Brooks Range is a small California company founded by rock climbing legend Matt Brooks. (He’s the guy who’s responsible for Galactic Hitchhiker, the longest technical rock climb in North America.) His business manufactures everything from sleeping bags to finger pulse oximeters (whatever those are) but it’s perhaps best known for ski rescue sleds and snow science gear, the latter of which are reviewed here in three parts:
1. Digital Pro Snow Study Kit + 24” Ski Straps
2. Scientist 35 Folding Snow Saw
3. Rutschblock Cord
24" Ski straps – polyurethane with an aluminum buckle
Rutschblock Cord – 3/64” steel cable with PVC coating
Scientist 35 Folding Snow Saw - Stainless Steel
Digital Pro Snow Study Kit, which includes: all-weather field book; 18 Ski Guide Cards (covering everything from avalanche avoidance to rescue); Slope Meter; Snow Brush; Folding Magnifier; 2 Digital Thermometers; Snow Crystal Card; 100 cm and 200 cm Folding Rulers; and a zippered organizer bag.
Before I begin, let me get this one thing out of the way: when is Brooks Range going to hire a proper graphic designer? Everything from its logo to its colour scheme (McDonald’s anyone?) to its slovenly rabbit mascot with the ancient “Blade” sunglasses looks like it was created by a team of nursery schoolers! That said, graphics have nothing to do with how well something works so let’s get back to the review, starting with the Scientist 35 Folding Snow Saw, which, in my opinion, is genius. The Scientist 35 is 50cm long with the handle but when folded it’s only 29cm. I just used it this morning during a snow pack assessment exercise and it unfolded cleanly, was super sharp and handled well. It also has clearly defined markings indicating both metric and imperial lengths as well as identification grids in 1mm, 2mm, and 3mm patterns. Its handle is slightly curved with holes so you can easily strap it to a shovel shaft or ski pole to extend its reach and the push-button lock is easy to use with gloves on. Perhaps the best part about the Scientist 35 saw is it has a bottle opener in the blade. (Just imagine breaking that out in the bar to impress the ladies?) The one issue I had with the saw, though, was that the stuff bag it came with was too small to cover up the teeth, even when folded, and I was petrified they’d scalp my backpack.
The Brooks-Range Rutshblock Cord also has good functionality but suffers from a lousy stuff sack. It’s made of 3/64” steel cable with an orange PVC coating and the version I was sent is 3.8m long. At an interval of every 22cm it has reinforced springs that “chop” through the snow way better than your typical knotted rope and large loops at each end which accommodate thick gloves. The stuff sack has a “Snow Safety Test Reference Guide” sewn onto it that describes how to do various tests but, like the saw bag, I found it inadequate: I defy any snow science geek to get the cord back into the bag cleanly – it took me three minutes with gloves on just to unravel the thing.
Finally, we have the Brooks-Range Digital Pro Snow Study Kit, which looks like a Happy Meal Bag filled with plastic stuff from Dollerama but retails for over $150. I actually did go to my local Dollar Store and priced out folding rulers, paint brushes, magnifying loops, notepads and thermometers. Given their inexpensiveness, I can only assume that in the world of Brooks-Range a slope meter, a snow crystal card and 18 “how to” cards cost $128. Of all the equipment in the kit, the snow crystal card is the most useful but 18 “Ski Guide” cards seem redundant – take an avi course. Now, don’t get me wrong, each item worked well when I tested them on the slope, but I just can’t get over the price. I recommend saving yourself some money: buy a cheap stuff sack and fill it with items from your local hardware or Dollar store. A stand-alone snow crystal card costs $9.95 and has an analog slope meter on it. I cannot recommend purchasing the Digital Pro Snow Study Kit.
On the up side, the Brooks-Range 24” Backcountry Ski Straps are bombproof and invaluable. They’re made of stretchable polyurethane with an aluminum buckle and I’ve used mine for everything from strapping skis together to fastening a snow saw to my pole to fixing a loose tail gate on a truck. (True story.)
Folding Scientist 35 Snow Saw
Price: $59.95 US
Weight: 219g / 7.7oz
Blade length: 35cm / 15.9in
Overall size: 51cm x 7.5cm / 20.4in x 3in
Folded size: 29cm x 7.5cm / 11.5in x 3in
Brooks-Range Rutschblock Cord
Price: $25 US
Weight: 113g / 4oz
Length: 3.8m / 12.4ft
Digital Pro Snow Study Kit
Price: $151.95 US
Weight: 725g / 25.6oz
Size: 25cm x 15cm x 6cm / 9.8” x 6.9” x 2.3”
Brooks-Range 24” Backcountry Ski Straps (they come in a pack of two)
Price: $6.93 US
Weight: 62g / 2.2oz
The Folding Scientist 35 Snow Saw saves space and prevents exposed teeth from shredding the inside of your pack. The PVC-coated, steel Rutschblock Cord with interspersed “coils” cuts through snow like butter.
The stuff sacks for the saw and cord were woefully inadequate. The Digital Pro Snow Study Kit is extremely overpriced.
Ease of Use 1.5/2
Quality / Price .5/2
This is only our opinion. Do you disagree? Did we miss something? Are we totally out to lunch? Join the discussion in the forums here, and let us know what you think. People like/dislike gear for different reasons so chime in and we'll get a well-rounded evaluation.