Great customer service is a bit of a lost art. Part of the problem is the relentless pursuit of efficiency by gear manufacturers (which is also why we are able to buy such great gear for relatively low prices). Over the years I have had consistently great experiences with the three companies I describe, below. If you are looking for the types of gear they provide, you might want to consider each.
When I first started getting seriously into photography a mentor told me to bite the bullet and buy a top-notch, carbon-fiber tripod and a quality head. His thinking: you are going to inevitably buy those eventually, why not save yourself the cost of all those inferior models you will buy in the interim. He was right (I use the old, inferior models for light stands, now).
I will make the same case for Bearikade bear canisters. They come in many standard sizes, and the company is even willing to make you a custom model to fit perfectly into your favorite pack. Their customer service is great, and the product is the best on the market. If the trip you are planning is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and buying a canister is not a good idea, they rent them as well as selling them. (Your mileage may vary, but I wonder if it wouldn’t be cheaper to buy one and resell it afterwards, instead of renting. They seem to sell on eBay at nearly the cost of new ones.) The data speaks for itself.
Bite the bullet and go ahead and get the best canister right from the beginning.
Black Diamond does not make the lightest tents available, but I believe they strike a great balance between weight and durability. The two virtues that set their equipment apart is design and terrific customer service. My “go to” tent for trips with my wife is a three-person hybrid (part single-wall, part double-wall) called the Skylight. It is a terrific approach (I’m surprised more tent-makers haven’t incorporated it into their products). We’ve never had condensation problems with the tent, and yet it is a very reasonable weight considering how commodious it is.
As I pulled it out for a trip this summer, I discovered that the small pockets inside, where you slide in the poles, had become detached in our eleven-year-old tent. I reached out to Black Diamond, hoping they could suggest how I could best make a repair. Instead, they had me send the tent to them for a free repair, including shipping back to me. Fixing an eleven-year-old tent for free? Now that is good customer service.
I own three Osprey backpacks. When I bought the second and third, I went into the process thinking, “This time, I think I’ll try something different than an Osprey.” Despite my determination to mix things up, I ended up at exactly the place I intended to avoid. Like the Black Diamond products I describe above, I think that Osprey has great design (I absolutely love the Exos 58 design) and does a terrific job at juggling the competing priorities of light weight and durability. Meanwhile, their product guarantee states that they will “repair any damage or defect for any reason free of charge – whether it was purchased in 1974 or yesterday. If we are unable to perform a functional repair on your pack, we will happily replace it.” Great stuff.
Good hiking, Ray