The Murky World of Counterfeit Outdoor Gear and Clothing

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Fake Petzl Gear

I noticed last week that several bloggers have posted notices by the climbing gear manufacturer Petzl. It seems Petzl has discovered counterfeit safety gear showing up for sale overseas. So far nothing has shown up in US shops but they are getting the word out to climbers to be on the lookout and to only purchase gear in authorized shops. The reason is fairly simple. The tested counterfeit pulleys and carabineers shows serious performance/strength issues so you are really taking your life in your hands by using it.

The good thing is that it doesn’t happen very often in the paddlesports world though it does sometimes pop-up. You might remember a couple of years ago when Werner Paddles reported that a company in China had stolen their designs and were selling cheap knocks-offs. Also about six months ago I got an email from somebody selling carbon whitewater helmets super cheap. It was pretty clear that they were also a knockoff from somebody.

Counterfeit products tend to show up more in outdoor clothing world then hardgoods. That’s just because there are more people interested in purchasing a cheap gore-tex jacket then bulk orders of whitewater helmets. There is a lot more cash to be in clothing.

Fake The North Face JacketFake The North Face Jacket. Image Credit:

Years ago I used to work at Mountain Equipment Co-op in customer service. I encountered a counterfeit Mountain Equipment Co-op jacket when the customer tried to return it saying the stitching was defective. The manufacturing was pretty shoddy but other then that, it looked exactly like the real thing. The real tip-off was that the jacket material was a different colour then the jacket should have come in and after some questioning the customer admitted that they bought it overseas but claimed they had no idea that they were buying a fake.

Sadly it happens in almost every single industry from cosmetics to electronics to DVDs. The worst part about counterfeit stuff is that it’s almost impossible to stop it. There are several different ways that fakes flood the market. The products are purchased, dissembled and the patterns are copied and easily replicated. Another common way is that the offshore manufacturing plant sometimes make a couple “extra” or “loan” out the plans to somebody else who quickly and easily produces the counterfeit product.

Pretty much all the major clothing manufactures including The North Face, Arc'teryx, Patagonia have counterfeit products scattered around eBay. is a website specifically dedicated to outing fakes on eBay and is a fascinating read with lots of good examples of how close to the real thing the fakes look.

Finally, researching this I found an interesting article about Canadian winter coat manufacturer Canada Goose who’s has been aggressively battling counterfeits over the past year. They are worried that people buying the fakes will get sick because when they analysed the down they found they weren’t stuffed with the high quality, sanitized goose down but was in fact, “stuffed with mulched up chicken feathers, beaks and chicken feet.” They also discovered the hoods on the fake jackets were from German shepherds, rabbits and even house cats in an attempt to get the "authentic" look Canada Goose is famous for, the company says.

Found a cheap deal on eBay? If it is sold as a new item and it looks to good to be true it probably is. Buyer beware.

David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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