Your backpack is your trusty companion, an imperative tool that gets your stuff from here to there. Trailside, your backpack endures harsh conditions such as sweat, weather and dirt. School backpacks, used to tote heavy hardbound books, need tolerant straps and burly nylon to carry the load.  Your chic leather backpack holds everything from baby bottles to makeup, which can spill and wreak havoc on your fashion-forward accessory.

What do you do with a broken strap, a busted zipper or discolored leather? You warranty it, but manufacturer's warranties can be confusing. Lifetime warranty, limited lifetime, limited warranty; what does it all mean?  Take it from someone who worked in the industry, lifetime doesn't mean "your lifetime", and manufacturers warranties won't cover baby spit up or makeup disasters. Get the scoop on warranties before buying your pack to ensure you will not be apart from your coveted companion for long.

Lifetime Warranty

If you come across a company who offers a lifetime warranty, chances are the product is bomber! What does a lifetime warranty really mean? Well, it's not warrantied for your lifetime, but rather the reasonable life of the backpack.  The pack is only guaranteed free of manufacturer's defects. This means normal wear and tear, such as worn straps, is not covered. Furthermore, if you plan on carrying things like machetes and cinder blocks, the inflicted puncture wounds will not be repaired without cost. Broken zippers, busted buckles and fraying strap ends usually fall under the warranty umbrella.

Limited Lifetime Warranty

This one is tricky! A limited lifetime warranty gives you the perception that you're fully covered for life, yet it's all in the fine print. The word "limited" implies that your pack may be covered under warranty for its life, within certain limits. These limits vary from brand to brand, and can exclude certain parts of the pack or types of product failure. Ultimately, it's up to the warranty department's discretion.

Limited Warranty

These often expire after a certain date, usually within one to three years from date of purchase. You also need to keep your receipt. Failure to prove purchase date often results in you sucking it up.  Your pack will only be screened for manufacturer's defects, and it's at the company's discretion.

Companies With Amazing Warranties

  • Jansport: Their warranty is easy as pie. You simply pay for the shipping back to the company and they ship it back for free. If you can't be without your backpack, ship it priority. Jansport, then, puts it on top of their pile, shipping it back in the same manner. Want to upgrade your replacement? Jansport is there to serve you. Write a return note with your request and they'll determine the difference in replacement costs.
  • Patagonia: Patagonia packs aren't cheap, but their Ironclad Guarantee certifies customer satisfaction. You can return any item for repair, replacement or refund at anytime  Wear and tear damages are always fixed for a reasonable charge. They do their best to process returns or exchanges within seven business days and repairs within ten. Leaving for a trip in days? Don't fret. I recently spoke to the nice folks at Patagonia myself about a warranty. They allowed me to purchase a new product online and then credited my card when the defective one arrived at their warehouse.
  • LL Bean: 100% guarantee means it has to work! At anytime, if you're unsatisfied with the quality of the product or you experience a defect, you can return it. Visit their Easy Returns page to print out an exchange form or find the nearest store. They are so confident that there are nearly no questions asked when processing a warranty. They post product recalls on their site to alert you of any defects suitable for immediate replacement
  • Eastpack: Their 30-year warranty covers defects in materials or workmanship but has clearly stated specific exclusions, such as third party damage. Limited edition backpacks fail to make the 30-year cut. Instead, these specialty items fall under the 2-year umbrella.
  • Dakine: They need to have a burly warranty policy for their particularly extreme customers. Their backpacks, made to haul snowboards, skateboards and skis, expose themselves to some gnarly elements. For this reason, Dakine's limited lifetime warranty tends to be more lenient than the rest. Strap cuts from skis edges and abrasion patches from skateboard grip tape generally fall into the "defect" category. Make sure you save your receipt, though.
  • Coach: Coach guarantees their product for its natural life. Simply send it back to the repair department and, for a mere shipping charge of $20, they'll repair it. According to a Coach employee, if the repair center is unable to fix your bag, you can bring it into a store for inspection and receive 40% off a new purchase.

That's it in a nutshell. However, hardcore backpackers might want to do a little more warranty research for themselves. RockyMountainTrail.com outlines the warranty policies for many of your favorite outdoor brands.  For those moms who want the best pack available for their rough-and-tumble kid, visit SchoolBackpackStore.com to find a policy that insures your pack.

This has been a guest post by Christina from Tetonia, ID
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