Tough Traveler Warranty - What do you Think?

10:27 a.m. on October 18, 2010 (EDT)
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Here is my correspondence with Tough Traveler. What do you think?

My original note:

I am sure that this request falls under the "extensive use" guidelines.
Many years ago, I purchased a day pack from you. It has seen two seasons in the Adirondacks, a few trips to the Whites, Texas, New Mexio California, the beach, and now Pennsylvania and has always served me well.

Unfortunately, the waterproof coating on the inside of the bad has begun to de-laminate and the bag is no longer water resistant. I looked at your website and was not able to identify the model. It is a day pack with an internal aluminum frame. I has both a sternum and unpadded hip strap. It has a blue nylon body that is top opening with a rain cover. Underneath the cover it has three front pockets and below it has a clam shell made of a heavier dark material.

I would like to return it for repair / replacement under warranty. Please give me information on how to proceed. Additionally, let me know if I can ship it back without the aluminum frame to reduce shipping costs.
Thank you for your help,

 

Tough Traveler Responds:

Hi,

Thanks for your inquiry! The wearing-out of the waterproofing after extensive use falls into the category of “normal wear-and-tear,” which is not covered under our warranty (only defects are covered). However, fortunately it is not difficult to restore the waterproof qualities of your bag. Any over-the-counter waterproofing (Scotch Guard, Nikwax, etc, which should be available at your local sporting goods store) can be used safely with our materials. If the original waterproofing is flaking off heavily, it may be useful to remove the remnants of it to get a better surface to re-waterproof. To do this, turn the bag inside out, removing the frame and all removable foam, and machine wash in warm water and air dry.

We hope this information helps! Please let us know if we can answer any other questions for you.

We appreciate your business,

I write back:

Thank you for the quick response. I was surprised when I read your warranty includes extensive use. However, I remember your value proposition when I made the purchase: The product costs a little more but is made locally by craftsmen and you stand behind the product.

Additionally, I am surprised by your characterization of the fabric delamination as "normal wear and tear". In "Fair Claims Guide for Consumer Textile Products" the American National Standards Institute characterizes delamination as a PRODUCT FAILURE:

"6.1.5 Delamination - Delamination is the separation of a layered fabric structure in laundering or dry cleaning, and is considered a product failure if the prescribed care procedure has been followed. Blistering or partial delamination is more common than complete separation."

This guide is posted with permission of the American National Standards Institute on this web site:
http://www.iriscitycleaners.com/d_and_r.html

I am also surprised that you offered Nikwax as a reasonable solution. If this met my needs, I would have purchased an inexpensive Chinese bag and treated it myself.

The laminate is an integral part of the material. Your suggestion for remediation is the equivalent of replacing a broken shoulder strap with a rope purchased at Home Depot. Both solutions work, but just not quite as well as they should.

I look forward to your response. I hope that you will reconsider servicing your product under your warranty.

Tough Traveler responds again:

We are sorry for a misunderstanding: A laminate is "a layered fabric structure," as you correctly pointed out in your email, but our material is urethane-coated, not "a layered fabric structure," and therefore cannot "de-laminate."

We will be happy to look at your pack, but it does sound like the pack which you say you "purchased many years ago" and has been used enough so that you could write "has always served me well," is a case of "normal wear and tear."

A urethane coating may decrease, and some people do coat with substances such as Scotch-Guard or Nik Wax.

You might want to consider sending us your pack to evaluate, as perhaps it would be possible to remove and replace a particularly worn section. We also may look at the style of the pack and see the age, any special problems, etc. If you send us your pack, please include your telephone number so that we may contact you to discuss your pack, possible charges, replacement pieces, etc.

We appreciate that you wrote back so that we might clear up this "de-lamination" misunderstanding!

Thanking you for being a Tough Traveler customer,

10:57 a.m. on October 18, 2010 (EDT)
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Two years of use by an active sportsman, subjecting his kit the equivalent of a couple of months of use over a two year period, should not be surprised if the waterproofing delaminates, especially if you attempted to launder the pack. For what it is worth, even brand new packs leaked when I got rained on, thus I use a pack cover or big trash bag to protect my pack from rain.
Ed

11:46 a.m. on October 18, 2010 (EDT)
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I have to agree with Ed and with Tough Traveller. PU coatings do delaminate with normal usage over a period of time (more correctly, the PU coating is a surface coating, and since it is on the inside of the pack and many rain jackets, it is directly in contact with whatever you put into the pack - plus, for jackets, it is in direct contact with the neck area particularly, with the result that your body oils will separate the PU from the base material).

The amount of usage you describe is about what I typically get out of an inexpensive day pack. My higher quality packs from companies like Lowe Alpine, Osprey, Gregory (yes, I have a Gregory day pack that fits ok, it's just the backpacking packs from Gregory that I can't get to fit right), MacPac, and even Kelty in its current incarnation) last much longer. These last me 3 to 4 years of heavy usage (several times a week typically, 12 months a year), where packs in the Tough Traveller category (never had a TT, but have looked at them that people on the hikes I lead have) last a few months at best, with the typical first failure being the PU coating peeling off.

As they point out, the term "laminate" in fabrics currently refers to fabrics like GoreTex, eVent, and similar fabrics. It is true that PU coatings are sometimes referred to as "laminated", even though they are really just surface coatings. But true laminates will delaminate under certain conditions - we have had some of the early generations of Goretex and Gore's DryLoft (a light laminate that is intended for insulated materials like sleeping bag hoods, delaminate from the body oils that come from your hair). Gore was pretty good about replacing those, but I will note that this was under heavier usage than most people would encounter.

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