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Bradley Mountain

Ben Ashby

I felt dirt and leaves between my toes as my feet sank into three years’ worth of caked pine needles. I was under attack and disaster boomed in every direction. Diving back behind the tree that resembled a giant slingshot, I screamed, “Jeremiah, DUCK! The Storm Troopers! They're right above you!” 

That's a typical scene from my summers as a pre-teen in Ventura. One of those summers I crafted my first trap using braided vines, a young birch tree (which I used as the fulcrum), and a large hacked off log for the counter-weight. This trap effectively stopped Dark Vader many a time.

Our zeal at the Bradley Mountain workshop originates from two places: a love for adventure and a love for craft.  As I work on the development of a new leather piece my subconscious flows in and out with memories of the days I spent running through the pine needles.

There is something so special about the mediums of leather and waxed canvas. They bring a certain heritage with them. Although the products we manufactured are new, the materials themselves have a nostalgic, reminiscent quality. I think it’s the unrelenting durability that makes it feel this way. You could take a brand new Biographer bag to the mountains and throw it down a ravine. You would then come to find it with new scratches and bruises. However, it wouldn’t be ruined in the slightest. The oils and wax that treat the surface will merely adopt these new entities into the fabric. The blemishes will seem to have been there all along as if your father handed the bag down to you from his adventures in Alaska.  

This is what I love most about working with leather: it reminds you of adventure, and inspires adventure even as it undergoes its own transformation.

The work I do day in and day out is satisfying. But it never ends in the workshop. Because people have a bag or journal that they can trust, I get to be a part of their adventures. They come home and tell me stories, or send me photos. It doesn't take long before I myself am itching to close up shop and take off on my own adventure, knowing I'll return more inspired in the craft. Craft and Adventure are so intertwined for me.

I recently made a travel pack specifically for a trip I was taking to Switzerland. In constructing the pack I had to think through exactly what I would be carrying with me and the most comfortable fit. I tailored it specifically for my adventure. I then tested it for durability and practicality during my long hikes in the Swiss Alps. After only a few days of use a man on a train between Interlaken and Bern asked me where the bag was from. Before I could answer he said “that looks like it has a lot of stories”.

I proceeded to tell him about my business and how I love to make durable goods that have a heritage feel to them. He was surprised that the bag was in fact new because it already looked warn in with long days of travel. At that point I had a choice: to end the conversation or to ask the man about his travels. This might seem like an incidental or simple concept, but I truly believe these moments of decision are what distinguish an Adventurer from a Sitter. A Sitter, in my mind is someone who has the potential to be living adventurously, but, for any number of reasons, is not. 

Adventure is not just about physically traveling to the unknown. I think that the underlying truth of all adventure is that it draws a boundary, a line in the sand. We get to choose whether to cross it. I think that adventurous living can take place in locations other than mountains or the woods or overseas (although these adventures are highly encouraged). I believe it is a lifestyle choice, just as much as it is for someone who only purchases ethical, organic, handmade goods.  So too the life of adventure can be chosen.

I think fear is what stops most people from stepping over the boundary into the adventurous life. Asking a stranger about his life can be difficult when fear reminds you of past rejections. Whatever you are faced with, I believe that adventure comes with a sort of sacrifice.

On the other hand, I believe some people are just waiting to be told that they can go on an adventure. We at Bradley Mountain want to help people tap into the full measure of life that comes from doing something new. That is what our brand represents, and you don't have to purchase one of our products to benefit from the inspiration we seek to share. We want to be a group of craftsmen that can lovingly nudge others into a state of adventure.

We strive to implement this element of adventure into all aspects of our business from donating panniers to a pair of daring cyclists ( to holding adventure giveaway contests through our Instagram #liveadventurously. These are small gestures, but through them we strive to help some of the Sitters become Adventurers, while pushing ourselves to become truer Adventurers as well.

I hope that the stories you make with our gear are imprinted on the fabric and leather fibers so that you can hand it down to your son or daughter and inspire their adventure.

Tyler Axtell

Founder of Bradley Mountain

@bradleymountain (instagram and tumblr).