Marmot Research Team
(Photo/Mallorie Estenson, left; Ben Kitching, right)

Marmot Reboots ‘Research Team,’ Expands Gear Testing to Frontline Users

The California outfitter plans to bring back its ‘dorm room-inspired’ gear test unit.

If you were on the Marmot Research Team back in the day, you were in a de facto gear testing cool kids club — and you got a patch to prove it.

Recently, a leftover box of those very patches from the ’90s inspired the core brand to revive its internal testing salon. It’s a callback to Marmot’s garage-y roots. The brand recognized testing as a quintessential element early on in its now 50-year history.

Aubrey Vaughn, a senior designer in his third decade with the brand, recalled the early days.

“We would have our athletes come into the headquarters and give presentations,” he said.

“We’d get out the chairs, pop some popcorn. [We were] like a big family. It was this raw but casual get-together, but it really helped inject a spirit into the company on all levels. It was really energizing.”

Marmot Research Team

man climbing in Marmot Research Team jacket
(Photo/Marmot)

As the company grew, the core Research Team started to dissolve. High-tech labs in far-flung locales began to put more and more Marmot gear through its paces. Now, it plans to bring testing back under its own roof with professionals, internal staff, and ambassadors.

Pro climbers like Pete Takeda and Maiza Lima will join Marmot Mountain Club members like Mallorie Estenson, a Washington-based mountain guide and alpine skier. Kaila Walton, a backcountry adventurer and photographer who leads plus-size outdoor community initiatives, also joins the roster.

Marmot Brand Manager Jeff Brandon said the brand wants to bring testing back in-house to revitalize the connection between its products and its consumers.

What does this mean? You’ll start seeing Marmot Research Team gear testers (and gear) out in the wild. The “reinvigorated” team will comprise company ambassadors, frontline sales staff, and, eventually, Marmot teased, “the consumer” as well.

“We want to share with the consumer the story behind the product,” Brandon said. “The jacket that they’re buying — there’s a lot of intention and time and effort spent in creating this piece.”

Why Testing Matters

Meticulous testing is critical to gear performance. From minute details to the big picture, good gear testers get out there and wring the most out of any test unit.

“Sometimes it’s just the little things that make a product truly valuable to the general user,” explained Vaughn.

“It also speaks to the authenticity of the brand. The Marmot Research Team is a process in which we can really understand how the product is being utilized. It’s that melding of lifestyle and performance, building it right, tested by people who really put it to the ropes to ensure it works as intended.”

As the brand expands, so does its user base. Marmot sees that as a good reason to put more boots on the ground in more sports and locations.

“When we were a young brand, we weren’t necessarily making products for the generalist,” said Brandon.

“We were making products to perform in high-alpine terrain. As we service a larger customer base, we need a larger scope of people who are doing different types of activities, not just summiting 14,000-foot peaks.”

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Ultimately, gear testing is all about one thing if you’re the one buying it: making sure it does what you want it to do before you drop the cash.

“Ever since ‘outdoor’ became a thing from a product standpoint, the means of proving [its] worth has been going out and trying it,” said Brandon.

See you out there, Marmot Research Team.

Sam Anderson
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Sam Anderson is a staff writer at GearJunkie, and several other All Gear websites.

He has been writing about climbing, cycling, running, wildlife, outdoor policy, the outdoor industry, vehicles, and more for 2 years. Prior to GearJunkie, he owned and operated his own business before freelancing at GearHungry. Based in Austin, Texas, Anderson loves to climb, boulder, road bike, trail run, and frequent local watering holes (of both varieties).