- Buyer's Guide
The 10 Best Durable ‘Buy it for Life’ Bag Brands
Cheaply made and designed for obsolescence. Unfortunately far too many products fall into these categories. Sure, they may not cost a lot of money, but after having to replace them for the tenth time, that initial bargain isn’t such a bargain anymore. Even worse, these kinds of products often end up in landfills when they’re thrown away.
But some brands choose to push back against this type of design and manufacturing. Instead they create products that are made to last for years to come, serving you reliably while also helping the planet out. The longer you use an item, the longer it stays out of a landfill, and if it can be put to good use through recycling afterwards, even better. So what makes a bag brand a ‘Buy it for Life’ brand? Here’s a few criteria they should be nailing:
A solid foundation is key when you’re building, and for bags that comes down to materials. There’s no point in spending countless hours on meticulous craftsmanship when your materials can’t hack it. If you want a quality product, you have to start with quality materials. Yes, they’ll cost more than cheap ones. But they’ll also stand up to a lot more abuse and ultimately pay for themselves in durability and not having to replace them frequently.
So you’ve got good materials, but does the build quality respect those materials? Making a bag properly takes time and care, considering how it will be used and building it in a way that will ensure it’s up to the task. Is it reinforced at the stress points? Is the sewing tidy and reliable? Can you wear this bag without any worries that it will fall apart at the first sign of a heavy load or navigating life’s bumps and scrapes? If so, you’re onto a winner.
Practical and timeless design
One of the key elements to a Buy For Life bag is practical and timeless design. Will it be useful and look good not only when it’s new but also many years down the line, when it’s heavily used and worn in? If you’re going to keep and use a bag for a long time, it has to offer functionality and aesthetics that will shrug off trends and stand the test of time.
A bag that’s built to last should have a warranty to back that up. If a brand offers you a lifetime warranty, you know they’re confident about the quality of their gear, so you can be too. However, sometimes faults in materials or craftsmanship do crop up, and a good warranty should cover these. Ideally the brand should also encourage repair over replacement, as often a bag will still have many years of good service left to give following a repair.
Keep in mind though, nothing is made to last forever. Bags will eventually come to the end of their reasonably expected lifetimes. So when a brand offers a lifetime guarantee, they’re referring to the lifetime of the bag, not yours! That being said, some bags are just that tough to become heirloom pieces that will be enjoyed by multiple generations.
So with that in mind, we’ve rounded up 10 ‘Buy it for Life’ bag brands that are well deserving of the title…
“I received the repaired GR1 exactly a week after GORUCK received it which was a very impressive turnaround. Hidden inside the ruck were a few awesome goodies including a note, some koozies, and some patches. By far the best extra item received was the leather Scars patch… this thing is sweet.” – Brian Lohr
GORUCK is extremely passionate about their commitment to ruggedly built bags made in the USA. And so are their legions of loyal fans who put that gear through the wringer, from everyday use to travel and grueling GORUCK Challenges. And the brand backs that passion up with their GORUCK SCARS lifetime warranty.
Repairs covered by the warranty are performed at GORUCK’s expense, and they’ll also handle non-warranty repairs if desired at the gear owner’s expense. Owners are responsible for shipping gear to GORUCK, but they’ll ship it back free of charge.
“As for their warranty and customer service, we love it! We recently had a zipper on one of our bags fail and sent it back for repair. It was such a smooth process and the turnaround was quick.” – Sara M.
Building gear that’s tough as an ox? A mission the folks from Red Oxx strive towards – and nail – with every piece. Red Oxx gear is handcrafted in Montana and backed by a no questions asked “No Bull” Lifetime Warranty.
While they’ll always try to repair defects in materials or workmanship first, if that’s not possible they’ll replace your bag with an identical product in the same or similar color at no charge. Return shipping is on them too. Even better, their warranty is transferable for life, and covers all accessories and bags made by Red Oxx at any time in their history, regardless of how you obtained them. Gift? eBay auction? Custom piece? All covered. Plus they also accept exchanges or refunds on unused items up to 90 days from the date of purchase.
“One day, I came home from work and found a brand new Patagonia raincoat hanging on the rack. My boyfriend had taken my old one to the local Patagonia store and showed the salesperson the lining. To my disbelief, she swapped it out for the new model of my now-very-old coat. Though I can’t say I’ve had problems with other Patagonia gear, I’m glad I had the chance to find out that the company is true to its word. It’s the little things that make a big difference.” – Melissa Nyman.
Patagonia have earned a solid and respected reputation for their dedication to environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing, ranging from the materials they use to promoting fair labor practices. The brand also offers initiatives such as Worn Wear which encourages people to trade in their unwanted Patagonia gear for credit towards other worn or new gear, while keeping those functional traded-in pieces in use for others to benefit from.
Patagonia backs their gear with their Ironclad Guarantee. If you’re not satisfied with the gear or it doesn’t perform the way it should, return it to where it was purchased or Patagonia for a repair, replacement or refund. Patagonia also offers to repair non-warranty wear and tear damage at a reasonable charge. In addition, the brand accepts gear that cannot be used anymore, keeping it out of landfills and instead recycling or repurposing it.
“I’ve used my Osprey Escapist backpack literally every day for the past 18 years. Only had to send it in once and they had it repaired and returned to me in a week. I’d like to say I’ll buy from them again, but at this rate I doubt I’ll ever have to.” – coldcoast.
Osprey wants you to use their gear as long as you can. So they build it to last, using quality materials and timeless designs that focus on function rather than playing to changing fashion trends. But in the event that something does go wrong with defects in materials or craftsmanship, Osprey has your back with their All Mighty Guarantee lasting over the reasonable lifetime of the bag.
To help protect the environment Osprey will always try to repair your gear first or alternatively replace it if needed. Plus when possible they can help you out with repairs not covered by the warranty for a reasonable cost.
“Just had a 10+ year old Theta AR hardshell (that had been through hell and back, including a tear in the Goretex proshell) replaced under warranty, free of charge with no questions asked, because they could not repair the delamination that had occurred. Hoping this one lasts another 10 years. Yes, their products come at a premium, but you also get the reassurance of Arc’teryx standing behind their high quality products. Well worth it, imo.” – turboboost.
Arc’teryx are known for creating topnotch gear that combines quality materials and solid craftsmanship for long-time durability. But for additional peace of mind they also cover all their products with a warranty, and at their discretion they will repair or replace defects in materials or workmanship for the practical lifetime of the product.
Each claim is assessed individually, but assuming your gear is in generally good, well-cared-for condition and any issues are with materials or workmanship, your gear should be covered. In addition, depending on the damage Arc’teryx can repair faults not covered by the warranty for a nominal cost.
“Chrome makes great bags. I use a backpack for commuting and one of the shoulder straps was coming apart at the seam. I thought I would have to ship it to California for repair and go without a backpack for weeks. I called the Chrome Hub in Portland and they said they could fix it right there on site. And they gave me a loaner bag, same style as the one I was having repaired. Great service.” – Andy C.
For over two decades Chrome Industries have been producing tough urban carry that’s ready to conquer city streets on the daily commute and keep pace on weekend bike rides alike. And they back up their tough gear reputation with a lifetime guarantee on all their bags, repairing or replacing gear with defects in materials and workmanship.
Additionally each Chrome Hub offers in-store repairs courtesy of a custom bag sewer who can take care of both warranty and non-warranty repairs. Even better, if you bring your bag in to a Hub for repair, Chrome will loan you another bag until your repairs are fixed.
“They do a fantastic job. I’ve used their packs for years and 2 years ago had the bottom reinforced/other misc repairs done to my Big Sky. Don’t remember the specific price, but it was certainly reasonable.” – Nick Stayner.
Mystery Ranch builds gear for some of the toughest environments out there. But the quality stays strong with bags intended for less demanding environments too. Mystery Ranch (and Kletterwerks) products are guaranteed against defects in materials and workmanship for the practical lifetime of the product (note, fire packs and accessories have a 3-year warranty).
Mystery Ranch will repair or replace warranty-covered issues or alternatively offer to repair non-warranty damage where possible for a reasonable fee.
“I had a large duffel that the zipper tape came away from the leather on after 20 years. I probably paid 175 for it. I sent it to them and they said that they didn’t make that anymore and couldn’t repair it. I was out of luck. Just kidding, they gave me 325 in credit for a new one since it was a discontinued model. I got the one that rolls now for some extra dollars. I have probably lost more Filson gear than most will ever own, but if you can hang on to it you will have it for life. Excellent company through and through.” – idontcarethatmuch.
Filson’s dedication to creating long-lasting, functional gear has kept the brand going strong for over a century, and that durability is reflected in the lifetime guarantee that every Filson-made product includes. The warranty covers defects in materials and workmanship over the lifetime of the product, which extends to the point that it can’t serve its intended function and is worn out beyond reasonable repair.
Filson will first try to repair defects under warranty, but will replace items if this is not possible. Filson also offers to carry out repairs not covered by the warranty for a fee. Wonder what happens to the bags that are replaced? They don’t end up in a landfill. Instead, they head to the Restoration Department where Filson breathes new life into them while retaining their unique stories of years of solid use.
“I returned a bag and it was no trouble at all. They sent me a UPS label and offered to send a box as well. I have a Brain Bag that I used for 4 years of school and many trips, and a Pilot that I carry daily as a briefcase/computer bag. Neither has ever shown any signs of wear.” – mattnashbrowns.
Tom Bihn designs and crafts their gear in Seattle, and has earned a loyal following through bags that are well built and functional. That quality has resonated with customers through an extensive history spanning over three decades, and is backed by a lifetime guarantee.
Tom Bihn’s warranty covers defects in materials and workmanship, and if damage isn’t covered under the warranty they will repair it if possible for a reasonable fee.
“I have a Tanner bifold and it’s absolutely incredible. It’s holding up big time and gets better with age.” – PummerofSunk
Tanner Goods’ philosophy is “Worth Holding Onto”, a philosophy reflected in their timeless and functional products that are handcrafted to last through years of use.
Qualifying leather and bag styles come with a Limited Lifetime Warranty, which Tanner Goods states “is applicable to the lifetime of our bags for up to 4 years and leather goods for up to 8 years and covers defective seam stitching, faulty zippers, hardware defects and fabric defects.”
And if you aren’t feeling a particular product, Tanner Goods will also accept returns for refund, exchange, or store credit on unused, qualifying items up to the first 14 days after receiving your gear.