July 20 2020 – Kristin Shearer
- Materials: Using quality materials impacts quite a few elements of a pack, including waterproofing, how the material reacts to a tear, and the weight to durability ratio. We use industry-leading material brands like Cordura® and Robic®, two ripstop high tenacity nylons renowned for their quality. Low cost bags are often constructed of polyester as compared to the high tensile variety of nylon’s woven by Cordura® or Robic®. If you are not sure what your bag is made of, it is likely listed on a hidden regulatory tag inside the bag itself.
- Coatings: The strategic use of coatings is another important factor, UTS (ultra tear strength) coatings add up to 30% strength over traditional PU coatings, while siliconized coatings resist wetting out as compared to DWR. Cutting corners and eliminating the coating altogether cuts cost and is not visible from the outside of the bag, but uncoated materials will wet through immediately in any weather.
- Hardware: One common way cheaper products fail is through their hardware. It’s easy to cut costs by using bargain zippers and buckles. Look for indicators of quality, such as branded zippers by YKK, SBS, or Zoom. For hardware, look for buckles that feel springy when you release them and do not compress when you squeeze them from front to back. If you’re considering waterproofing, look for key features such as PU coated zippers or rolltops, which block out more water than traditional coil zippers, but come at a higher cost.
- Construction: Proper construction ensures durability and weatherproofing. Bartack stitching reinforces points where heavy loads burden your pack. Bartacking is a an extra step taken to increase the tearout strength of straps and handles and can often be seen when bags are turned inside out. At Matador, we often leave our bartacks exposed to the exterior, as an immediate indicator that an attachment point is reinforced. From the outside, bartacks appear like a rectangle of stitching. Sealed seams prevent water from leaking through stitches, even if a company has used a waterproof material.
- Customer Service: If your product does unfortunately get damaged, you’ll need a way to fix or replace it. A great way for a company to cut costs is by having little to no customer service. Every single one of our products are covered by warranty for at least a year, in some cases longer. Beyond that, we prioritize sustainability by offering product repairs. In many cases we’ll be able to fix your product right at HQ. We’re easy to reach via phone, email, and social media, and we’re always happy to help.
- Features: We’re lucky enough to design and test every single product out of Boulder, CO, where there is no shortage of outdoor endeavors to try out each product before it goes to market. Part of our process is identifying key features that we discover we need through these test objectives. Some features you’ll see on our packs that have come from real-life testing include external gear loops for alpine tools, sternum straps for comfortable movement, Hypalon lash points for mounting packs to roof racks, and much more. If we need a feature, we know that you’ll probably need it, too.