Congratulations to Bentbrook (aka Robin French), Trailspace's newest Reviewer of the Month!
Each month we recognize and get to know a different member of the Trailspace community. This month it's Bentbrook, a North Carolina teacher, hiker, backpacker, geocacher, and amateur animal tracker who shares his passion for nature with his students.
Congratulations, Bentbrook, and thanks for sharing your experience and helpful gear reviews with us (including nine Killer Reviews in April alone!).
For your contributions, you win this month's featured Reviewer of the Month prize: a membership in the American Alpine Club. Plus, we're sending you a pack of goodies from A3, Clif, Injinji, Innate, Kind, Perky Jerky, and Trailspace.*
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a lifelong nature lover. The woods were the playgrounds of my youth, and nature is my solace from the cares of the work-world.
Bentbrook near the Bluestone National Scenic River in West Virginia with his sons Devon and Alex.
Scouting introduced me to the outdoor life; camping and backpacking returned me to nature as an adult. I have a practical bent, a tendency to get seduced by DIY/MYOG projects as temporary fixes between gear purchases.
I am a gear junkie, of course: if I am not in nature, I am fiddling with my gear to refine it in some fashion or another, or, more dangerously, browsing reviews or websites.
Give me a map and you will lose contact with me for a while! I love to rediscover nature through the eyes of my children, or share my wonder of nature with my wife.
What do you like to do outdoors?
I love to explore nature, whether hiking, camping, backpacking, fishing, canoeing, or geocaching.
How did you get started exploring outdoors? Earliest memories?
I grew up in a small southern town that quickly turned into countryside a mile from the main intersection. I had no T.V. until I was 13, so my childhood was spent following creeks, playing in the woods, and exploring the fringes of ponds. Later I became a Scout, forever cementing my love of nature with frequent camping and backpacking trips.
Bentbrook (far right) in Grayson Highlands State Park, Va., with the Westchester Country Day School Class of 2009.
Any favorite stories?
One Scout trip our troop ambitiously planned to make beef stew from scratch over a fire. Ingredients were doled out into various packs, potatoes here, carrots here, beef there, etc. Of course we smugly persuaded a novice camper to carry the potatoes, the bulkiest of the ingredients.
All was well for us until we opted to reach camp via a spectacular cliff-side trail. We veteran Scouts were drinking in extraordinary views when an “oops” from the novice made us turn around just in time to see our precious potatoes bouncing down the cliff, having become dislodged from the novice’s poorly-loaded pack by an overhanging branch. Call it karma!
Bentbrook (fifth from left) in Little Wilson Creek Wilderness, Va., with the Westchester Country Day School Class of 2006.
Describe your happiest moment outdoors (or proudest or hardest).
About 15 years ago, I traveled as a chaperone on an Outward Bound trip with the small senior class from the school where I taught. Our zealous guides were mountain-fit; I was behind-the-desk out-of-shape.
Running with those teens back to base camp after hard days in the wilderness, I felt elated and exhausted, but—most importantly—I reconnected with the nature of my youth.
What’s your favorite outdoor place?
Shortoff Mountain on the east rim of the Linville Gorge in North Carolina.
Do you have any outdoor goals you want to share?
I would love to hike the John Muir Trail.
What motivated you to share your reviews with Trailspace?
I learned a lot from reviewers while “lurking” on Trailspace as a mere reader. But as I began to consider my gear closely, I found it clarifying to try to articulate the virtues and vices of a piece of gear in the form of a review. I also discovered I enjoy the creativity that attends conceptualizing gear tests and reviews.
What’s your favorite piece of outdoor gear? Why?
My boots, whatever pair I strap on. With them comes a different mindset, the promise of wilderness away from the mayhem of civilization.
At Rhododendron Gap on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia.
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your life?
My parents are my greatest influence. My mom has walked all over the world, from the mountains of Greece to the coast of California, always mindful of the beauty of plants in every scene.
My father has done the same, but also shared with me camping, spelunking, and a memorable whitewater kayaking adventure in Wisconsin when he was in his 70s, a trip on which he exhibited more excitement, spirit, and sheer glee than I could have imagined.
What's your favorite book?
The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame.
What's your favorite quote?
"The mountains are calling, and I must go." –John Muir
What would Trailspace members be surprised to learn about you?
I was nearly arrested for accidentally climbing aboard the women’s car on a train in India. No worries! It was just a misunderstanding.
Great job, Bentbrook!
Featured Reviewer Prize:
Bentbrook wins a membership in the American Alpine Club
, including a $10,000 Rescue Benefit.
*Besides Trailspace appreciation, Bentbrook wins a one-year membership in the American Alpine Club. Established in 1902 by the nation's leading climbers and conservationists, the AAC provides members a $5,000 Global Rescue Trailhead Benefit and a $5,000 Domestic Rescue Insurance Benefit, plus access to the AAC Library, publications, and lodging and gear discounts.
Trailspace is a supporter of the American Alpine Club.
Bentbrook also gets a goodie pack with A3, Clif, and Kind bars; Perky Jerky, Injinji socks, an Innate Motus 3 water bottle; and a Trailspace Trail Runner Cap and stickers.
Join the Trailspace community in recognizing other helpful reviewers by voting up the reviews you find most useful.
Write your own helpful gear reviews and you could be our next Reviewer of the Month.