A few years ago, my husband and I found our climbing group drifting apart – all of us busier than ever with work, kids, and the daily demands of life as your typical, aggressively unsponsored athletes. So, we decided to dedicate a few weekends of manual labor to convert our garage into a bouldering gym in an effort to better foster community and stay in shape.
It’s a far cry from the outdoor walls we used to frequent, but it is emblematic of why climbing is perhaps more popular than ever – in the shadow of big-wall legends, you’ll find an entire spectrum of climbers getting their fix at local gyms, boulder fields, crags, and garage-born operations like ours.
That’s the kind of hard-to-define demographic specialty retailer Backcountry is seeking to provide for with the recent launch of its first-ever rock-climbing collection, the latest expansion of its private-label product line.
The Backcountry Climb Collection rolled out last month and encompasses both apparel and hardgoods designed for all breeds of climber.
Nearly every piece is grounded in CORDURA, a family of fabric fibers known for durability and abrasion resistance. The collection also includes strategic collaborations with some of climbing’s prestige brands, such as a Black Diamond crag pack, Edelweiss rope, and a Metolius crash pad.
According to Backcountry’s Head of Owned Brand, Andy Fletcher, the design team worked closely with the company’s 10 top climbing expert Gearheads (the nickname given to in-house customer service reps) during multiple brainstorming sessions that sought to define the collection in a meaningful way.
“Throughout each working session, we would discuss where Gearheads typically climb, what products they bring, what features are critical to each item’s function, what products or features are missing, and what customers wanted,” says Fletcher. “We began to develop product features that are truly remarkable and not widely seen in the climb market.”
When it came to designing a comprehensive climbing collection, Backcountry’s design team had no shortage of data points to draw from – the retailer had stockpiled 23 years of customer feedback, Gearhead experience, and hours logged in Utah’s Wasatch range to finger through for inspiration and direction. It’s a unique vantage point to be perched upon, with one eye on incoming industry trends and the other on how customers are receiving those those trends.
But, as with climbing, know-how only gets you on the wall, not up it. To test out Backcountry’s Climb Collection for myself, I took a few key pieces to the best arena I could think of: my home gym.
After a few days of climbing, pizza stains, chalk clouds, dance parties and demolished fingertips (all signs of a good day at any crag) I came away pleasantly surprised by each of the apparel and hardgoods I was testing: Backcountry’s Double Dyno Women’s Climbing Pant, the Backcountry x Metolius Party Pit Crash Pad, and the Backcountry Goodro Chalk Bag.
CORDURA is certainly the star player of the collection. Far from the stiff and unforgiving fabric of decades past, contemporary CORDURA is lightweight and moves freely.
Yet the Double Dyno pants have grit: No matter how many times my knees scraped across sandpapery climbing holds, there was nary a scuff-mark in sight. The soft, high waistband also puts an end to my one near-constant complaint about climbing pants, which is that I don’t want to worry about any other type of crack making an appearance besides the one I’m climbing.
Retailing at $99, these aren’t exactly a gearshop’s bargain-basement find, but with a flattering, cropped fit (the 7/8 length is rare for a climbing pant, according to Fletcher) and pajama-level comfort, the Dyno pants are well worth the investment as an all-around adventure pant that will truly take you from trail to tavern (and potentially the office, depending on how lenient the dress code is).
Backcountry’s collaboration with Metolius on the Party Pit crash pad was a smart foray into hardgoods, elevating your basic safety gear into something a bit more exciting. It’s the small, thoughtful details that truly set this pad apart, such as carpeted corners for cleaning off your shoes before a sit start, or the pad’s burly drag handles that make repositioning the pad easier. Considering one crash pad should last you many years, the $149 price point feels appropriate and well within range of similar versions.
I felt a similar affinity for the Goodro Chalk Bag, named after an historical first ascent back in 1949 (rumored to be done in cowboy boots) — it’s a pumpy climb that benefits from some chalk. A chalk bag is essentially just a vessel for another tool, but this version is all about the details: soft fleece interior that feels welcoming to sore hands, shock cord closure, and a removable waist belt. It looks and feels premium, yet retails at just $20.
Overall, the most appealing part of Backcountry’s first climbing collection is how easy it makes choosing gear. Is it revolutionizing climbing as we know it? Not quite. But with just a few options in each category, you could build your entire climbing kit with Backcountry’s feature-rich, but sleek, offerings – all of which function together seamlessly without flashy colors or gimmicky details.
It’s a simple and straightforward mix-and-match system built for any type of climbing, so you can spend less time choosing your gear, and more time actually using it – wherever that is.
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