Durability Is a Bad Metric, Let’s Stop

Durability is not what you think it is, and is really hard to test for in a review.

Typical review of GORUCK: “This bag might be the most durable bag you can buy.” Typical review of a second tier durable bag (thinK Evergoods, or any other company using 500D Cordura): “this is a very durable bag.”

First, that’s all lies. Second, and I think this is important, those comments are being said without any testing to back them. Oh, yes, sure the writer stuffed his (it is always a guy) laptop and other shit in the backpack for the last week (which actually means Tuesday – Friday because the bag came Monday, and the writer has no need for a bag on the weekend) and went about his days walking around a tiny bit with the bag.

Maybe they even took a flight with the bag! Hot damn!

Durability is not a metric the vast majority (mostly me included, I’ll get to my own bullshit later on) of reviewers cannot adequately speak to, and yet they use that as a metric for why the bag is bad ass and why you should buy it. This is slowly driving me mad.

Also, no two reviewers mean the same thing when they say durable. So that just adds to the pointlessness of this all.

Most reviewers mean built-to-last when they say durable, but that’s not what it means. Instead, durable, is a metric you measure how well something will stand up to the pressure of time, abuse, stress — is it hard wearing?

Which is why you cannot know that without at least many months of testing and, yes, abusing the gear. But most reviewers won’t abuse the gear. There’s two reasons for this:

  1. They need to return the gear so they are required to keep it in good condition. This, is not a common or likely scenario.
  2. They were given the bag and want to keep it nice because:
    • They are going to keep using it themselves.
    • They are going to resell it later.
    • They are lazy.

Pick any of those three from point 2, most of them are likely — even for me. Especially for me? I hope not.

For a while now I have actually been beating the bags I test before I write about them. If it is a backpack, I can assure you that it has traveled on planes, it has had a 30lb ruck plate in it and been rucked with. But that’s the extent of it. Shoulder bags mostly go on planes, or get the abuse that moving it in and out of the car with kids in tow will give your gear.

It’s lopsided. But there are a few things you can tell about durability without actually testing. You can look at how the bag is sewn up and know how well that will hold over time. You can feel and learn about the materials used, to know how that will wear and breakdown over time.

How do we know bags are durable? Because someone tested it, somewhere. But that somewhere is never a review, it’s an off handed comment as part of something else.

I can tell you a few things for a fact:

  1. GORUCK bags are, in any sense of the word, durable. I’ve owned one for over 10 years and it looks as perfect as my brand new ones, they have been tested hard both by me and the wider community. They simply don’t break down, they don’t fail, they perform under pressure. It’s that simple.
  2. Filson bags likewise are very durable, but not in the same sense as GORUCK. The bags last, and they don’t fail, but they do have leather so they do break down over time and require maintenance and repair. But we know they last because the back has been made since (I assume) the Roman Empire was still around. Go to Instagram and look for pictures of Filson gear — you can see the age and wear but not the failure. Mine is years old and still looks perfect.
  3. Tom Bihn bags perform, are built well, but are they durable? Yes, I know this because I have checked many of them when they weren’t meant to be checked and left all the dangly straps on them. I have abused these bags and they hold up. Not in the same way as the other two brands here, but I think it is unlikely that most people will even get one to fail. I’ve been using their gear for over ten years and have yet to have a single quality or durability issue.

And that’s all I can tell you. Well I can also tell you a company called Booq makes bags that don’t last. They break after a year. I’ve broken at least three.

The other thing I can tell you is that I only know the above because I have spent years with many bags from these brands. And that’s truly the only way anyone can comment on durability. So I am going to exclude it from my reviews and instead comment on build quality and other metrics I can get from shorter usage periods. If you hear anyone else touting durability of a bag, walk away, they likely mean build quality which is not alone an indicator of durability.

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