ICYMI: The Importance of Sunscreen

Remember a couple of blogs we published last year on sunscreen? Well, the issue is still important and recently, a video went viral that powerfully demonstrates the hidden effects of sun exposure (UV radiation) on the skin and how sunscreen can help mitigate this problem. While the video is a bit shocking, it will also, hopefully, encourage people to use sunscreen more effectively and more regularly. Skin cancer is more prevalent (almost 5 million cases per year) than breast, prostrate, lung, and colon cancers combined!

However, sunscreens, unlike people, are not created equally. There are critical differences in the chemicals used by sunscreen manufacturers to block or absorb UV radiation. The effectiveness and potential harmful side effects of these chemicals and the way that they are marketed and regulated are examined in these previously published blogs, which look at the problem of UV exposure and what to look for in sunscreen. We hope your skin stays safe while you get outside all summer and winter long. (And remember, wear a hat!)

Dr. Kevin

PhD, Brooks-Range Mountaineering Product Ambassador,

Assistant Professor Westfield State University

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Your New Sleeping Bag: Brooks-Range Cloak

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Efficiency is a virtue in the backcountry. So is simplicity. Whether it’s hiking, camping or mountaineering, shaving weight, bulk and mass allow us to streamline our personal scene to keep us lighter, faster and better equipped to meet Mother Nature on her terms. With that school of thought, we have designed a sleeping tool that happens to be both efficient and simple. Enter the Cloak.


Because so many campers sleep warm, traditional bags are often too hot and make overnights muggy and uncomfortable. In return, they get a poor night’s sleep. For versed backcountry aficionados, the Cloak sleeping bag series is a smart alternative to camping traditionalism. With three temperature-rated quilts—45, 30 and 15 degrees—the Cloak is a zipperless down blanket that has multi-purpose applications for a myriad of camping needs and demands. Treated with DownTec™ weatherproofing, these 850+ fill goose quilts provide premier loft with maximum compressibility and minimal weight penalty.

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The Cloak features a foot box that accepts sleeping pads to slip snugly into its base so as not to slide off mid-sleep throughout the night. A heavier draft tub circumscribes the bag’s quilted body, and rests warmly over the body to help seal in the sleeper without the feeling of being overly tucked in. It’s just enough to mitigate your optimum body temperature throughout the night, so you sleep well. Restless sleepers take note: The Cloak allows you to writhe all night, poke and prod, and still provide a cozy covering for all-night slumber.

Why goose down? While the argument for duck down versus goose has merit for lower fill levels, when duck plumes get large enough for a high fill power, they becomes more brittle. Compared to goose, duck down also provides less in comfort and overall loft rebound after being compressed throughout the day. Goose down maintains its supple consistent loft that provides maximum warmth and comfort for repeated use over many days. For this reason, we exclusively use goose down in our products.

Cloak 45

Brooks-Range Cloak 45

Designed for a lighter weight option to a standard sleep bag, the Cloak quilts are not for a first time camper, but for someone who never zips up their bag because they are too warm. The Cloak series appeals to fastpackers, climbers, river rats, and scores of backcountry lovers who need a multi-use tool they can employ in several aspects of their day. Drape it around you at camp, sleep with it under the stars, or huddle beneath it during morning coffee before stowing it away for another adventure in the hills. Whatever your pursuits, the Cloak serves as an elegant, trusted and versatile backcountry refuge.

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How Caffeine in Sport Drinks Affects You

It is summertime – time for long hikes, lake swims, trail runs and camping trips. While you’re on your many mile treks in the warm weather, you probably consider dehydration. Perhaps you just drink water, but you may also carry along sport drinks to help combat the dizzying dehydration effects. But caffeine, which is touted for its ergogenic properties, can be found in some of those drinks. What does this mean for your athletic pursuits? Our resident expert on sports nutrition, Dr. Mel, is here to update us on the latest research on the potential ergogenic effects of caffeine in sport drinks.

Sport drinks are typically recommended over water for activities lasting longer than one hour. There are all sorts of variations of sports drinks on the market, so how do you decide what you need or want? What are the basic ingredients? What about extras, like caffeine?


Credit: Long Mai

Basic ingredients include glucose and electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals or salts such as magnesium, sodium, chloride and potassium. These are key ingredients when one is active because electrolytes are lost in sweat and are required for proper muscle and metabolic function to continue to exercise. Glucose is beneficial for exercise performance and contributes to taste or palatability of a drink. Both electrolytes and glucose can make a drink more desirable than water. Although you are getting additional calories with a sport drink when you may not need it (short duration activity), it is more important that you are hydrated. Drink up!

Caffeine is sometimes added to sport drinks, which can provide additional benefits. Caffeine in even low to moderate doses (200-400mg) can improve physical and cognitive performance in most cases. Larger doses can be beneficial, but you run the risk of negative side effects like jitteriness, overstimulation and sleep disturbances.  Some folks are particularly sensitive to caffeine and may experience gastrointestinal distress (most likely, you already know who you are). But in terms of hydration, I want to emphasize that caffeine does not dehydrate you.

Caffeine is a very mild diuretic (increases urination) at rest, but with exercise the body’s water-conservation mechanisms are much stronger. We have all been told for decades that caffeine is dehydrating and to avoid it with exercise, but there are now several solid research studies to date that dispel this myth. If you consume caffeine in liquid form—in a sport drink, coffee or soda—you are consuming a fluid, so you are improving your hydration with an added ergogenic benefit.


Credit: Mike Mozart

The primary performance benefit of caffeine is a decrease in central and peripheral fatigue. In other words, it will take you longer to mentally and physically fatigue, allowing you to perform at a higher intensity for a longer time. Even in low doses, caffeine’s primary mode of action is to block adenosine in the central nervous system (CNS). Higher doses may impact metabolism, but the majority of performance benefits have been documented as a result of CNS effects. Physical benefits also include enhanced muscle contraction.

There are several cognitive benefits related to caffeine consumption, which can benefit athletes, students and everyday working adults. Caffeine increases alertness, focus, mood, reaction time, memory and vigilance. Vigilance—the ability to maintain attention and alertness over a prolonged period of time—is of special importance to military night operations and ultra endurance events that can last 24 hours or more.

In terms of caffeine in sport drinks, they are all different so it is important to try different brands, flavors and dosages to find what you tolerate and enjoy the most. Other “sport drinks” like coffee and soda are common caffeine delivery systems employed by athletes. Always experiment with new sport drinks or foods during training and not on the day of a big adventure. Stay vigilant!

-Melissa W. Roti, PhD, FACSM

For additional information, check out “Caffeine for Sports Performance: The Truths and Myths About the World’s Most Popular Supplement” by Louise Burke, Ben Desbrow and Lawrence Spriet (2013). The book provides the science behind how caffeine works and how to use it to benefit your athletic performance, while being very reader-friendly.  

Play safe out there!

Dr. Kevin

PhD, Brooks-Range Mountaineering Product Ambassador,

Assistant Professor Westfield State University

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