Outdoor gear gets used hard and put away dirty. It’s regularly abused. Yet many brands stand behind products in full.
We’ve been through the warranty process many times, and we have witnessed remarkable service. For this article, we sifted through our memory (and the Internet) for stories of great service and boiled it down to some of the best warranty reputations out there.
We’d love your input, too. To help guide others on the path to gear buying bliss, please tell us, and your fellow adventurers, in the comments below, which brands have helped you out along the way.
Lifetime Guarantees, No-Questions Warranties
Darn Tough Vermont Socks: The brand dares you to wear them out. If you can, you get a new pair. There’s no fine print with this Vermont-made brand: “Free of charge. No questions asked. For life.”
Most sock brands won’t go this far. But some other top-tier, no-questions-asked warranties include:
- Osprey: Any damage, “whether it was purchased in 1974 or yesterday.”
- Black Diamond Apparel: “No charge. No fine print. No debate. Guaranteed.”
- Zippo: “It works or we fix it.” Hit it with a lawn mower? No problem.
- Jansport: Anything wrong, they’ll repair, replace, or refund for life.
- Outdoor Research: The brand calls it the “Infinite Guarantee.”
- L.L. Bean: If you’re ever unsatisfied, they give your money back.
Defects Covered for Life
“Shouldn’t your gear last as long as you? We think so.” If you ever discover a defect in your 40-year-old tent, Kelty will fix or replace it. Normal wear-and-tear may be charged. But if your pack is worn out, it’s probably time to modernize anyway.
A couple other amazingly good warranties that carry a few caveats:
- Patagonia: The company calls it the “Ironclad Guarantee.” If you are not satisfied with one of the products at the time you receive it, or “if one of our products does not perform to your satisfaction, you may return it to us for a repair, replacement or refund.” Damage due to wear and tear will be repaired at a reasonable charge.
- REI: If you are not satisfied with your REI purchase, you can return it for a replacement or refund. Items must be returned within a year of purchase.
Big Agnes & ‘Deflatable’ Sleeping Pads
We are aware of one buddy who must be a rough sleeper. He’s gone through four pads from Big Agnes. Each time they start to leak, he calls the company offering to ship them back for repair.
While Big Agnes doesn’t warranty against wear and tear, and it replaces or repairs at its discretion, each time he’s had the same response from the brand: A new pad in the mail, no questions asked.
More remarkable warranties:
- MSR: “We stand behind everything we make.”
- The North Face: “Warranted to the original owner.” (We had a longtime GearJunkie reader send in a 30-year-old TNF pack; the company fixed a broken zipper, no questions asked.)
- Camelbak: It takes guts to guarantee a hydration bladder for life. If any bladder gets a hole or wear-point, the brand sends a new one.
- Mountain Hardwear: Repair or replacement within approximately four weeks of inspection. All DryQ waterproof/breathable products returnable for any reason if they do not keep you dry.
- Gore-Tex: If you get wet in any product with Gore-Tex, send it back, regardless of who actually made it.
- Buck Knives: The company mentions its knives weren’t designed to be used as hammers, chisels, pry bars or screwdrivers. Otherwise they are warranted for life against defects.
Native Eyewear: Unique Replacement Policy
How often have you scratched an expensive polarized lens, broken a hinge or (maybe) had your dog chew your glasses into a pulp. Check out Native’s warranty page. Smith warranties its glasses for the lifetime of the product (we sent a pair of old ones that delaminated back, and were sent new ones!). Oakley has treated us well, too — but neither warranties against scratches or wear and tear.
Native doesn’t, either, but does have a very unique exchange program.
Along with one year of free defect coverage, at any point and for any reason, mail back the pieces with $30 and get a brand new pair, no questions asked.
The Special Case of Footwear
Footwear is always hard to guarantee, which is why cobblers exist. (Or do they anymore?) The gear that takes the biggest beating is whatever you put in between your feet and the trail. Brands are always trying to beef up the durability of boots and that sometimes shows through in warranties.
Save your tread:
- KEEN: No matter how used, if you’re unhappy within 30 days, send ’em back.
- Vasque/Asolo/Red Wing: Defect coverage for 1 year.
- Salomon: They’ll give you two years, and any kind of hard use, for the footwear to die, before which it is replaced for free.
How to Return Your Gear
First off, follow directions on brand websites. Generally, it goes like this: Start by emailing or filling out a form, identifying the product and the problem, and getting a return authorization number.
Before you mail back the goods, brands almost certainly ask you to wash or clean them. Health codes protect employees from pathogens, allergens or parasites and mandate laundering before shipping. Once that’s all set, it’s as easy as a stop at the post office.