Gear/Company Review: Kelty

OK, this is my first gear review, and it’s really not much of a gear review, it’s more of a customer service review.

Way back in 2002 I bought a Kelty Redwing 3-day Pack. I loved this pack. It was big enough to fit everything I needed for a week away from home, including fitting my laptop into the built in Camelback pocket. There was a main compartment that had the Camelback pocket in it; a “middle” pocket that has several pen/pencil holders, a small zippered mesh pocket, a clip that you could hang keys from and a couple of other open pockets; a “front” zippered pocket that would easily fit a couple of paperback books; two side pockets that had zippers to get into with a “hood” that could easily fit a 32oz water bottle; two mesh pockets lower on the sides that I routinely put soda bottles in; and a bunch of straps that I used to secure various items with clips. It was very comfortable and didn’t make my back sweat because of the great ventilation built in. I liked that while the waist strap was not removable, it could be folded and stashed inside it’s own compartment without causing the undue discomfort of a bulge in the small of my back. It was also perfect as carry-on because of the cinch straps on the side. I could load it up with my clothes and toiletries and a couple of books, cinch it down and go on a flight with it. I did a couple of week long business trips with it as my sole luggage. Anyway, I loved the pack.

I used this pack for everything from hiking & camping to travel. I also used to use it to carry my rain gear, lunch, etc when I rode the motorcycle to work because it was comfortable and water resistant (and did I mention that it didn’t make my back sweat… ever?) In fact, unless it was an absolute downpour, my stuff never got wet inside the bag, so it was a bit more water resistant than some tents I’ve bought. Anyway, back to the point of this post… Back in October of 2009 I was in a motorcycle accident on my way to work while wearing my backpack (someone in a pickup pulled out in front of me and I tried to eat his bumper). In the accident I broke my shoulder and the medics had to cut the strap of my bag to get it off. First, the thing held up great in the accident. Other than two tiny little holes (smaller than dimes) that got “road rashed” into the face of the bag, there was no visible damage to the pack (other than the strap that was cut). I never got rid of the bag because I knew I’d get replacement straps at some point and start using it again. It got stuck in the attic after my last move and mostly forgotten about. I’d think about it every once in a while, but never long enough to actually try to find straps. I knew that it wasn’t covered by Kelty’s Limited Lifetime Warranty (for material and workmanship defects), so I never bothered to contact them about it. Well, about two months ago I was digging around in the attic and saw it. I dragged it downstairs and started looking for straps. I knew Kelty sold replacement straps for some of their bags, but I couldn’t find them for this one, so I decided to call and see if I could get straps sent to me so I could get a seamstress to fix it for me. I don’t remember the girls name that answered the phone, but she was very polite. Anyway, I told her what had happened and that I knew that it wasn’t covered under warranty, but I wanted to get straps for it so I could get it fixed. She informed me that they didn’t sell replacement straps for that type of bag because it is an internal frame and the straps are sewn in. She asked me to hold for a minute and when she came back on she told me to go to the website, download the warranty repair claim form, fill it out and send it in with the bag. If they could find straps to fit they’d fix it and mail it back to me. I made sure to reiterate that it wasn’t a warranty issue, I just wanted it fixed and I was willing to pay. I asked her how much it would cost (approximately) so I could make sure to have the money set aside for it and she told me that if they could find straps they would fix it free of charge, if not they would give me a call and ask me what I would like to do and at worst they would ship it back to me in its damaged condition. Well, ever the cynic, I decided that at worst I’d be out the $15 it would cost to ship it to them, so I filled out the form and sent it in. The only problem I listed on the form was the strap, I made no mention of the holes in it. That was about 3 weeks ago.

Yesterday I got home to find a package in the mail that was the same size and weight as the one I sent them. Saw the return address and sure enough, it was from Kelty Warranty Dept. I opened it up to find my bag with a brand new set of straps that are actually more comfortable than the ones it originally had (I didn’t realize that was possible) and it had a patch covering the holes that it had. Again, I didn’t request that they patch the holes, I just wanted the strap fixed. I figured I could just sew on some of my patches I have for the 82D, EMT-B, Dive Rescue, Vehicle Rescue, etc. I also noticed that they included the repair claim form with the technicians comments about what repairs were done and there was another white sheet of paper. That white sheet of paper had the terms of their Lifetime Limited Warranty, which plainly states that the damage I had should not have been covered. So, I checked the box again for a bill to cover the repairs and couldn’t find one. I looked back over the other documents again and on the carbon copy of the warranty claim form was a place for charges. I had to look very closely, but there were a couple of zeroes that were barely visible. So, it appears that they actually did repair my pack and return it to me for nothing more than what it cost me to ship it to them.

I don’t have any pictures of the pack’s damage prior to sending it to them, but I’ll be posting some pics of the repaired item a little bit later.

I don’t normally do equipment reviews, no one has ever paid me to be their spokesman (and I have never asked for payment). I don’t usually buy items that have names on them, and I have removed the names from some of the items I own because it was plastered in so many places I was a walking billboard (I had a several hundred dollar Joe Rocket riding jacket that had so many Joe Rocket emblems it was ridiculous, I cut them all off before I ever wore it in public). I buy items because it’s comfortable and/or functional, not because of a name. Sorry, getting off on a tangent…

Now, I don’t necessarily expect them to perform non-warranty repairs for everyone, maybe there were special considerations because I was involved in a motorcycle accident and the damage was not necessarily due to negligence, I don’t know, but I will actually say now that I am an avid supporter of Kelty and am willing to tell anyone that asks (and probably some that don’t). I will remain such a supporter until they lose my respect (by producing crap and/or not honoring their warranty and/or letting customer service go to crap). I’m not one of those “Buy American First” people if you can get the same quantity/quality/service from somewhere else, but in this case I heartily recommend the American Company Kelty. I haven’t had customer service like this in a very long time (no automated machine talking to me, no hassles, the girl I spoke to was actually very pleasant, etc).

OK, that’s the end of my company review. I’m impressed enough that I had to share it (perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by above-and-beyond customer service, but it’s hard to find these days).