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Bacpacker Magazine award to Big Sky
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Robert Molen
(bigsky) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Re: BP and Big Sky on 03/07/2007 20:51:39 MST Print View

Kristin et al,

I really apologize for the heat Backpacker magazine and all of you at Backpacker are taking because of Big Sky’s delayed deliveries...

Yes, we have had long delays from order date until shipment... we are working very hard to correct that... I have been practically living in Asia since early fall 2006 fixing this problem... in fact, I am Asia right now pushing our factory to get orders out and working with another factory getting them up to speed so Big Sky has dual factory sources to avoid this problem in the future... it is a long and costly process bringing another factory online... we have a world-class product and we will not accept anything less than world-class quality...

We shipped some Evolution 2Ps last month, and will ship some more this month... not as many as we would like, but better to ship some than none... we expect to have a good supply of our best seller, Big Sky’s Evolution 2P, by at least May/June (hopefully sooner) from two different factories... but I am not prepared to declare victory until all of Big Sky orders are filled and we have world-class products “in-stock” to sell...

As a side note, some on BackpackingLight’s forum incorrectly state that Big Sky bills a customer’s credit card when the order is taken... we stopped that practice in May 2006... our current practice is to bill a customer’s credit card when an order ships... when we first started, we used PayPal, which does not allow delayed billing... all but a very few of those PayPal orders have been shipped or refunded... also, this past December we did offer an “End-of-Year Sale – 20% discount for Spring Shipping – pay 100% Jan 1”... we expect to deliver these orders on time, but if the customer wants a refund, we will provide one...

While many of the customers that placed orders with Big Sky waited a long time, we also rewarded them for their patience by upgrading them to the current version for free... some paying less than $200 for a shelter that sells for over $300 when it was shipped to them...

Also, some customers that pre-paid for their order were given loaners at no charge to use while they were waiting for their order and/or discounts on other merchandise... we have tried to do what we can to make it right with our customers that have had their orders delayed...

Again, we apologize,
Bob Molen

Big Sky International
online store:

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: BP and Big Sky0 on 03/07/2007 20:54:29 MST Print View


Can you please explain what caused upwards of 14-month delays in making tents and your very long periods of silence during all this time? Many of your buyers were at their wits end -- as attested by the numerous postings here and in all other forums, which you no doubt have read, although not responded to!

As I expected, you responded extremely quickly with an apology to Kristin of Backpacker Magazine. This actually puts you in a rather bad light -- given that you have NOT responded to any of our postings on this forum or on any of the other backpacking forums in the last six months or more! (Kristin can easily verify this by just looking for Bob's postings -- of which she will find none in the last six months -- the period when numerous buyers were fretting -- and posting -- all to no avail).

Robert, I should not have to remind you that your buyers -- not Backpacker Magazine -- are your true customers! Indeed, most of us here are also customers/readers of said magazine. You can hardly expect to score with the magazine while treating your customers as shabbily and evasively as you have. While apologizing to Kristin above for the heat you caused, you couldn't even be bothered to apologize even a little to your customers???

Edited by ben2world on 03/08/2007 10:01:07 MST.

Robert Ebel
(poop) - F

Locale: Earth Orbit
Re: Bacpacker Magazine award to Big Sky on 03/07/2007 21:36:12 MST Print View

What I find surprising is that people are surprised that the cons at Backpacker did this. It's always been about the money and big egos - just like everywhere else!

You watch, Big Sky will go on to rule the world. I can see it now, and all of you will buy their crap.

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Big Sky "The Quiet Zone" on 03/07/2007 22:10:47 MST Print View


Your loaner tent and 20% discounts to me notwithstanding:

It's been obvious for some time that you moniter this site fairly closely. I imagine you know even more sites that post complaints about Big Sky.

Some time ago, on this site, I suggested that you insert a "News" section on your website where you do a running post on the difficulties you encounter in trying to get your very fine product to market. A paragraph or so every couple of days or certainly once a week, telling the truth about your problems. As I see it the biggest complaint is your seemingly automatic and very generic "I'm at our factory in Asia" emails.

When I don't meet deadlines my clients really don't like to hear my excuses. But I always tell it like it is. They know they can trust my word.

Perhaps honest communication is a way to get people on your side in this "fight" to get your business off the ground. I certainly hope that Big Sky suceeds. Someday I'd like to get one of your Revolution 1P 1D0V bivy tents. The orange one you had at last year's ADZPCTKO was sharp.

Evolution 2P at Sky Camp 2-23-07

Edited by redleader on 03/07/2007 22:14:40 MST.

Lawton Grinter

Locale: Rocky Mountains
oh lord. on 03/07/2007 22:43:50 MST Print View

well, i don't have one of these tents, but the latest round of excuses and "apologies" is just so ridiculous.

what's wrong with being honest about availability of your product? isn't that the easiest thing you can do? if situations change, update your customers. rapid response to squeaky wheels and big magazines, and ignoring calls for refunds and plaintive emails for 6 months from customers just wanting a product, isn't not honest or fair.

glad i have a tarptent contrail from an honest and fair businessman, not episode 18 in a littany of excuses and silence.

p.s. i imagine it's not lost of most people that the acronym for the company is "BS"

Edited by disco on 03/08/2007 01:30:31 MST.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Great product, crap service on 03/08/2007 02:36:47 MST Print View

The Tarptent Rainbow was my first purchase on line. I am not a Luddite, I was involved in setting up the first site in Australia to sell cameras directly on the Net. I am still working there. After that positive experience I purchased from ULA, twice, Jacks R Better, White Box stoves,and BackpackingLight , also with a friend again from Tarptent,Backpackinglight,Mini Bull stoves, Gossamer Gear (twice) and ULA. ALL of the above proved to be very positive experiences, with Henry,Brian and the two Jacks it was a very personal and very satisfying event.
Now if I had sent my money to Big Sky ( not so coincidentally referred to as BS) very likely it would have been an end to my overseas buying. We have here, in Melbourne, some very good shops and excellent brands also.
I have chastised others for commenting on products that they have not seen or tried,and I fit into this slot regarding BS, however the product is not in question, the service is the crux of the matter.
What BS as shipped out so far are samples, there is no evidence of a production line being in place. Nothing wrong with that if the aim was to test market a product, but to pretend that orders could be fulfilled on demand it was naive at best, fraud at worst.
Ben has correctly pointed out that there has been no satisfying or concrete answer from Bob till Backpacker became involved.
There is not that much that is relevant to me in Backpacker ( I love your parks but I am over here...), , but I still buy it because I like to read something before I go to sleep and I am a gear freak ( loved the safety issue and as usual the annual gear roundup). If I did not know better, I would have assumed that a product featured in there not as "in development" or "vapor hardware" should be available and regardless of what the editors think, you ( Backpacker Magazine ) are giving credibility to a load of BS.
Not to sure if I got my point across, please ask for a clarification if needed.

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Big Sky "The Sound of Silence" on 03/08/2007 10:48:54 MST Print View

Bob's doing it again. He's still not communicating. Let's hear from you Bob. What have you got to say for yourself. Your public awaits "The Word". Give us the straight p*o*o*p*. What's the real deal with Big Sky. Why do you have so much trouble meeting demand for your superior products? What sort of production problems have you experienced? Are you a one man show, doing everything yourself? What is your orders to deliveries ratio? What is your average delivery time? What are your plans to improve the situation? Talk to us. We implore you.

Gene .

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Bacpacker Magazine award to Big Sky on 03/08/2007 11:42:51 MST Print View

Robert Ebel, in reference to your post above; you won't catch me buying a 'DeLoren tent' either! LOL

I edited this post after reading your post Eric; you are correct, this thread needs to stay focused, point taken.

Edited by Tracker on 03/08/2007 14:12:22 MST.

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: Re: Bacpacker Magazine award to Big Sky on 03/08/2007 12:23:47 MST Print View

Gene, don't take it too hard. BPLRank seems to be all about membership and the amount of participation, not about quality. We've beaten this to death in one of the members only forums. I wish it were made more clear what the BPLRank is. I think we all know the quality of your posts. For example, your travel advice for Hawaii was awesome! I don't want this thread to veer into another discussion of BPLRank but didn't want to miss an opportunity to ask that it be clarified. The thread needs to stay on BPM and Mr. Molen so they have an opportunity to answer to their customers.

Donna C
(leadfoot) - M

Locale: Middle Virginia
Re: Re: Re: Re: Bacpacker Magazine award to Big Sky on 03/08/2007 12:58:18 MST Print View

I just don't understand how a factory in 2 factories in China...can't produce more than a handful of tents. Seems odd to me. Please don't say switching to another factory was the reason. I don't care how good that durn tent 3.5 lbs, get a Hubba Hubba. At least if it tears, or falls apart, MSR will stand by it. Will BS stand by theirs?

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Bacpacker Magazine award to Big Sky on 03/08/2007 14:11:26 MST Print View


Folks have been so aggravated by BS' delivery issues that repairs/after-sales services are rarely if ever discussed. But even here, there is a track record to go by (i.e. something more than just Bob Molen statements).

BS has no facility whatsoever in the US to handle repairs of any kind. If Bob Molen can sew, he hasn't shared that with anyone. In my email exchanges with a BS Evolution tester at -- the tester mentioned that when two guyout points ripped from his tent, the response he got from Bob Molen was to have the repair done locally -- then submit a receipt for reimbursement. That tester did as he was told -- but never got any reimbursement from BS.

So, for those of you lucky enough to receive your tents -- make sure you recognize that as terrific tents as they are, they are also UL tents and need to be cared for as such. If they get damaged, you need to know that you are completely on your own -- both in terms of finding a repairer and paying for the repair yourselves.

Edited by ben2world on 03/08/2007 14:16:05 MST.

John Kays
(johnk) - M

Locale: SoCal
Re: Re: Bacpacker Magazine award to Big Sky on 03/08/2007 14:26:30 MST Print View

now that many folks have weighed in over several days on the subject of BS and there is no question today regarding BPM’s knowledge of the nature of the business practices of BS, the question remains of how BPM is going to handle this. I believe, as a subscriber to BPM, that your credibility hinges on how you react to your knowledge of this companie's business practices. You have given your seal of approval to it’s practice with respect to delivery by your mention of delivery in short time from ordering the tent inferring that customers will have no problems either. By the way, did BPM make a traditional order where you paid via credit card or did you even have to pay for this tent? There are folks who will be ordering from BS who probably would not if they were acquainted with this thread. If you and your publisher let this stand you may mislead readers into making a purchasing decision that they may be sorry for later. As a suggestion, you, BPM and BS might want to demonstrate your bona fides by publishing an address where the owner of the BS can be reached during regular business hours for service of process.

Gene .

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Bacpacker Magazine award to Big Sky on 03/08/2007 14:31:38 MST Print View

It's not that the factory(s) in China can't produce the tents in question Donna; it's what happened to them when they did produce them?

Let me recite a tale here for folks to get a taste of what Chinese factories can do to a product....

I have a friend who is a business associate from a few years back who has hired 2 factories in China to build 2 separate items. The one factory was/is supposed to be building sailboats in the 25-35ft range; easy enough you'd think since my friend who's a well studied engineer gave the factories everything but the labor to build the boats! Nope, the factory took it upon themselves to use a cheaper resin in the f'glass, different f'glass materials, different ballast(instead of solid lead they mixed it with concrete! changing the density of the ballast!), they used substandard paint inside the boats.

My friend went back over after the first dozen 25fters' were 'ready' and thought everything looked ok.....until he nearly died trying one out on the water!! When he got back to the dock, he had the boat hauled and got it weighed. It was almost 1/3rd heavier than spec, and comensurately slower on the water, and very unstable in wind gusts. Next he cut the boat up in the shop, found the concrete ballast mix; found the empty barrels of unspec'd resin, found cheaper wiring, ad infinatum!!

He ended up having to scrap what amounted to $100k US in boats, and made the factory eat them financially, as he refused to pay for inferior work. the response from the factory was that they tried to save money buying 'similiar' materials, but not what was ordered.....After 1 year of aggravation with that place, he went out and found another factory. By the way, the first place tried to sell those bad boats off to unsuspecting nationals under a different name!!

All I'm saying is that if Bob ran into this type of scenario he should have been up front about it with customers. Not that he did, but if I spent as much time in 'Asia' as he did last year i could've learned to sew and sewed all I had pre-sold!......So many kite factories over there, so little effort by Bob to get them to make his tents.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Bacpacker Magazine award to Big Sky on 03/08/2007 14:56:04 MST Print View


The turnaround time for tents is much quicker than a boat. I don't pretend to know Bob's sourcing problems, but countless other companies source from China, Vietnam, etc. -- and yet -- Bob Molen is the ONLY ONE that:

o collected money upfront,
o delivered with a 14-month delay, and
o continued to be evasive with his communication.

Edited by ben2world on 03/08/2007 15:21:24 MST.

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
Re: Bacpacker Magazine award to Big Sky on 03/08/2007 16:22:26 MST Print View

Hi Kristin,

Could you set yourself up for Private Messaging? (Click My Account above.) I'd love to send you some feedback about your magazine, Big Sky and the Gear Guide.


Edited by bjamesd on 03/08/2007 16:30:15 MST.

Robert Ebel
(poop) - F

Locale: Earth Orbit
Re: Bacpacker Magazine award to Big Sky on 03/08/2007 17:32:32 MST Print View

I don't understand why you put Backpacker on such a high pedestal. Backpacker has always sucked up to players.

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: Re: Re: Bacpacker Magazine award to Big Sky on 03/08/2007 18:06:50 MST Print View

Gene, I'm sorry, I was not taking you to task. There was no need to edit your post. I was feeling guilty about my own post and trying to prevent it from hijacking the thread. I hope you don't feel I'm picking on you, because I was really attempting to commiserated with you.

Greyson Howard

Locale: Sierra Nevada
Re: Re: Bacpacker Magazine award to Big Sky on 03/08/2007 18:34:00 MST Print View

I can understand Backpacker's choice: the Big Sky tents fit into the comfortable norm for the Backpacker readership in what a tent should look like, but also sheds weight.
This is probably what attracted many of you to the tent as well.
So the question is, is Backpacker responsible for reporting on the company in the gear guide, or just the gear?
I don't claim to know the answer, but I also don't think it should be assumed that a "gear of the year" blurb (not a multi-page story on the tent) should go beyond the gear itself.
(I'm going to duck now)

Edited by Greyhound on 03/08/2007 18:35:26 MST.

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
Re: Backpacker Magazine award to Big Sky on 03/08/2007 19:11:58 MST Print View

Well I was going to email it straight to the BPM editor, but chances are (as in all dogmatic and emotion-containing discussions) she won't find it insightful anyway. Maybe someone here can get more value from my ramblings.

PJ, thank you and I'll respond to you tomorrow.


Hi Kristin,

I'm writing to give you some feedback on the Award you recently gave to Big Sky products for their tents, and about your publication in general. Please not that I realize that you have been "away" for 4 years, so when I say "your magazine" I mean it in the grand sense, as in "the magazine of which you are now the Gear Editor."

As you have probably gathered by reading in forums around the internet, your magazine's credibility comes into question by some when equipment is reviewed with an eye to functionality and purchase-worthiness, full stop. Your review style seems to start and end with what works and what doesn't, rather than looking at a product from a whole-experience perspective such as customer service and most importantly (I feel) whether the style or type of item is worth packing at all.

My primary example is the current Big Sky Tents debacle. I tell you honestly that your magazine came across like they might be shareholders or family relations of the founder of Big Sky when you actually granted them a prominent award in their highest-circulation issue of the year! This was despite the fact that Big Sky seem to be the Worldcom of cottage manufacturing. (Remember, even Enron delivered *some* electricity!) After reading nightmare stories about Big Sky for more than a year, I was surprised that Backpacker is so far removed from the Backpacking community that they would give the company an award and stimulate hundreds or thousands of orders placed based solely on that recommendation! Many of the people who were -and will be- stiffed by Big Sky are your readers, after all.

On the subject of gear selection, many are surprised by your frequent reprinting of popular and long-discredited myths to recommend gear that is coincidentally-or-not made by advertisers. On the subject of canister fuel versus white gas, for instance, you stated as late as 2002 that white gas is "efficient" and "good for long trips" in comparison to canister fuel.,1023,3805,00.html

By 2002, Backpacker had still not weighed its' fuel tanks before and after cooking to find out that it takes roughly twice as much liquid as canister fuel to cook the same meal? Many find it hard to believe. Learning how much fuel it takes to cook a meal is Backpacking 101, and canister fuel had been on the market for decades by the time you published that "review." In fact, the efficiency of canister fuel has been common knowledge in the climbing community since climbers finally retired the Optimus SVEA 123 in the 80's as their standard stove. Yet you guys are still pushing white gas and Expedition stoves to unsuspecting beginning backpackers?

I submit to you that the only user who benefits from a jet-engine-noisy, very heavy, very expensive 16.5oz Primus Omnifuel does not learn out about it in the pages of Backpacker Magazine. He or she is climbing Everest or trekking to the Poles, and already knows which available stoves will burn Diesel and Jet Fuel. Hocking $150 1-lb AvGas burning Expedition stoves to neophytes under the guise of the advantageous "efficient" white gas option is not what some would call good journalism.

It also seems telling that the "centres" on your website ("waterproofing centre", "sleeping bag centre") actually use the logos and marketing material of your sponsors as their logos, headers, and infographics. If your purpose is to review products and technique and provide the resulting information to readers, does it not come across as a mild conflict of interest when your reviews are actually branded by a manufacturer? It would be akin to a dentist who wears an "Aquafresh" labcoat and drives a "Listerine" Mercedes: which oral health regime do you think he's going to recommend? The whole thing smacks a bit of 1950's health announcements, with well-known doctors informing the public about the advantages of smoking Chesterfields.

Such an approach has arguably influenced many competing (but less well-sponsored) publications. One such publication is, whose primary focus is to aggressively *cut through* manufacturer hype and rhetoric rather than actually reprinting it. In an age of citizen journalism, this kind of approach is gaining favor -- albeit not from many sponsors.

On the last page of this year's Backpacker Gear Guide, (also recognized widely under various forms of "Adpacker / Cannonball Guide",) you suggest ways to reduce pack weight. And what is the only justification given for doing this? To make space in ones' pack for more gear sold by Backpacker sponsors or potential sponsors! I tell you Kristin, many backpackers shook their heads at what appears to be the trivializing and apparent nose-thumbing at one of the more dynamics of the sport of backpacking; weight. Lightening up just so you can carry more gear: to some it's like quitting cigarettes so you can take up cigars!

Your magazine purports to discuss the whole sport of backpacking, and great and detailed pontification is given to almost every aspect, metric, and dynamic in the field. Except for the one metric that advocates the purchasing of less gear from your sponsors, that is.

To wit: My friend learned backpacking independently while away at school; she is a happy proponent of the "gear for gear's sake" attitude so often found on the pages of consumption-oriented magazines and guides. I'm always astounded at the 40 lbs that she hoists onto her 125-lb frame for a weekend trip; it's given me a lot of insight into the content of the many Backpacker-published books that line her shelf. She has spent a fortune on a mountain of gear that is simultaneously overdesigned and underperforming for the weight, and owns a very expensive 6lb pack and pair of 6lb boots to drag it all around with. Yet despite her being a very informed, prudent, and conservative backpacker by Backpacker standards, this gigantic load of your advertisers' products almost cost her her life when she hiked the West Coast Trail in 2005. She would have died with pounds and pounds of "safety items" and "camp luxuries" strapped to her back, supposedly protecting her from emergency and discomfort but actually pulling her to her death. And, without an ounce of exaggeration, that was not the first time that her huge "safety" load almost killed her.

I guess what I want to impress on you is that if you truly were not averse to offending sponsors with your analyses, I feel you would be willing to suggest that readers only lug along massive piles of sponsors' gear in the name of "comfort" and "safety" if they are willing to accept the absolutely 100% inevitable consequences of carrying a heavier load an equal distance. In short, I would suggest that an unbiased publication would advise its' readers to think as critically about weight as they do about any other metric in the sport.

The consequences of greater weight are well-known, but oddly never discussed critically in the context of a Backpacker gear review. Dangerous and potentially dangerous situations increase dramatically in likelihood when a heavier load is carried: falling, injury from falling, heatstroke and heat injury, hypothermia and cold injury, dehydration, dangerously poor decision making, external stress or friction injury (bruises or blisters,) internal injury (hernia, strain, sprain, break, infection,) despondency leading to dangerous group dynamics, being trapped by dangerous weather due to party inagility, danger to a compromised party member due to inability to walk them out quickly, etc. etc. These all occur in greater frequency with increased load! (Also not having fun, but that's an aside.)

And the inexperienced walker, fatigued with his or her unnecessarily heavy load, can of course compound these problems very quickly. Fatigue leads to chill leads to loss of dexterity leads to laceration = serious wilderness emergency in 5 minutes flat. Petite 130lb woman has her body weight increase by 30%, unfamiliar weight and balance and footwear cause her to slip often and eventually end up soaking wet with a sprained ankle, unable to move to warm up and lacking the dexterity to change clothes and make camp. Fatigue leads to dehydration leads to immobility of the party which leads to weather emergency, trapped on a ridge in an August whiteout with a sick girl. (You know more of these stories than I do; I am certain of it!)

All of the above situations have happened in the past to so-called "traditional" backpackers I've hiked with. And when they happened, no Backpacker-Magazine-praised "Lightweight Oven" or "Lightweight Camp Chair" or "Titanium Latté Milk Frother" was of comfort to the victims. And yet I (an admittedly casual reader) do not find your reviews or articles to advocate the selection (or deselection!) of gear in order to always carry a prudently light load.

In the name of safety, you seem very willing to advocate a costlier sleeping bag, an extra set of clothing, a technical jacket, a more capable tent, extra medical equipment, more fuel, more food, extra gloves, a second set of footwear, etc. All items which can be purchased at extra cost from your sponsors, but which are guaranteed to keep you safer with proper application. Yet there is never mention of the fact that hauling all that extra stuff will put you in more danger in the first place.

The treatment of weight that your reviews and articles seem to give is as a secondary concern; i.e. make sure you can haul your load all the way to the campsite and don't carry more than 1/3 of your own bodyweight. (Your advice I believe.) Even your survival issue didn't remind readers that chances of needing survival skills and equipment are increased when pack weight increases.

I suggest, admonish, and challenge you to devote less attention to gear for gears' sake, and more to selecting a truly *appropriate*, *effective*, and *prudent* backpacking kit. Even if it means buying less gear.

Your readers will reward you, I promise!

Thanks for your time.


PS It may sound from this letter that I do not believe that the walker is responsible for all aspects of his or her own safety. Nothing could be farther from the truth: safety starts and ends with the individual, full stop. That said, your publication is influential. Not only the equipment you recommend, but the technique, style, and attitude found on your pages is adopted and passed on to others by your readership and the community at large. Are you responsible when someone reads your magazine and then has a bad trip? NO! Does your influence over the backpacking community come with a certain level of responsibility? Yes, I feel it does.

Wayne Kraft
(WayneKraft) - F
Re: Re: Re: Bacpacker Magazine award to Big Sky on 03/08/2007 20:23:23 MST Print View

John Kays said:

"As a suggestion, you, BPM and BS might want to demonstrate your bona fides by publishing an address where the owner of the BS can be reached during regular business hours for service of process."

Courtesy of the Wyoming Secretary of State's website:

Corporation Detail:
CID: 200500490813 Type: CORPORATION
Incorporation State: WY Initial Filing: 04-07-2005
Defunct Cause: FORCE ACTIVE Defunct Date:
Mailing Address: 970 W BROADWAY #289
Registered Agent:
Address: 17800 E. HWY. 287
MORAN, 83013
Name Changed: Address Changed:

[Ed Note: DELINQUENT -- He who hesitates will see his claims discharged in bankruptcy.]