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The Secret Ingredient in Backcountry’s Products

The Quest to Build Better

Deep water soloing in Thailand. Biking the French Alps. Climbing Mt. Fuji. Kayaking the San Juan Islands. These are just a few of the adventures our Gearheads have planned, which is no surprise since they live, breathe, and sleep all things outdoors. If you haven’t connected with one of our Gearheads yet, they are our front line. When you dial up Backcountry, you don’t get a robot or a person halfway around the world. You get a Gearhead in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.

So, why is a Gearhead more qualified than, say, a robot, to help you find gear? Because this task is at the heart of who our Gearheads are.

gearhead | gir hed | noun. 1 an expert in at least two outdoors sports. 2 a connoisseur of gear. 3 a potential friend.

As in: “After my Gearhead helped me find the perfect climbing shoes, we met up to boulder in Utah.” Or, “My Gearhead and I have so much in common, I decided to invite her to my wedding.”

That’s no exaggeration. After they provide personalized service that helps people find the right gear, many of our Gearheads have actually met up with customers to climb or ski. And more than one Gearhead has indeed been invited to a grateful customer’s wedding.

Our Gearheads trace their roots back to Backcountry’s start in 1996. We figured that if we wanted to nail our goal of enabling outdoor experiences, we couldn’t just sell outdoor goods—we needed a team of outdoor enthusiasts to connect people with the right outdoor goods.

Recently, we’ve been taking our 350-some Gearheads to task on a new mission. When we launched our own collections in 2018, we called upon these outdoor specialists to help us build the best—whether that’s an adventure pack, mountain biking shorts, or a rope bag that doubles as a backpack rain cover.

The upshot? Every piece of Backcountry’s collections reflects the desires, gripes, and fantasy features of the people who will actually use it. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how we work with Gearheads to build Backcountry’s product.

From Reverie to Reality

Every new Backcountry product starts with our Gearheads. Take our Nebo Alpine Touring Skis. We built them in collaboration with DPS, which is known for designing some of the highest performing and insanely lightweight skis in the world. We started by gathering eight Gearheads who specialize in alpine touring for a couple of brainstorming sessions. These are passionate athletes who clock 100+ days of skiing a year, and seek glaciers and pockets of lingering snow long after winter’s last powder dump. They’re also product experts who have at least two or three pairs of skis in their quiver, and who upgrade every year.

So, what did these powder hounds tell us? They shared what they liked and disliked about the current touring skis on the market. They told what they want as they take that first glide on the skin track. What they need when the pitch grows steeper. And what they love when it’s time to shed the skins and drop in.

“When I’m backcountry skiing, I’m always thinking of ways my gear could improve. It was amazing to have a voice in the design of Backcountry’s product line and see our ideas come to life in ways that disrupt the status quo.” —Karsyn Ansari, Gearhead

Then we got specific. What features should we prioritize? What have they heard from the customer as far as woes and wants? Which leading brands should we team up with to strive to create the best? When we got line drawings in, we asked our Gearheads if we were on the right track. And we showed them top sheets to get their two cents on design and color. Our Design Team took all this input and designed the skis the Gearheads asked for. This is the story behind any and every Backcountry product.

Gearhead Tested and Approved

Once a product takes shape, the Gearheads jump back in. After we get a prototype of a new product, we bring in Gearheads for testing. Take the Backcountry x Metolius Party Pit Crash Pad, for example—we find Gearheads who send boulder problems like it’s their job (and it kind of is). We ask them to strap on our pad and go hunting for high balls in the Party Pit area of Little Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch. With our Goodro Chalk Bag clipped around their hips, they send granite problems, cheer each other on, and do what every climber pushing her grade does best: fall!

“I never knew I had so much input on climbing gear and clothing until I had the opportunity to talk about what I do and don’t like about gear. Turns out I have a lot to say!” —Zoe Worthington, Gearhead

After a few weeks of testing, we ask Gearheads for feedback. For example, after testing our Coral Bells Tank Top, Gearhead Zoe Worthington delivered some suggestions, and the design team made one of them happen. Gearhead input pushes our products to evolve to higher standards. When they love a product enough that they want one for their own gear closets, it gets the Backcountry stamp of approval: “Gearhead-Certified.”

Namesakes in Our Backyard

Mt. Timpanogos—the second highest peak in the Wasatch Range. Stone Garden—a quartzite crag in the Uintas, the only major mountain range in the U.S. to run east to west. Armstrong—a singletrack trail snaking its way up Park City Mountain with more switchbacks than you can count.

These are the landscapes our Gearheads explore when they’re not in the office. And these natural features are also the local muses behind our product names. Since our backyard in the state of Utah consists of 37,019,770 acres of public land—the third highest after Nevada and Alaska—we’ve got endless landscapes to inspire the names of everything from shirts and jackets to skis, constant inspiration for product development, and a viable proving ground for testing.


What’s Next?

The adventurous lifestyle of the Gearhead is the secret ingredient in all of Backcountry’s products. They give us their two cents and then some. They test and tell. And, hopefully, they approve.

“The opportunity to draw on years of knowledge and gear use from myself and other Gearheads allows us to design products thoughtfully with must-have features plus extras that improve the industry standard.” —Matthew Weinberg, Gearhead

Check out our new Spring Collections: Mountain Bike, Climb, Travel, and Apparel.


Connect with a Gearhead

Whatever your next adventure might be, we are here to help, whether it’s building itineraries, recommending the right gear, or preparing a packing list. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you have—we’re here for you.

Talk to our Gearheads 24/7.

Call: 1.800.409.4502