Lightweight, powdered, pH neutral, biodegradable soap for backcountry use and beyond — meet Summit Suds, the pioneering product helping to put Pika Outdoors on the map. Spearheaded by father-son duo Dennis and Braxton Schindler, Pika Outdoors exceeds long-set standards for outdoor hygiene and sustainability, using simple but ingenious methods to keep you clean.
“It’s pronounced pie-kah,” Braxton graciously explained after I botched the pronunciation. “Growing up in the Uintas, there’s a bunch of these critters. They live in big boulder fields and make a squeak noise before you see them. Sometimes you’ll catch them carrying grass in their mouth to their little dens.”
Funny enough, just like their mammalian inspiration, Pika Outdoors’ Summit Suds is also vegan.
“Our soap has five ingredients, and four of them are plant-based. That fifth one is baking soda, the cleaning agent. We tinkered for a long time with the ratios. Striking a balance between the ingredients was key. Our main goal was achieving a good lather and a neutral pH. The pH often gets overlooked, but it’s important because highly basic solutions, which characterize many leading backpacker soaps, can disturb algae growth, and in turn aquatic life.”
Dennis floated the idea to his son during the pandemic. They were having a gear conversation, a particularly eager one—the cabin fever of lockdown propelling their thoughts. Caught on the topic of soap, they scoured the web for something powdered and reputable, to no avail. In fact, Google barely spat back any results for their search, save for a few sketchy Amazon links. They realized that no one had seized the opportunity, which, sud-denly, presented itself to them.
They launched in October of 2020, gaining some early traction from a successful cold call to Justin Outdoors, who delightfully reviewed their soap.
“We keep it fragrance free for avoiding unnecessary attraction from critters and bigger visitors, and lightweight—powder is more weight efficient. And it doesn’t freeze.”
You can apply Summit Suds to everything: hands, clothes, body, hair, dishes… they’ve even tried it out as toothpaste. “...But it’s in no way a verified method of dental hygiene.” That’s law talk for don’t try it. Unless, of course, you left your Frau Fowler back home. As with any backpacking soap, it’s important to follow Leave No Trace practices and keep the suds far away from water sources.
However you employ your powder, you’re taking with you a little slice of Mount Timpanogos, which outlines the logo on every pouch.
“I’ve been in Utah since I was six years old, here in Heber Valley. Sure, you can see the range from Provo, which is on the other side, but we lay claim to the more photogenic half. It’s a very distinct looking mountain,” Braxton said.
Growing up, his family held fast to an outdoors lifestyle, and two decades later the affinity has only grown. “At 14 or 15, the first thing I wanted to be was a tent designer.”
Back then he had no idea what UL hiking was, but his intuition led him avidly in that direction. “I used the REI Half-Dome Plus tent, at first only bringing the poles and fly. Soon after it was just the tarp and trekking poles.”
“Girls and cars took the front seat for some time. My first fixer upper was an ‘89 Land Rover Range Rover, born in the same year as me. I lifted it and put on some super swampers, went four wheeling, all that,” Braxton said.
After years focusing on mechanics, he recently dipped his toes back into the ultralight scene, building a stitchless rock bag from Dyneema; we’re talking just taped. I asked him, Scotch tape?
“Technically. 94-82PC. It peels if you’re not careful, but the lateral strength is good.”
When he’s not inventing radically minimalistic products, you can find Braxton designing fall protection gear for window washers, or on the trail at night watching preloaded episodes of Ted Lasso inside of what I fancifully imagine to be a bivy made of pure Scotch tape.
Braxton stumbled on Garage Grown Gear somewhat by accident, and then reached out on a whim. We’re grateful for that whim, and I bet your hiking companions’ nostrils will be too.