The New Drift Sleeping Bag Line

As winter descends and temps begin to drop below freezing, it’s the perfect time to invest in a new sleeping bag for your 2015 adventures. Luckily, our latest line of sleeping bags will not only have you covered all winter long, but during the chilly spring months and into the cool nights of summer.

The all-new Drift Sleeping Bag line offers something for every season and all weather conditions with bags available in -10, 0, 15, 30 and 45 degree temperature ratings. The Drift bags use 850-fill DownTek™ treated down and will keep their loft and warmth even if they get wet. The DownTek™ retains the same fill power as untreated down, and the water repellent treatment adds no measurable weight.

drift_brooks range_3

The Drift Sleeping Bags feature superior warmth to weight ratios thanks to high quality down and Flow Construction that uses vertical baffling to keep the down from shifting within the bag. Each bag in the Drift Line are highly compressible, and can be easily stowed away in a backpack pocket.

Brooks Range_Snowy Hike

A sleeping bag from the Drift line is one that you can buy and have for the rest of your life. Light-weight, solid construction and superior warmth are just a few reasons to try one out for yourself.

Watch the sleeping bags in action in our latest product video:

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Three Ways To Build An Antarctic-Grade Snow Shelter

When icy blasts and nuking snow make setting up—and sleeping in—a tent seem like less than Type-2 Fun, think about building a snow shelter instead. With snow’s natural insulating properties, no matter how gnarly conditions get outside, the inside of a well-built snow shelter will hover around or above 32 degrees. And the more people piled inside, the warmer it will get.

Snow shelters take a little more time and effort to build than setting up a tent, but a really simple one can take just a half hour to build. And if you’re setting up a base camp to stay in for more than one night, a snow shelter will stand the weather better, and keep you warmer, than the thin fabric walls of a tent. All you need is one or two lightweight shovels, some spare energy and maybe a snow saw.

Here are three different types of shelters to try on your next backcountry trip.

2013_Casaccia - Channels of Lareccio

Snow Trench With A Roof (1/2 hour to 2 hours)

1) If you’re in a pinch and need a quick emergency bivy, a snow trench is the fastest option. But with a little more effort, it can become a big, comfy lounge space.

2) Mark the outline of your trench on the surface, making it just slightly wider than your shoulders and a couple of feet longer than you are tall, multiplying by the number of people. Shovel out the snow—or cut out blocks with a snow saw—until it’s between waist and armpit deep. Set aside the snow blocks to use for the roof.

3) If you’re building it larger, for two or more people, cut out or build in sleeping benches on the ground. If the snow’s not deep enough, or it’s too icy or hard to keep digging, boost the shelter’s perimeter height by adding your cut-out blocks in a wall around the edges.

Snow Cave_Steve Cyr

4) If you’re in a hurry, or short on usable snow, lay your skis, poles, tent poles, or other items to span the top of your trench. Cover them with a tarp or tent fly, and then weigh it down around the edges. Insulate the top with a light layer of snow, but not enough to cave it in.

5) For a snow roof, lean snow blocks in an A-frame shape, blocking one end with a single block and staggering the leaning blocks for extra strength. Fill in gaps and holes with snow afterward, carving one three-inch-wide vent hole with a ski pole or ice axe.

Snow Mound or Quinzhee (2 to 4 hours)

1) The snow mound method might be even easier than the trench method, and can result in a round, cozy shelter perfect for more than one person.

2) Throw all your gear, backpacks, etc., in a pile where you want your shelter to be, and then shovel snow on top of the pile to bury it all.  Keep patting down the snow to keep it strong, building the pile until it’s about two feet thick all the way around.

3) Dig an entryway on the side away from the wind, digging downward first, and then back up toward the gear pile. If more than one person is helping, they can dig another temporary opening on the other side to speed the process along, and then fill it up afterward.

4) Pull all the equipment back out through the entrances and shape the inside of the shelter smoothly, deepening the floor and shaping the ceiling until you can see blue light coming through—at about a foot thick.

5) Be sure to carve out a vent hole in the leeward side of the shelter, a few inches wide.

Snow Cave (3 to 4 hours)

1) Building a snow cave requires scouting a spot where the snow is naturally sloping upward, and is nicely compacted but not too hard to shovel. It’s the simplest of all the shelters, but requires the right conditions and a little more elbow grease.

2) Dig an entrance into the snow drift, a bit wider than your shoulder width, and three feet deep, before you scoop out a level platform slightly higher than the entrance. This will keep the cold air sinking outward.

3) Keep shoveling snow out and hollowing out the ceiling until you have enough room for your gear and everyone who will sleep inside. Then don’t forget to poke a three-inch wide vent hole through the roof.

Snow Cave_Eli

Tips to Keep in Mind:

  1. Smoothing out bumps and irregularities on the inside will help keep melting drops from dripping down onto you as the interior temps warm.
  2. Shaping the ceiling into a contour instead of a flat roof will make is stronger, less likely to sag.
  3. A snow cave can be super strong in cold temperatures, but if it’s warming near freezing, its strength can be compromised—and the roof can collapse. Pay attention to temperatures to know whether it’s better to just set up a tent.
  4. Don’t waste time digging out the most roomy cave possible if you’re concerned about staying warm. The smaller the shelter, the warmer it will be.
  5. Carving a small channel around the base of the walls will help any melting water or condensation drip away from the floor.
  6. Keep all your tools inside through the night, in case you get snowed in.
  7. Mark the area with skis or a trekking pole to help keep potential passersby from walking on top and caving it in.
  8. For more details, check out the Snow and Winter Camping chapter of Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills.


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A Tale of Two Shovels: Brooks Range Compact and Hauler Lines

If there is an eternal tool in backcountry travel, it’s the shovel. Skiers, mountaineers and backcountry guides share this common denominator as much as the freedom of the hills. Beyond the obvious role of avalanche rescue, where shovels are essential, they have myriad functionality in the backcountry, whether it’s snow pit studies, winter camping, glacier travel—the list is long. Brooks Range has produced two lines of snow shovel that can be tailored to meet the varying demands of those who journey into the snowy mountains.

Ski tour equipment and avalanche safety tools

The primary distinction between the two shovels is the size of the blade. The Compact is a relatively square 24.5 x 24.5cm configuration that’s intended to be ever ready, fit in any pack, whether it’s for a day of ski touring or a long technical winter climb—one that excels in efficiency. The Hauler line’s blade is larger and more rectangular at 28 x 25cm. Think maximum scooping for snow pit tests, winter camping duties, or digging out your buddy’s car at the trailhead.

Bear in mind, avalanches don’t care what size blade you have. When an avalanche comes to a stop the entrained snow settles like concrete, and debris can be hard. Your shovel needs only to be reliable. Both Brooks Range shovels are made of high-tension aluminum for maximum strength, minimum deflection and long-time durability. They are also anodized to repel oxidation so the blade remains strong for years of dedicated use. And the yoke of the blade is extended to create a stronger interface between the blade and handle. It doesn’t matter if you scoop or paddle when it matters most, they won’t break down on you in the event of an emergency. All shovels feature slots cut into them to rig with BR’s Ultralite rescue sleds in the case of emergency. There are also laser etched rescue reminders in the back of the blade.

The Compact (L) and the Hauler (R).

The Compact (L) and the Hauler (R).

In addition to blade size, there are two types of blade edge: smooth and sharktooth. Both offer different strengths. The straight surface excels in the snow pits, which depends on making smooth planar surfaces when isolating columns and for seeing weaknesses and discrepancies in the snow pack. The sharktooth is adept at breaking down harder snow and ice, ideal for ski mountaineers and alpine climbers who spend time dealing with more potentially adverse conditions. The top of every blade is flat so you can kick them like a spade.

Smooth vs. Sharkstooth blades

The smooth vs. sharktooth blade edges.

For those who dig a lot of pits, the choice of a telescopic handle make it easier to scoop large amounts of snow, craft consistent pit walls and columns with ease. Not to mention saving your back. The larger Hauler scoop and extended handle combo also shines with expedition-style winter camping chores. The shorter handles often paired with the Compact series are sought after for their simple virtues and ease of use. T-handles are low profile and fit well into packs, whereas D-handles are good for folks who like mittens for colder exploits, as well as those who shovel a lot, i.e., expedition guides, pit nerds and patrollers.

Brooks Range believes everyone has his or her own quirks when it comes to gear. And shovels are no different. Big blade, little blade, smooth or serrated—that’s up to you. The thing we believe matters most? That’s simple. We want it to work.

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