Gear From the (Literal) Other Side of the World
While recently traveling abroad in Thailand I was hoping to come across some possible sweet deals on gear, mostly stuff to replace heavier versions of my existing pieces. I know several big companies out there have their products made overseas in Asia – North Face and Merrell both come to mind. After coming across my first outdoor sports store in this mall in Chonburi, Thailand I got a chance to see what they had available for selections in this part of the world. The first things I looked for were lighter versions of packs that looked like they might be durable enough to last many thru-hikes around the globe. I came across this series of bags and went to Google and Bing for answers on the Natural Life products and wasn’t able to find a single piece of information on any of them, so naturally I had to ask in a few Facebook groups if anyone knew of these products and also nada.
The quality of these bags for the most part did seem to be pretty solid, but to me they almost felt like they would fall apart after using my heavier duty Kelty Red Cloud for so long. Part of me wishes I had picked one up just because they were pretty much dirt cheap and I could have ran it through the ringer and written a solid review on it. I kind of had my heart set on the orange 55L bag (below).
This one came with the sleeping bag area on the bottom with an internal drawstring closure to keep the area separated from your goodies stashed above. It only had one hip strap pocket, which I saw as a downfall. I do love my little storage pouches there for filling with granola bars or other easily accessible snacks while on the go. The top cover/lid was completely removable like most packs of the type. inside it had two sets of drawstrings to secure your gear within and a substantial amount of side strapping and vertical strapping to secure your gear in tightly. On the back was a stretched mesh that is designed to keep you back away from the frame of the pack itself so you don’t run into the sweaty back issues that are so common with many packs. The pack was H2O compatible, though the internal water pouch was very small and wide, maybe big enough for a 2L shorty Camelbak. The biggest thing that kept me from picking one of these up though was the simple fact that I am 6’3″ and these were made for people of average height in this area of the world (5’6″ maybe?). If/when I make another trip out there I will definitely pick up one of these packs and give it a thorough romping in nature.
One piece of gear I did bring home was this solar battery pack. It was really cheap (like $20 cheap) and it supposedly has some pretty impressive stats for its size and weight. It is slightly larger than a 10000 mah battery pack that I have had for almost two years now and I found it odd that it weighs less… It does have an LED light and two ports for charging as well as the ability to charge via a wall charger micro USB cord.
The stats on it are as shown here in the image below:
This is why I bought it in the first place, those stats are amazing (58000 mah battery!) and I figured what’s a $20 loss if it doesn’t work as well as advertised? To my non-surprise, I was lucky to get a full charge out of it from supposedly being at full power – in comparison, my 10000 mah battery pack gives me three to four full charges between needing a refill itself. I am kind of curious if maybe they added an extra ‘zero’ at the end and perhaps it only has a 5800 mah capacity? But I don’t know, every one of these for sale had the same stamp and they were all the same weight.
Of course these were sold at a market by independent retailers that bought them in bulk so they are not exactly responsible for a crappy piece of equipment from China; also, what tourist is even going to bother taking something like this back, let alone have the opportunity to really give the equipment a thorough testing while still in country.
I do have minor hopes that the solar charging capabilities would be good enough to make it worth bringing along on a backpacking trip, but I have my doubts that it would be worth the weight of dragging it around for a trickle charge on my battery pack during the day….when the sun is out….in open areas….in between tree canopies….
I still need to test out that part of it and see how it handles.
All I can say is be weary of what you’re buying when traveling through Asia, a lot of stuff there is really just poorly assembled knockoffs of the original item they based the design on. If something seems too good to be true it probably is, but I will always give something cheap the benefit of the doubt, there are actually some decent knockoffs to be had out there, and hey…what’s a few dollars lost to try out something you’ve never seen before?
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Be very careful with any no-brand item containing a lithium ion battery. By their nature, Li ion batteries can readily become fire hazards if manufactured improperly or with questionable quality materials. Recall all the recent no-name hoverboard fires caused by the Li ion batteries. (Amazon actually pulled most of their stock due to risk of fire.) Never go cheap with a Li ion battery.