Posted in Reviews

Public Lands: A review

Recently, C and I took Little Car to Cranberry Township. We wanted to visit Public Lands since it opened last year. Big adventurers love to shop for gear.

We pulled into the parking lot of Public Lands in Cranberry Square. The building was large and inviting like a lodge adventurers might take refuge in after a long day’s . . . well, adventure.

There was a colorful display of kayaks and a makeshift campsight at the entrance. (If you look closely you can just make out C next to the tent.) When we walked in we were greeted enthusiastically and sincerely by someone who looked as if they just happened to be walking past and not like they were supposed to acknowledge us.

I was immediately attracted to the display of local products, most of which I was familiar with. I was thrilled to see Best Ever Granola, Commonplace Coffee and Pittsburgh Juice Company’s Vibrant Sunshine Kombucha. Even though we were way up north in Cranberry Township aka Butler County, and far from the more familiar city territory, (Pittsburgh) this adventurer felt immediately at home.

There were so many shiny baubles and cool gear on display, I think I actually “oohed” and “ahhhed.”

What is Public Lands? It’s a 50,000 square foot outdoor clothing, gear and equipment store whose purpose it “to celebrate and protect public lands for all.” Check out their inspiring video below.

I was thrilled to see Best Ever Granola, Commonplace Coffee, Enrico Biscotti & Pittsburgh Juice Company’s Vibrant Sunshine Kombucha.

Straight back from the entrance is a pretty big climbing wall for a retail store.

I was a little disappointed to see that use of the climbing wall was not part of a membership program like another outdoor gear shop that I love. On the other hand, the wall is available for more than short climbing sessions and is attended by a climbing specialist.

The layout contains 8 different sections for 8 kinds of adventuring! They are: camping, cycling, running, hiking, fishing, climbing, kayak/canoeing and outdoor living.

They had a huge section of fly fishing equipment; every kind of Yeti vessel in every color. The shoe section included many well known brands like Vans,Brooks, Northface, Sorel, Vasque, Keen and Hoka.

Clothing brands were familiar as well; Northface, Colombia, Patagonia, Prana, Kuhl and even Billabong, a brand this adventurer hasn’t seen since she was a teenage surfer wannabe back on Long Island. I didn’t see any Ocean Pacific though. Lol.

Big adventurers didn’t come just to gawk though. I was on a mission to check a few things off of my outdoor gear wish list.

First up: a new Hydration pack, the one I have currently is a very nice handmedown Camelback which I like very much. However I would like something bigger that can hold a notebook, a book or two and my ubiquitous pencilcase. I have a fantasy of actually having time in the middle of acycling adventure or hiking adventure to stop and sit somewhere scenic, shady and not at all buggy and write.

Currently, I carry a notebook in a ziplock freezer bag because the only place I can fit it is in the same sleeve as my water bladder . It’s only a matter of time before my handwritten adventures get wet. I have seen those specialized “trail” notebooks for outdoors types but they are tiny and flimsy. I have one tucked in a flap somewhere. For serious writers like myself (cough, cough,) I need at least a marble notebook.

Public lands in store selection seemed to be limited to Osprey and Camelback, both well known and well respected brands for this kind of equipment. However I found the selection to be limited. For my money, I’d like the pack to have more than just one big storage space. I’d like some sexy pockets and sleeves and cool elastic thingamobobs. To their credit they had something closer to what I was looking for available on their website, just not in store.

The camping equipment section was pretty cool. There was even a raised platform, carpeted with astroturf for the purpose of setting up tents.

If you look closely you can see my fellow big adventurers cute calves.

I was also hoping to find an STP, stand-to-pee device also referred to as female urination devices. I think STP sounds better. This girl doesn’t want to get caught with her pants down in the woods. Surprisingly, there was nothing available in store and quick search on the website was also disappointing. maybe they’re not ready to be that inclusive yet.

I was also looking for a swimsuit top. They had a lovely brand called Nani in stock and I was quite excited as the little writeup on the display spoke to size inclusivity. I am a little thing at 5’3″ but I am also pleasantly thicc. I wear a size 14 petite in most women’s clothing and usually a size large in tops. I found a super cute top in a gorgeous navy blue, size large and took it to the changing room. I couldn’t even get my arm through it. Size inclusivity my foot! I went back to the display and picked up an XL and XXL and they both felt uncomfortably tight as well. This experience speaks more to the women’s clothing industry than it does to Public Lands unfortunately.

Prices for all the products were very similar to that other place we like to go.

Final thoughts: Public Lands hits all the bells and whitsles of an upscale outdoor outfitter.

Pros: A wide array of national and local brands; community involvement protecting public lands and making these spaces safe and inclusive for all. The climbing wall is big. It looks like with proper staffing it could support 5 or 6 climbers and it’s available for private groups,

Cons: both the Cranberry and the Washington county locations are pretty far for us to just head over to on a whim. REI Pittsburgh climbing wall is a 34 foot replica of Utah’s Pinnacle, the price of which is free to REI members. ($30 for a lifetime membership*.)

Neutral: prices are very similiar to other high end outdoor equipment stores.

Of note: Other online reviews of Public lands boo hoo because they do not sell fire arms. I will post more on this in another article.

*REI members also receive a rebate of 10% of their full price purchases every year to spend on anything in the store. I bought a bike last year and this year my rebate covered the cost of a new pair of Brook’s running shoes.

**I did end up getting my new hydration pack at REI simply because they had more selection available in the store.

Over all we will definitely take a return visit to Public Lands. I think we will head out to Washington county for the next trip. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!

Thanks for reading and remember to get outside, big adventures await!


a writer, photographer, sporter of black turtlenecks and a cemetery enthusiast. A former smoker, Mrs. Stahl does not have any cats and prefers Autumn to all other seasons.

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