Our Makers series features companies and individuals who craft their products by hand. This edition features Virginia-based Blue Ridge Overland Gear. Staff writer Rick Stowe chatted with Matt, founder of BROG. Learn more at BROG’s website.
Rick Stowe: Tell us about the original inception of Blue Ridge Overland Gear.
Matt: It’s based in craftsmanship. Craftsmanship is honest; things work or they don’t. It fits or it doesn’t. As far as products inceptions, we began building gear to make our family travel easier. Basically, I made stuff for us. Eventually, I began building gear for family and friends. The next thing you know, other people began asking for the products. It’s grown from there.
Blue Ridge Overland Gear’s products fill a unique niche in the market. How did this become your specialty?
At BROG, we start with the problem. Then we craft a product that provides a solution. Our goal, and motto is to “Organize your stuff. Enjoy your time outside.” It’s our goal that each product will make the next trip a little easier. Traveling with my wife, three kids, and multiple dogs means that just “getting out the door” is complicated. The specialization was an accident that evolved from our lifestyle. For example, our Got to Go Bag. We wanted a simple, everyday carry bag. And also something that could be configured based on the activity or travel companions. Every excursion is a little different, and we wanted this bag that was capable of managing that.
How has your product line evolved since the beginning of the company?
As far as any of our products go, we think about the utility–that’s my favorite part. What does it need to do? How can we build it to last? And how can we provide value for our customers? With each product evolution, we consider customer feedback. We draw from our experiences. We also consider new developments in fabric and hardware. If something isn’t working for a product, we tweak as we go. We have the flexibility to make each generation more utilitarian and durable. Our product line has grown as we discover more points of frustration with travel, or more gear that needs protected. So that the gear itself doesn’t have to be replaced because of mishap.
Many of your products are complementary to other common overlanding gear. How do you decide which items to focus on?
We focus on the products we like and use. If a piece of our favorite gear needs to be protected or organized, that’s what we focus on. We’re pretty simple around here.
Has there been any particular “aha” moments for you?
We seem to have an “aha” moment everyday. We’re always discovering a new way to assemble something. We’re always inspired with new products and ideas. Sometimes I can’t believe what great people work here at BROG. I am amazed at the number of good ideas they have. I’m not even sure they realize it.
Is there a particular product you’re particularly proud of, or excited about a new product to release?
I’m proud of everything we build; otherwise we wouldn’t spend time and effort building it. As far as new products go, I think the Tactical Beard Tamer is a well thought-out product. The idea came from one of our machine operators. He needed a shave kit for an upcoming trip. He crafted the kit after work one evening. (Thanks, David, for the good work)
As far as products we enjoy, the Got to Go Bag is really fun. We keep adding and testing kits. We keep finding new ways to use it. It’s nice when you can keep tinkering with gear and finding more uses. One of the nice things about our operation here in the USA is that we can have an idea one day and it’ll be in production the next day.
As far as new products, we are working on a travel-recycling bag. We wanted something that has multiple chambers, with each being removable. That way we can have a place for trash, cans, and other recyclables out on the road. That’s going to be cool.
What can we expect from Blue Ridge Overland Gear in the future?
We have a pretty simple model: make legacy equipment—built by people that love to make, and use gear. You should expect it from us today and in the future. Just wanted to say thanks to Jen, Allison, David and Richard—that’s who really keeps it all going.