Born Primitive is a veteran-owned, unapologetically patriotic fitness apparel brand that recently partnered with Aron Snyder of Kifaru to create Born Primitive Outdoors (BPO). They are not pioneers in the outdoor space (those days have long since passed). Since they are stepping into an established industry, the user will recognize familiar echoes of influence already on the landscape. With the benefit of hindsight, combined with Aron’s experience, it’s easy to understand how they chose to design their gear.
Get the Sizing Right
I’ve read a fair number of comments about athletic fit vs. non-athletic fit pertaining to Born Primitive Outdoors. Waist sizes land on the evens: 28, 30, 32, 34, 36, etc. As a 35, I land in between sizes, and I have a butt like an old man—I have no butt.
This photo below is Sitka size 35 which sizes slightly smaller than BPO size 34. I’ve included a BPO size 36 for reference.
My impression is that BPO is targeting a large range of body types. This means that the base layers don’t suck up tight like cellophane. A T-shirt can comfortably be worn under the Ridgeline tops (or you can choose a smaller size).
The Tundra Jacket Light has plenty of room for base layers.
The Frontier Pants Heavy fit less like skinny jeans and more like a boot cut.
I literally wear my cowboy boots with the Frontier pants. The fit is by no means sloppy. I would still call it an athletic fit, but it differs slightly from what we’re used to. For their first run, they went with all solid patterns to allow for everyday use.
Frontier Pants Heavy
The pockets have been getting all the press. Their pocket configuration considers every scenario. Two front hand pockets with an extra knife pocket on each side. A drop pocket in the front and the back. A zipper pocket in the front and the back. Pockets, pockets, pockets everywhere. More info here.
The Frontier Pants had nylon reinforced, double-layered knees and butt. Born Primitive has since replaced the nylon with a different material, but they are still double-layered.
The bottom cuffs of the Frontier are reinforced with an extra layer, so you’re not going to “walk off” the extra length. Both are great ideas for increasing the lifespan of the pants. The legs are a little loud. They swish when you walk. Not terrible, but noticeable. The heavy version also has hip-zips for venting heat. The belt loops are thick and sturdy. The button is well-built and unlikely to fail.
The pants absorb moisture fast. Walking through dew-soaked vegetation will saturate them in short order. In turn, they also dry out faster than other materials. Gators will be essential later in the fall, but you’ll appreciate how fast they dry out in the early season.
Bad News Good News
When my Frontier pants arrived, there was a hole in the front left-hand pocket. I assumed it was a manufacturing flaw. No big deal. Then the reinforced nylon separated from its seam on the butt.
I couldn’t find where anyone else had experienced this problem. None of the other Rokslide staffers who are trying out BPO encountered this problem. I called Sloane at Born Primitive Outdoors and told him my pants were defective. They mailed a new pair with a handwritten apology from the owner, and they changed the material. Customer Service gets a Gold Star. The Frontier Pants are my favorite as a stand-alone item.
Tundra Jacket Light
Like the pants, the Tundra Jacket Light absorbs water quickly and dries out nearly as fast. Its ability to move moisture makes it a quality choice for a mid-layer. The zipper is an SBS zipper instead of the typical YKK. It’s fast and smooth and has yet to get snagged on fabric. Everyone should switch to SBS, in my opinion. The hood was a good fit: not too loose, not too tight. I don’t like jackets without a hoodie. The elastic cuff is a thoughtful addition. More info here.
The Tundra Light was my least favorite in the line-up. My reasons might sound trivial, but in an industry that has its jackets extremely dialed in, the details matter.
The pocket openings are smaller than I would like. My hands fit, but not when holding a cell phone or wallet. The material inside the breast pocket and the hand pockets doesn’t allow easy access and retrieval as items get entangled going in and out.
The exterior fabric (the outside wall of the jacket) isn’t attached to the interior wall.
Since they aren’t welded or sewn together, the outer material rides or slides over the inside material. This causes the outer layer of the shoulders to “bind up,” especially when wet. Glassing by hand gets annoying. It also means that the Tundra feels saggy. My wallet gives the whole jacket the feeling of drooping over my belt (see image below).
Based on how quickly they changed the pants’ design, I’m betting that they fix some of the jacket issues in the future. Its ability to process moisture will make the Tundra 2.0 a popular mid-layer option.
Base Layer Champions
Pajamas for the win. The Ridgeline Base Layers sell the whole system. Alarmingly comfortable. The Heavy Bottoms are 60% Merino and 40% Cool Pass. I think Cool Pass might be magic. As they are silky smooth, the layers above them “glide.” Therefore, the inside layer of the Tundra Jacket now slides over the shoulder, almost eliminating the binding issue. The Ridgeline Heavy has comfortable and robust thumbholes.
If each individual piece of clothing were given a score, that score is increased when used as a system. The Frontier pants are plenty adequate, but the Ridgeline Base Layer makes it better. The same was true for the jacket. BPO nailed the layering system.
Re-re-repeat. It’s comfortable and lightweight. The 3-panel hoodie fits over my ball cap as expected. The Sun Shirt is form-fitting but not too tight. I can wear a T-shirt under the Sun Shirt. It will cover the backs of your hands with your arms extended. The thumb holes on the Sun Shirt seem unnecessary. The loops are long, so it doesn’t improve hand coverage. I’ll wear it on the river this summer and give a follow-up on the thread. More info here.
All in all, the system works. It’s functional and durable. It feels nice and fits well. It will be part of my system for years to come.
Moving forward, I’d like to get my hands on their Quiver Half Zip Hoodie for a review—It’s Grid fleece is a proven design, and I think it will add a lot of versatility to this system. I’m curious to see how they do and what changes they will make in the future.
If you have any questions for the Rokstaff or want updates throughout the season, head over to the forums. Sam Weaver, Ross Russell, myself, and various members will be posting there as we get even more time in the Born Primitive Outdoors line.
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