Think about the following next time you're in the market for a new harness.
I recently ordered by mail a new 2008 Dakine Fusion seat harness. I live 350 miles from nearest kite shop so we often have to buy without first seeing/trying product. When I received it I was very surprised to discover not only does it not come with a hook-knife, it also has no pocket for a knife. I know in every year from 2002-2007 (and maybe earlier) Fusions came with a hook-knife & pocket, so Dakine used to put every buyer onto the water carrying this valuable 'just in case' safety tool. Suddenly in 2008 they are gone. Dakine probably has #1 market share in harnesses, so over time that will be a lot of kiters now without this safety tool.
Last year in La Ventana I saw up close a certain disaster averted because an alert kiter had a hook-knife. An experienced kiter who wanted to throw his trick close to shore chose to fly his kite into the path of an obviously visible newbie. The kite collision tangled the lines causing one kite to luff and the slack lines encirled the newbie. The tangled kites soon tensioned the lines and the kites began powering up randomly off the water, constricting the lines around the newbie's neck like a cheese cutter. An alert shop owner from Seattle (Jason Clack) saw the castastrophe unfold as he passed and had a hook knife to cut the lines from newbie's neck, very probably saving his life.
Dakine's elimination of the hook knife starting this year is a big safety 'take-away'. Now do you remember back in 2002/3/4 you could routinely buy a Dakine Fusion at retail (with hook knife & pocket) for $75. Now retail is $135. You would think such a large price increase would fund improved features as opposed to feature elimination. I emailed Dakine to offer feedback and was informed that starting in 2008 Dakine made the knife & pocket separate, purchasable at $10 retail. So the features you used to get just a couple years ago for $75 now cost $145...a 2X increase after sales tax differences. But most buyers (like me) don't even know the knife & pocket is separately purchaseable because Dakine fails to put it on the same web-page as their harnesses. So most all current buyers will go out on the water lacking this tool.
And even though a 2X price increase should be more than enough to retain this critical safety feature in the base product, Dakine has at the same time trimmed cost/boosted profit by other changes (which also should have helped fund ability to retain a hook-knife in the base product). Compression molded back/side panels eliminate what previously was more costly material, stitching, and labor. And maybe you've noticed how small the stainless D-rings have gotten (I hope they're still stainless?)...no doubt primarily to save pennies. I like other kiters often have occassion when I launch/land to move my leash connection from a d-ring to a spinning leash, and back to the d-ring, all while flying the kite. The smaller rings make it a lot more difficult to manually feel and find the d-ring while flying, and harder to get relatively large leash snap hooks onto the small d-rings. When you have to fumble at this near launch/land, this makes those situations less safe too. So it's clear Dakine has done a number of things to lower cost, hack out features, and significantly diminish safety, all while DOUBLING PRICE. Generally responsive manufacturers either boost features while maintaining price, or lower price by lowering features, but they do NOT simultaneously raise prices and lower features.
Based on these actions and choices, the conclusions are inescapable: 1) Dakine has higher regard for getting your money than they do for your safety; 2) Product "value" and "safety" have really fallen far in their priorities. In the future I certainly will not give my money to a company demonstrating this sort of behavior. You might want to think about this next time you're in the market for a harness