Wednesday, April 29

Independent Retailers; Outdoor Kit; A Tale of Shame

I'll have to blame it on my continued exuberant frame of mind, courtesy of the Dartmoor trip, and which surprisingly still remains with me despite a return to the day to day humdrum existence.

After a few days steeling myself to handle the prices of new sleeping bags I've spent the last couple of nights on-line shopping. For those facing a similar quandary here was my initial list of potential replacements for my much beloved, but sadly inadequate Vango Venom 225 (750g)
  • Alpkit Pipedream 400 or 600
  • Mountain Equipment Xero 250/350/550
  • Cumulus Ultralight 350
  • Cumulus Quantum 350
  • PHD Minim
  • Rab Quantum 400
The aim was to find a similar weight bag, perhaps slightly heavier if necessary, providing comfort down to 0 deg C. I didn't expect the pack down size to come anywhere near the Vango (12x29) based on my discussions with some of the stands at last year's Backpacker's Club AGM. But as long as the volume didn't increase too much I'd take the hit.

Many of the bags, excellent as they appeared, duly disqualified themselves on cost. I've never been a high tech/fashion/bleeding edge/early adopter sort of guy, whatever the purchase. I'm quite happy with an older model, or established line, if it means I don't spend oodles only to watch the price plummet like a stone in the following months.

Did you guess what came out as first choice?

Alpkit's Pipedream 400 seemed ideal. And I sort of kicked myself as I'd turned down the chance of a bargain at the 2008 BPC do on the basis of pack down size.

With credit card trembling in my sweaty fingers I went on-line to order.

What? Out of Stock!

I should have been forewarned by the response Darren had at this year's BPC AGM when he approached Alpkit's stand on my behalf seeking a Special Price, but finding an Sold Out sign instead.

My phone call to Aplkit must have been as frustrating for them as it was for me. I wanted to buy. they wanted to sell. But they were all out of Pipedream 400 & 600 models, pending their supply source deciding to graciously ship in new stock.

Manyana. A recurrent tale I hear these days and mostly down to the need to balance the public's demand for low price alongside Far Eastern manufacturing.

Farcical really, but a sign of the current supplier led marketplace, and a real frustration for may of the UK independent outdoor shops. This time of year, especially with the recent sunshine, is when outdoor gear purchases start to increase. So spare a kindly thought for those who've done all the hard design/manufacture/advertising work only to have empty spaces in their warehouse.

SIt was back to the net for more Googling (what did we do before the big G turned up?)

I finally tracked down a Mountain Equipment Xero 350 for the glorious price of £155 inc postage.

The Ouch factor was slightly mitigated, not by how much I'd saved on the RRP, but the fact that most prices I'd found were around the £175 mark. I had to smirk when I realised the "on-line shop" I'd purchased from was only 30 miles away, another of those small independent shops and one I occasionally visit. They were (and still are) having a clearance of 2008 models. Good enough for me. Especially as the model is unchanged for 2009.

But you know how it goes once you get the taste.

On a social visit to Barkers of Ringwood last week the first thing that met my eye as I walked through the door was a Paramo Velez Adventure Light Smock.

Proprietor Steve Barker, cunning devil that he is, knew exactly the effect it would have on a poor unsuspecting soul, such as I, entering his domain of bright new glittery outdoor gear.

I can't blame Steve. After all he is a Paramo Convert. And as such the mores of the common folk have ceased to have their place in his world (Paramo do wicking underwear yet Steve? lol)

I tried it on.
It felt good.
I heard the price.
I put it back.
Very very carefully.

But I should have known then. I was a lost soul. Fated for the slippery slope downwards like so many of my outdoor friends. The one that leads to street begging to raise the cash for just one more fix, one last bit of must-have kit.

Barker's price was competitive. More over his specialist advice & the opportunity to try on various sizes and consider alternatives was what counted.

A deal was swiftly done along with a couple of small, but friendly, extras thrown in to help look after the gear in the future. A nice touch.

The independent retailer. Use them or lose them.

Now where's that phone number for Outdoor Gear Anonymous gone? I have one of those urges coming on again.


Ooh - that sounds so familiar...

Nice one, John
Been there all to regularly!! Had exactly the same sleeping bag dilemma a month ago - same short-list, even down to finally selecting an Alpkit Pipedream finding they were out of stock. Ended up ordering a PHD Minim 300 in their sale, but yet to try it out.

Also just bought a ME Astron Hoody softshell too - so difficult to resist shiny new kit as a substitute for not being able to spend time in the hills! Ironic really!
Splash the cash John and live for the now is my advice. I have lost track of all the new kit I have got of late.

I went in to Craigdon MS on Tuesday for 2 dehydrated meals, and came out with that and a pair of carbon-fibre PacerPoles.

A NeoAir mat is on the way, and that leaves a new Exos 58 litre pack. That'll be my purchases for this year.

With the Spring/Summer season, I am shedding my winter hobby and hitting the wilds. Otherwise the new gear gets annoyed.
See John Duncan is a fellow devotee and we are all normal. Every one else has issues:)
See John Duncan is a fellow devotee and we are all normal. Every one else has issues:)
Good to see a small self-help group forming here chaps!

I've come up with a plethora of excuses to justify spend on the latest kit.....helping the economy, comfort, safety and even moving the hobby forward! I know that she knows that I just can't resist and eventually I have to agree.......I'm just weak!

Enjoy the purchases John, they bring untold happiness!
I bought two new sleeping bas about 5 years ago and managed to get them from a small, local independent shop. I got Rab Quantums (can't remember the number), but considered the high cost was worthwhile for a good night's sleep. Hubby is a hot-house-plant and feels the cold. If I remember correctly, the local shop owner gave me £50 off the pair, since I bought two. Plus I'd also bought rather expensive Swarovski binoculars from him the previous week.
I'd suggest forming a self-help group - but I think we'd never find a room big enough to meet
John I'd be interested to know how you get on with the Paramo Velez Adventure Light smock - I'm not a Paramo convert (yet?)- they've always given me the (mis)impression of being too heavy, bulky and warm, but the 'Light is the first product to possibly interest me - I remember a good write up in Trail magazine a few months ago.
Nigel - check out the latest TGO - there's a gear test of waterproofs & the Velez gets a high rating.
I'm off foe a Lakeland test soon - I'll report on how it pans out afterwards
Post a Comment

<< Home

All site material © John Hee - ask before you snatch