Alite: Fun Simple Outdoor Gear for Casual Camping

Alite Ambassador: Brett Walker

Alite Ambassador: Brett Walker

Where's Brett Brewing? That's a damn good question, so read on to find out. You, my friend, are lucky enough to have stumbled upon this page of enriching education and motivation that will encourage you to try something new...

Meet Brett Walker - a father, swimmer, cyclist, coffee guru, and outdoor photographer. His diverse range of talents are impressive, and here at Alite we were fortunate enough to have his attention to ask him a few odd questions about where he goes for weekend trips, how he survives/thrives without a motorized vehicle, and how he has mastered the craft of brewing coffee anywhere and everywhere.

We're just getting started with Brett. He's going to be with us for the rest of the year enlightening us with applicable information regarding coffee 101, coffee equipment guides, outdoor latte tricks of the trade, and just plain old getting all y'all motivated! Yes, motivated and stoked to jump on your bike and head somewhere new, somewhere old, or straight to where Brett is currently brewing up a badass blend of java, mon.

What describes Brett Walker, in 5 words or less.
I asked my daughter Elanor to answer this for me, this is what she came up with:

  • Bike
  • Legos
  • Movies
  • Pictures
  • Records.

What are your current passions in life, and how do they help inspire you on a daily basis?
I’ve been really working on my art practice for the last couple years, in ways in which I previously haven’t. I’ve been making and exhibiting artworks for sometime now, but over the course of the last few years I’ve been trying to assess what I’ve been doing for the last decade, and to find ways to keep progressing and expanding my studio work. Being an artist is simultaneously the most frustrating and rewarding experience ever. It’s frustrating because, at least for me, I always want more, and it’s such a hustle to keep making new work and to find ways to put it out there in the world. It’s rewarding in the sense that it’s something you can control entirely on your own, you can create your own world and existence through the process of art making, and nobody can take that away from you. It’s that notion that inspires me on a daily basis, that I have this other world I’ve cultivated and built. When everything else is wrong in my world, the simple practice of making photographs really keeps me going.

What is your favorite memory of being outside as a young lad?
I grew up in Oregon and was fortunate enough to experience a lot of the Northwest outdoors growing up. I was in a pretty notorious Boy Scout troop when I was younger (a gang of pyros and sugar fiends), and we were eventually asked to no longer return to the yearly summer camps put on by the Scout Association.

I have tons of memories of fishing and hunting with my dad and uncles. My dad got me started duck hunting at an early age, and his brother, my Uncle Greg, is an ace fisherman. I went fishing with him a bunch. All of us, including my grandfather, would go sturgeon fishing near Astoria at the mouth of the Colombia River. I was 10 or 12 years old, catching fish that were as big as I was.

Thinking back on it, when I was maybe in the sixth or seventh grade, I was on a basketball team, and the coach, this awesome fellow named Brett Hall, took us on a day hike to the top of Saddle Mountain on the way to the Oregon Coast. Once we had gotten to the top of the mountain, he produced a basketball from his backpack, and as a team building exercise we started doing passing drills with the ball, the goal being to keep the ball in motion and not let it go over the side of the cliff.

How do you incorporate the outdoors into your everyday routine?
I don’t currently own a car, so I am always on my bike. I commute everywhere by bicycle, and often reflect on how my city bike commutes are like training for some of my longer overnight bike tours. I am a member of the Dolphin Club, and I swim in the bay pretty regularly. Those two things alone keep my mind on the level, and provide me with a good daily dose of vitamin D.

Where is your favorite quick getaway when you are feeling the constraints of city livin'?
It’s easy in San Francisco to find quick places to retreat to for the weekend, and I don’t do it nearly enough. One thing I’ve been doing every so often for the last few years is riding my bicycle south to Santa Cruz. I have a little secret beach spot down there where I camp. Usually, I ride down, camp on the beach, wake up the next morning, ride into Santa Cruz, get coffee at Verve and BBQ at Coles, and then catch the bus to San Jose and take the Cal Train back to SF. Nothing super adventurous or crazy, but a nice coastal bike ride and a way to spend the night in your sleeping bag on a sandy beach.

I also go north across the bridge occasionally; that big field/camp spot down in Tennessee Valley is pretty awesome. I’ve camped there a couple times, and rarely are there other people there. It's literally a thirty minute bike ride from SF. Pitch your tent in the field, get camp all set up, and then go for a hike down towards the beach and up in the hills.

I’ve only been to Angel Island once, and need to go back soon. That’s another super quick and easy camp spot. All these places I am describing require a minimal amount of gear or effort to enjoy. Most are accessible by bicycle, you could walk to Tennessee Valley from SF if you wanted to, and the weather is so nice that most of the time you just need a sleeping bag and a backpack full of beef jerky and chocolate to have a good time. Just last weekend I went up to Bolinas and camped on the beach with some friends, and I literally brought nothing more than the clothes on my back, my sleeping bag, my camera, some Twinkies, and my coffee making rig. Perfect.

We heard you brew a badass cup of coffee... especially in the woods. At the present moment, where is the oddest place you've ever set up your camp stove and made a cuppa joe?
None of the places I am thinking of seem that strange or odd to me. I am always making coffee at rest stops and gas stations on road trips and such. Gas stations are great because you can usually steal hot water from their water tower and you don’t have to fire up the stove. I bicycled down the coast from Portland to San Francisco in 2012, and made coffee everywhere, but again, this doesn’t seem so strange to me. I’d much rather drink my own coffee than whatever is usually available to me, so making coffee in whatever location and circumstance is usually par for the course. That said, I would love to find ways to expand my resume as far as strange places to brew. I think a goal for 2015 should be to find unusual places to brew coffee. I’d love to go to the White House and have coffee with the president, and I’ve also always wanted to go on some late night TV program and make coffee. They’re always sitting with mugs, but is there really coffee in those mugs? Is it possible to brew coffee while one skydives? That’s something I’d like to try. Making coffee aboard a boat or ship - can someone take me sailing

Alite is super stoked to have you come aboard and teach us how to brew coffee in the great outdoors. What type of wizardry can we look forward to seeing from you in the next few months?
I’ve got all sorts of things I’ve been thinking about and planning, and I think once I get the ball rolling more things will develop in time. I’ll probably start with my basic camp coffee kit and rudimentary coffee basics for making good brew when in the outdoors. I’d like to think through different scenarios, and find ways to make coffee when the situation isn’t ideal. For instance, finding water, high elevation boiling point changes, survival coffee, building brew devices from things found in nature, etc. I am working on a good method to roast coffee over a campfire, along with different uses for coffee when outside, recipes and such for different beverages that could be beneficial to someone on a good hike. Generally speaking, I am going to be working on a lot of coffee and outdoor related activities.  All of these things will be documented through photography, writing, and video and coming from real world trips around the Bay Area and elsewhere.

Check out Brett's website here for more amazing photos and outdoor enthusiasm. And, stay tuned for upcoming posts on Where's Brett Brewing?!