SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on Backpacker.com


Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – August 2008

24 Hours of L.L. Bean

It's the gear world's ultimate endurance event: a full day and night roaming the aisles at Bean's flagship store in Freeport, Maine. Will our man survive?

by: Dan Koeppel; Illustrations by Yuko Shimizu


"This is a Code 4," Barbara explains.

I'm apparently in the company of the elite athletes of this event. I don't even speak their language.

Barbara shows me the label. "It begins with the number four. That means it's a store-only item. Numbers below four mean that it's also in the catalog."

The incense cones are the Bean equivalents of panned gold. "The most exciting moment," Barbara continues, "is when we find a new Code 4."

I am totally out of my league.

BY THREE A.M., the night shift is in full swing. I'm hanging with long-time staffer Jeff Laverdiere. He's been doing this for nearly two decades. He likes the late shift because he can give customers real advice. "I once helped somebody plan an entire trip along the Appalachian Trail," he tells me. "It took four hours." Night is good for people who like to talk, and be talked to. "Everyone's a philosopher at 3 a.m.," he says.

Before dawn, the store becomes quiet, though it isn't the moonlit peace of a remote campsite: The fluorescent lights glow yellow on the half-dozen or so employees and customers who meander through the abandoned aisles. The action centers around the free coffee that management makes available until 6 a.m. I guzzle a cup each time I make a circuit of the store. I've probably walked the equivalent of seven or eight miles so far. I should have bought a pedometer (five models available, including one with an FM radio).

Post-midnight, the store is popular with tipsy college students (talk about a wild night!). RVers too tired to find a legit hookup shop for something to justify a stay in the parking lot. And celebrities: John Travolta and Bruce Springsteen have made nocturnal visits for semi-private shopping. Nautical purchases seem to be a predawn favorite: I see a scraggly-looking dude–flannel shirt, three-day beard–rushing to the registers with a couple of lifejackets, as if the rescue is in progress. When I inquire, he gives me a withering look and simply utters: "It's time."

L.L.BEAN SELLS GUNS. Though the retailer began as a resource for hunters, the notion that a place as seemingly mild as this doubles as an armory surprises many a visitor. And Bean's evolving image has meant a literal shift for firearms: The hunting compound, separated from the main store by a narrow path between a pair of parking lots, once held the kids' stuff.

It's a different world over here. No blankets or blueberries, just rows of gear: a $159 rosewood duck call; deer urine (so shooters will smell like their prey); deer-urine-neutralizing laundry soap; face masks that look like leafy beards; and weapons. Lots of weapons, including L.L.Bean-brand rifles, and what is the single most expensive item in the store: a Merkel 147EL shotgun, priced at $4,995 (second most costly: a $3,795 replica 1906 B.N. Morris canoe, built by canoe guru Rollin Thurlow).



Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Tom in Idaho
Feb 03, 2011

As long as you're already sending a catalog to Canada, I'd like one, too. ; ) Seriously, though, this was a fun, informative, and well written article. Thank you.

judy Griffore
Jul 18, 2009

I would like you to send me a catalog of your famous store L.L.Bean...will you send me one at this my home address...93 Maryknoll Rd., Chatham,
Ontario, Canada N7L-2M9 thank you

Anonymous
Sep 15, 2008

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Trailhead Register
Hiker/bear incident in GNP
Posted On: Jul 29, 2014
Submitted By: TravisNWood
Trailhead Register
Dog lovers
Posted On: Jul 29, 2014
Submitted By: mtnsteve

Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions