If you’ve ever been a happy camper, you can thank Brandon Bowers and Kea Jolicoeur. Because before your sleeping pad or camp stove is released into the wild it goes through a battery of grueling trials with these gear testers.
“There’s a lot of cool things that happen here, we get paid to play with fire. Product testing, troubleshooting the fun gear you use on your weekends,” said Jolicoeur, MSR manufacturing engineer, in front of a battery of flaming WhisperLite International camp stoves going through a burn test.
“MSR was one of my dream companies to work for. My parents had an adventure guide school so I grew up traveling around the world in a van, using these products every day – like this was my stove growing up,” said Jolicoeur, gesturing to the stoves she’s testing. “So I guided all through college and I wanted to come and work here and help design and make better products that I could use on my weekends.”
Kea and her crew fire up every stove before it goes out the factory door. It gets hot, but it’s a necessary part of their process.
“That’s to make sure that our product leaves with 100 percent satisfaction,” she said.
Across the way — they make and test the iconic Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads: an essential piece of backpacking gear that’s been around since 1972. The finished pads are inflated, and stacked high as part of the testing: “This is our basic air check — it also catches any weaknesses in the structure, they sit here from 24 to 48 hours,” explained Brandon Bowers, category manager for the brand.
If that test is not exciting enough, you’ll like this one:
“We have a burst test where we actually inflate the mattress to a certain pressure.” Engineers hate it, because they must sit in the room measuring the growing pounds per square inch, waiting till the pad bursts. Loudly.
“I have not met one person who really likes doing it,” said Bowers.
Both of these experts take their work with them into the great outdoors.
“I think I like the stuff in the field because I generally wake up to a better view,” said Jolicoeur.
“You’re surrounded by gear where that’s its goal. To inspire people to go further and challenge themselves, and explore the outdoors.” added Bowers.
Evening is your guide to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Watch it weeknights at 7:30 on KING-TV Ch. 5 or streaming live on KING5.com. Connect with Evening via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Email.
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