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Why The Heck Did They Re-Design/Discontinue That?


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What are your favorite pieces of gear that have since been discontinued or ruined by unnecessary design changes?


My motivation for this post is a trip to REI this weekend followed up by a hiking trip. At REI I saw the horrific changes that have been made to my favorite pair of climbing pants, and on the trip every time I used my tent I cursed REI for getting rid of it. So here's my two items:


1. REI Mistral softshell pants


These are my go-to pants for everything in cool/cold weather, especially ice and alpine climbing. The original design used Schoeller softshell fabric, had an integrated belt and metal front sliding clasp, two standard pockets and a thigh pocket (all with really good zipper pulls), and was extremely well constructed with a nice athletic fit. They might be my single favorite piece of outdoor clothing.


The new re-design is a failure on every level except for what's important to REI: making more money by selling them as "urban wear" to coffeeshop climbers. The integrated nylon belt and clasp closure have been replaced by belt loops for a separate belt and a front button, the zipper pulls have been removed from all the zippers (can't have those showing at the pub right?), the thigh pocket has been ditched in favor of two ass pockets (clearly only there to make these look more like "normal" pants), and the material is now some cheaper, heavier, boxier no-name softshell fabric. The fit is less athletic and more "casual/urban", and the construction is noticeably worse. It took me all of 10 seconds of wearing them to decide that I would never buy a pair as they are currently made. I only wish I had purchased 5 pairs of the previous model rather than the one pair I'm still beating the hell out of (and seam-sealing crampon holes on to keep them alive). It's such a shame that REI designed a piece of gear that was every bit as good as the stuff from the big names, and then pissed it away.


2. REI Sub-Alpine 2 tent


I've had this tent for a good 5 years, and it's still going strong aside from a couple of rips that I fixed easily with repair tape. It's a reasonable weight for a tent that was moderately priced, works as a cosy 2-person tent or a roomy solo shelter, and was dead-easy to set up solo. The design is a simple 3 pole, all-clip tent that takes about 5 minutes to fully set up. REI ditched this tent years ago in favor of their current lineup of half-dome and quarter-dome tents, which are using over-complicated pole hubs and joints that seem like perfect candidates to break or get dropped/lost and compromise the ability to set up the tent. I don't understand why REI got rid of such a simple, well-designed, reasonably-priced tent.

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I had a similar frustration with the Mountain Hardwear Pack Pants. The original design was the best and most comfortable hiking/climbing pants I ever found. They "improved" it by changing the fabric and belt. I had 3 pair of the originals. One pair shredded by constant use, one pair stolen from my car (DAMN!), and one patched up pair still going strong. Like you, I wished I had gotten 5 pairs.img403.jpg

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I have an REI Schoeller fabric jacket that is going on ten years old. The wrist-tightening thingies came de-glued almost immediately, the zipper sometimes comes off the rails, and fabric has a couple of burns from cigar ashes. I still like it okay, though am thinking of getting my money back.


Otherwise, can't afford to replace it & if I wanted to, would probably look to MEC (and be disappointed).


As for the tent you mentioned, my last REI tent was made of cotton (nylon floor). The more moderne Wenzel pup tent is of similar design, but with updated materials and sophistication.

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