This much every backpacker knows: Good gear can make or break a trip, and good stuff (let alone the best of the best) can be expensive. In fact, most of us probably assembled our backpacking kits over several years and made upgrades along the way. A backpack here, a tent there, a sleeping bag next, each for easily $300. The outdoor industry has always struggled with how to lower prices without sacrificing quality, yet now an unlikely player has come up with its own solution.
Today, retail giant Walmart, in collaboration with Moosejaw (which it acquired in 2018), is launching two private labels dedicated to quality, affordable outdoor equipment and technical outdoor apparel. Walmart has always stocked family camping gear—think stereotypically heavy, flimsy tents and camp stoves—but it has never forayed much further than that.
These new lines, Lithic and Allforth, go deeper. A $35 lightweight backpacking stove features three pot supports and a piezo igniter. Synthetic and down sleeping bags cost $64 and $109, respectively. The one-person tent is $88 and the three-person tent is $150. Backpacking-friendly apparel with water-wicking fabrics, two-way stretch, and pockets are priced between $15 and $35. And what’s more, when Backpacker’s editorial director got a sneak peek at the gear in January, he thought it looked comparable to similar--much pricier--gear from specialty outdoor brands.
“These brands give us entry-level products to talk to people who are new to those activities,” says Moosejaw CEO Eoin Comerford. “It’s built by enthusiasts for enthusiasts from a performance perspective, and the thought process around how we’re pricing is built around accessibility and inclusivity.”
In addition to accessible prices, the tags and branding include easy-to-understand product descriptions. Size inclusivity was also top-of-mind; women’s apparel goes up to size 20 and men’s goes up to XXL. Their overarching goal is to grow outdoor participation by decreasing barriers to entry.
Lithic is available now on Moosejaw.com and Walmart.com, in Moosejaw stores once they reopen, and a pilot of 50 Walmart stores across the country. Allforth is available on Walmart.com. Comerford says they’ll adjust availability and add products, depending on the response.
“The majority of Lithic and Allforth customers have never walked into their local gear store or visited a specialty website,” Comerford says. “Yet they do visit Walmart.com or shop their local Walmart...The brands will also be very attractive to a seasoned backpacker conscious of keeping costs down while updating his or her gear to the latest features.”
Everything we’ve seen so far looks promising and is clearly designed with backpackers of all abilities in mind. At half the price of gear on the market, the price points are especially exciting. BACKPACKER has a handful of items with testers right now, apparel and a 65-liter pack, and we'll report back once we've had a chance to see how everything holds up.