A rucksack repaired – just because it’s old, doesn’t mean it needs to go in the bin.

Published 27 November 2022

Everyone should have a photo of a rucksack on a hill.

In 2007 I walked into a shop and bought a rucksack. It was a Berghaus Freeflow 50 litre rucksack. I bought it before spending a few days walking in Yorkshire peak.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that rucksack would accompany me on well over a thousand miles of walking. It’s been a great rucksack. It’s comfortable to wear, and has storage capacity big enough to carry everything I need for a multi-day walk. And the arched back system means that most of my back stays sweat-free, even in the warmest of weather.

But a few years ago, I realised it was beginning to have some issues.

The problems

Fraying on the rucksack lid

They started pretty minor. Somehow one of the clips came loose and got lost. And then fabric began to fray around the tip on the lid pocket. Unless I was extremely careful, when I tried to use the zip, the frayed fabric would get caught in the zip teeth. And then there was the day when I was pulling the drawstring at the top of the pack to seal it up. I pulled a bit too tightly and a big chunk of fabric ripped.

With some dismay in 2020 I began looking for a new rucksack. Because what else do you do? I wanted something very similar to what I had – especially with the arched back system. But looking at Berghaus’s website revealled they don’t currently sell larger rucksacks. Nor do they do anything with the arched back system. In fact I looked around in a few shops and couldn’t find anything similar at all. After a lot of hunting online, I did stumble upon an Osprey branded one that was close. But I wanted to try it before I bought. Given the expense, I feel it’s very important to make sure a purchase is right before hand. But I couldn’t find it in any shops that anywhere.

With no real answer to the problem, my old Berghaus pack survived for a few more walks; flaws and all.

The solution?

This rucksack needs repair? Pull the other one.

Around the beginning of 2022 – not long before I was about to head out on the Sandstone Trail – I started hunting again. Berghaus still hadn’t brought back any larger packs, but down at the bottom of their website, a link caught my eye.

Free repairs.

Wait, what?

Free repairs?

Had I read this right?

It turned out I had.

Berghaus have had a repair facility since the early days of the company in the 1960s. Their logic was simple. Fixing broken things is better than replacing them. And it’s something the company still do. At some point along the way repairs became free; the whole endeavour branded ‘Repairhaus’.

It hadn’t even occurred to me that you could repair a rucksack. Although if it had, I would have no doubt assumed the costs would be rather hefty. Repairing can often cost almost as much as new, such is our throwaway culture. But here Berghaus were, offering free repairs. Crikey.

The way it works is simple. You fill in a form detailing what the product is, and what needs addressing, adding some photos of the issue. The Repairhaus team look at the information. If they think they can fix it, invite you to send the item to them. The repairs are completely free, although you need to send the item to them at your own cost. Which, frankly, is fair enough. They don’t promise they can fix everything. If – for whatever reason – they can’t repair it, they’ll either replace the item, or give you a discount off a new item. But it seemed like they’d give it a go.

So whilst I was out on the Sandstone Trail, I took the opportunity to photographs of the problems. And then proceeded to leave them on my laptop for several months, before finally getting round to filling in all the forms in July. I confess I wasn’t that optimistic. This was a fifteen year old piece of equipment that had had some heavy use. But I got a reply to my submission.

It was a little non-committal. That it’s “sometimes it is difficult to say from the images alone” but “if you send this in, we can look if we can repair it.”

Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I began the hunt for something suitable to package it up in, which took some time in itself. And then managed to get it sent off. About a week later I got an email with great news. It could be repaired!

Trust me, I got really excited at this news.

The repair.

That’s torn it.

The email went on to say it had been sent on to one of their specialist partners. The repair would take roughly 21 days to complete. That worked for me. I wasn’t in any particular hurry.

And a few weeks later, the pack came back, everything made good again. It came back in time for me to take it with me on a trip to the Lake District. I could put the repairs to the test on another adventure!

So how did it look? Well, in a way, I’d like to say the pack looked like brand new. It doesn’t. They can’t work miracles. It’s still a bit worn and faded in places. But it works.

The repairs have used some new fabric that’s a different shade of grey to the original. But who cares? It’s not particularly noticeable. And if we’re honest, what were the chances of them having an exact match for the fabric used in 2006 when it was made? The main thing is that the problems I had with the pack are now solved and it works like it used to. I can close zips without fabric getting stuck in them. I can pull the drawstring without being afraid that I’m going to pull the whole top of the pack off. It worked. And – amazingly – all I’d had to pay was £12 postage. Seriously, that’s one hell of a deal.

The aftermath.

One repaired rucksack – looking good!

Not long after I received my pack back, I got another email asking how I’d found the experience, and how they could make it better.

Well seeing as you ask, my biggest issue was finding packaging suitable for sending a 50 litre rucksack in the post. Any help with that would have been beyond awesome. But seriously, we’re on minor thing given “dudes, you’ve just repaired a fifteen year old pack for free! How could you make it better?! What? Anything add here makes me sound really ungrateful!”

The simple fact is that – such is my love of that pack – I would have paid something towards its repair, and considered that reasonable. To have the repair done for free, well that’s wonderful.

If all this sounds like a bit of a plug for Berghaus and it’s Repairhaus service, well everyone, consider it a plug.

But it’s also a call to arms for repairing in general. You don’t need to assume that because something has a flaw, that it’s headed for the bin.

Berghaus isn’t the only company who do repairs. Several other outdoor clothing and equipment companies offer a repair service. Some like Rab, Rohan, and Paramo offer a reasonably priced repair services. Others, like Patagonia and Berghaus, are free. If you have some outdoor equipment and clothing with an issue that may be repairable, take a look at the website for the company who made it, and see what they say. You never know, you may be surprised.

And hopefully happy. And I’ll be blunt. I am very happy. You may have guessed that. My rucksack is back and I’m confident it has many more years of life ahead of it. And it may be that if another problem comes along in the future, Berghaus may be able to fix it then as well.

One day it will be beyond repair. Nothing lasts forever, after all. But that day has been put off and, who knows, that pack may be with me for another thousand miles. Well, I hope so.

Comments

john

23 January 2023 at 6:39 pm

Superb service that sadly a lot of merchants and companies do not do…Not only saving the planet but valuing the customer, John

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