Rocky Mountain Underground — RMU for short — is a ski company. Well, that was true, until it decided to open a tavern in its home base of Breckenridge, Colorado, and to start building things like a versatile backcountry backpack, a tailgate cover for mountain bikes and a dog collar that converts into a water bowl. Now, the one-time garage-based ski maker bills itself more generally as an outdoor brand. One of its most recent products called the BRFCS — fill in the vowels for pronunciation — is an all-purpose adventure travel bag that sets a tone for where the company might be headed.
The BRFCS is a carry-on compatible bag with a 35-liter base capacity that expands to 50 liters. RMU outfitted its interior with compartmentalized storage for clothing, (there’s enough room for ski boots), and smaller mesh pouch pockets for necessities and essentials; there’s also a false bottom. The BRFCS also features a padded laptop sleeve and a removable compression strap. It can be carried like its namesake, with backpack straps and a stow-away hipbelt or as a shoulder bag.
The Good: RMU’s dog collar/water bowl provides the yardstick example of how it approaches its outdoor products: put function everywhere. The BRFCS does that — in one compartment is a false bottom; the hipbelt and backpack straps stow away (the latter can be removed entirely, too); the front exterior pocket is ideal for essentials like a passport and wallet but also stashes a helmet sling; even the aluminum buckle on the interior compression strap has a curved edge for opening bottles.
As a bag, it’s more spacious than it looks. It has two sides with zippered compartments, like many classic travel suitcases, for storing clothing — and separating the dirty from the clean on the way home. These are more vast than they look, and easily sufficient for multi-day trips. Multiple carrying methods make schlepping the thing a breeze, and both the briefcase-style handles and backpack straps are comfortable in use. Exterior compression straps help make everything secure once inside, whether slightly empty or fully-stuffed.
Who It’s For: The BRFCS is an adventure travel bag, and adventurous travelers are precisely who it’s for. Sure, the casual weekender and the business traveler will also find it an adequate companion, but features like the helmet sling and backpack straps may go under-appreciated. If you’re the type of person who prefers a carry-on only approach, or someone who will tack on a hike or a day on the slopes to any quick trip, this is your bag.
Watch Out For: All the features that the BRFCS offers make for a bag that at times feels crowded. If you don’t use the false bottom, it’ll be a thick space-waster — luckily, it’s removable. Some of the other features aren’t though, including the hipbelt and the helmet sling, so even if you don’t need them you’re stuck with them. Another small gripe is that access to the twin inner compartments is limited by zipper entries that feel too short. And one final, inconsequential grip: the folding shirt graphic inside feels corny and unnecessary — it’s obvious where the clothes are supposed to go.
Alternatives: Clamshell-style adventure travel bags are having a moment right now. One of the first iterations to make waves is Cotopaxi’s Allpa ($210), which is smaller than the BRFCS at 35 liters and doesn’t expand but is a worthy alternative that’s equally rich in features. Evergoods’ forthcoming 40-liter Civic Transit Bag ($235) offers a more refined, less “adventure-y” look and is currently available for preorder, and Quiksilver and Pacsafe’s collaboration bag ($190) provides an anti-theft spin on this style of carry.
Review: I first heard of Rocky Mountain Underground three years ago when a coworker at the Wyoming ski shop I was working at attempted to convince our manager that we should add the brand’s skis to the offering in the shop. “They’re unreal, just trust me,” he pleaded, (or something like that). Our manager caved, and the following year we had the Apostle and the North Shore on the ski wall and in the demo fleet, a perk I took advantage of during many of my ski breaks. I don’t know what my manager thought of them, but I agreed with my coworker; they were unreal.
I was both intrigued and surprised to hear the news that RMU had created its first backpack, but when I saw it for the first time, it all made sense. The Core Pack felt like a bag that RMU would make, with features both adventure-practical and fun; like the feeling I had skiing champaign powder on the Apostles somehow materialized.
The BRFCS does this too. It looks like a bag that a ski company would make, with slick black 630-denier PU-coated nylon fabric, an orange polyester interior and orange aluminum exterior hardware. The briefcase format threatens to dampen its adventurous vibe — even the word implies a sense of formality — but once its backpack straps and hipbelt are un-stowed, it again becomes apparent where this bag comes from and what it’s for.
I’ve carried the BRFCS on numerous trips so far, but the first is most apt for mention here. I brought it to Outdoor Retailer this past July, which, coincidentally, is the same event that the BRFCS was first revealed to me. Typically when I pack for the biannual outdoor trade show, I stash a collapsible duffel in my carry on in anticipation of returning with two or three times the amount of stuff than I originally brought. This time I left it at home.
The packing list on the way there was relatively small: three days worth of clothing, a pair of Red Wing boots, running shoes and clothing, toiletries, my laptop and all my tech accessories. It all fit into the BRFCS without the need to expand it, but I was moderately surprised at how quickly this filled up the bag’s interior space. The multiple layers of material that created the BRFCS’ many compartments also seemed to be preventing its volume from being wholly useful. That said, the return trip saw the addition of hats, a backpack, an enamel mug, a pillow, a jacket, so many pairs of socks, a bottle of whiskey and probably more things that I’m forgetting. I had a gentleman’s bet with my coworkers on whether it would all fit, and with the extra liters provided by the expansion zipper and firm cranks on its exterior compression straps, I won. It was even comfortable to carry with the light backpack straps.
That trip was more business than fun, and the BRFCS excelled in the circumstances, even without its vowels. I never rigged my helmet to its exterior or cracked open a beer with its secretive bottle opener, and I was able to carry it fine without peeling out its latent hipbelt. But I can visualize scenarios in which I will use these things. I don’t think it’ll become my go-to adventure bag for camping and ski vacations; I have too much gear for that. But during those busy trips where I may only get a single day or part of one to explore — sort of like taking a break during a day of work at a ski shop — the BRFCS will do the trick.
Verdict: The BRFCS isn’t without its flaws, but they’re minor in comparison with all the areas in which the bag excels. It’s an awesome bag for the short jaunt or an extra-day trip, and a very solid piece of luggage given that its only RMU’s second attempt at a bag. I’m looking forward to an updated pass at this bag by the company or an entirely new follow-up.
What Others Are Saying:
• “Adaptability is important for getting the most out of your travels. And adaptable is exactly what Rocky Mountain Underground’s BRFCS lets you be. Wherever you’re going, this bag helps get your gear there with three carry options. Haul it as a backpack, shoulder bag or by hand for flexibility on the move.” — Carryology
Capacity: 35/50 liters
Weight: 4 pounds
Outer Material: 630D Nylon face fabric with carbonate PU coating
Inner Material: 150D Polyester liner
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