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Idealog—in the ideas business

Why I’ll never buy another Kathmandu product

There is an independently owned outdoors store in Te Anau where, if you say the words ‘Kathmandu’ or ‘Macpac’, the owner will ask you not to use such filthy language. A few years ago when I first encountered this, I found it a bit curious. However, after more encounters with shoddy, overpriced and mass-produced outdoors gear than I care to remember, I now completely identify with wanting to wash people’s mouths out with soap when they mention those companies – aka the Kings of 'Holiday Fashion'.

The latest offence? Charging my mother $10 to renew my defunct Summit Club membership at Kathmandu before they would let her exchange some leggings for a different size.

At her request I bought my mother two pairs of polyprop leggings from Crapmandu for Christmas. She wanted them. (I know, I know! I’m putting her in therapy.) I was asked for a Summit Club ID when I bought them and so I told them my name. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so misguided and soft in the head as to buy anything from Kathmandu (well over a year) but nobody asked me for a renewal fee at the time. However, when my mum went to exchange them, they made ‘a hell of a fuss’ about it (never mind that the products were Kathmandu-brand and therefore couldn’t have come from anywhere else, you fools) and she ended up paying a $10 renewal fee for my Summit Club membership. A membership I don't use, don't want, and would like to set fire to, were it possible.

My mother, of all people, is well acquainted with the low opinion I hold of Kathmandu’s products and customer service.

A couple of examples, I hear you ask?

Try a pair of tramping boots, which I used on a total of 14 nights away tramping. We’re talking the Milford Track, Abel Tasman and Lake Waikaremoana – all Great Walks, well-benched tracks and easy tramping. Not exactly bush-bashing on the Dusky Track, if you know what I mean. The boots had metal eyelets and lugs, and despite being almost new were rusting badly. Moreover, the stitching was coming apart.

Kathmandu’s response, after sending them away to their ‘testing centre’? Supposedly I 'got them wet' and 'didn’t dry them immediately'.

I don’t know which flavour of lunatic is in charge of boot-making at Kathmandu, but perhaps they should try getting out into the New Zealand wilderness occasionally. There, they might discover a world where people go tramping – in non-Kathmandu gear, that is to say, gear that actually works and lasts and can be relied on – for days on end, in boots that are wet through on the first day and stay that way.

Then there was the tramping jacket, recommended to me by someone at the Sylvia Park store. On the first day of a five-day trip in the Kawekas, it got wet right through in nothing but light mist. I would’ve been better off sheltering underneath a cocktail umbrella. 

The staff at Sylvia Park told me it was my fault as I’d selected the wrong jacket. On the advice of this particular person, of course, who shall remain nameless but let’s just say that once they realised who had recommended it to me, there was instant backtracking and credit notes aplenty.

The second jacket was no better. I returned the second jacket, advising them that it was the anti-Christ and I never wanted to see it again. I gave up my credit notes for dead.

Then there was a pair of socks that had holes in them from new. As did the second pair. And the third.

And then there was the pack they butchered (seriously, they took a knife to it – without my permission) rather than sending it away to be fixed after the chest strap came off and couldn't be replaced with the new style of strap. It was like Jack the Ripper meets Bear Grylls. My heart, it wept.

I was in a hut on Ruapehu over the summer break and conversation there turned to Kathmandu’s lack of quality and disproportionately high prices. There was the requisite amount of Kathmandu bashing, the same sort of useless anger and despondent head-shaking I’ve seen at other times with other trampers. There was the conversation in the T-bar queue on the ski field last winter where all five lines of people were joining in to talk about how rubbish their Kathmandu and Macpac gear was. I could go on... 

It’s becoming a familiar topic and a common refrain. The days of Jan Cameron as a fearless entrepreneur sewing together gear in her garage because she didn’t like the quality of Fairydown are long gone. And my heart, it weeps.

Perhaps it’s time for the next Jan Cameron to push Kathmandu and Macpac aside and create a new, real, quality Kiwi brand for outdoorsy people?

And please, make it people who would actually get their boots wet.

Oh, and Kathmandu? I’d like you to refund my mother her pointless $10.

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Comments

Hazel - wash your tongue out. I'm one of the owners of Cactus Equipment - 100% New Zealand made outdoors gear that wears in, not out. Check out the website and if you need anything - just ping me and I'll hook you up a deal… you know where to find me…

b

www.cactusclimbing.co.nz

I second Ben's comment, and back your article up as well. After having similar - though even LESS rugged - experiences with K-gear, I refuse to buy it in future. I get similar quality gear at The Warehouse for a tenth of the price, and at least I have no expectations of durability from there!

I also was fortunate enough to get a pair of Cactus Equipment pants to trial for review, and have to say that these are durable… so if their packs, etc. are even half as hard-wearing, then Ben should be classed as the “Jan Mk2” you cry out for. ;)

You are welcome to see our impression of the Cactus pants here: http://bit.ly/S22TP4

Ha ha! Love your work, Ben. Cactus has a really good reputation among trampers. You should look into getting into Living Simply in Newmarket. I don't think I've ever seen your gear there.

And thanks Kiwireviews, I've actually seen people have more success with stuff from the Warehouse, in terms of durability.

Don't forget Earth Sea Sky, phenomenal kiwi gear made in NZ

I only Buy Merrell boots why because they fit,work and are reliable Merrell have been doing this as a real business not as a ancillary to their business Like Katmandu does.

Funnily enough - I quite like Kathmandu gear.

But then I'm really only buying the basic merino lightweight gear at 75% off and using them for football training and out in the garden … perfectly adequate and OK price point (on sale).

If you were seriously going into the bush then I'd look at some Swazi gear, most of mine is 5-10 years old and still going fine.

Viva la Cactus Climbing!
I had a pack from way back in the day, used it for snowboarding and hiking and it lasted for close to 10 years!
Only thing that killed it was the EQ - dang mama nature…

Cactus is out there and NZ should be loving every minute of it!

I Have a red Cactus day pack, made in NZ had it maybe for 10 years, and it is just starting to look right, in another ten I would think it will be about perfect.

Hi Hazel,

We'd like to discuss these issues with you in more detail please.

Would you mind please providing your phone number and email address to us via email (dropusaline@kathmandu.co.nz)?

I too have lost faith in the Kathmandu brand. These past 12 months I have had to return a range of items for defects or faults. Not what you would expect given their fairly lofty pricing, even for basics. It's a pity, because a few years ago I considered them value for money, like the hugely successful Decathlon Brand in France (which brings sports and outdoor activity equipment to the masses at a reasonable price with a quality that rivals some of the more specialist brands. Sadly, Kathmandu, with its loyalty scheme that makes you purchase loads just to, well, stay in the loyalty scheme, is falling far behind these days.

Dear Kathmandu,

I already have. And I've included a postal address for my mother so you can send her an apology and a refund cheque.

Hazel

PK I think merino is relatively robust for those purposes. Funnily enough, my best merinos came from Glassons for about $15 each.

Over this summer we:

- sewed the MacPac tent twice (broken zip, torn stitching)
- sewed the Kiwi Camping tent twice (torn fly, broken zip)
- returned to shop the brand new Coleman blow-up mattress (three holes)

Meanwhile the Dwights canvas tent finally died, but only after 15 years faithful service.

Hi Hazel,

Thank you for this information, we have now traced your earlier email and will, of course, contact your mother to resolve the issue as requested.

We are sorry that you have been let down and feel this way.
Please accept our apologies for the upset caused.

We will respect your wish not to communicate any further.

Kathmandu gear is unsuitable for NZ wilderness conditions - end of story. I have about 14 pieces of Kathmandu clothing - I happily wear the garments day to day around town. I call their products 'urban outdoor gear'. I tried a Kathmandu pack cover on a tramping trip - it lasted 3 hours. Their products are made to a low price - forget the marked RRP - it is a con - the multi discounted price is generally a full price for the product. Always remember 'you get what you pay for'.

Couldn't agree more, Peter. I think in the early days, Kathmandu was good quality, as was Macpac. That's why you still have people devoted to the brand – they're still using their packs etc from a decade ago and haven't tried any of the new gear yet!

'Urban outdoor gear' is fitting – many trampers I know call it 'holiday fashion': the sort of thing you wear on the plane as you're making your way to Fiji to lie on the beach and perhaps do a one-hour gentle walk along the beach. The fact that the gear can't even handle doing a couple of Great Walks is condemnation indeed.

Kathmandu gear fails are actually getting beyond a Joke. I purchased an “extreme weather jacket” from Kathmandu a few years ago. Its first trip on the Heaphy and I was wet through in “normal” New Zealand rain. My friend with her $40 roll out Jacket was better off than me and I paid 15 times the price. I took it back and it was sent to be tested in Chch then returned saying there was nothing wrong with it. I then took it tramping in the Himalayas (foolishly) and got so cold and wet in my very expensive triple layer gortex that I was frankly risking hypothermia. The sherpas in there fake gear from the real Kathmandu city were far better off than me!! Ironically i broke a pole from Kathmandu store (how a light weight girl can do that I dont know!) ..and almost broke my leg when it went from under me coming down a hill. Its simply beyond a Joke now.. please assess the safety of your gear and if you are not making it for actual outdoor use then please dont advertise it as that!!

Emma that's shocking. And the Heaphy isn't exactly 'extreme' tramping, either!

The anti-Christ jacket came on only one trip with me, which was a five-day loop in the Kawekas. We were in light mist going past Ballard and over Whetu – so just a couple of kilometres over the exposed tops. A little bit of light mist soaked right through the brand-new jacket and even though it was January, it was freezing. There were a lot of swear words.

Thankfully, the hot springs at Te Puia Lodge made up for it later on!

I currently have a Macpac jacket and pants (the pants are a replacement pair as the first pair came apart at the seams after a few months) and I'm planning on thrashing them and then I'll likely set fire to them (if that's possible) and never set foot in Macpac ever again.

Kathmandu gumboots, (bought in a sale but that's no excuse)
NOT left sitting out in the sun - lasted 4 weeks before disintegrating - all seams came apart.
No, I did not return them, and I probably should have - but why were they so useless in the first place?
Why should I take time out of my busy day to return and complain about faulty goods? It's usually an unpleasant experience - even if you can find a car park ! Just make your products (sale priced or not) faultless - that seems a reasonable request to me.

Jan Cameron (bless her) had gear designed and made by mountaineers (like Rob Hall) and had a rep' for quality and longevity. Kathmandu (the Glassons of the outdoor world) and latterly Macpac have succumbed to commercial pressure, and are victims of their own marketing. It seems every aspiring outdoors person wants to be SEEN to be being “outdoorsy” without having done the rigorous apprenticeship that taught you what to accept and what to reject.
IMO the best gear is merino - for warmth, cotton for a light wind layer, and a cheap sweaty outer shell for rain, and a change of warm dry clothes for the tent or hut.
If you pay anything for a $700 jacket then you are being conned. You will ALWAYS get wet, and don't believe b/s about “breathable” fabrics.
I examined Kathmandu tent “seconds” where the staff knew the poles were breaking, but continued to sell them! That was my last visit to the store except to harangue them about their indifference and dangerous dishonesty. Welcome to the machine.

As co-owner and design manager at macpac I would like to stress we absolutely are committed to gear that is made to last in remote wilderness adventures. Sure, to some people that is queen street, but to ourselves and our core customers it means a whole lot more. Getting sales growth does not have to be achieved by cutting corners…

Agreed. I noticed after only being in NZ for a year that Kathmandu was permanently in 'sale' mode, and anybody who bought the gear for full price was paying way too much. Sadly a lot of the same problems happened with Berghaus' more street friendly gear, poor stitching etc due to outsourced manufacture. That said, Berghaus' top end stuff is still class - I have a pair of Storm Attack boots from more than a decade ago which would be pristine if I hadn't worn through the soles with sheer use, and a backpack going back nearly 20 years which has continued to service even while falling apart from some very serious abuse on my part…

Best comment in 2013 so far: “I would’ve been better off sheltering underneath a cocktail umbrella”.

Sorry to hear about your woes, Hazel, but love the heads up on where to go for good kit, Ben & co.

In other news, I built a house in monsoon-muddy Sri Lanka last year with a bunch of other hearty Kiwis wearing my fetching pink and grey 10-year-old £30 kids tramping boots from the UK (no VAT, thank you very much). I will be taking those puppies on the Tongarairo Crossing in April where I'm 100% sure they'll a) not rust b) stay stitched together c) help complete my city-gal-hits-the-mountains look comprising a natty ensemble of pre-pubescent colours.

Win!

Best comment in 2013 so far: “I would’ve been better off sheltering underneath a cocktail umbrella”.

Sorry to hear about your woes, Hazel, but love the heads up on where to go for good kit, Ben & co.

In other news, I built a house in monsoon-muddy Sri Lanka last year with a bunch of other hearty Kiwis wearing my fetching pink and grey 10-year-old £30 kids tramping boots from the UK (no VAT, thank you very much). I will be taking those puppies on the Tongarairo Crossing in April where I'm 100% sure they'll a) not rust b) stay stitched together c) help complete my city-gal-hits-the-mountains look comprising a natty ensemble of pre-pubescent colours.

Win!

I too, used to be a devoted Kathmandu fan when they first arrived on the NZ retail scene, and we still have some of the original gear which has lasted very well. However, I first noticed something was wrong when a brand new (and not cheap) pair of shorts lasted only about 4 washes before the seams came apart and the colour had faded from dark charcoal to a light grey. A travel hairdryer also didn't last more than two trips. Last year when I was looking for a head torch, I was shocked to see them priced at above $100, when you could get something very similar for about $20 at the supermarket. At first I thought maybe it was just me (and bad luck), but articles like yours have confirmed that I and anyone serious about outdoor gear should never set foot in that chain again… As an Aucklander I have had much more luck with Mountain Designs, Bivouac and Living Simply, especially in terms of staff knowledge. In fact, I was especially impressed at the very reasonable prices at Mountain Designs given the quality of the brands and products. I hope this will be a serious wake up call for Kathmandu, before the rest of NZ realises their mistake in putting up with their currently overpriced crap!

Agree on Kathmandu. I had a very similar experience with their boots. 13 months of use (at, say, 3 days per month) and the stiching split and my foot came out the side on a downhill. Took them in to the store and they said they would “do me a favour” and go me halfsies on a repair. When I said no the store staff got a bit agressive and pointed out rust on the eyelets and suggested I had worn them in saltwater, so the stiching was just another sign I didn't take care of them properly! (Only wore them in the Tararuas and Ruahines, no idea where the “saltwater” came from). Have been meaning to take them to the disputes tribunal, but just can't really be arsed. Instead I'm getting my own back by doing what you are and telling people not to shop there.

It wasn't just boots either. A new-ish Kathmandu head torch has recently stopped working, and their water bladders and bottles always leak. In my tramping club there is a saying that they make excellent water bottles, but unfortunately even that isn't true. Only product from Kathmandu I still use is a down jacket (72% off RRP), but that is only for use in huts and as a pillow, so doesn't really count as outdoors wear.

Have gaiters and a new jacket from MacPac. Gaiters are excellent. Jacket is holding up fine, but hasn't really been tested in proper Tararua rain yet, so withholding judgement.

Belinda you are a star.

In the interests of pointing out a few places that *do* have great customer service and products:

Living Simply in Newmarket - they really know their onions, stock great brands and have a realistic price point.

Bivouac Sylvia Park - I bought my Keen tramping boots there on their recommendation and they've been brilliant. Again sales staff really know what they're talking about as they walk the walk.

Orakei Dive (RIP) - after a bezel came off my dive compass and went overboard, Neil scouted around in the odds-and-ends bin to find and fit a new one, even though he wasn't obliged to. Refused to accept payment for doing so.

Global Dive - smart folks, very friendly and go the extra mile.

Ski Trading Post - especially Andrew - they take the time to figure out what you need and the after-sales service is impeccable.

Yep, had a bad experience with a jacket I brought for my daughter at Katmandu…the following day it went on sale for about 60% less so I took the jacket back in the bag, labels still attached and VERY unworn (less than 24 hours old). I asked whether in good faith they could return it and I could buy it back at the discounted price - this is a standard retail practice elsewhere…only to be told “No, sorry. It is just bad timing and bad luck”. This is the same jacket that they refused to order for me from another branch … “You can either go and buy it there or wait until we get some more in…you will need to just come in and check from time to time to see if we've got some more”. If I wanted sub/no customer service I would go to the warehouse where I know not to expect it. With the extreme prices at Katmandu you would think a portion of profit would go to superior service, would you not?

Someone mentioned The Warehouse…I am still using the Nevados tramping boots I bought in a sale from The Warehouse for some ridiculously cheap price about 8 years ago. i think they were $18 from memory. I thought they would last one or two tramps. I've been on at least 4 trips per year since then, that's at least 32 tramps. They've been through mud, river crossings, rugged tracks, been constantly wet for days on end, and sometimes I don't get around to cleaning them until I'm ready to go for the next tramp. They're still going strong.

Agree about the decreasing quality and range of Kathmandu gear. I moved to NZ 12 years ago and compared to what I could buy in the UK at the time, Kathmandu gear was well made, well priced and well thought out. I've got one of the original 'Mountain' tents of theirs and it's still excellent, but from what I've seen and heard their range is very poorly put together.

I haven't had any problems with Macpac gear though, and still think they are in a different class.

Cactus gear is truly awesome, I live in my WK Supertrousers, be it at work or bashing through the bush.

@BenKepes I have owed a cactus bag since I was third form at school. Its lasted me 10 years so far and hasnt shown any signs of weakness. Nice one cactus.

My daughter brought me a $100 Kathmandu voucher for Xmas one year. I forgot about it until a year later and missed by one day the date that it had to be used by. This was of course my fault (although a one year use period is pretty low by the standard of most vouchers). What really pissed me off was their attitude. Not even an apology, they seized my voucher and would not return it, acting as though I had somehow stolen their property. It definitely left a bad taste.

+1 on Cactus - My Super Trousers are super.

However, a suggestion about the return of the good old Jan Cameron days is a bit dicey. She pioneered the offshoring of sporting gear and equipment, and currently owns both Macpac and Fairydown.

Macpac, when owned by Bruce MacIntyre was a brand all about innovation and durability. They created great products that really met the needs of outdoor enthusiasts. I did my thesis there and they were a great company.

You complain about a number of seemingly unrelated things here.

1. If you don't want to join, or renew your membership of, the Summit Club, don't. No one is forcing you to.
2. Shops have no legal obligation to return items that aren't faulty. Complain about the law, not the shop adhering to it.
3. What do you expect when you buy a cheap jacket? A $100 jacket is (I would have thought obviously), going to be 10% as good as a $1,000 jacket. You get what you pay for.

I don't like Kathmandu and think the company's current business model is deeply flawed, but you haven't articulated it properly. Macpac hasn't fallen yet but is showing signs of decreasing quality in order to be more 'middle-of-the-road'. One reason for this is so your gear DOESN'T last forever, and you are forced to replace it eventually. It's a problem Icebreaker is dealing with too.

JG, I think you should go back and reread it, because your first point misses the point. Also, the jacket was not cheap, by any means. The items aren't unrelated: what we're talking about here is a consistent lack of quality and bad customer service.

Note: We've removed one comment that was was slightly inappropriate. Thanks everyone for keeping it civil!

Hazel, I see what you mean - but the way your mother was treated may just have been a bad member of staff, whereas the quality issues may be widespread and symptomatic of a broader issue of quality control, choice of cheaper materials etc.

Don't get me wrong, I agree that it's a shame Kathmandu and Macpac are sliding backwards along the quality curve, and that there are fewer quality NZ brands because of it (notwithstanding Cactus and Swazi, which are awesome brands).

It seems we are all agreed then: Cactus and Swazi are going to take over the world.

As the Customer Service Manager for Kathmandu, I have been reading this blog with great sadness and disappointment. The problems described here and poor after sales service experienced, are genuinely unacceptable to us and I’m sorry. Whilst I cannot undo what has already been done, I can offer to help anyone who has an unresolved issue with any of our products or the service they have received. Please give us a call on 0800 001 234 (NZ) or email us at 'dropusaline@kathmandu.info' and we’ll do everything we can to try and sort it out for you. Ian

Thanks Ian, your response is admirable.

I think Kathmandu (and probably Macpac these days) are okay as long as you ignore their marketing stating how awesome they are, and accept that for the most part they don't make real outdoor gear. They make travel gear, which is typically alright for (eg) things like sitting on aeroplanes and walking around hot muggy cities, and packing things tightly for international travel. I have several Kathmandu shirts which I can often pass off as work shirts, but they're also light and they dry out fairly quickly as a bonus. If I ever take one tramping, it's usually for switching into for the drive home.

New Zealand isn't the main target market for these companies any more. At best it's a corporate base, but there's no money in New Zealand compared with the rest of the world. When imports started pushing Macpac stuff off the shelves, Macpac's new owners chose to compete by changing it to become the same as the importers, and by buying its own retail space to force the products in front of consumers rather than rely on retailers continuing to push it. Maybe it's alright for the economy in some ways to have international businesses based in NZ, but it's less good if you want a brilliant quality product targeted at local conditions.

But yeah, I agree with you. I preferred it when the focus of the marketing was on showing of the clear specifications of a product to prove why it was so great, instead of showing very little information up front, glossing it with giant pictures of happy smiling young people, and having an insane pendulum pricing model that makes still-high prices appear like big savings.

Most outdoors weekend warriors overspec their tramping boots in NZ a good 80% of tramps can be done in much lighter weight boots and far more comfortable products than are sold by inexperienced outdoor shops.they would have you pounding the heaphy in a pair of heavy leather boots.. look for the following: a solid 1/4 metal or carbon shank; twist the boot in store a good boot should resist the opportunity to twist this is what gives you stability on rocks etc torsional stablility is a very important feature in shoes and boots. Vibram sole if possible for technical downward and uphill traction as well as durability Vibram are the industry standard in soles. and the orthotic system should be either mouldable or get a store like the frontrunner or shoe clinic to mould you a removeable insole. use your own orthotic moulded insole to give you maximum comfort and healthy fitting. This WILL make the difference between an average day and a great day…

This is what happens when your Kathmandu airbed develops a tumor on its second use: http://seemsforever.tumblr.com/image/39409601000 (Sleeping becomes an Olympic sport.)

Funnily enough a 75% increase in profit, announced for the most recent half, is probably part of the reason there are so many comments about poor quality in this forum. Marking up to mark down pricing only works while the product quality exceeds customers expectations.

Yup the big K sux and Macpac is now only a name. Quality NZ made outdoor apparel? Well, I am a huge Earth Sea Sky fan and the Ellis family are a living part of NZ's great outdoor culture.

Macpac makes our packs with the same Aztec we have used for forty years. World renown products like cascade, torre, pursuit,ascent packs, tents like the Olympus, microlight,minaret etc are still as they have been for decades. We still use the best rainwear fabrics, makes expedition worthy sleeping bags and develop gear with love and care. I absolutely stand behind our products, and I am proud of how my company remains committed to holding the place of the most trusted new Zealand outdoor brand. Our ( very passionate) product team have read this article,and although it is light on examples or specifics on our product, we are disappointed to be dragged in to such a conversation. We work hard to make great gear, and our team is made up of people who use our product every week..our ownhappiness and safety depends on our products. May I suggest taking a really close look at our gear…there is a very good reason we export to Japan, UK, Europe and US (and aussie of course…) That reason is quality of design and manufacturing. We remain committed to this.

Hi Hazel

We are also happy to forward any customer questions, suggestions, problems or compliments directly on to Kathmandu.

We also follow-up with customers later to check how well companies respond.

Simon
www.TellSimon.com
Customer feedback channel

Thanks Campbell. Although I do hear bad feedback about Macpac as well (and have had some issues myself, mostly with waterproof gear delaminating and ripping), there doesn't seem to be the same level of anger directed at your company.

I chose to buy a Marmot tent rather than a Minaret second time around, though it's too early to tell how it will perform.

Although I haven't had good experiences with Macpac products, I couldn't possibly fault the customer service, in terms of instant replacement without being blamed for problem. The staff are always impeccably polite and helpful.

Hazel,

The first day I bought a Kathmandu “shatter proof” pet plastic drink bottle I dropped it on a carpeted gym room floor -only for the entire bottom half of the bottle to surprisingly shatter (plastic on carpet?! Yes Kathmandu proves ANYTHING can break!) I returned it the following day only for the staff to question my treatment of the bottle?! (Because we all like smashing things on purpose and going to the hassle of returning them). They reluctantly exchanged for another giving the excuse it was possibly a one off bad apple in the. Bunch.
Well less than two weeks later the same thing happened again. It slipped from my hand while leaving a gym glass and it smashed AGAIN! Half full of water on a carpeted gym room we do pump in. Sooo I returned it at great hassle and asked for a replacement but asked for a different style of bottle since I no longer had any trust in the specific type of bottle.
Well, if I were to get a different bottle of similar size and pet free I was told i would have to pay the difference of the price increase. What a bloody cheek. I refused to pay the $10 difference so they refused to give me a non faulty replacement even when it was so patently clear their products were faulty . Needless to say I still have a crap Kathmandu bottle I can't use and an utter disgust towards kathmandus complete lack of customer service and quality standards .
Who would want to buy anything Kathmandu these days? What a shame such a good brand self combusted

Hi Rosie b, that's unacceptable. Please see my earlier post and get in contact, if you would like.

I am keen to know more details and promise we'll happily organise a replacement bottle of your choosing.

Regards, Ian.

I love my Cactus gear, bloody awesome equipment made here, actually, crafted is a better term than made.

There's still a few of us Kiwi companies proud to make product here and stand behind it. As a young outdoors designer (a touch more than a few moons ago!) I used to be in such awe of what the folk at Macpac and Fairydown were doing. My god, those bastards were good. It drove me harder, pushed me further. How to make practical gear that would last and last and last. How to do all of that and remain a New Zealand manufacturer… Well, we still do and we still are.

It's out of respect for our customers and the environment that we embrace total responsibility to the way we produce our products. When you allow the profit at the bottom line drive you the result is inevitable. Always. It is not about profit. It is about people.

HE TANGATA.

IT IS ABOUT OUR LAND.

IT IS ABOUT OUR VALUES.

Davey

I will never ever shop at Kathmandu or Macpac again, appalling service, quality has dropped over the years, and the prices are horrendous. I will forever now be loyal to Mountain Designs, an ever growing brand in NZ and Australia, Great quality, outstanding service, and best value for money.

Hazel sounds like a newbie. Who would buy boots from Kathmandu or take advice from one of their pimply sales staff?

You got sucked in to the hype Hazel.

Interesting reading all the comments on this blog on Kathmandu. I've bought their products for years, but have noticed a distinct drop in quality recently. A tent I bought last summer and used once, then put it up again this summer and lo and behold one of the poles was cracking, and disintegrated at one end and in the middle. Thankfully it didn't rain or wasn't gale force winds or I would have been in trouble.
Took said pole into Kathmandu, basically was told to find my receipt in order to get replacement pole. However if I couldn't do that then the cost would be $20. for a whole pole set - no wonder the quality is so rubbish!
I'll definitely be looking elsewhere next time I need outdoor gear.

Newbie – ha! Yes, I most certainly was, back then – which is exactly the problem, and (partially) the point. The brand still has appeal to newbies, it's only with experience that you discover the gear doesn't hold up to NZ conditions. Good brand proposition, bad execution. Shame.

Prices at Macpac horrendous? I think we’ve done an amazing job of maintaining price without detracting from product. Let’s look at a few of the iconic Macpac pieces of kit..
The RRP of the NZ made Olympus in the Summer of 02/03 was $999.
Immediately after the move off-shore the price was $899.
The Summer 07/08 RRP was still $899 – just before we started to open our own stores.
Currently the RRP is $899… in x-mas sale it was $629

The RRP of the NZ made Torre in the Summer of 02/03 was $499.
Immediately after the move off-shore the price was $479.
Just before we started to open our own stores the Torre didn’t exist anymore - it had been dropped from the range.
We brought this classic back because we believed in the need for a 12oz single compartment workhorse. We used new and more advanced Liberator harness, that has just been through a little 860 day test (Ed Stafford carried this harness when he walked the Amazon) . RRP $599 and on now on x-mas sale at $419.

The RRP of the NZ made Litealp daypack in the Summer of 02/03 was $99.
Immediately after the move off-shore the price was $89.
The Summer 07/08 RRP was $99 again – just before we started to open our own stores.
Currently the RRP is $99… $69.95 in current promo.

The RRP of the NZ made Fast Eddy shorts in the Summer of 02/03 was $79.
Immediately after the move off-shore the price was $69.
The Summer 07/08 RRP was $79 again – just before we started to open our own stores.
Currently the RRP is $79… $49 in the our last Sale.

The RRP of the NZ made Prophet in the Winter of 02 was $899.
Immediately after the move off-shore the price was $799.
The Winter 07 RRP was still $799 – just before we started to open our own stores.
The new Prophet is currently only $699… $489 in the our most recent Sale.

Back to original post-do you that store in Te Anau is just upset because we no longer supply them? They didn't complain when they were stockists…

Cam

My Kathmandu Boots replaced a set of Merrells that wore out pretty quickly on the soles - I do 2-3 hikes in the hills behind Eastbourne each week, and it's mostly pretty steep, rotten rock and ungraded tracks/possum lines. Usually 2-4 hours depending on route and time available. The first pair of Kathmandus lasted reasonably well, only the laces broke after a year, and then the lugs came adrift. When the soles (Vibram) started to lose their grip I bought another pair.

So far they have been quite serviceable, and I feel that I'm pretty hard on them. The Vibram soles don't often let go, uphill or down, and they provide good support, (I checked for torsional rigidity having been advised by the good folks at Bay Shoes) and, so far, the laces are holding up - they are of a different construction than the earlier pair.

However, on the strength of this report I would not consider a tent, jacket or any other Kathmandu gear now, but I think it's fair to say that my leggings have been waterproof - about 8 years old, and a Polarfleece vest has broken pocket zip but otherwise has lasted about a decade. And so it should.

As a former marketing manager for the Wool Board, I always buy wool / merino and make sure I have an Icebreaker l/s hoodie and leggings even on warm days. I know garment construction and buy carefully. Icebreaker off-shored and their quality stays high. I'll be looking out for some Cactus - where's the stockists in Welly, Ben Kepes?

Cam, I'd rather pay more for NZ made, quality gear that will last than slightly cheaper prices for stuff that breaks. Or pay less for a German or American brand that is known to be robust.

Check out the prices at Living Simply. If I were in the market for another multi-day pack I could get:

Living Simply:

Deuter Aircontact 65 +10 for for $399

Deuter ACT Lite 60 + 10 for $279

Or…

Macpac Cascade 65 for $549

Macpac Esprit 65 for $579

Or I could go really nutbuckets and get the Deuter Aircontact Pro 55+15SL Women's for $449.

The pack I'm using now, a Berghaus women's 65, was $179 on sale.

Hi Phil (and everyone else) - sorry that this has descended into a bit of an angry thread. For the record, I (and Cactus more generally) have lots of respect for Cam and the team at Macpac - I guess we just have a different view on the way we want to go in business. It's not right/wrong, I'm sure Cam (and Jan undoubtedly) will make a truckload more money than we ever will, but we like the artisnal nature of our brand. Macpac is an awesome brand and its product work fine for what they're intended for.

For what it's worth, and for those in here interested in Macpac founder Bruce Macintyre, he's actually now a member of the board of Cactus. We have massive respect and admiration for Bruce and what he's achieved, and it seems to me that Cactus reminds him of the early days of Macpac - I'm personally honoured that he's joined our merry band and look forward to seeing how he can help us improve what we do.

And now, to answer your question Phil - we primarily sell directly online - all prices include freight to your door (no matter where you are worldwide (orders over $250). However we do have some reatilers as well - full list here - http://www.cactusequipment.co.nz/retailers

Hi all. We here at Cactus HQ have been watching this thread with intense interest (as you can imagine). Ben's right, we have plenty of respect for Macpac. Hell, two of us are even former Macpac employees and apply the lessons and philosophy within our very different business model, along with Bruce at Board level. Mucho respect also for Earth Sea Sky and Swazi too. Values driven and true value driven both, just like us.
We know our gear is fit-for-purpose, we know it lasts, and we know it provides value for money, 'cause that's just how we prefer to make it. Shop around folks…it's the only way to be sure.

Sorry Hazel, but really …you don't need to know very much about selecting gear for NZ to see that a pack that uses a $5 china fabric/made for EU market is far from an equal option for NZ use than a Macpac made with Australian made canvas (costing 5 times the price).

In these examples there is no doubt as to which product proposition is more durably water proof, uses tough materials and is better sewn and will last longer. The Macpacs you mention are made with our Aztec (which we've used for 40 years) and many are still in use 30 years later.

Sustainability begins with quality that lasts, but contrary to nationalistic hyperbole, quality is not a determined by the nationality of a sewing machine operator. It is determined by sound design, specifications and production systems. Davey Hughes(swazi) and Ben Kepes (cactus)production quality is only as good as the systems and people that ensure it.( eg: ISO 9000/90001/9002/9003 certified factories and processes)

Your appear to suggest that products fall into 2 buckets- a)”quality NZ made” and b)”cheaper stuff that breaks”. This would be a very immature world view- not one that is expected from a website that claims to be in the ideas business.

Cam

ps. Hi Ben. Thanks for the comments, but he different paths we have taken in the 18 years I've known you guys has made one notable difference in where we are today- I am now grey, you are not. I sold my house and moved in with the in-laws and pledged by kidney to the bank so I could buy macpac. Around about then age found me…no truckloads of cash coming in , only going out so far.

pps. Oi, Ben, re: our products “work fine for what they are intended for” ?? Cheers…yours do also ;)

An immature world view? OK Campbell, I'll add “patronising and condescending attitude” to my list of reasons never to shop at Macpac again!

If one believed that all falls into the two buckets of “quality NZ made” and “cheaper stuff that breaks” then, yes, that is an immature outlook if that is what you suggest.

If you choose to question the integrity and purpose of a company with 300 dedicated staff in public space, with the clear intent of putting that businesses reputation in questio n without qualification then you have to expect reasonable questioning on now your viewpoint is formed. That is hardly patronising or condescending.

Cam, I think you have misunderstood what I was saying, if this is what you're talking about in terms of everything being in 'two buckets':

“Cam, I'd rather pay more for NZ made, quality gear that will last than slightly cheaper prices for stuff that breaks. Or pay less for a German or American brand that is known to be robust.”

This didn't mean that I would either pay for NZ quality gear on one hand or German/American brands on the other and that there were no other options available aside from these two – just that my first choice would be good quality NZ brands (Cactus, if you like), but also that I'm a fan of German and American brands after having acquired some Berghaus and Marmot.

I wasn't saying that only these two options existed in the world, and regardless, even if I was, it would become three options in my immature world view: 1) NZ stuff that's quality, 2) rubbish stuff that breaks, and 3) German and American stuff that does not break.

I would need three buckets, were that the case. I hear World View Buckets are on sale at The Warehouse this week.

Guys, to quote an old climbing dude (or someone), can't we all just learn to get along?

Cam is correct when he says that it's not as simple as “NZ made good, imported bad”. The problem is when companies look to Far East manufacturing as a way of cutting costs (and no, I'm not passing comment on Macpac or anyone else with that comment). Asian factories can make sh1t kicking product, but they can also make pure unadulterated crap. New Zealand factories tend to make high quality gear because (generalization), there tends to be a high degree of connection between manufacturing staff and the end consumers. In our case, the sewing machinists who makes our stuff are very highly skilled, have been in the industry for decades and regularly interact with the folks who actually use the gear. So while I agree with Cam that the two-bucket analogy doesn't really hold, there is something of a trend towards companies moving offshore to gain the benefits that offshore manufacturing brings and then slowly looking for lower cost manufacturing techniques which impact upon quality. As an example, a well-known clothing brand here in NZ moved their manufacturing offshore and it's a very well know fact that, while the technology used int he garments are more advanced than when they were made here, the longevity has markedly reduced.

As to the grey flecks in your hair Cam. I left security and a regular wage to begin on this Cactus journey, and proceeded to spend a few years living in a factory alongside the other Cactus owners and not paying ourselves a wage. Your financial risk is obviously bigger since you're gunning for a far bigger scale, but we've both gone out on a ledge to do what we do. As you know I have nothing but admiration for your courage and determination to succeed.

I have a general concern about the commoditization, homogenization and hyper-consumption that exists in our market and general in the world - and I guess I kind of think that higher volume brands feed that trend. That said, if we'd only get over ourselves and focus less on building gear that lasts a lifetime, we'd be likely to sell more stuff and have a more financially successful business.

Anyway - mutual love and all, I'll still blow a kiss in your direction when I run past La Casa Macpac…

;)

Oh and apologies for the horrible spelling in that last comment…. fingers getting ahead of themselves and all that….

My World View Bucket is leaking.

Nothing like a robust discussion! I like to think all things are possible depending upon what you wish to achieve. New Zealand manufacturing is possible, feasible and profitable.

On the whole it is socially practical and desirable, especially to small provincial towns such as Levin. Why don't we make our gear in Bangladesh or China? Because we don't have to. Some people do have to. And some, no, most, are just greedy. I love it when accountants tell me that one must show shareholders the largest return possible. Why? Simply because the majority of shareholders are greedy too. More. More. More. For less. Less. Less.

It's about the money honey. Happiness? Respect? Self-esteem? You must be living in the past my friend.

Making gear in NZ and making gear in off shore plants where workers can truly be exploited (look, I know exactly, let me say again, exactly how much the stuff costs to make in China and brother, we don't respect our customers or else we'd charge them real RRPs instead of ones where we make super-profit) anyway, the difference is the same as that between really good sex and procreation. One leaves you glowing - you decide which!

Davey Hughes
www.swazi.co.nz

It is a shame about Macpac - their gear used to be great. I still have my original OE pack, which they repaired in Christchurch twice when I flitted home, they did it under their warranty which was amazing as the pack was over 10 years old and well used at the time. It's still one of the most comfortable packs I have. Cactus have really filled that role now.

Hey, thanks Ben, off to have squizz at your site now.

This whole thread has been a textbook example of how things can go tragically (?) wrong for company reputation as word-of-mouth has shifted almost entirely online. No more chats in huts or on tracks, I assume most of us are sitting at PC/Laptop/Tablets or smartphones having this conversation. If you're like me, you've shared it hither and yon too.

It's great to hear from the good guys and get such a cross-section of views. Having spent much of my younger career in the apparel industry, it was pretty wrenching watching so many manufacturers and friends fail to survive the onslaught of cheap nasties.

The final removal of tariffs was a bold experiment that allowed the adoption of the Wal-Mart model that has damaged almost all local industries, to the point where only the specialists whose product quality can support a fair price for good value can survive.

Hats off to Davy Hughes and the large number of small players still manufacturing here and meeting demand for original New Zealand designs.

Another morning hike behind Lowry Bay this today and the Kathmandu boots didn't fall apart once! Gave me a bit of time to contemplate the changes not just in the outdoor equipment industry (where we really should have some competitive advantage just through location and reputation) but the wider apparel industry and really, most other products.

We see tonnes of logs being shipped as raw material, and are offered crappy timber furniture by return, rather than being able to economically “add value” locally, and there's no point bemoaning that we are price takers at the odd end of the globalisation chain.

This has drifted wildly from Hazel's original point. But we do have the skills and resources to create quality products to compete on a global scale, and not just films and software. I believe our richest resource is ideas, and they can be applied to problems to deliver designed solutions. It would be especially innovative to turn our isolation into an advantage.

I guess we can start shipping pure water (possibly not in those Kathmandu bottles) over the next decades!

I walked past the NZX yesterday at Midday, noticed that Kathmandu had a drop in price on the ticker… more than coincidence?

Hazel, I'm sad this has happened to you. I worked at Kathmandu before it went totally to crap (a LONG time ago now….).

It makes me sad to see this. So many “big” outdoor retailers have NO idea about quality, just quantity and $ made.

[Edited] I spent years at 2 different outdoor companies picking up the pieces from [failures]. Customers lost so much faith they'd never return, and I could never blame them.

Cam's attitude (above) towards you and your opinion screams of a guy desperate to keep some kind of credibility in the industry, but his failing gear keeps speaking for itself.

It is with great pleasure that I tell you these days I just enjoy the outdoors and no longer exploit it by working for one of these companies.

Keep up the good work Hazel, these frauds need to be exposed so hard working Kiwi's aren't getting ripped off!

Kathmandu gear is clearly designed for urban use and it has become a fashion 'label' rather than a supplier of outdoor equipment. It is misrepresentative of them to market their products as suitable for outdoor use beyond day walks on formed tracks in fine weather. Macpac clothing seems reasonable - at least they have great long body lengths and sleeves which is something horribly absent in KMD clothing. Better to buy serious gear such as La Sportiva, Deuter and Vaude if you want to venture into the outdoors.

As a newcomer to New Zealand I'm reading this with great interest.

I've bought equipment and clothing from most American, Canadian, European and New Zealand companies. I've used them in urban, hill, mountain and extreme environments (including working in a mountain rescue team) they all have faults. Robust but heavy, lightweight but flimsy etcetera - however I now have several brands that I default to.

That said I still do not buy blindly. The item is reviewed, tried and tested (where possible) before a purchase is made. Brands that are (IMHO) great for function and customer service are:
Arcteryx, Black Diamond, Bridgedale, DMM, Hilleberg, Icebreaker, La Sportiva, Macpac, MSR, Nalgene, Osprey, Paramo, Patagonia, PHD and Swanndri.

Upon arrival to New Zealand, Cactus has been recommended to me by several people and I shall look them up when one of my Macpac or Osprey packs fail (don't expect that for a long time) - they certainly look well made and durable. I have also made a purchase at Katmandu which is fit for purpose, so not all products are bad.

Threads such as this can become witch hunts and personal attacks; however they also provide valuable insight for the companies mentioned and a chance for them to evaluate their way of operating.

Just my $0.02,
Graham

Nothing like arriving at a party late but this was too good to miss, although it looks like the dregs have been drained and the mood has gone a bit sour. Amazing to see the thread spawned from someone who doesn't really seem to know that much about the industry, or the players. But a real trip down memory lane for someone who was in retail in the mid-late 1990s in a small independent outdoors shop, that worked hard to stock only quality brands. Quality gear is quality gear no matter where it is made. Some NZ brands fit the bill, others don't, despite the protests.

In the 90s if you bought Kathmandu you clearly weren't serious about the hills. We received multiple customers who were once bitten and I'm not sure if quite so many industry people remember Jan Cameron as the saviour of NZ outdoor gear as Hazel does (or probably doesn't more likely).

Perception is everything. NZers immediately associate a move offshore with decreased quality, and it only requires a few examples to cement this in people's minds. For everyone that has had a bad experience, quality is defined by the nationality of the sewing machine operator.
I'm sure Cactus will remember this from their brief flirtation overseas and the Macpac reputation immediately suffered with a few minute design changes during the shift. The same goes for Icebreaker when they moved.

What amazes me the most though, Hazel, is how many times you have been bitten. I would have refused to buy my mother the polypro. She should be wearing Earth Sea Sky polyester. So good that God wasted his time inventing the sheep.

Reddman, I've edited your comment for legal reasons. Many thanks for your perspective.

Paul Prince, how odd that you think someone requires in-depth knowledge of an industry and its players in order to have a valid perspective on a company's products or its customer service. What about the average consumer? Does their opinion not count? Do they need to know the entire history of, say, The Warehouse, before they might comment on its products and customer service?

Naturally my memories of outdoors gear in the 1990s would not match yours, given your experience. I was more into competitive Saturday sport than tramping! Regardless, in the here and now, the products don't stack up. You knew they wouldn't, good for you. I didn't.

And as I said in the article, I'm putting my mother in therapy.

I bought a tent from Kathmandu when we were heading over to New Zealand for a 3 week trip. After we came back we went on another overnight camping trip and one of the supporting poles broke. This was when the tent was less than 6 months old and I promise you, had been looked after.

I took it back to the store to get a replacement and the sales assistant had the audacity to tell me that it had broken due to being incorrectly set-up. When I explained to her that we had by no means been using it in extreme weather conditions and that we had always set up the guy lines and tent correctly, she told me that even a single gust of wind in the wrong direction could have done the damage.

Well I'm sorry, by why the hell do you make supposedly four season tents that will break under one gust of light wind?

And when I mentioned that one of the corner buckles had been sewn on upside down from the very beginning she told me that they would have to send it away for repairs, even though they had some in stock out the back.

Any other outdoor gear retailer I've been to that has had multiple faults with a product has offered me a new replacement. It really doesn't encourage you to return there. I've definitely learnt my lesson.

Thanks Hazel, your opinions as a consumer are of course entirely valid and inside knowledge is not required. You went further than the average consumer though. Your heart weeps for a bygone era and I would like to hear more about it. At what point did quantity over quality impact significantly on the NZ outdoor market, and do you think any key player is identifiable as responsible? Your use of The Warehouse as an analogy is apt to say the least.

she told me that even a single gust of wind in the wrong direction could have done the damage” – This is HILARIOUS! We should write a sitcom in the vein of Fawlty Towers around this. I bet it would be a smash hit.

Paul, you can read at least 13.5% hyperbole into my writing. I weep for the bygone era of pre-Rogernomics, when nobody ever had a quality problem, ever, even once, and everyone got breakfast in bed and a fluffy kitten.

OK, I jest. We're out of fluffy kittens. But it seems curious to me to see Mountain Mules and the really old Macpac and Kathmandu gear out on the tracks still going strong, while there's obviously a lot of grief about the new stuff. Those with the old gear bang on about how fantastic it is and how it's lasted for so long. I didn't have any from back then, barring light walking gear and various bits of clothing.

I'll decline to identify any key player as responsible, given some of the reaction I've personally had from the various parties identified here.

Nice that some PR types will rush to the defence of their brand and offer to personally help anyone reading this scathing analysis of their 'brand.' Perhaps they could pass the message down the chain to their general staff.

In my one experience (now twice shy) with a Kathmandu item which I dared to take beyond the CBD, I had to persist with the shop manager for half an hour to get my money back. I had to essentially recite the Consumer Guarantees Act (1993) in its entirety in order to eventually triumph.

I strongly recommend everyone learns this remarkable piece of legislation. To paraphrase (quotes not exact), goods must be “fit for purpose,” and if not, can be “repaired, replaced or refunded at the CONSUMER'S discretion” (emphasis is mine).

However, it's not all bad: if you rummage amidst all the unmitigated garbage, you'll find that Kathmandu seems to make the best generic yellow pack liner. It's a more robust plastic than the MSC ones which recently got thinnner for some reason…

From years of tramping and climbing almost every weekend, and spending way too much money, my pick of brands:
Earth Sea Sky (shorts, base layers and fleece)
Mont Bell (down jacket)
Scarpa (boots)
Cactus (packs, pants, gaiters [even these are not foolproof however but then how the hell do you make an indestructible gaiter?])
Outdoor Research (softshell, fleece gloves and light trousers)
Norsewear (socks)
Arc'teryx (raincoat)
Primus (cooker and pots)
Black Diamond + Petzl (climbing gear)

And, the other rule of thumb with gear: you get what you pay for.*

*full retail at Macpac and Kathmandu excluded, I prefer to treat their sale prices as the norm.

Cheers

Jaz, Dunedin

Sorry, too fast there. That first sentence doesn't make sense.

“Nice that some PR types will rush to the defence of their rubbish with an offer to personally help anyone reading this amusing and scathing analysis of their 'brand.' Perhaps they could pass the message down the chain to their general staff.”

Interesting article. While it's sad to see a once-proud Kiwi brand get slammed, it is wholly deserved. A family member insisted on giving me Kathmandu vouchers at Christmas for several years. I used the vouchers on a range of items - jacket, bike shorts, backpack, heart rate monitor, polyprops, socks etc. Invariably everything was overpriced, even on special, and of low quality - except perhaps the polyprops, which have held up, albeit with minimal use. I should add the backpack has held up, except for the logo (thankfully) falling off.

It was almost amusing wandering around the store and looking at the 'RRP' pricing: low quality cycling gloves for $90? Generic cycle shorts for $140, which are comparable to the budget Torpedo 7 stuff which retails for $40? With the items 40% off, they're still probably nearly priced at double what they should be.

I haven't encountered bad service there, but with the products being so bad, and the marketing so misleading, I won't be shopping there again.

The Kathmandu inconsistency in staff training and practices.

I bought a lightweight “Titanium” Kathmandu branded cooker. It served me well for over 30 days of use spread over a couple of years. On the Summit Plateau of Ruapehu it failed completely.

I happened to be passing through Hamilton so took it into the store for a replacement, they refused as it was out of warranty, I asked how long they would expect it to last, the response was that the warranty was only 3 months, so it didn't matter.

Annoyed and short on time I took the cooker, threw it in my car and left. Later that week I was in Albany Auckland with some time to spare and I felt like having an argument with a Kathmandu staff member.

The service was TOTALLY opposite - they replaced it on the spot, didn't even check, (or for that matter ask), when I had bought it - just wanted to know what had happened so they could make a note in the system.

This is how it should of been in the first place!

This is interesting. Ten years ago I came to New Zealand as one of many German backpackers, spending a good 6 months in the country. Back then, Kathmandu gear seemed to be both of high quality and well liked. 10 years on, it seems to be pretty much the opposite now. Sales prices are of course to be taken as normal, but even then stuff there is very expensive - and the quality is lacking and products disappointing (thinking about the broken beach frisbee here or the rather expensive rain jacket that won't keep it dry inside). This is unfortunate because we quite like(d) the stores (not so much the service). Will now try to buy whatever is needed in Europe for a fraction of the price.

Totally agree. Kathmandu product is vastly overpriced and overrated. 'Sales' of say 40% off are just a marketing ploy. Even with 40-50% off the product is well overpriced. Its the Briscoes of the outdoor world. I no longer set foot in their stores. There were too many times when I subsequently found better product at often considerably much better prices elsewhere.

I like most customers utterly hate paying to join a club to get a discount - when i'm buying the crap from the damn store in the beginning. Salt my wounds to have to pay to get a refund ! Thats insane. I would have made the manager of the store tell me that. Case in point the company is refunding.

However many multiple hundred dollars I have spent at Kathmandu and it would be about $1k. I can assure you my card will have expired as I joined the damn club. It won't be renewed.

I do however feel its petty to not want to talk to them about the issues via email though as there are a PLENTY of rubbish companies out there that extort, lie and fail to service their customer base a whole lot worse than Kathmandu. HELLO FREEDOM FURNITURE welcome to the fold, I am talking to you.

Please do a story on the plethora of flat packed furniture stores that are popping up all over the web and the fast retail spaces of NZ charging far too much, for far too little, made in far too far away places, out of utter rubbish.

Start with Freedom, Harvey Norman, Noel Leeming, Furniture City, iFurniture, myflatpack. The list goes on. And NO Ikea might be nice when you have the local Ikea to return stuff to, but when you don't its a nightmare.

Zebbyz

Kathmandu's pricing strategy has become ridiculous. I am now generally looking for 75%, or more, off before I even consider a product. In the past I felt they offered a good balance of value and quality, but those days are long gone.

I don't feel it is really fair to lump Macpac in with Kathmandu. However, their pricing strategy could potentially be heading in the direction. I have been impressed with many of their new lighter weight products.

Cactus trousers and shorts really do live up to all the claims and are great value for money because they last so long.

I get a lot of my gear now from small USA based cottage gear manufacturers, but like to get New Zealand made stuff when it meets my needs.

Troy Hutchinson

Thanks Hazel… for instigating this very informative discussion on outdoor equipment. I'm now more educated on where to go to insure the equipment I purchase won’t be a burden to a safe & enjoyable outdoor experience…

The Complete outdoors on Barbados Street is brilliant – They have a guy with a degree in outdoor recreation who coincidently also warned me against Kathmandu gear. He was honest about not having the sort of tramping gear I was after and sent me to Bivouac Outdoor at Tower Junction which also had a guy with an outdoor rec degree.

It came down to an Osprey or Cactus and in the end I brought a Cactus because I’m rough with things & it looks like it can handle me!

Kathmandu - “outdoor clothing for indoor people”

Troy Hutchinson

Also, thanks Jaz Morris from Dunedin… for giving these helpful suggestions…

Base layers/fleece- Earth Sea Sky
Down jacket - Montebell
Boots - Scarpa
Packs - Cactus
Soft shell/fleece gloves - Outdoor Research
Socks - Norsewear
Raincoat - Arc'teryx
Cooker & pots - Primus

Troy, I just trialled a Gregory pack, the Sage 45 litre (meant to be a one-night pack but reckon it would suit for two) and really impressed with it. So that one should go on the list!

A shame to lump Macpac in with Kathmandu. While I have no doubt their quality is down on past history I know plenty of folk who have had no issues. I do note however in recent years their are more people with more issues and the same can be said for Icebreaker in my opinion. I work in the electrical industry and natural fibre (merino) undergarments are a secondary protection for us. I have owned a fair chunk of icebreaker base layers and it appears to be getting less hard wearing as the years go on. I dont own any K gear and dont intend to but have a macpac Pitch pack which is great and a Macpac resolution hardshell, ditto for that. New Spyder pant are o for awesome and Icebreaker socks in Vasque boots suit fine for vaunts up the Matukituki or Stewart Island. The other half is looking at some scarpa boots and Cactus gear at the moment so I look forward to seeing how it goes. Im off to enjoy a play in the white stuff for the weekend, be safe out there! :)

I don't think it is good to get Macpac in with Kathmandu., But i have been pleased with many of their new lighter weight products specially with backpacks and boots.

I also agree that the product is overpriced and overrated. Effect of marketting

Wow, this would definitely come under the banner as a witch hunt. In your article you mention Macpac, yet you give no first hand examples of the quality. Instead you package them up with Kathmandu and then go on a tirade about how bad Kathmandu is. By what you have written, you were more than happy to shop there a year prior to your mother shopping and made no effort to sway her decision to shop there. And due to an individuals decision to make your mother re-sign up to the summit club for a refund, you attempt to tarnish the Macpac name. Shame on you!

I have used numerous brands, and yes Kathmandu quality is not up there, but the Macpac packs that I have are in my opinion among the best in the world. And considering I have traveled across most of it, in extreme conditions (including a number of summits many dare not go), I would suggest you tone down your skewed opinion and focus it towards the likes of Kathmandu ONLY.

I doubt your anecdotal stories would fly in the climbing groups that I have had the pleasure of climbing with. A couple noted users Marty Schmidt (Climbed the worlds biggest peaks), Ed Stafford (Traveled entire distance of Amazon River).

Of course products wear out, or need repairs. I am not claiming that Macpac products don't. I am saying they are NOT Kathmandu!

That's a lot of vitriole. We buy gear from Kathmandu, normally during sales, and have generally been happy with both the quality and service (go the naki). Personally I've bought merino shirts that have performed well albeit the wool feels a little coarser than my wonderful IceBreakers. My 10 year old uses a Kathmandu pack for school and I would pit the amount of abuse that cops against any outdoor adventure and it handles it well. Price/performance seems about right to me.

If you want to buy a product that you can fondly use and abuse for many years then Kathmandu may not be the right place to be looking (although I'm still wearing organic cotton jeans I bought from Kathmandu more than 6 years ago).

I suspect the lesson here for Kathmandu is had the customer service part of the equation been better then this story might have had a positive theme. If a product fails it needs to be replaced without quibbling or casting aspersions about improper use or care.

Hi - talk about coming in late…!

Yes - I am one of those people who have Kathmandu gear from a long time ago - possibly 1990. I may have bought it in Christchurch. I also recall buying a Bivouac polar fleece jacket and my first Macpac Cascade at the same time (to replace the First Light travel pack I had). A lot of this gear has survived and I still use my Kathmandu Polartec 200 pants in Tassie's wilds. This was a time when Macpac and Fairydown tents were lusted after - I still have my Fairydown Sting, and it cost me more than the car I bought to drive around NZ in!

I have to agree with the sentiment in the above comments. I know to buy Kathmandu gear for urban use only - I would never use the newer K stuff where I need to rely on it. I have not bought any Macpac gear now since I managed to get the last NZ made Minaret available in Hobart, and Macpac manufacturing left NZ. That is not to say the newer Macpac gear is not good.

I classify a good piece of gear as one I have confidence in. This comes from years of use in harsh environments. My MSR stove lasted 25 years (replaced recently with another Internationale), my Sting lasted 25 years (replaced now with a WE Second Arrow). My Cascade lasted 15 years, replaced with another Cascade and now with a One Planet). I simply would not trust my Kathmandu Force 10 jacket in the mountains here. I wear it happily around Hobart however.

My experience with gear is that if it lasts I have confidence in it. This allows me to enjoy my time in the backcountry much more, as I am not worrying about whether my gear will keep me safe. That's what gear is supposed to do - keep us safe. That's why we spend a lot of money to get (supposedly) good quality gear. If something fails through shoddy quality, using it how was advertised to be used, then I'm sorry but people NEED to know that - for their safety.

I certainly recognise that making such outstanding gear that lasts 15 or more years is not a sustainable business practice for a company wanting to make money. They need people to consume their product, and if I only buy one Kathmandu fleece pant every 25 years they might view that as unacceptable. That, to my mind, is not a reason to reduce quality to the point where I may be replacing pants more regularly.

On the other hand, maybe I'm strange. I buy gear for the quality, and the confidence that goes with that. And I pay more for those products. Maybe most people these days are happy with shoddy stuff that needs replacing each year/trip/walk…

An interesting discussion- not least because members of the industry have given their stance- thank you!

As someone who has worked in remote field situations for a lot of my working life, I've relied on the performance of the outdoor gear I use. I have found that very few outdoor products on the market have been designed to withstand day in day out use.

I am a complete groupie of Cactus these days- I would defend their gaiters to the death in particular. Mostly I love that they will make stuff to order, and respect and support that customers want to customise their gear. The only place where I have ever been where my need for a machete pocket in a daypack was not met with raised eyebrows!

My other point is that as a woman who works in the field, I have found that there is very little in the way of robust clothing for women. Female field workers in a group will invariably swap information on the best shorts and over trous for short legs, muscley thighs and a bum- these things are inportant after 10 days out!

My faves are cheap merino thermals from the warehouse and glassons, cactus pants- not great for walking long distance, but awesome in matagouri or gorse, swazi drybum fleece shorts, cactus gaiters, Oringi rain jackets, cactus packs. I'll buy Icebreaker at the op shop if I see it too. Oh yeah- and you can find out what sheep your Icebreaker came from, but not what machinist sewed the garment- there's something wrong there eh….

Wish I'd seen this earlier. I bought a Kathmandu stainless steel water bottle a few weeks ago that isn't even fit to be used in an urban environment, let alone outdoors.

It leaks.

I can't even drink out of it, without it leaking on me, mid-swig.

The only purpose it has is to contain water… hardly high-tech, but it can't even do that.

My search for a decent alternative to a plastic water bottle continues… as does my search for the sales docket. Grrr. Shouldn't… need… to… do… this!

I also know that the product is overpriced, overrated and not good for normal travellers. Well just wish them good luck

i also will never buy another Kathmandu product. I purchased over $695 of goods one day (quite a bit to carry to the car) and was charged an extra 10 cents or 20 cents cant remember for a bag! unbelievable……….

As a summit club member I purchased a facecloth $14.98 same price for member or non-member was told as the deal was purchase 1 you get 2 for free you pay the same price as a non-member I queried this and advised I will check on the internet (Kathmandu) site where the same facecloth was for sale at $2.99 ea, went back to the store and without any attempt to appease me I requested my refund which took a lot longer to process than grabbing my cash for a purchase, handed over my summit club card and advised I will be looking at forums. I am amazed for a company no willing to swallow humble pie apologize etc. I have also emailed the Company and should they respond in a professional manner I will place my comment on this site.

I no longer shop at Kathmandu due to the quality and price of gear. As someone said earlier they are really for the light travel crowd, not the serious outdoors person. I'm currently looking for a new tent and am considering a Freedom Trilogy. Does anyone have any experience with the Freedom brand?

I had a not very good experience with Takapuna Kathmandu store. I brought some travel pant online and had to exchange for a different size in store and submitted the packaging slip that said “take this packaging slip as a proof of purchase for returns” but the manager wouldn't even acknowledge this information in packaging slip and insistent that I get my tax invoice I got in email and I had to print that out and take this next day and the manager was still not happy with that printout for it had truncated few portions of invoice and had to call customer service to confirm. I don't mind making another trip to exchange but the fact of not acknowledging the misleading print on the packaging slip or even not showing a respect for the customer concern despite being a summit club member made me feel that I should never step into this store again!

I have some Kathmandu boots bought on sale and they are holding up after a few good hikes. They seem like OK value for money so far. Their pricing on technical clothing and goretex wear is on par with other companies like Macpac in that it is overpriced & overhyped and consistently underperforms.
Their packs seem the same as most other chain store brands in quality and pricing; no suprize as they all look as if they are designed by the same company. Seriously can anyone tell the difference between a made in Asia Deuter, Macpac, Osprey or Katmandu pack?
It's a shame that Cactus or Aarn packs cant be bothered to offer their products in a proper shop in Wellington. As it is I have to buy Swedish army surplus if I want a super tough but simple rucksack for a reasonable price.

Here are some interesting points for those wondering how much money Macpac and Kathmandu make from you with their manufacturing and direct importing from China. Kathmandu are a listed company which means we can see how much money they make. It's understood they do 80% to 90% of their business on sale (up to 70% off) and are still able to post about a 68% gross profit annually ($384 million dollars last year)

To compare to your local outdoor shop at an average, they buy product from Nz distributors and add their mark up. If they manage to sell that product at RRP, they will be lucky to get about a 40% gross profit. How much product do you think they sell at RRP these days? You guessed it, next to nothing.

A 20% discount will 'halve' the profit of this product which is about what they have to do to sell anything (public trained by Briscoes, Macpac and Kathmandu not to buy unless discounted heavily) which now leaves very little. No surprise independent shops are going under at an alarming rate, taking all that knowledge and service with them.

To sum that up. Macpacc and Kathmandu make approx 68% gp at HALF price.

Nz independent can make approx 40% if sold at FULL price,
Discounting to get any sales now takes it to approx 20%

68% verses 20% = game over! Especially after rent and staff are paid.

Here's something else to think about. Not only are the people buying this over priced, under manufactured product, but adding insult to injury, a lot of the profits from these chains goes to Australia! Yes, Macpacs major share holder Jan Cameron (ex Kathmandu owner) is an Aussie, living in Tasmania! Plus Aussie company AMP is a major stake holder in Kathmandu. Enlightened? I sure was, and very disappointed.

I'm not sure if it was Kathmandu, but we got a sleeping bag or tent from a place in Redwood (Tawa), and the cheque we gave them was NEVER DEPOSITED.

The quality of the item was more than reasonable, in my opinion.

Wow. This thread has taken off since I last posted back in Jan 2013.

I don't want to be too critical of certain manufacturers' decisions, aside from stating what it's meant for me. It's all business in the end. From everything I hear, Macpac was on its way to a slow and barely noticed death if its business model hadn't been radically changed.

From the perspective of the NZ outdoor gear scene I do have some possibly-irrelevant regrets. It's been a shame to see some more independent retailers (around Wellington at least, notably Tisdalls and Mainly Tramping) forced to close in the last few years. I'm sure part of it has been due to less-successful business models, but the demise of some retailers correlates with Kathmandu and Macpac now pushing for dominance of their own specific retail stores on the street.

It's probably perception but I like independent retailers more. As long as I trust those running them, I know that they stock stuff because they think it's fit for purpose. Justified or not, I was more likely to buy Macpac when it was shelved beside other brands.

Today, though, if I go to a Kathmandu or Macpac store, there's less incentive to believe they're selling something because it's fit for purpose, and more incentive to believe they're selling it because it came out of their branded factory, and also that their factory makes stuff to cover all needs whether it's fit-for-purpose or merely the best they can do. The retail stores are also more outlet-style stores rather than full-on outdoor stores, even those not labelled Outlet stores. Maybe Kathmandu doesn't want to sell a particular class of raincoat in its up-coming 70%-off-everything sale? Suddenly it becomes impossible to get that product at all, thanks to a marketing decision to pull it from all shelves, everywhere, until the “giant sale on everything” is over.

The whole concept of an RRP is also pointless when the manufacturer is the only one doing the selling, especially with a business model of setting the RRP artificially and insanely high, simply so it can advertise a massive sale. It really makes a mockery of the concept.

Can't say I've suffered for customer service at the retail point, though. I've had one ambiguous experience with Macpac, trying to return a 4-week-old raincoat with broken teeth on the zipper (major safety issue in a blizzard IMHO), and the none of the staff including the store manager were prepared to commit to it being fixable under warranty. I had to let them send it away with a risk of being charged $70 on return! That was a one-off, though, and I really don't visit Macpac stores frequently enough to know if it's systematic.

Kiwi manufacturers? I agree that you can't assume stuff's useless just because it's made China. There's plenty of good stuff from China with good oversight process. What I appreciate with NZ manufacturers, though, is direct service. Not so long ago, you could phone up Macpac and ask if they could make you a special version of one of their packs (as an example). Maybe a different style of lid, or without a silly zipper or pocket that you didn't want. They'd maybe want to discuss potential implications with you (like “it'll possibly let some water in”), but if it were reasonable they'd push it to someone with a sewing machine, charge a reasonable extra fee and you could get the product you actually wanted instead of the mass-produced generic. I expect that a reasonable request to Cactus or ESS would get a similar response. Today, with locked in designs sent to a factory overseas, that's simply not possible [for Macpac].

But hey, that's the way things go. Kathmandu and Macpac have both decided to try and compete with international brands in an international market. I don't have anything specifically against them, but for this reason I no longer consider them especially differently from any potential imported alternative when I'm deciding what I want.

Some great tips here on brands. Here are my two cents, (or five cents, as it has to be these days):

Cactus are great - I've had a small daypack from them for 14 years (though replaced a zip)

Merrel boots - I'd love to compare them to other brands, but I've had no need to. Bought a pair in 2001 and have smashed them intensively through Canada, the UK, Nepal, through the subantarctic, and off-track through all sorts of terrain in NZ - still going.

Macpac - hard to look past the old NZ-made stuff, and amazing to have a company honour its lifetime warranty without blinking, by stitching up my old 80 litre pack beautifully, all set for another 15 year-hammering

After having a slap on the hand from Ben Kepes for my ignorance about Cactus (see one of the early comments), I got their ski patrol pack and a pair of gaiters and both are impressively robust and doing rather well.

Stay tuned for our next issue (on sale late April), which will have a story from inside the walls of Cactus.

In my innocent bright-eyed excitement at my coming o.e, I went into kathmandu to get some gear. I bought a pack, down jacket and small misc. stuff like torch etc. After 2 weeks, I threw the pack in a charity bin (I wasn't going to spend good $ sending home crap) and bought a cheap no-brand pack at a Spanish department store - still going strong nearly 8 years later! So comfortable to wear even fully loaded. The torch was quite frankly rubbish - I have bought better at the $2 shop. I found the staff to be rude, abrasive and unhelpful. As such, I have never been back! I haven't tried cactus, though a friend uses it and swears by it. Sad that companies only seem to want to help when things are made public like this.

We've had plenty of poor experiences shopping at Kathmandu also. The latest being last Christmas when we purchased over $500 of products and were then told we had to pay extra for a paper bag to take our products home in! I can't think of any other retailer (particularly one that charges so much) that doesn't even have the courtesy to provide you with a bag to take your purchases home in after spending so much money! Outrageous! It seemed like just another way to try and get more money from customers.

I also purchased a $350 pair of leather Kathmandu tramping boots to take down to do the Milford track in.. on the first day of rain (nothing major), both soles completely lifted away from the leather and the boots became soaked throughout. I managed to get a couple more short walks out of these boots over the next few months before I had to throw them away because the structure of the shoe was disintegrating.

A family member also had a similar issue with a pair of Salomon boots he purchased at Kathmandu, and when he took them back to the store to have them repaired, they didn't want to have anything to do with it. Eventually he managed to convince them they were obligated to do something about it, but it was still awful service!

Everytime we go to Bivouac or Trek and Travel in Hamilton or Tauranga, we can't believe how well we are looked after. It's amazing how the attitude of the staff and the quality of the service and products differs so dramatically.



Hi I loved reading this,

wearing my
Cactus shorts from Christchurch,
Swazi shirt from Levin,
Thunder pants underpants (thundies) from Carterton,
Soul shoes from Raglan.

You can turn up at their door if you aren,t happy with them,
but have never had the need.

Thanks Mal

I have found that Kathmandu Henderson has some of the best staff in terms of customer service that I've ever seen. I'm sorry so many of you have had a bad time, but my experiences with Kathmandu products have been excellent. It was the only place where I could find a truly warm and waterproof raincoat, and I've never had trouble with clothing or camping gear. Their tents are hardwearing and well-designed.

Quote: “If a product fails it needs to be replaced without quibbling or casting aspersions about improper use or care.”

Well 'Mountaindesigns' didn't replace a faulty insulation matt (delamination after 20 uses) because they said I didn't let it self inflate (I had to help it inflate in the shop for the sake of time…)

Insulting ignorant arrogant staff (unprovoked).

Very good business move because they lost way more money/customers than it would have cost them to replace the matt (because I spread the word all over the net!)

Agree with you on the quality issues at both Kathmandu and Macpac, but don't wish for a new generation Jan Cameron, whatever you do! She is still a major shareholder in Macpac (a company she started after her restraint of trade lifted) along with her ex- husband, who helped to get Kathmandu off the ground. So she is not so stringent on the quality these days. She has single handedly run Discount Superstores Group, which she now owns in Australia, down to the ground causing hundreds of job losses and suppliers to lose millions of dollars. She has no idea on how to run a business. First hand experience having been a senior buyer for her business in Sydney.

Yeah, well I'm stuck with a fifty dollar gift voucher card from Kathmandu that after looking at their site and seeing there is nothing there I like, and reading your comments about them, which makes me not want a bar of anything that they may possibly have one day before their card expires (another scam) I'm stuck with a cocaine liner, which is just as useless for me. I can't even give the thing away to my nephew in exchange for the 30 dollars I owe him hmmph. Crapmandu indeed. The place is a rotton lemon (tho a big expensive rotton lemon)…

Carol Rayes: “She has single handedly run Discount Superstores Group, which she now owns in Australia, down to the ground causing hundreds of job losses and suppliers to lose millions of dollars. She has no idea on how to run a business. First hand experience having been a senior buyer for her business in Sydney.”

That's an interesting claim/insight considering her apparent record until now. I know plenty of cases where people have become dissatisfied with businesses she's been involved with, but in most cases they've run to be profitable.

She's been having problems with the Postie Plus chain (with a 20% share) in NZ recently, though.

@ Rich Online January 27, 2014 @ 2:40 pm Rich, I think that as a country that relies on export so much we Kiwis really should be very careful about parochial comments, like your one bemoaning the fact Kathmandu has Australian ownership. I think if you look around you’ll find a great number of things you buy are sold by foreign owned companies, and if not completely foreign owned then certainly they play a major role in parts of the chain. Go buy an NZ made car or tv for example. Its also worth noting that those companies provide valuable employment for large numbers of New Zealanders. And you know what else is really important? We want the people in the countries that sell stuff to us to also buy our stuff. Weird concept I know, but its all about trade. That’s how the world works these days. So please, stop the small minded Aussie bashing. The fact the company is owned by Australians should be irrelevant, unless you go in for some kind of weird location based prejudice, which is simply embarrassing.


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