After 22 years selling other brands’ gear, Backcountry.com announced in late March that it would be making its own proprietary apparel and equipment. We were intrigued. Would decades of experience matching customers with the ideal gear for their needs lead it to offer innovative, high-quality products?
An array of apparel went on sale last month, and Backcountry’s first tent and sleeping bag hit virtual shelves today. After getting in some time with the gear, we’re impressed but not blown away.
Lodgepole two-person tent ($190)
At 5.3 pounds, the Lodgepole is far from the lightest in its class, but it has the simplicity and ease of use that I look for in a summer car-camping tent. The body uses a pair of crisscrossed poles joined by a swivel joint and open C-hooks, which means it’s quick to raise, even solo. I had the tent and fly up and guyed out in less than ten minutes on my first try, without looking at the sewn-in directions. There are two C-shaped doors, and you can stake out the nylon fly to create a pair of vestibules, one large and one small.
Inside, the Lodgepole is sparse on details, with a small mesh storage pouch on either side. Sizewise, the Lodgepole is a true two-person tent, with enough space for a pair of sleeping pads and bags placed side by side, but not a ton of extra room for gear (or stretching out) in between. In other words, it’s the kind of tent I’d share only with someone I know very, very well.
—Ariella Gintzler, assistant editor
Pluma 0 sleeping bag ($300)
The Pluma 0 is rated to zero degrees and would work well for expeditions, multi-day ski touring, and winter camping. The nearly full-length metal zipper (it stops about six inches from the bottom, creating a nice foot box) is beefy, with long, easy-to-grab pulls. There are amply stuffed baffles around the neck and collar and an elastic cinch strap to keep out frigid air. Inside, a zippered chest pocket is big enough for a phone, while a Velcro pocket at the other end can hold a foot warmer.
The downside: to achieve its temperature rating, Backcountry stuffed the bag with nearly two pounds of 650-fill duck, and all that fill adds up. The Pluma 0 is 3.5 pounds, heftier than my favorite winter bags, the Feathered Friends Snowbunting EX 0 and Mountain Hardwear Phantom Torch 3, both of which weigh under three pounds. But at $300—half the price of the former—the Pluma 0 is a solid option for warm comfort on a cold night.
—Ben Fox, associate editor
Assorted apparel ($45 and up)
Backcountry.com’s apparel line leans toward the lifestyle side of the spectrum, featuring an array of graphic and plain T-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, and tank tops, as well as stretch khakis, a sweatshirt, a flannel, and a raincoat. I’ve been wearing the Super Stretch pants ($85), Airy shirt ($70), Bonfire hoodie ($90), and Fresh Air T-shirt ($45), and they’re all comfortable, well-cut pieces that capably cross over from campsite to town. The Bonfire is one of the coziest sweatshirts I’ve ever pulled on, thanks to thick cotton fabric and an asymmetrical zipper that keeps the cold metal away from my chin. The Super Stretch pants are pliant enough for climbing, with the pockets and seams of everyday pants. The plaid Airy shirt and polyester and linen tee fit great, though neither really stands out from the pack. Ultimately, Backcountry’s new collection isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s a welcome addition to my wardrobe.
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