight to durability ratio. We use industry-leading material brands like Cordura® and Robic®, two ripstop high tenacity nylons renowned for their quality. Low cost bags are often constructed of polyester as compared to the high tensile variety of nylon’s woven by Cordura® or Robic®. If you are not sure what your bag is made of, it is likely listed on a hidden regulatory tag inside the bag itself.
- Coatings: The strategic use of coatings is another important factor, UTS (ultra tear strength) coatings add up to 30% strength over traditional PU coatings, while siliconized coatings resist wetting out as compared to DWR. Cutting corners and eliminating the coating altogether cuts cost and is not visible from the outside of the bag, but uncoated materials will wet through immediately in any weather.
- Hardware: One common way cheaper products fail is through their hardware. It’s easy to cut costs by using bargain zippers and buckles. Look for indicators of quality, such as branded zippers by YKK, SBS, or Zoom. For hardware, look for buckles that feel springy when you release them and do not compress when you squeeze them from front to back. If you’re considering waterproofing, look for key features such as PU coated zippers or rolltops, which block out more water than traditional coil zippers, but come at a higher cost.
- Construction: Proper construction ensures durability and weatherproofing. Bartack stitching reinforces points where heavy loads burden your pack. Bartacking is a an extra step taken to increase the tearout strength of straps and handles and can often be seen when bags are turned inside out. At Matador, we often leave our bartacks exposed to the exterior, as an immediate indicator that an attachment point is reinforced. From the outside, bartacks appear like a rectangle of stitching. Sealed seams prevent water from leaking through stitches, even if a company has used a waterproof material.
- Customer Service: If your product does unfortunately get damaged, you’ll need a way to fix or replace it. A great way for a company to cut costs is by having little to no customer service. Every single one of our products are covered by warranty for at least a year, in some cases longer. Beyond that, we prioritize sustainability by offering product repairs. In many cases we’ll be able to fix your product right at HQ. We’re easy to reach via phone, email, and social media, and we’re always happy to help.
- Features: We’re lucky enough to design and test every single product out of Boulder, CO, where there is no shortage of outdoor endeavors to try out each product before it goes to market. Part of our process is identifying key features that we discover we need through these test objectives. Some features you’ll see on our packs that have come from real-life testing include external gear loops for alpine tools, sternum straps for comfortable movement, Hypalon lash points for mounting packs to roof racks, and much more. If we need a feature, we know that you’ll probably need it, too.
At the end of the day, building a backpack the right way costs more, hence why our backpacks are more expensive than some of the knock-offs you may find. If you travel like we do: fast, hard, and determined to complete your objective, equip yourself with a pack that is as steadfast as you are.