Some of you may, like me, have been identified on Facebook as the kind of adventurous go-getter who would be in the target market to see a million adverts for the Apricoat, a kick-starter project to design a new coat. But obviously because it’s a kickstarter project it’s not just any coat, it’s the world’s most innovative coat designed by a man who nearly died and then decided to make a coat.
It might be a brilliant coat, and I might be slightly biased against it having been irritated at seeing their clickbait adverts one too many times on Facebook, but whatever. I watched the video (see below) and here are six reasons (with quite a few sub-reasons) I’m not going to be funding it.
1. Punching Teddy Bears
It opens with a man punching a teddy bear. And I really, really like teddy bears.
2. Dubious claims
20 seconds in, it claims to be cheaper than ‘big-brand’ companies because ‘they spend their money on ads and stores’ while Apricoat spends their money on ‘research, development and materials’.
- Apricoat have quite clearly spent a lot of money on Facebook ads so, you know, their argument starts to fall down there but I accept that Facebook ads are probably cheaper than double-page spreads in Outside magazine, or TV spots. Fine.
- Does he really think that big-name brands aren’t spending money on R&D and materials? Sure, a Patagonia, Rab or Arc’Teryx coat is incredibly expensive but it is the product of years of R&D, of working from the experience of countless outdoors enthusiasts, of adjustments and improvements and learning what works and what doesn’t. And I’m also pretty confident that they use some of the best materials available. So, yes, when you buy your Patagonia coat you’re partly paying for the name, you’re partly paying for the bricks and mortar stores and maybe you’re sort of paying for the advertising (but I’m going to dispute that in a second) but you’re also paying for the certainty that comes with buying from people who really know what they’re doing.
- If big-name brands spend money on advertising does that necessarily make their products more expensive? Maybe, but maybe not. Advertising increases sales, and more sales generally means greater per-item profitability, which might actually keep the prices of items down. It varies a lot from business to business but my point is that it’s nonsense to try and claim that just because you don’t advertise (even though you do…) your product will necessarily be cheaper.
3. The thing with all the pockets
So, when I looked into this coat and what all it’s innovative features were, it basically comes down to ‘it has a tonne of pockets’. Which is fine, but I’ve got a couple of small issues with that and one big one. Firstly, it’s very gadget-centric; like, this coat will save your life because you’ve got so many gadgets in your pockets, not because the coat is actually any good. Realistically what’ll probably happen is you’ll end up with pockets full of old sweet wrappers and bits of fluff, and chuck your phone in the one nearest your hand, but whatever. My bigger problem is that having a single coat with a pocket for everything makes no sense for anyone who dresses using a layering system. Which, as far as I know, is every serious hiker/adventurer. I love all of my outdoors kit, but no individual item stands alone – it’s all part of a system, where I’m taking stuff off and putting it on depending on my activity level and the weather. That’s one reason why I hardly put anything in my coat pockets on a hike.
4. The harness feature
Honestly, I feel like this project started with an idea – a hi-tech outdoorsy coat filled with interesting features*, and then the designers realised that actually there aren’t many features you can throw into a coat to make it more useful for adventure, because all anyone wants is for it to be warm, waterproof and breathable, and all the big companies are already spending millions on R&D to achieve that, so they just started to throw anything at it they could think of. So we get a load of pockets… and a built in harness.
Look, the idea is ok, but: a) you’ve got the same problem as above in terms of layers, b) you’re adding a whole major feature to a coat for a very, very niche scenario. Presumably it adds both cost and weight, so you’re taking that hit for the unlikely event that you need to be hauled up by somebody who has a rope but no harness (so not a professional rescuer then) and also doesn’t know how to tie a basic under-the-arms loop, which I’m pretty sure is all this inbuilt harness is anyway.
And, you know, if you really want the ability to easily clip in for safety – wear a rigger belt with a tie-in point. It’s what I do and it’s a lot easier, cheaper and more comfortable.
In addition, it’s worth bearing in mind that the Apricoat safety harness isn’t properly tested to the relevant safety standards and may well break if subject to a non-static load, such as a small fall.
5. The built-in features are either irrelevant or pointless:
- GPS spot – you can just buy one if you want one. This is nothing special.
- A built in solar battery – see above. And, once again, having it ‘built-in’ just makes this a pain when layering.
- An inflatable pillow. Really? Can we rewind to the bit where they said this is a coat for ‘real adventurers’? See point 4 about desperately scrabbling around for features. Once again, you’re adding cost and weight for a totally pointless feature. I don’t ‘nap’ when I’m hiking, and if I really do need to get my head down I’ll sleep on my backpack or on a rolled-up jacket. I mean, come on.
6. “We tried many other coats and just weren’t happy”.
What with? Their lack of pockets? The fact they don’t double-up as a safety harness? That there’s no in-built pillow? I don’t get it! I’ve watched the whole video and I can sum up what’s so innovative about this coat as:
- Lots of pockets.
- If you buy a more expensive version of the coat it’ll come with things in the pockets, but you can also buy those things on Amazon and put them in the pockets of your own coat if you like.
- It’s warm and cool and waterproof and lightweight. I can’t test this claim but I’m going to hazard a guess that this coat hasn’t invented any mysterious new fabrics that the combined R&D departments of every other outdoor gear manufacturer on the planet have failed to. Despite being shiny on the inside.
- Has a pillow in the hood.
- Looks good everywhere (unlike, say, a Patagonia coat which obviously no one ever wears as a fashion item because it looks so terrible.)
- Aaaaand, that’s it.
I feel bad (a bit) because I’m sure these are nice guys, and I’m sure they’re trying to do something cool, but like so many things on Kickstarter it seems to be 60% over-inflated claim of being innovative and unique, 30% cool/funny/quirky video and 10% actual substance.
If anyone gets one of these coats please do get in touch and I’d genuinely love to know what you think.
*I’m right by the way – I noticed after writing this that the Kickstarter page even says that the coat started with a discussion between two friends on a hiking trip about ‘what would make the best adventure coat’. Well it kinda shows.
James wrote a follow up to my own views on the Apriocat – here are his thoughts…
You can also check out my video review of the Apricoat EcoDown Jacket here.