As part of Outdoor Project's Women In the Wild series this summer, I have had the honor of working with outdoor women from all over the industry to dig a bit deeper into who they are, how they got to where they are now, how they approach the outdoors, and more. These women are all rad in their own right, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, or how "badass" they might be. Whether they're mothers, daughters, sisters, professional athletes, beginners, weekend warriors, "instafamous," or anywhere in-between, their unique stories, journeys, opinions, and perspectives are incredibly valuable and insightful as Outdoor Project - and the industry as a whole - progresses and evolves to become more inclusive to every type of outdoors person.
Through in-depth and often thought-provoking interviews, I hope to highlight these women's stories, their work, their adventures, and so much more with an eye toward giving them their well-deserved share of the spotlight while inspiring and empowering even more women to get outside!
In this feature, we talk to Brittany Crook.
Photo by Lance Koudele.
OP: Give us the quick and dirty on who Brittany Crook is.
Brittany Crook: I’m a lot of things:
I’m a small-town girl who has loved the mountains since I was first introduced to them. I grew up in northern BC where there was snow on the ground more months than there wasn’t. I’m part lumberjack, hippie, redneck, and a bit of a free spirit. I love a lot of sports, but I’m not a natural athlete. I love to dance and I still get hyper when I’m excited.
I’m fairly uncoordinated, which has earned me the nickname Noodle Monster. I love to climb mountains, tumble around in the ocean’s waves with a surfboard, go down hills with a fancy mountain bike, and make people laugh (note: I’m usually not trying to make a joke, but people tend to laugh a lot when I’m telling them about my day to day, so I just roll with it).
I have a few alter egos. Cross your fingers that you get to meet Hurricane Rachel, but try not to cross paths with Gretchen.
I’m an animal lover, especially when it comes to dogs ( and especially when they cuddle me). I recently got my own little beast and named him Grandpa Mack (he goes by Gramps but is only 8 months old).
I have been an outerwear designer since I graduated university in 2010. I don’t know if it is my accent or because most people don’t use the word outerwear, but 90% of the time I tell someone what I do they think I’m an Underwear Designer.
OP: When did you first know that you were going to spend your life in the outdoors?
Brittany Crook: I was lucky to spend a lot of time in the outdoors from an early age. Both my parents were Boy Scout leaders, so I went on a lot of camping trips with them and the Boy Scouts. Nobody (myself included) seemed to care that I wasn’t a boy. My parents taught me to ski around four years old and how to ice skate at age 3. When school was cancelled because it was too cold, we still spent the day playing outside in the snow.
My hometown was pretty small and full of endless forest, so we could play really freely and explore.
Since it’s always been a part of my life, I’m not sure I remember when I first knew I wanted to spend my life in the outdoors, it was more of a natural progression. Being outdoors made me happy, and I was just lucky enough to live in a place where it was easy to be outside and nature was all around us.
OP: What does it mean to you to be a woman in the outdoor industry?
Brittany Crook: I think a lot of the women who are leading in the industry right now grew up being that token girl shredding with a group of guys. Which is awesome, it’s how we all got into the sports we love. However, now is an exciting time where women are focusing their energy on supporting each other and getting out there with other women rather than thinking that they need to get out there with the guys if they want to charge hard. Now it is exciting to make sure girls are growing up looking up to ladies shredding with ladies, so they know they can keep up with the guys and be the badasses that they are!
One thing that stands out to me about the outdoor industry is that people outside the industry underestimate how many women there are and how much of an impact they are making. I have had the opportunity to work on a lot of teams with different ratios of men and women. It may surprise people that I have been on more teams with higher ratios of women to men. Ultimately, I don’t focus too much of my energy on whether I’m a man or a woman in this industry. I just try to be myself and, to me, people are people.
OP: What has the outdoors done for you, and how do you pay it back?
Brittany Crook: The outdoors has given everything to me! Honestly, it has been time in nature that has helped me through all of the toughest times in my life. It has been time outside and the activities that I love that keep me healthy, happy and inspired. And to be clear, this doesn’t mean I’m 100% happy all the time, or that I don’t struggle. It is really important to me that people do not have that misconception of me. Mental health is an issue for everyone, especially in our culture full of computer screens, instant gratification, and less human interaction, more separation from nature etc., so I think it is even more important to make sure we get time in nature as much as we can.
Paying nature back seems hard sometimes, but for my day to day it is important to stay on top of the little things that can add up. Recycle as much as you can, try to avoid the products with too much packaging, buy what you’re looking for from the local stores whenever you can (where I live can be pretty limited, so this is one I’m working on) carpool to the mountain, walk to downtown, leave as little impact as you can when you’re outside (unless you see some garbage – then take it with you). Eat less meat!
OP: Conservation and protection of our public lands are central themes in today’s outdoor recreation narrative. As someone who spends a significant amount of time outdoors and on public lands, what role do you think outdoor brands - and outdoor enthusiasts, in general - should play in this evolving conversation and landscape?
Brittany Crook: I believe that it should be a common understanding within the industry that we have a lot of responsibility in this area. We are the ones who should be leading the conversation. It should be standard for outdoor companies to do what we can to conserve and protect our lands. Making products to use in the outdoors is a big nasty process that is not good for the Earth, making this a really complex topic to try to navigate, whether you are a small or large company. As you say, it is an evolving narrative, and the answer we think is best today may not be the best tomorrow. As a result, it’s important for us all to keep pushing, stay educated, and make improvements wherever we can. There are a lot of resources out there trying to make the outdoor industry less impactful on the actual outdoors, so let’s support them and implement changes whenever we can.
OP: Who has inspired you along the way?
Brittany Crook: There have been so many people who inspire me. I meet so many people on my travels, so I will try to keep this list short.
- Marty Schaffer, I look up to him like an adventure and life coach! He owns CaPow and is incredibly empowering of women in the backcountry, if anyone is looking for some backcountry knowledge, check out capow.ca – you won’t regret it.
- My adventure buddies, Kate, Christy, Victoria, and Claire!
- My first industry mentors; Sanna, Liz, Tara and Sarah. They each took me under their wing in some way and I can't thank them enough.
- My roommate Corina. She is my family where I have none!
- And most of all my family: My mom, Barb. We call her Barbed Wire. She is the best person to lean on, extremely hardworking, compassionate, calming and the ultimate badass. My dad, we call him The Mayor, because he is the mayor of my hometown, but I don't think we will stop when he retires. He is so inspiring; he taught me too many things to mention, and he never told me I couldn't do something because I was a girl. He works harder than anyone I know, never takes a break from taking care of other people, and supports each of us 200%. My brother. We are complete opposites, but we can talk about anything and we always have each other's back. He is the wisest person I know, and an incredible father, and although I don't get to see him half as much as I wish I could, he is my best friend! My big sister (in law). I didn't get to grow up with her, but she has made our family complete! She is incredibly driven, strong and thoughtful! She is one of those super moms you meet and you don't understand how she does it all!
OP: What does adventure mean to you?
Brittany Crook: Adventure, what a good one! It’s such a great word, and it can mean so many different things. To me adventure means exploring new places, getting lost, being spontaneous and not restricting yourself. My adventures are outside, on the mountain, in the ocean, river, or my motorcycle! No plans, no rules.
OP: What does the term "badass" mean to you?
Brittany Crook: Badass…the most badass babes I know are the women who follow their heart and follow their passions. It can mean so many things, and to me it just means that you don’t let other people’s judgments restrict you.
OP: How have you managed to align your career with your passion for the outdoors? And do you have any advice for someone who is looking to do the same?
Brittany Crook: I have been able to align the two by choosing a career that requires me to stay involved and active in the outdoors. I find my center and inspiration in the outdoors, and I know myself well enough that I prioritize my active lifestyle over other factors when I choose a new job or living situation.
I choose to work for companies that support an active outdoor lifestyle, and I fully believe that it is essential to my career that I continue to explore the outdoors in order to do my job properly. Not only the sport I am designing products for specifically but other activities that may not be related can help jolt my creative brain into a new way of solving the problem I am stuck on for snow products. I meet all sorts of people on my different adventures, and I watch how they use the products I have designed or those of competitors to see how I might need to simplify or improve on a design to keep it as user-friendly and efficient as I can.
OP: We are seeing a shift in what the term woman or female might bring to mind (LGBTQ), both in the outdoor community and throughout the world. What does being a woman mean to you? Femininity?
Brittany Crook: The women who I look up to the most in my life are strong, driven, loving and compassionate. That is what I strive to be. Having said that, the men I look up to most in my life have these same traits. We all express ourselves in different ways, but the qualities that make us feel the most feminine or masculine can be one in the same.
I don’t think physical qualities need to have anything to do with the qualities that make you feel feminine. It takes incredible strength to be able to stand up and say that you identify differently than you may appear. This leads me back to my definition of badass: people who need to stand up and say they are different and find the strength to do it – they are Badass!
I love the changes we are seeing in our culture regarding a shift in what the term female or male brings to mind!
OP: What mantra or set of words do you live by?
Brittany Crook: Hate what is evil, cling to what is good
May your choices reflect your hopes not your fears – Nelson Mandela
And I’m looking for a good one to remind me not to obsess over the little things, so let your readers know if they have a good one to pass it on!
OP: What is one thing that you never leave home without?
Brittany Crook: My dog, if I can help it…
OP: Let’s talk gear - what are your thoughts on women-specific gear? Love it, hate it? Are there any companies out there doing it right? And how so? When does it matter to you most to have gear specific to women versus unisex products?
Brittany Crook: It’s a love / hate kind of thing. There are so many different types of women in the world so it gets complicated. I personally prefer outerwear to be women’s specific, especially if you are spending a significant amount of time in the backcountry where ill-fitting outerwear can actually be limiting and inefficient. When it comes to hard goods, I have fairly narrow feet so I prefer a women’s boot with a narrow fit, but I have continually been disappointed by women’s snowboards being too soft and flexible, which has led me to ride a men’s board. I think it would be more beneficial to be specific to your riding style, not your gender: snowboards, skis, surfboards, kiteboards, motorcycles etc. – if you can ride it, then it’s the one for you.
OP: What is the greatest piece of advice or direction that you’ve ever received, and what’s the story behind it?
Brittany Crook: Don’t let your past steal from your future – an ex of mine actually said that to me a few years ago. I found it really powerful at the time, and it is something I have really held on to. Our past experiences can begin to cloud our judgment so much, and I think this is a good reminder to work at preventing that from happening.
OP: If you could give one piece of advice to yourself when you were just starting out as a product designer in the outdoor industry, what would it be?
Brittany Crook: Soak it all up, learn from the best, even if they are a little grumpy!
When you see goals and opportunities that you want, make it happen for yourself - no one else is going to do it for you.
OP: In a world seemingly run by online personas, how do you approach social media and how does it play into your lifestyle - both work and play?
Brittany Crook: I like social media, but I don’t often follow people I don’t know and I try to keep it light and positive. It’s a great source of entertainment, but it should not be a major venue to connect with people I care about. I am happy to follow companies that post inspiring and positive messages, but I am picky on how many companies I follow. I think our marketing manager, Shay Huskey, does a really great job with our social media. He keeps it light hearted, fun and inspirational, and yes, I did follow TREW on social media before I started working for them!
OP: The world of product design, specifically in the outerwear realm, is rapidly progressing and always changing. How are you stepping things up to stand out from the crowd?
Brittany Crook: A lot of our goals for TREW are to reduce the environmental impact of our products and keep our pricing fair as the cost of things continues to go up. It is a continual challenge to find technical materials that meet our performance standards for time spent in the outdoors without harming the environment and our own health as much as the technologies of the past. As we improve and dial that in, we have an opportunity to have an amazing impact in the outdoor industry.
OP: The title of your autobiography would be...
Brittany Crook: "Gramps and Noodle Arms Go on an Adventure "
OP: In your next life, you will come back as...
Brittany Crook: Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Man or Gramps.
OP: Tell us one thing about yourself that no one knows.
Brittany Crook: At 32 years old, I still get the zoomies; when I’m excited I start zooming around really quickly.
OP: If our readers were to take one thing from this interview, what would you like it to be?
Brittany Crook: If an oddball like me can design outerwear for an awesome little company like TREW, they can do whatever they want.