Yeah, their canvas seems to be the value proposition. For whatever reason, my first canvas jacket from them fell apart remarkably fast, but my current one seems like it’s holding up well.
A major complaint at our house as well. Buying one of the “protection plan” extended warranty things is usually Job One when we have to replace anything big (refrigerator, washing machine, etc.). Alas, those typically only cover the first five years of ownership, then it’s all KMAGYOYO from there.
We have a good relationship with our HVAC guy, Adam. In our part of Texas, this a big deal because life without air conditioning here is untenable. Adam is the soul of honesty, and I’ve always thought he should wear a superhero super-suit. I told him we would eventually need to replace our Trane (inside, original to construction) and our Rheem (outside, a beast, pulled off a reno job in working order, refitted to our purposes). He recommended American Standard.
It took me about 12 years to save up, but when we had to replace our HVAC system (air handler indoors, compressor outdoors–we did all our own ductwork and that did not need replacing), we went with the American Standard system, plus a much more reliable “dumb” thermostat [definitely not an Internet of Crap smart thermostat].
10 year warranty.
Made in the U.S.
I used to believe that the U.S-made Staber washing machine, which is designed to be owner-serviceable, was a good idea:
Unfortunately, its reputation has been a very mixed bag over the past decade. Who knows, maybe they got better and now they don’t break as often.
I may still get one someday, if I ever live in a place where I have the space to put one. Our current living situation is close quarters, and we have had to go with stacking the washer and dryer.
varusteleka.com will sell you many different flavours of army boot with worldwide shipping, but they aren’t cheap. I’m lucky, there’s still a proper, old school army & navy store near me.
I had a few of their lighter jackets in high school and college, when I was actually working on the farm, and they definitely didn’t last as long then - but I was also washing them regularly to get the pig shit off. Laundering is definitely hard on them.
I think the takeaway here is probably the same for any company that has built a reputation on a few durable, well-designed items. LL Bean “Bean Boots”, for instance. Stick with the core items and avoid the ones they farm out and are essentially just a branding exercise.
Even though I just used them to make the opposite point, everything I’ve had from LL Bean is fantastic (but they definitely don’t produce it all in Maine).
Also being in TX i highly recommend doing maintenance/tune-ups on your major appliances like HVAC and water heaters every two years (though the advice is good for everyone). Depending on where you’re at you can get discounts or rebates on these kinds of tune-ups, i know my company has rebates for gas users on their water heater and furnaces in the ATX region.
HVAC gets an annual once-over and if needed, a top-up if it is low on Puron.
Water heater… uh… yeah, we should be doing that more often, especially since we uninstalled it out of our attic (original to construction) and put it in a closet by the porch.
Alas, our HOA forbids gas (propane, natural gas, all of it) in our neighborhood.
However… here is the best electric water heater we ever bought:
Marathon was bought by Rheem.
Their water heater does retain its lifetime tank warranty, which is one reason why we bought it. Another is the design and materials.
We did the math for an on-demand electric water heater (Bosch, Rheem). Between the up-front cost and the extremely hard water from our well, there was no way we could live with or rely on this kind of unit here. We are considering solar, which is a no-brainer given the ATX climate on most days. We’d have to mount that on our roof. Hard to service in that location.
Yeah, “proper” being the operative word. I’ve got one near me, but it isn’t proper. It’s largely military style imported dreck. I’ve never had any black clothing fade as rapidly and unevenly as the cargo pants I bought there. I expect any boots I bought there would perform similarly… :-/
Varusteleka have a good selection of solid gear. Their Särmä family of products is excellent, including women’s jeans with large and functional pockets!
For what it’s worth, LL Bean trekking poles are made by Komperdell. They have features I like - cork grips, aluminum shafts, lever locks, NO shock absorbers - but I can get what are pretty much the exact same poles cheaper with REI’s house brand on them.
Bean boots are really nice - near-perfect - for the beaver swamps of Maine. Not so nice for the conditions I hike in. Horses for courses.
The real killer feature of LL Bean products is their return policy, even with the changes they had to institute a couple of years ago because people were abusing it. It’s crazy what they’re willing to do with the boots, even if they’re decades old:
Absolutely right with that. They stand behind what they sell.
REI also had an awesome return policy (and again, a couple of years ago, had to make changes because of abuse). I’ve never had any problems with returns there, even when returning a pair of trail runners that had been through a beaver swamp. (Stitching pulled out on the very first trip. That shouldn’t happen even in beaver swamp.)
I’ve also gotten some awesome bargains at the REI ‘garage sales’ where they sell off the returned goods. Some of which are in perfect working order, but were the wrong size or something, or the buyers lost interest, or didn’t know how to use them, or whatever. My daughter is still using a backpack that I got at one of those ten years ago, and all it needed was a buckle on the hip belt - a couple of bucks at Jo-Ann Fabric and all was right as rain. I don’t live close enough to Kittery to take advantage of the Bean one.
My real problem with basically all of the Bean boots as that they’re too flexible. I don’t trust them even with spikes, to say nothing of crampons or snowshoe bindings. If I lived down-East on the shaw, they’d be great, but I’m from away.
REI is pretty pricey, i’m somewhat amazed when i browse that people can afford things there but certainly when they have clearances or garage sales it does make things easier. I have an REI branded backpack i got from there, it’s not the nicest backpack i’ve ever owned but i like it all the same and always take it with me when traveling.
I’ve looked at LL Bean’s catalogue before and the price just sends me running to the hills. I know its worth the money… but i don’t got that kind of money.
The return policy is part of what you’re paying for.
I’m getting to the point, though, where I can walk through an REI store and say ‘I have better’ or ‘who needs that?’ to most of the stuff.
My three-season sleeping bag is an ancient REI garage-sale special, because it’s Good Enough. My tent and pack are both ordered directly from small manufacturers. Some of the rest of my gear is homemade, or dumpster-dived, or Salvation Army finds. Like most experienced hikers, I’ve got a weird mix of high-end stuff and trash-pickers’ specials. A 200-weight fleece from Salvation Army is just as warm as one from a boutique. My pop-can stove serves me better than anything I’ve seen in the stores.
A sub-kilogram tent is going to be pretty spendy, and a pair of ascent snowshoes likewise. But the first is on my back whenever I’m backpacking, so it’s probably got a thousand miles on it by now. The second is safety-critical. A failure of your snowshoes 5+ miles from the road, up on a high ridge, in a wilderness area is going to mean a very bad day - possibly your last on the Earth.
And really, how many sports are there where the serious enthusiasts don’t have a couple of thousand bucks or more worth of gear? You can get started in backpacking in a warm season for about $300-$400, and have stuff that you can have fun with, but almost anyone who really takes it up seriously starts looking at upgrading the gear as a long-term investment. I got my stuff spread out over many years.
Oh, and back to the topic (sort of): there are definitely cheaper places than REI for boots. The only reason that I’d bought trail runners there was that someone had given me an REI gift card.
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