Jan 7, 2021 at 2:02 pm #3692566
Disclaimer: the following story actually happened. Names have not been changed to protect the innocent. It’s also rather long, so…be forewarned.
Despite my love for it, I’ve refrained from writing any kind of review of my All-Paca hoodie from Appalachian Gear Company for several reasons…but the greatest of those reasons is its 17-ish-ounce weight, which I assumed would make it downright useless to most of the people browsing this forum. Yes, it’s incredibly comfortable. Yes, it’s so soft and fuzzy and cuddly that people walk up to me and ask me if they can touch it when I’m wearing it. Yes, those people have usually been drinking. And lastly, yes, it’s both incredibly warm and incredibly breathable and incredibly stench-resistant…but none of that was really enough reason for me to sit down and write a review of it, despite my unabashed love for the stupid thing. Heretofore, I just viewed it as a great solution to my need for a lighter, fleecy layer and my soft spot for natural fibers…but what really prompted me to say “I have to tell people about this” was not the hoodie itself: the final prompt is what’s taken place over the last few weeks, after my hoodie did something so remarkable that I could no longer stay silent: it began to…wait for it…unravel.
Yeah, you read that correctly: it started coming apart, and it’s been an unbelievably cool experience that restored my shattered faith in hominids.
I should clarify that statement, I suppose, because it’s admittedly confusing. Normally someone would not write a glowing review of a product that is starting to show disturbing signs of wear; normally, that person would either be a paid shill, or just naturally disingenuous…but the last time I checked – and I check often – I’m neither. What I am, however, is absolute hell on new gear that I’ve purchased: untested and untried items have let me down time and again, and they’ve done it everywhere from a rainstorm on the Nantahala to rush hour in the Berlin train station…and it always happens at the worst possible moments because The Universe likes to laugh at me. Such being the case, I’ve begun to give any new piece of gear a rather serious trial-by-fire in my daily life before it is allowed to go on a trip with me: in the case of this hoodie I spared neither effort nor expense. After purchasing it last September, I wore it literally every day for over three months in weather that ranged from sun-scorched 90’s to freezing-rain 30’s, and in that time it was singed on multiple occasions, perforated via explosively-hot embers, snagged on dead brush, dragged through a briar thicket, accidentally used as a towel during a tragic spilled-whiskey event, caught in a zipper, rolled down a hill, stuffed into innumerable bags, smoke- and ash-covered from a dozen campfires, drenched in musk by an irritated blacksnake, and – most distressing of all – nibbled on at least once when it was expediently repurposed as a bed by my very mischievous and willful pet bunny rabbit…and it absolutely sailed through that torture-test. Was it damaged at all? Of course it was damaged; nothing can go through that kind of gauntlet completely unscathed, but in all honesty the wool/synthetic mesh-like fabric is so durable and unravel-proof that even my meager sartorial skills were enough to effect quick and invisible repairs on holes that probably should have been much larger, given their origins. After those few months I was so happy to have found a solid and reliable hoodie – and I didn’t even like hoodies, up until then – that I took the time to leave a great review on App Gear’s website. One could say that everything was going perfectly…until the one area that really hadn’t seen any wear at all – the cuffs – started to literally come apart for no reason.
I should probably clarify this part, too: when I say “for no reason” I really mean it. I’m very protective of my hands because I have to use them every day, so even when my arms were clad in the All-Paca hoodie sleeves, the most damaging wear and tear the sleeves and cuffs saw was from my wrist sliding across the polished surface of my desk as I used a keyboard and mouse. Not a single bit of the aforementioned fire/explosion/brush/briars/whiskey/zipper/tumbling/stuffing/smoke/snake/bunny damage occurred on those sleeves; it was all on the body, hood, or the lower hem…so I had no idea why the one place that was totally un-stressed and effectively pristine was the place that was acting like it had been dipped into Acme Disintegration Fluid.
As the recent weeks passed I unsuccessfully tried to stop the cuff-unraveling from getting worse, but despite my best efforts at re-stitching the holes that were appearing – I looked up YouTube videos and everything – more damage appeared. Gentle washing didn’t help, nor did a very serious conversation with my troublesome little bunny: she had a solid alibi for all of the instances in which new damage was showing up. At night, when our thoughts turn dark, I began to suspect that there was some kind of issue with the fabric itself. Depression and heavy drinking set in, and my friends started looking at me uncomfortably every time I showed up wearing my hoodie because they knew I was going to end up sitting by myself, looking upset and confused. People ceased walking up to me and asking if they could touch it, even when they were totally hammered. So it came to pass that yesterday, during my lunch hour and in the midst of thinking that my hoodie was beginning to hate me from the sleeves upward, I did the least-likely-to-succeed thing I could think of doing: I contacted Appalachian Gear Company via the automatic form on their website. I’ve never had good luck with that kind of process, but I nonetheless wrote that I had experienced some strange fabric degradation and I wanted them to be aware of it, and I also asked if there was any specific method that I needed to use in order to repair the damage and get the cuffs totally serviceable again. Resigned to waiting a few days for a response, I went back to doing actual work…but only for about thirty minutes, because that’s when a very strange thing happened.
An e-mail appeared at exactly 1:22 PM, sent from Appalachian Gear, and signed by something that called itself “Megan.”
Spoiler alert: Megan turns out to be an awesomeness-dispensing fairy godmother who not only completely redefines the term “customer service” but probably makes shoes for orphans and runs a unicorn rescue in her leisure time.
Megan was very concerned that I’d had an issue with my hoodie, and told me that Appalachian Gear not only offered a repair service for reparable damage, but would pay for shipping both ways and have the hoodie back to me inside of four weeks. She asked me to send her a few pictures of the problematic cuffs, and as I took the photos and attached them to the e-mail I couldn’t help but to compare the process-thus-far with my last gear-repair interaction, in which I sent one of my softshells back to the big-name manufacturer and when I got it back five months later it looked like an escaped fiend with detox tremors had been instructed to use an entire roll of repair tape and not fix the problem. But I digress: I sent the requested pictures, hopeful of good news.
At 2:28 PM, Megan wrote back: “At first glance, the cuffs do not look repairable. Let me give a shout to our QA folks and see if there is anything we could do for the cuffs. We will get back to you shortly.”
At 2:29 PM, I again resorted to heavy drinking…but I sent a quick “Okay, thank you!” and hoped that they would be able to tell me that I could cut the sleeves back or re-stitch them or send the entire hoodie to some kind of specialty shop that had a centuries-long and storied history of working with alpaca fleecy-meshy-stuff.
Second Spoiler Alert: that’s not what happened.
At 3:48 PM, I received the following e-mail, which I will present here in its near-entirety. The only thing I’ve omitted are the details of my address, which I’m doing for my own safety, lest any of you drive to my house and throttle me for being too verbose.
“I spoke with our QA team. They said that this type of wear and tear is most likely not a fabric issue, but also an issue we have never seen before. Because of this, we would like to send you a new hoodie. We do not have the heather in stock, but we can send you a Men’s Large Charcoal Hoodie instead. Would this be something you are interested in? If so, please verify your shipping address below, and we can get your new hoodie shipped out ASAP.
We would like you to stay in contact with us, and let us know if your new hoodie produces the same wear and tear issue as your original hoodie or if it keeps its durability this time around. We would also like you to keep your original hoodie — I’m sure your mischievous little bunny would like its own hoodie anyway! :)”
I know it may come as a surprise to anyone that’s made it this far in the story, but I was absolutely speechless when I read that. Seriously. I was sitting here at my desk, looking like a surprised goldfish, not knowing how to respond. I couldn’t understand that I had sent a company an automatic contact form just to say “Hey, is this normal?” and “Can you tell me how to fix it?” and when it became clear to them that they couldn’t fix whatever had happened to their product, they turned the Customer Service Dial up to 11 and sent me a brand-new replacement instead of taking the all-too-common route of “Sorry, we can’t do anything for you” and dropping the issue…and not only did they do that, but they did it all inside of three hours. I managed to type out an extremely grateful e-mail – I seriously wasn’t expecting ANYTHING like what they did, and I want to make that point totally clear – and at 4:32 PM I got another e-mail from Megan: she said that they were happy to help me out and that I should get a shipping notification within a week.
And that was the first and only time that Megan lied to me yesterday: the shipping notification showed up at 5:03 PM on the same day, exactly one minute after I got an e-mail saying that they had processed the order. Again, I was totally floored…so floored, in fact, that I nearly gave up believing that The Universe likes to laugh at me. I was in such a good mood that I went out to have a beer with a couple of buddies, where – and I’m not making this up – I met another Megan…but this one was a complete drunken mess and an insult to all of the good Megans in the world, which proved that The Universe really does like to laugh at me, after all.
So, here’s the moral and the point of the story: when things go wrong, don’t get despondent and mad. Instead, give people a chance. There are a lot of great companies out there making great products, but nobody is perfect: problems arise, inevitably, and how those problems are handled is what really sets companies – and individuals – apart and shows that they care about earning our respect and gratitude instead of simply demanding it. When that kind of thing happens, recognition is deserved; perhaps it is especially deserved in a time where we tend hear far more bad stories than good ones.
- Support your local and smaller manufacturers, and don’t hesitate to reach out when there’s an issue.
- Sometimes, if you give them a chance, people will surprise you with how decent they can be.
- I may have exaggerated in my depictions of my drinking problem…but not much.
- Don’t let your bunny use your hoodie as a nest. Or your down booties; bunnies like to nibble those, too.
Oh yeah, one last thing: that hoodie they shipped yesterday showed up on my desk at 12:22 PM today. 23 hours from start, to full replacement, delivered. Maybe Megan services Santa’s sleigh when she’s done combing the rainbows out of the unicorn tales. There’s no telling, but I’ll buy something else from them again, either way…and soon.Jan 7, 2021 at 3:31 pm #3692591Michael SirofchuckBPL Member
@mr_squishyLocale: Great Wet NorthJan 7, 2021 at 4:13 pm #3692601
@Bonzo – Thank you. Work has been a proverbial sh*tstorm today and your light-hearted prose (or dissertation) was exactly what I needed! You write very well and it’s really nice to start 2021 off with something positive like this.
I’m looking at their website and they seem to be out of stock (was there a holiday recently?) but I’ll keep my eyes open and may pick one up.Jan 7, 2021 at 4:23 pm #3692603
Thanks, Kevin; I had to struggle to write – dissert? – all of that, because the rest of my day SUCKED and I’m trying to keep my chin up…but I had fun with it. Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂
Pro Tip: sign up for their newsletter and you’ll get an alert when things go in-stock; that’s how I managed to buy mine. They’re very popular and the company can’t make many at once, so that’s why the stock is always low.Jan 7, 2021 at 4:31 pm #3692605Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
we have a humorist : )
it sounds like Appalachian Gear Company is a good company to buy from
I’ve had some good experiences like this, others not so much
“which I assumed would make it downright useless to most of the people browsing this forum”
You have a 17 ounce jacket??? Would you like to hear about how synthetic is warmer for the same weight?Jan 7, 2021 at 4:51 pm #3692612
Thanks for the Pro Tip – I’ve signed up for their newsletter.
I think I would enjoy backpacking with you – the banter and the beer would be a lot of fun. I did a 42-mile loop a couple years back with some BPL buddies (including Bob Moulder, of “Moulder Strip” fame) and went and stashed beers where the trail had road crossings a mile or two before where we planned to make camp each night (so we didn’t carry the extra weight too long). It was fun!Jan 7, 2021 at 5:22 pm #3692617KatttBPL Member
Great and entertaining story. Thanks for letting us know; this definitely made me feel good :)
When I still had my cottage business …..I tried to operate the same way but my products were not big investments so replacing something did not cost me much.
Thanks for posting this.Jan 7, 2021 at 6:05 pm #3692622
Jerry: no, I do not have a 17-oz. jacket! I have a 17-oz. fleecy-thingy, which is an infinitely worse investment of weight. But yeah, school me on synthetics! 😉
Kevin: how have I never thought about caching beer, before? I seriously want to know that…and, accordingly, are you sure you want to hike with me? It suddenly seems like I have even less idea of what I’m doing than I thought I had. And I move at an irritatingly-slow place, I’m told. Maybe this is why I don’t hike with other people, often. Maybe they already knew that I didn’t know about beer-caching. 🤔
Katt: glad you feel better. We can all use a bit of that, this week.Jan 7, 2021 at 6:44 pm #3692630
LOL – I do most of my backpacking in PA where I am often bringing up the rear because I spend more time drinking beer than I do exercising. A lot of our backpacking trails are loops and there are usually forest road crossings somewhere within a couple of miles of our nightly destination. It’s a fun addition – especially when I don’t tell the guys that I did it. They were floored when I stopped to pick up the beers on our third night out! They figured there was no way that I could have reached the trail in time to cache beers around the entire loop. I was inspired by reading trips out west where people cache water…I figured if they needed to cache water to survive I needed to do the same with beer ;)Jan 8, 2021 at 6:46 am #3692686
Lititz, huh? I actually know exactly where that is; I’ve been through there before, a few times. Nice little town, with quite a few examples of late-1800’s Moravian architecture…if you’re into that kind of thing. It’s about…oh, seven hours up 220 and 81 from me. Now you know exactly why I know exactly where it is.
But yeah, sometime, when all of this insanity is concluded and people don’t look at visitors like they’ve brought the Black Death to town, we should get together. George Jefferson National Forest – it’s WAY funnier if you call it that, by the way – is squarely between us. I heard they have some trails, there.Jan 8, 2021 at 6:38 pm #3692814
Amazing…Lititz is this little gem of a town that people only know about if they’ve been there. One of the guys with whom I try to do two trips a year lives outside Cleveland – we met for the first time at the trailhead of the Black Forest Trail – our correspondence was all via email. Turns out he grew up in Lititz! Small world.
We’ll stay in touch and see if we can’t get something on our calendars in 2022. I like the George Jefferson and would love to check it out. The furthest south I’ve hiked anything substantial is Dolly Sods.Jan 8, 2021 at 7:21 pm #3692818Michael BBPL Member
Nice story. I’ve been on their list for a while, but have not heard anything coming back into stock. Maybe I gave them a wrong email address.Jan 9, 2021 at 6:46 am #3692854
Yeah, you need to check on that; I get a stocking update once every few weeks.
Kevin; yeah, Lititz can be hard to find… unless you live a couple of miles from the Moravian settlements that are farther south: then you know exactly where it is. Also, yes, 2022 sounds good…unless we’ve continued to lose our minds, in which case I’m just going to strap some fuel containers to a sedan, put on my motorcycle leathers and go hunting for renegade biker gangs.Jan 9, 2021 at 10:07 am #3692879Stephen SeeberBPL Member
Great review! We need more like that. By the way, Lititz was home to one of the greatest tandem bike repair locations anywhere. They solved my drivetrain and other mysteries and were worth the long drive from Maryland. I don’t think they are there anymore, but my tandem is still gathering dust in the garage. That is what happens when your kids grow up and develop their own agendas.Jan 10, 2021 at 5:41 am #3693053Rob PBPL Member
Bonzo, I enjoy your writing…not only was that fun to read, but I’m going to wander over to the Appalachian Gear website to check out their offerings. Companies with good customer service are so nice to read about.Jan 10, 2021 at 3:39 pm #3693145
Thanks, Stephen and Rob. If I have anything else entertaining to write about, I’ll try to do so. 👍Jan 11, 2021 at 10:04 am #3693259Jan 13, 2021 at 6:40 am #3693556
Quick update on the OG Hoodie: it’s still disintegrating around the cuffs despite my not wearing it for a week or so, now. It’s literally been folded up, neatly, in a drawer…so maybe I really did get Disintegration Fluid on it. The strangest thing, however, is that the damage really is limited to that folded-over seam: eventually, the fold is going to come completely apart, at which point I guess I’ll try to hem it…or do whatever one does to cuffs that need to be turned and slightly-shortened. Hoodie 2.0 is fine thus far, but my bunny rabbit also hasn’t used it for a nest, yet, so it hasn’t really seen combat like OG Hoodie.
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