Rating Outdoor Company Catalogues

Rating outdoor company catalogues under the criteria “Could I camp and/or backpack with the people in their photos?”

REI Catalogue

Most of REI’s shots feature dramatic backcountry settings busy with people hiking, backpacking, tending camp stoves, and running trails. Yet all are strangely impervious to sweat, dirt, and gear imperfection. I hike but 30 feet on a trail and my ankles are splayed with mud, socks are clumped with burrs, and one of my Leki trekking poles is already two-feet shorter than the other.

Their models are also immune to emotional swings. Everyone, regardless of the activity, is smiling. I guess I’d smile too if I never had to worry about sweat and dirt.

Could I camp with them? Only if I didn’t have to share a tent. No one in REI’s pictures ever zips shut their tent flaps.

Rating: 2 north stars.

LL Bean Catalogue

The people in LL Bean’s photos resemble the types who: use multiple exclamation points in Facebook posts; own at least one shelf at home decorated with seashells and sand dollars; listen to NPR during fundraising drives; don’t get wet while washing their cars; and harbor an odd fascination with pumpkins, Labrador retrievers, and chatting on wood-planked porches while holding tote bags.

Could I camp with them? Probably not. Roughing it to these people is eating lobster without a bib. Plus, they don’t zip their tents either.

Rating: 1 north star.

Patagonia Catalogue

Patagonia is my Achilles Heel of mail ordering. I identify with the dirtbag authenticity of their photos. Plus, I relate to Yvon Chouinard’s overt environmental commitment.

Could I camp with them? Yes and no. Everyone zips their tents. But some subjects look too diehard reminding me of last year’s backpacking experience with someone who took leave no trace to the infinite-extreme. Instead of backpacking every morning felt as if we were fleeing a crime scene.

Rating: 4 north stars.

Stio Catalogue

This relative newcomer to the outdoor clothing world features photos of true outdoor junkies in true outdoor situations in and around Jackson Hole, Wyoming – mountain crags, knee-deep powder, high alpine lakes. I can relate. Totally.

Could I camp with them? No, but only on the basis of Stio’s maniacal quest to reinvent the color wheel. Teal is called ocean depths. Black is tap shoe. And gray, depending on jacket type, is either smoked pearl or Eifel Tower.

I could not camp, backpack, hike, or even whittle sticks with people who used such color descriptions. It would potentially put me at risk with the law. If I witnessed three armed bank robbers dressed in black flee in a gray SUV and described them to police as three men dressed in tap shoe driving an Eifel Tower SUV with ocean depths wheel rims I’d be arrested as an accessory.

Rating: 2 north stars

Thoughts? Comments? Other catalogues to consider? Please share.