There's been an increase in the last 5-10 years in the amount of fake gear being sold online.
If you're planning to spend hundreds of dollars on top of the line backpacking gear, you need to make sure it's real and not a cheap counterfeit. Not only is fake gear a rip off, it could be life threatening if it fails to perform when you're backpacking and need it the most.
In this guide, I'm going to talk specifically about fake Patagonia gear and what you can do to avoid being duped. I'll also give you an overview of safe and dangerous places to buy Patagonia gear so you don't accidentally get anything fake.
Fact and Fiction
The amount of counterfeit backpacking and hiking gear being produced has risen over the last few years. But despite that growth, the truth is that the odds of you accidentally buying a piece of fake Patagonia gear is pretty low.
It's good to be cautious of fake outdoor gear but the risk of accidentally buying fake Patagonia gear is pretty small.
Knock Offs vs Replicas - What's the Difference?
Another important distinction is the difference between a knock off and a replica.
A knock off is a product that mimics the design of the name brand. These aren't fakes and they'll have their own brand name on the product.
A replica is any product being sold with the actual brand name on it (like Patagonia) and it is not genuine gear, made by the original manufacturer. This is what you want to avoid.
Knock off and replica gear are both usually lower quality than the original manufacturer. The only difference is that replica gear will have a fake brand label on it and will be sold for a similar price as the real deal.
How to Avoid Buying Fake Patagonia Gear
In this guide I'm going to specifically advise how to avoid buying replica Patagonia gear. If you want to buy a knock off brand that costs a fraction of the price, go ahead. You know what you're getting and you won't be let down at all.
But if you're expecting real Patagonia gear and get crappy gear with a fake Patagonia label slapped on it, that's a huge let down.
So here's my advice on how you can avoid getting scammed by fake Patagonia sellers.
How to Check If Your Patagonia Gear Is Fake
If you're shopping at a brick and mortar store you can be pretty confident you're buying authentic Patagonia gear. But the hard part about shopping for outdoor gear online is that you can't pick up on a lot of the details that would reveal something to be fake.
There are 4 things you can check that will let you know if the Patagonia gear you're looking at is authentic or fake. The 4 items to check are:
- Appearance - Does it match Patagonia's website?
- Tag - Does the tag have a legitimate serial number?
- Stitching - Does the stitching look sloppy or clean?
- Price - Is it too good to be true?
Now let's take an in depth look at each one of these items so you can spot fake gear.
Does It Look Like The Real Thing?
This is the first and most obvious place to start. Does the picture of the item look like the real deal?
Let's look at a real example of something for sale on eBay right now. This is a Patagonia Nano Puff jacket. This coat retails for $199 but can be found on sale for $100-$125 brand new.
Click on the image to make it larger and see if you can line up the details I've circled to confirm it is a real piece of Patagonia gear.
The biggest signs you're looking for are things that don't match up 1 for 1. Here's what I checked in this example:
- Patagonia logo (red circles) - Is the Patagonia label in the exact same spot? Yes.
- Main zipper (orange) - Does the zipper look the same? Yes.
- Pocket zipper cover (pink) - Are the zipper hiding spots the same size? Yes.
- Main zipper cover (green) - Is the main zipper hiding spot the same size and shape? Yes.
This jacket passes our first test. Everything on this used jacket looks identical to the authentic, brand new item from Patagonia's website.
Now we'll take a look at the next test, the tag and the serial number.
Check The Tag
Another way to check if Patagonia gear is authentic is by the serial number on the tag.
The tag will have a series of numbers, then 1 letter, then another number. For example, you might see 85315F7. This serial number means it is SKU number 85315 and it was produced in Fall of 2017.
If the person making the counterfeit gear is lazy, chances are they won't even bother to match up the serial number or production timing.
Once you've verified the SKU matches with the real product, you can check the production season to see if it matches the style from that year.
Over time Patagonia improves and releases new versions of their classic gear. With these updates, the appearance and details change. Counterfeiters are usually slow to update their gear so this can be another easy way to spot a fake.
Check The Stitching
The next thing to check if you think Patagonia gear might be fake is to look at the details, especially the stitching.
Counterfeiters are looking to make a quick buck and they cut corners to do this. One of the hardest details to get right is the stitching on backpacking gear. It takes a lot of time and effort to make clean stitches that don't have threads hanging everywhere. Your run of the mill counterfeit will have uneven stitching lines, threads hanging out, and maybe even some lose threads already pulling apart.
Of course, if you're buying used gear you should expect some wear and tear. Patagonia gear holds up pretty well but it's not invincible. Even the most delicately cared for gear will still have threads break down and loosen up over time, but real gear should never have crooked or uneven stitching. This is a dead giveaway that the gear is fake.
Compare The Price
If it's too good to be true, it probably is.
If a piece of Patagonia gear retails for $199 brand new and you find it for $25 online, it's fake. Even at $50 or $75, there's a chance it could be fake.
If it's used gear, it should cost less than brand new and probably 25-30% less than the sales price (I'd use the annual REI sale as a reference point for the lowest sales price).
But if you see a crazy low price and it's lower than anything else you can find, think twice and pay extra attention to the other details I've already covered.
The Most Frequently Counterfeited Patagonia Gear
I touched on it earlier but Patagonia is not a big target for counterfeiters. The North Face is the most copied outdoor brand but Patagonia does have some knock offs out there as well.
The most popular pieces of Patagonia gear that get copied are:
- Jacket/down sweater
- Fleece jackets
The jackets are popular counterfeit items because they're so expensive. A new Patagonia jacket that retails for $199 can be copied and sold for $75 which would make the counterfeiter a healthy profit margin.
Shirts don't have as much of a profit margin, but they're easy to make.
Just slap a logo on a shirt and you're good to go. These are harder to spot but if you do get duped and buy a fake shirt you probably won't have too many problems with it.
Finding out your jacket is counterfeit and won't keep you warm when it's freezing cold out is a disaster.
Finding out your t shirt is fake won't really matter much besides the fact that you got scammed.
So keep an eye out when you're shopping for gear and if it looks too good to be true, it is.