Climbing gear is a rip-off!!

I watch a lot of these shows on television where people ‘pitch’ businesses and products to wealthy investors. Aside from inspiring me to pursue my guiding business, these programs have taught me that most products cost 46 cents to make, and yet are sold to you and I for $50. Never is this more true than for the outdoor gear industry. There’s a reason we call Patagonia clothing, Patagucci. The “real world” has no clue that the ugly brown fleece sweater I’m wearing, probably costs more than the faded Guess jeans, polka-dot Gap shirt, and those SoftMoc moccasins combined that the girl sitting at Starbucks is wearing. But why?

patagonia

  • Newsflash: Every sweater that you own for climbing is made out of plastic. That’s right… You are paying cashmere prices for the same material as that disposable fork you’re eating your kale salad with. And how much plastic is used to make one sweater? About the size of a small apple! Stretched out into plastic thread, and woven by machine (or child in sweatshop) into that fancy sweater. Total cost of plastic? 79 cents. Total cost to you? $249.99. Stop the madness..
  • Cam I help you? Spring Loaded Camming Devices, Friends, Camalots… These are the ultimate “bling” in climbing. Nothing proves how badass you are more than having a shiny new rack of cams dangling off your harness, other than some well loved hexes. Lets do some math here… A # 6 Black Diamond Camalot costs $110 at your average gear shop and weighs 1 lb, 4 ounces. Scrap aluminum prices are about $ 0.74/lb. That means the camalot has 92 cents worth of metal in it. That’s a mark-up of….  over 10,000 %! But I hear you… you’re paying that mark-up for the engineering, integrity, and safety of the the product and design… These things are bomber!

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  • This ain’t your daddies hemp rope: Climbing Ropes are ridiculous… At least with most other climbing gear, if you take care of it, it can last a lifetime. Rope on the other hand, barely lasts a season. Why? Bingo! It’s made of plastic! Climbing gear companies are huge corporations that pretend to be grass roots, save the whales, organic hippie farmers. They are out for one thing: Profit. I’m sure that these companies would be able to produce a stronger, longer lasting rope made from something other than nylon, but why would they? Most ropes can only take 6 or 7 falls before the company recommends replacing it. And at over $200, they can be sure you’ll be bled dry at the start of every season. Even someone like me who doesn’t fall often, has to worry about the rope deteriorating into dust after a season’s worth of UV damage.

Damaged rope

  • Shoes: I for one, don’t believe in climbing shoes. If you think wearing Solutions makes the difference between sending, and not sending, get in the gym and train, because you’re not strong enough yet. However, I know most of you wear some form of climbing shoe. Have you ever looked at a climbing shoe? I mean, really looked at it? It’s nothing more than a few strips of leather, stitched together, and dipped in rubber. Slap on some velcro and paint, and boom, you’ve just made a climbing shoe that sells for $179. Now you’re talking AirJordan prices, and worst of all, climbing shoes only last a couple months before the rubber wears off, and then you’re left with the worlds most uncomfortable house slipper. Climbing shoes should cost about 30 bucks, and be coated in a rubber that doesn’t wear out.

climbshoe

It’s all about greed folks. These companies preach the dirt bag lifestyle, though I wouldn’t be surprised if all the employees are out there sipping on macchiato’s in their Audi’s, listening to Nickleback, while we pick up the bill.

Let’s change the world.

Wes.

 

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70 thoughts on “Climbing gear is a rip-off!!

  1. I know what you mean! Bouldering pads are basically just the foam you pull out of couch cushions, yet they are hundred of dollars to get from the store. So greedy.

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      • If you fall on couch cushions you will bottom out and get hurt. Quality foam with the right density is expensive. Go to a proper foam company and look at the prices. Quality foam dense foam is expensive. If you think you know better, then buy couch cushions and stop complaining.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe you get hurt, but not me. I just wear those bicycle pants with padding in the rear, you know what I’m talking about? I already have those so I’m protected, barely even need an extra pad.

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    • Couch cushions and duct tape. I just collect some free cushions from hard rubbish night and tape them together, it costs next to nothing! The duct tape is great for taping up your ankle when you break it as well!

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  2. Ropes can certainly take more than 6 or 7 falls. The UIAA fall rating – which is what I assume you speak of when you say 6/7 falls – speaks of how many ‘factor 2’ falls the rope can take before it breaks. And I truly hope you know what a factor two fall is and how rarely they occur. I still have – and use – the first rope I bought a decade ago. Take care of your stuff and treat it like it deserves to be treated and it can certainly last you a lifetime.

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      • You have to joking! If you do not know what a factor 2 fall is, you just may end up learning the hard way. I am convinced this has to a troll.

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      • Exactly. Gravity and whether there is a knot in the rope are completely unpredictable factors and vary widely from one fall to the next. Sometimes there are 5-10 knots in my rope and there is no way to tell before you fall whether how many there are. Also gravity can be very different as you get further away from the center of the earth by starting at higher elevations, such as alpine climbing. You should really take a physics class before talking like you know about climbing ropes.

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      • Gravity being that different at sea level than it is at, let’s say 3000 m? I mean, what is the radius of the earth? It’s about 6300 km (6300000 m). Even Everest is not high enough to be comparable to the earth radius. No, there is no substantial difference between the gravitation force at sea level or on top of a mountain, at least not that we can perceive with our human body (or that would affect the physics that regulates a rope’s behavior).

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      • And what is it at sea level? I have never said that there is no difference, I have said that there is no substantial difference that would considerably affect the physics of a rope.

        (And don’t tell me about physics, I am about to get a PhD in physics)

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    • I know this post is satire but the UIAA test is not FF2 falls… I don’t remember the exact number but it is closer to a FF1.7 (still really bad, but not FF2)

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      • That’s not true at all. 2 divided by 1.7 is only 1.17647058824, ie. about 1.18 (give or take). So a factor 2 fall is only 1.18 times worse than a factor 1.7 fall. You wouldn’t even nlotice the difference! I checked this with the instructors at my local gym.

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      • Sorry, by “that’s not true”, I really meant, “you wouldn’t notice the difference between F1.7 and FF2” (as I explained above).

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      • It’s 1.8 based on the fact that real falls are never quite factor 2. When the factor is more than 1, slack, rope slippage, and any horizontal travel of the rope decrease the factor. Any elasticity between the belay and the anchor, such as the belayer and their connection, also effectively decreases the factor.

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  3. By those shoes it sure looks like you don’t know how to climb very well. Only gumbys and noobies wear out the toes like that. you need to practice better footwork when you are climbing!!

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      • LOLOL. 49 years of climbing and my shoes NEVER looked like yours.
        Stop climbing like a Prima Ballerina on pointe, or stop campusing and dragging your feet. Those shoes are evidence of bad footwork!

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      • I have excellent foot work and train others on foot work as well. I always stress “quiet feet”, I should never hear your feet slamming into the wall. I take offense to you calling us gumbys. I may have not been climbing for 40+ years. But I have been climbing fir over a decade. All of my shoes end up like the ones pictured above. Just depends on the Rick and even the gym walls. Those are the main culprit.

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  4. Obviously you have no clue what it costs to run a manufacturing business; big or small. Sit down and try to think of all the overheads that a company of any size has to pay for to stay running. You will only be able to think about a quarter of what is actually needed.

    The cost of raw materials is only a tiny, tiny, fraction of the actual cost of the plastic sweater you are bitching about, and yes, most companies have to pay their employees and (this part will upset you); make a profit.

    I used to think like you do as well and also though gear companies were thieves, but since i started my own manufacturing company 6 years ago, things are a little clearer now and I fully understand how prices get to where they are now.

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    • I’ve run a company with 5 plants and I understand all of the cost accounting and general accounting required to turn a double digit net income; but while the original post is satirical; the margins on all things climbing related are ridiculously high. In automotive parts; I allowed for raw material costs (cam = 2.90), multiplied by the following each and then added together so x .18 for labor, x .18 for general admin costs, x .20 for sales costs, x .09 for transportation costs, x .05 for safety costs and then I add profit of a very generous markup of 55% (markup or about 35% margin) anyway put all this together and you can’t get more than $24.00 and that is with $9.04 at cost and $14.02 at pure profit. By the way I’ve padded the raw material costs from alum raw material of 2.90 to 5.00 to allow for specialized fabrication costs; I’ve padded sales costs (should be 10 percent; not 20 percent), transportation (should be 5% not 9 percent) so you can see that the OP’s point of ridiculous profits is valid.

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      • Not sure what “admin” encompasses but consider how many employees these companies have and the costs for health benefits packages, bonuses, patent costs, R&D, advertising, marketing, road shows, unemployment insur., etc etc etc, those C&C machines cost many hundreds of thousands and the programs are costly to maintain, train employees on. The machines become obselete rather quickly. One of our point to point mills originally cost $180k and were hoping to sell it 12 years later for $6k. There’s a mark up from dealer cost to retail also. But I digress as this is a satire.

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      • Automotive parts are substantially different than climbing gear. They manufacture in much larger runs, they are selling to much larger markets, they employ casting whenever possible(which is most of the time), their facilities are generally long-standing with machines that have already payed for themselves, and they can use other materials beside 6061-t6. I agree that the mark ups are high but they are selling to a small crowd.

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      • WHOA! All of this totally wrong, I know this is a satire but Im an industrial Designer and i cant let this go without being said! All modern climbing gear is made of 7075 (aircraft Grade) aluminum which is more expensive than 6061(6061 is HEAVY). Material cost is also NOT scrap prices. For exampe a retail 1″x1″x12″ square tube at onlinemetals is 18$ i could turn that around and scrap it for 30 cents. The aluminum needs to be anodized, CNC machined, the plastic finger pull needs to be injection molded, the wire needs to be PVC dipped so it doesnt cut skin. They need springs and the innards need to be stamped and then everything needs to be riveted together. All of these parts require different machines that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars(think ten machines that go for around 250k a piece). Because every cam needs to perform 100% (no failures) more are required to be tested destructively according to ISO 9000 standards. Maybe every 1 in 50 cams are destroyed for testing so this cost is distributed throughout the cost of your cam you buy(manufactures dont have to disclose this so its hard to find). OH yeah lol dont forget the cost of that testing equipment also! That machine has to pull to a force beyond 30kn! and do it everyday for years Now most large companies buy their own equipment and own their own factories so they can keep a closer eye on production.

        The majority cost of the climbing equipment goes to manufacturing and testing machine make sure the company isnt liable for a multi million dollar lawsuit from a faulty cam.

        Now I havn’t even touched marketing OR transportation costs OR Engineering OR R+D! The how its made videos on carabiners and ropes are very interesting and show really what goes into making this stuff. .

        2.90$ for a cam? NO WAY!

        Some patagonia and northface jackets are highway robbery tho, clothes usually have huge markups. But then again they use the allure of climbing and adventuring to sell street clothes so climbers are somewhat to blame lol.

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  5. Great article, it’s crazy that in these days when Obama is ruining our country and making us all more sick and causing disease that we are spending money on CHEAP PLASTIC!!! I almost quit my job at starbucks after reading this but i get healthcare through them : / one day I hope to quit my job at starbucks and start working at whole foods.

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  6. “there are more than 2 factors when it comes to climbing falls. There is distance, whether there is a knot in it, speed, gravity… I think you need to do some research and retire your sun-rotted rope”

    WOW! Your response is truly ignorant! Do you realize the danger in a factor 2 fall? I really hope you are just playing stupid and not a real climber. Look it up dude. I am truly frightened for your safety. Please take the time to learn about climbing and don’t just spay from your blog think you know everything. Seriously.

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      • If he doesn’t understand the importance of distance, knots, speed and gravity in determining the severity of climbing falls – I suspect he isn’t even a *climber* – let alone a *guide* !!

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      • Wes, I’m a bit confused by all the factors that go into falling. Can you explain if ‘knots’ is like boat speed and how that would factor in with the other speed you mentioned? Is there water involved?

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  7. I feel compelled to drop some high school economics knowledge on Mr. Summers. If the entire marginal cost of producing a cam, not just the materials but the personnel costs associated with producing and testing it as well as the transportation and supply chain costs, were lower than the current price, one company would choose to lower their prices. They would benefit by selling more cams and still making some money on each one. This does happen in apparel, usually called a sale price. If you’re paying full price for any apparel including technical jackets you are making bad purchasing decisions, as these products are most often bought on sale for significantly less than the listed price. You may notice that cams rarely go on sale for more than 10-15% below listed price. This is because the listed price accurately reflects the marginal cost of production and thus the fair market price for the product.

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    • Your post is pretty condescending while you make assumptions without basis and offer analogies that may not apply from one industry to another. Specifically you are assuming a 100% free market where competition could thrive. Now add the liability issues to limited market outlets and you have an environment that is vastly different than apparel. Buying clothing from overseas is a significantly different animal than trying to start up a metal working or any industrial operation in the U.S.

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  8. Mad respect for shouting truth to power, brother!

    I always climb barefoot, using stones I find under the climb for pro. Those stones were once part of the cliff, so I complete the circle by leaving them in after I climb. Because of this sick natural pro, my lead head is bomber so I never get nervous, therefore never sweat, and therefore never need chalk.

    Of course, Patagucci and the other outdoor ripoff artists stand to make absolutely zero profit$ off me, so you’ll never hear about my kind of climbing in the mainstream climbing press.

    I actually climbed with a Black Diamond employee yesterday and I thought I converted him to my ways on the rock, but on the way back from the crag in his Audi we still listened to Nickelback.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Right on man! I’ve given up using ‘beaners’ for attaching myself to shit and now only use these ‘Quick Links’. You can see them here:

    http://www.camp-usa.com/products/carabiners/oval-quick-link-934.asp

    They are way cheap and way strong; the only problem is you have to carry a wrench (I carry three for safety) to lock them off. But still, @ $1.35 each they are great (and cheap).

    Keep up the good fight my man! Don’t let the ‘doubtters’ and the ‘douners’ get you down. You ROCK!!!!

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  10. Yea. I ditched all my expensive climbing gear and decided to get a rope at Home Depot. They have things that look like carabiners there, too, so I’m gonna pick a few of them up, as well. I don’t need a sleeping bag anymore because I got a thrift shop wool blanket. Hell, it was good enough for John Muir. And cars are a freaking rip-off, too. I bought a donkey.

    Thanks for the inspiration! I just needed a bit of logic to push me in the right direction. Now, I’m going to go off the grid, get some guns and live in the wilderness in Montana.

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  11. This troll has a lot to learn about cost of R&D and manufacture processes. Go climb everest in hobnail boots with a hemp rope and get back to us.

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    • This troll isn’t aware of the reality of business. These companies are not doing you a favour, they are no different to Coca Cola or McDonalds, they just want your money. But you keep believing that R&D justifies a 700% or greater markup on production costs 😉 oh btw, I worked in the industry and had access to lots of interesting data.

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  12. have you ever thought about the machining cost overheads labour tax and packaging that goes in to cam? and its no coke can aluminium either this stuff is a special beld and heat treated to make it and hard as possible… think about that… knob head

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    • Wrong. “Machining costs”, whatever that means, are virtually nil per unit. Most outdoor companies can discount 70% or more, usually much more, and still make profit – I know from personal experience in the hiking shoe industry. YOU, are the one who believes all the marketing, R&D nonsense and then vomits your nonsense online.

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  13. You obviously have no idea what you are talking about. If you can do it for a lesser cost then start your own business, please “Change the world”

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  14. Pingback: Other blogs to follow: Climbing edition | Action in SolitudeAction in Solitude

  15. I am assuming you know very little about manufacturing. Comparing the scrap price of aluminum to the cost of a cam is absolutely the most invalid approach to assessing its value to the end user or to the manufacturer. Of course companies are going to mark up their products, why wouldn’t they, they are not in business for any other reason.

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  16. Wow! If you read through all of these comments (as I just did) you really start to hear the drone of … well … drones. “You don’t know anything about manufacturing. Blah, blah, blah!” The real travesty of all of this is that these nickleback-listenin’ audi-drivin’ corporate yahoos have won the blind(ed) allegiance of so many good-natured yet painfully naive outdoor enthusiasts with their crafty marketing schemes. These poor bozos lap up the environmental, lifestyle-based dribble that’s only a thin facade hiding the fangs of our sport’s corporate fat cats. Then they all spew back the same canned responses in defense of big corporations like Patagonia, Petal, Organic, and Krieg. It’s called Stockholm Syndrome, people! And the outdoor companies have you right where they want you! Wake up!

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    • Couldn’t agree more. People are very reluctant to A) accept that they’re being exploited B) accept that these companies are no different to Coca Cola or any other C) accept that no, these climbing tycoons are not cool and doing you a favor, they are rinsing you for all you’re worth.

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  17. If the gear wasn’t priced right nobody would buy it? I don’t mind a couple hundred bucks a year to keep me alive? Whats this guy on about???

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  18. When I worked for an American outdoor clothing and shoe company, well known to all, which I won’t mention here, we got 70% off as staff and they STILL made significant profit from it. Outdoor great IS a rip-off. Unfortunately, there’s no alternative. Welcome to capitalism and all the evil it entails.

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