SmartPaker Product Review: SmartPak Rain & Fly Sheet Duo System
As Director of Merchandising at SmartPak, I’m extremely lucky to have the opportunity to help develop many of the SmartPak-brand products you see on our website and in the barn. I’ve been horse-crazy practically since birth, begging for pony rides as a kid and working off lessons and learning all I could in 4-H as I got older. Over the last 15 years I’ve worn a lot of hats and learned a lot about ecommerce, and now have the most fun brainstorming new product ideas with my team.
I’m really proud of one of our new products that just came out this spring, and the idea for it sprung up during my daily stall cleaning time. I keep my horse at a co-op, where I am responsible for cleaning his stall every day and taking care of either morning or evening chores four times a week. I’ve always used stall-cleaning for deep thinking – something about the automatic movements of my hands on the pitchfork unlocks my brain, and I come up with all sorts of great ideas while sifting through shavings.
The SmartPak Rain & Fly Sheet Duo System was an answer to the challenge of the chilly/damp morning when I knew it would brighten up and get warm in the afternoon. While my barn mates don’t mind helping out occasionally, they aren’t up for full blanket swaps in the paddock – dragging a sheet out, trying to get the horse to stand still as you pull one layer off and put another one on, so many buckles, then having to put the original sheet away – just wasn’t going to happen. However, they would consider pulling a top layer off, so I would often layer my horse’s turnout sheet over his fly sheet when it was a bit cool in the mornings. I knew he would need the fly sheet in the hot afternoon but hated to see him getting chilled and standing around with stiff muscles for several hours until it warmed up. It was also handy for the times I couldn’t be at the barn in the morning and needed a layer on my horse overnight. But my turnout sheet didn’t fit very well over the fly sheet, and sometimes got twisted. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a fly sheet that had a custom-sized rain cover that would snap onto it somehow, and be really easy to unclip and take off…
During a new product brainstorm, I brought up the idea – everyone agreed it had traction, so we started development! After discussing with our amazing Product Development designers, they put together the specs and sent them to the factory to produce a sample for us to test. First samples tend to show you all the things you didn’t think about. There’s a lot of ‘oh yeah, we should have…’ when we try it on a horse for the first time. 2nd samples start to get exciting, and we begin testing the product in the barn. One early tester raved about this product, stating that removing the top waterproof layer was so easy that even her non-horsey boyfriend could do it! We made sure the fly sheet had all the amazing features that customers love in our Deluxe fly sheet – lightweight, fine mesh (70% UV protection!) with lined shoulder, mesh belly band for increased coverage, and ergonomic fit through the shoulders and hindquarters. The waterproof cover has Quick Clips at the chest and hook and loop attachments at the neck and clips on the sides and back to hold it securely in place on the fly sheet while still being easy to attach and remove. As this product was intended to help manage wide temperature swings (In New England and I’m sure in many other places, it can be 30 in the morning then mid 60’s by noon), we added a thin lining of SmartCore™ Cool material to the waterproof cover for thermo-regulation, as we felt it was important to keep horses cool, dry and comfortable through a wide range of temperature swings.
After extensive (and enthusiastic) feedback from our testers, we finalized the design, got our photo sample and anxiously awaited delivery of the product. We’re so excited to have this innovative fly/rain sheet available on our website to solve this problem for you and your barn manager/husband/accommodating barn-mate!