Interesting question. I buy a lot of stuff from Lands' End and their rough counterpart (L.L. Bean). One argument that representatives from those companies have made to me is that, because they have no middle man, then can spec construction from Asian plants at a higher level than name-brand makers.
And certainly, five years ago, I would have said: If I had to pack for a trip to Denali and use mostly Bean gear, Id be okay. Lands End is, well, mostly lifestyle-oriented. Still, they have okay stuff. The Marinac ($90)? Well, sure. You get good-quality Polartec in a well-made jacket, as good as anyone elses. Snowpack Down Jacket ($100)? Great specs700-fill down, nylon shell with water-resistant treatment? Yeah, fine. A tad more in weight than a Patagonia, but a much better buy.
Still, the Bean folks are just a bit closer to the outdoors. Beans Ultralight 850 Down Jacket ($150) absolutely matches any maker, with top-end 850-fill down and a light nylon shell. And the Bean Sweater Fleece Jacket ($100), made from Polartec, has dual-layer construction for a bit better feel and more warmth. Very nice.
I did say "five years ago" regarding Bean, because generally they seem to have sort of abandoned being real competitive in the hard-core outdoor market. Their lineup has not changed that much in several years. So then there is REI, a very, very competitive alternative. REI Emmons Fleece Jacket ($129)? Fantastic. REI Kulshan rain jacket made from eVent ($299)? Sublime. REI does not make a decent down sweater, so buy the Beanie version. Youll be fineand frugal.
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