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At Climbing Magazine, one of the best parts of the job is gear testing. First, because we can get hands-on with the latest and greatest from the top manufacturers. And second, because it means field time in the mountains—away from the office and the stress that comes with any job. It’s always been important to us to actually test each piece of gear for its stated purpose—to take it out there and batter it for days, weeks, and often months to see how well it performs, as well as gauge its wear resistance. None of this “I wore it once in the gym and it seemed good enough, but I’ll word my review vaguely as to cover up how little I actually used it” shenanigans.
With midsummer’s longer days and the storms finally letting up (ahem, sort of) in the Rockies, we’ve been testing hard, with our fleet of guys and gals taking gear out locally to the cliffs above Boulder, Colorado, as well as across the state and Intermountain West. Summer in the mountains is the perfect season for testing, with its wild temperature swings, sudden monsoonal precip, and untold opportunities to punish your gear in as many different situations as you can conjur, from lowland boulders and sport crags to semi-alpine sport venues to the austere granite blocks and walls above treeline. We were thrilled, then, when a treasure trove of new climbing-specific clothing and equipment from the Utah-based brand Backcountry came in. From original apparel pieces created by the brand to co-creations with Black Diamond and Metolius, Backcountry delivered the goods for a perfect summer session.
Backcountry x Black Diamond Stone Garden Crag Backpack
Weighing just 1 pound, 12 ounces when empty, this 30-liter crag pack co-created by Backcountry and Black Diamond using BD’s 840 denier Creek fabric was, raved our tester, “a great crag pack from top to bottom.” Deep in the Platte at the sport/trad area of Thunder Ridge, a solid 45-minute hike from the car, our tester was able to carry a 70-meter rope (lashed to the pack top), shoes, a dozen draws, a single trad rack, helmet, water, and food. “Stuffed to the brim, it was surprisingly comfortable, thanks to the thermoformed back panel, and stable up against my back,” he said. “A couple weeks later, I headed to Da Basement and High Tower in Boulder Canyon, this time with less gear. Again, it performed beautifully.” Our tester appreciated the Stone Garden’s merger of a top-loading design with a secondary, J-shaped front zipper: “I’m always double- and triple-checking my pack before heading to and leaving the crag. The J-zipper allowed me to quickly unzip the pack and see all the contents without having to unpack everything,” he said. Meanwhile, the haul loops came in handy on a multi-pitch route and for clipping the pack off on a Tyrolean traverse in Boulder Canyon, and the separate bottom compartment (designed for smelly rock shoes and that messy chalk bag), with its 20 ventilation holes, let his shoes dry out after climbing all day. With a rigid insert in the pack bottom, the Stone Garden stood reliably upright when set down, though our tester would often fully unzip the J-zipper and lay the pack flat at staging areas to use as a clean surface for organizing gear and other accessories.
Backcountry Liquid Oxygen Hooded Pullover – Women’s
.“With a spacious hood and a large front pocket, this tech shirt almost feels like a sweatshirt,” said our tester, who ran her hoodie through its paces while landscaping and bouldering in the high country of Summit County, Colorado. She also used it on her morning runs in the cool mountain air, where the body-hugging hoodie felt comfortable “the second I walked out the door and stayed comfortable even after I started to sweat.” Backcountry has achieved this well-thought-out combo of insulation, breathability, and mobility by using a 64 percent Cordura, 25 percent polyester, and 11 percent Spandex blend with four-way stretch; meanwhile, our tester appreciated the Liquid Oxygen’s wicking and fast-drying properties, which kept the shirt from becoming cold or clammy when a hot morning gave way to a windy, monsoonal afternoon. A quarter-length chest zip and ample kangaroo pocket round out the package—”a great tech shirt so comfortable that you’ll want to wear it in the mountains and the city alike.” Comes in Sedona Sage and Rich Mauve.
Backcountry Steort Climbing Pant and Short – Men’s
Our tester, an aficionado of the crystalline rock of the South Platte, Colorado, did his very best to shred the Steort pants, but was unable to so much as ding the 60 percent Cordura, 34 percent nylon, 6 percent spandex blend. “I wore these pants on the sharp granite rock at Wigwam Dome, Lost Creek,” he said. “My hands and arms were bloody, but there wasn’t a single rip in the Steort.” The pants come with two front pockets and two back pockets that were good for minor items, but our tester especially dug the zippered thigh pocket—great phone storage for on-route photos, and placed accessibly below his harness leg loop. He also dug the drawcord ankle cuffs, which let him easily see his feet while trashing up wide cracks and smearing on the Platte’s notorious slabs. Meanwhile, he had similar love for the Steort Short, an 88 percent nylon, 12 percent spandex blend with four-way stretch and a gusseted fit that went gangbusters for highsteppy moves. The drawstring closure stayed out of the way of his harness waist belt, and he made good use of the two zippered front pockets to hold lip balm and snacks. Pants come in Bronze and Black; shorts in Smoke Gray or Walnut.
Backcountry x Black Diamond Stone Garden Rope Bag
As a complement to the crag pack, this 28-liter rope bag is a must-have for serious craggers, especially at the dusty cliff bases so common to North America. “It swallowed up a 70-meter rope with ease,” said our tester, who brought the tarp out to Thunder Ridge, Colorado. “And the rope tarp easily rolls up into the bag—burrito style.” The bag has two color-coded tie-off points to track of your rope’s top and bottom ends, plus a quick-sealing elastic closure and two webbing grab handles to move the bag from route to route. Best of all, the bag, when empty, does double duty as a rain cover for the Stone Garden Crag Backpack. Noted our tester, “At Thunder Ridge, when the rain, lightning, and, yes, thunder, rolled in, I tossed the rope in the backpack and used the rope bag as a rain cover, which kept my gear bone dry.”
Backcountry Double Dyno Climbing Pant – Women’s
Our hardcore boulderer tester punished these pants outside on the rough granite blocks of Lincoln Lake as well as at the climbing gym, with some around-town wear, too. On the style side, she immediately loved the deep-purple Eggplant color (the pants also come in the earthy, green Sedona Sage) as well as the “nice and light and stretchy” feel of the fabric, an abrasion-resistant Cordura with four-way stretch. “The Double Dyno was great for climbing because you can move around uninhibited, and you don’t get too hot in them (sometimes you want to wear pants, but thicker fabric in the summer is too warm),” she said. Our tester also appreciated the thick, comfy waistband, as well as its fold-down versatility and internal drawcord to adjust fit on the fly. The pants come with two deep front pockets, as well as a zippered back pocket for securing sundry items; meanwhile, the hems are cut high, which our tester appreciated while foothold-hunting on crux moves.
Backcountry x Metolius Party Pit Crash Pad
Metolius has been in—and at the top of—the crashpad game since the early 1990s, and their team-up with Backcountry has yielded one of the best-designed, most creative pads on the market: the Party Pit, named for a locals’ bouldering area near Backcountry’s Utah HQ. With four inches of stiff closed-cell foam, the Party Pit, at three feet by four feet fully open, made a perfect, knee-saving landing zone at a home MoonBoard (read: tall!) and during a Boulder Canyon “warm-up” traverse our tester kept falling on—again and again and again and again. But it’s the bells and whistles that truly set this pad apart. Most notable were the triangles of plush shoe-cleaning carpet placed at the corners—and not in the middle—so that you can easily wipe your shoes before stepping on. “Sheer genius,” noted our tester. The unique closure system was a big selling point too: Two flaps Velcro together over one corner to form a semi-sleeve that keeps the pad folded shut with only a single strap, making it quick to open and close. Better yet, when the pad is open, the same flaps reverse to cover the backpack straps and waist belt, which made it easy to drag the Party Pit along the LZ without snaggage. At nine pounds, the Party Pit made for a light carry, and its angled hinge had the pad lying fully flat when open, without any unwelcome mid-pad squish. All this, plus the “murdered-out 900 denier black nylon and big Backcountry logo just make this thing look kinda sweet,” said our tester.
Backcountry Pentapitch Pullover Hoodie – Men’s
Hoodies make for the ideal summer midlayer: during the cool morning hours on the approach, to stay warm while belaying, and while climbing in the sun as UV protection or to wick sweat away. Backcountry nailed the hoodie with this lightweight (TK oz) piece, which has four-way stretch, a shock-cord-adjustable hem, and a long cut (29 inches in the center back) that are all great for climbing motion, plus reliable UV protection. “Being able to have it for the cold mornings and the hike down in the sunsets has been very nice,” said our tester, who took it out locally in the granite canyons near Boulder and Golden, up high into the alpine bouldering in Rocky Mountain National Park, and to the Vail Mountain Games for the IFSC World Cup where he was photographing the action. “I loved the overall loose fit across the chest and waist while still maintaining a tight fit around my arms—very Eurofit!” With a blend of 64 percent Cordura, 25 percent polyester, and 11 percent Spandex, the Pentapritch also offers a deep kangaroo pocket perfect for hand warming between goes and a quarter-length chest zipper that worked great for ventilation. Comes in Sedona Sage and Paprika Red.