Carol and I just returned from China. This was the first time which we believe we received honest answers to some of our questions.
Question: Many backpack look like the ones we have made, but are selling in the US below our cost in China ?
Answer: While all Chinese factories are faced with the same soaring labor cost issues, the raw materials have become a significant factor to control the price. Our backpacks have very high specifications, which we call “Expedition Quality.” These backs are thoroughly tested by all of us and then we monitor the reviews. At one of the factories, I noticed Korean writing on a manifest. When questioned, they said the only current source for the heavy-duty material in our specifications comes only from Korea because the Chinese factories had closed.
I compared a backpack which appeared to be IDENTICAL to ours in every respect, but the cost has about 70% of ours. They explained the material used is the same color and feels and looks the same, but it is a less expensive made in China. The weaving is not as tight and the fabric coatings, which are incredibly expensive, are not the same. Our specification for the material coatings include fire retardency, UV coating (which extends the life of the fabric), and the actual color dyes. Although I had a problem understanding precisely what was being said, I believe they were telling me the dyes used and absorbed on the Korean fabric does not fade.
Another expensive attribute of our gear is our specification to use YKK zippers. These are made in Japan and are the most expensive zippers, and the best. The lower priced backpack had an identical zipper but it was not to the same standards. It was identified as YKK China. They explained these Chinese zippers may have problems including teeth bending or breaking, pulls coming loose (more so than YKK Japan), and un-monitored mixes of the plastics used.
In other words – YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR !
We are contemplating a series of low priced backpacks with the less expensive materials so we can compete against other offers, but we want you to know what you are buying before doing so.
I plan to write similar blogs for tents and sleeping bags in the next several days. If you have any questions, comments, or criticisms, please do not hesitate to contact us.