9 Things You Should Know About Brooks-Range Founder Matt Brooks

There’s an old saying that every good thing needs to start with a dream. At Brooks-Range Mountaineering, every piece of outdoor gear began as an adventurer’s dream that the right piece of gear can make the bad times good and the good times even better. At Brooks-Range, that dreamer is Matt Brooks: a badass adventurer, explorer, and entrepreneur.

Matt’s heart is in adventure, and the gear he develops is guided directly by the uses and abuses required by epic trips. Here a few of the larger-than-life endeavors Matt has accomplished in his 64 years circling the sun:

1. First Ascender: Matt has many first ascents in the Alps, the Sierras, and Yosemite, including a first ascent on a Yosemite Valley route called Galactic Hitchhiker, which he climbed in 41 pitches! It is the longest technical rock climb in North America.

Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park, half dome and El Capitan

2. Mountain Guide Extraordinaire: Matt has over 30 years experience working as a mountain guide in the French Alps and across the U.S. When Matt lived in the Alps, he worked on Search and Rescue. During one rescue, he heli-rappelled in to save some hikers. The helicopter couldn’t land due to bad weather, so Matt bivyed with the people who needed help until the helicopter could return the next day. He still gets Christmas cards from the people he saved!

mountain rescue

3. Trendsetter: In the 1980s, Matt helped develop standards so that mountain guides could become trained and certified as internationally recognized professionals. Prior to his contribution, guiding was dominated by rogue outdoorsmen trying to make a buck, without standards. The American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) has awarded Matt the Presidential Gold Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the guiding profession.

4. Entrepreneur: After years of guiding—as well as working on search and rescue—Matt got to see firsthand all sorts of backcountry issues and problems that could be solved with the right piece of gear. He started Brooks-Range Mountaineering in his garage back in 1995. Soon, his guiding friends wanted what he was developing and it snowballed into the company it is today!


5. Aviator: A dedicated adrenaline junkie, Matt is also an accomplished adventurer in the air and sea. He is a gifted aviator who holds national and international aviation records for distance without landing, and the speed record for distance around the world in a C-1 and C-1.d, Group III aircraft. He received his first pilot’s license at age 13!

Matt Brooks-aviator

6. Safety Enthusiast: Matt is passionate about developing snow safety tools and using snow safety education to save lives in the outdoors. He loves using teaching and instruction to prepare others to recreate safely. He believes that while a good piece of gear can make a harsh time better, ultimately, the best tool a backcountry enthusiast can use is his or her brain.

7. Patron: Because Matt is so dedicated to the role of education and preparation before backcountry trips, he sponsors a scholarship for mountain guides to become certified through the American Mountain Guides Association.

Teaching companion rescue at a fundraiser for the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center. Photo by Jessica Haist

Aaron Richards teaching companion rescue at a fundraiser for the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center. Photo: Jessica Haist

8. Sailor: Matt can teach an old boat new tricks – he’s sailed three World Championships and restored two historic yachts. He just finished the Transatlantic Race in a boat he restored, the Dorade, which was originally designed in 1929 by Olin Stephens and won the Transatlantic Race in 1931. Still up to sailing shape, under Matt’s navigation, the 84-year old Dorade beat her previous record by more than 26 hours despite a course that was 300 miles longer. To read more about Matt’s trip on the Dorade, check out www.dorade.org

Matt and crew aboard the Dorade. Photo: Billy Black

Matt and crew aboard the Dorade during the 2015 Transatlantic Race. Photo: Billy Black

9. Diver: Matt has help find several new species of fish on expedition off the coast of Indonesia, and even named one of them Eviota Pamae for his wife Pam.

One of Matt’s mottos is “Failure is Not an Option,” and it’s clear that it’s a slogan that has guided him through life. Quality gear, just like quality adventures, doesn’t just take a dreamer, but also needs a do-er. Brooks-Range Mountaineering is led by a visionary who is always fine-tuning gear to make it better and better. Keep your eyes peeled, because who knows what Matt’s next adventure may be!


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Bear Necessities: What You Need To Know About Bear Spray

By Kevin Tatsugawa, Brooks-Range Ambassador 

Brown bears (aka grizzly bears) are at the top of the food chain in North America. They are ferocious predators that are more than a match for any person. Yet they are also cute, cuddly, curious animals that often, amusingly, display human-like behavior and emotions. Encountering a bear in the wild is awe-inspiring and terrifying at the same time because many people do not know what to do or how to react if they come into close contact with one.

brown bear male

Brown bears have developed a relatively undeserved reputation as ruthless killers that must be met with all force necessary (preferably firearms) to survive a close encounter. The fallacies behind these fears, of course, are nuanced and it is often easier to follow a simple maxim such as “kill or be killed” than it is to understand how to coexist with these magnificent animals. This blog will look at the effectiveness of bear spray (costs $40-$70) in deterring brown bear attacks.

One recent study (Smith et al. 2008) examined the effectiveness of recorded bear spray usage in Alaska over a 20-year span, from 1985-2006. In 46 out of 50 (92%) close-range encounters with brown bears, bear spray stopped the bears’ undesirable behavior. In the close-range encounters where bear-inflicted injuries (3) occurred, all of the injuries were minor (no hospitalization was required).

Bear Spray

Bear spray was effective against brown bears displaying aggressive behavior (such as charging people or persistently following people) in 12 of 14 incidences (85%). The one incident where an aggressive brown bear contacted the person using bear spray, a minor injury requiring stitches was inflicted by the bear.

Many people are concerned about bear spray’s effectiveness in windy conditions. In 5 out of the 71 (7%) recorded incidences of bear spray usage with all types of bears (not just brown bears), wind reportedly effected spray accuracy. However, the bear spray reached the bears in all cases. In 10 out of the 71 cases (14%), users reported negative side effects from the bear spray ranging from minor irritation (11%, 8 of 71) to near incapacitation (3%, 2 of 71). Additionally, in all 71 cases the spray canisters never malfunctioned.

Two girls with backpacks sitting on top of hill, looking at a lake Thousand islands lakes, Eastern Sierra, California

“Two decades of bear spray use in Alaska confirm that it is an effective bear deterrent.” If the initial discharge of bear spray did not discourage the bear from their threatening behavior (which occurred in 18% of the cases), then repeated sprays eventually deterred the bears such that the user could leave. The authors found that bear spray helps temporarily diffuse dangerous situations thereby allowing the person to escape the situation and “the bear time to reassess the situation and move on.”

Importantly, latent bear spray residue has been found to be an attractant to brown bears. Therefore, bear spray should only be used at the time of contact with the bear, not prophylactically.

Due to the fact that, occasionally, multiple discharges of bear spray are required to deter bears, the authors suggest discarding bear spray canisters when the contents fall below 90%. Also, bear sprays have a shelf life of 3-4 years and should be discarded after their expiration date, which can be found on the canister.

Play safe out there!

Dr. Kevin

For more information about deterring bears please refer to the following links:



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Best Camp Brews: A Shout Out to the Hot Drink

Summer is fast upon us. Many hikers will be heading for the hills in search for solace, scenery and some sort of adventure. Whether it’s an afternoon outing or a three-week river trip, one common denominator rings true for countless mountaineers, wanderers, and explorers: the hot drink.

fun backpacker woman

Long before tents and tarps, the only creature comfort of the backcountry was a fire and water. Then, some intrepid genius decided to combine the two and we got hot water. In 2737 BC, tea was made in China during the Shang Dynasty for medicinal purposes. And Coffee has been around since the 10th century where it was first concocted for religious practices in Ethiopia. Since then the hot drink has taken on several forms for myriad appetites and applications: cider, cocoa, mate, the hot toddy, grog—the list goes on ad infinitum.

Brewing is a ritual in backcountry travel. It’s as old as camping itself. And it doesn’t matter where you pitch your tent. From Alaskan glaciers to the Arizona desert, brewing is a time for sharing, for bonding, and a good excuse to stop and embrace a moment. At its heart is survival; at its best, a hot drink causes us to pause, allowing us to sit—either alone or together—and reflect on why we make the effort in the first place. There’s a sublime value in that. Whether it’s to rally on cold mornings, nestle in for bed or simply enjoy on a long day, the hot drink continues to exist as a backcountry staple for campers of every stripe.

man holding a metal mug with tea, mint and lemon

There are countless opinions regarding what makes a suitable if not delicious backcountry hot drink—way beyond the scope of this post. But there is a couple worth mentioning: Alcohol is a welcoming addition to just about any hot drink, and most adults of average intelligence recognize coffee as the human race’s single greatest achievement, an élan vital that fuels the dreams of thousands of champions every day.

Brooks-Range knows the hot drink doesn’t just warm the body on chilly mornings; it’s the calming reassurance of Morgan Freeman telling you everything’s going to be all right. However you spend time in the woods, wherever you decide to roam, the hot drink is always a contributing member of your camping party, sharing in the history of communion in the vast outdoors.

Want to liven up your hot drink routine? Try these recipes next time you head into the woods:

Spiced Mexican Hot Cocoa
1 serving hot cocoa mix (with water)
2 pinches ground chipotle chili pepper
2 pinches ground cinnamon
3 toasted marshmallows to top it off

Hot Toddies with a Twist
4 cups fresh apple cider
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole star anise, plus some for garnish
1 lemon (juiced)
1 cup whiskey

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